Twists and Turns

Jacaranda vine in hospice garden

On one of our many journeys back and forth to hospital I found myself discussing with Sam how she first learned to ‘spot’ in ballet.

We laughed together as she expressed her recall of going to school in a loose hair elastic and realising by recess that it wouldn’t be a good afternoon at dance class. A loose elastic meant she would be distracted through all her turns that afternoon because if her elastic wasn’t tight, no matter how many pins she fixed around her bun, it would still feel wobbly at the part of her scalp where all her hair was scooped together in one loose elastic.

We laughed that a loose hair elastic would probably be a good problem to have right now. Instead of hair elastics she tightens the clips inside her wig to make sure her hair stays in place on her bald head which is beginning to grow a soft, downy fur of new growth.

Regardless of the loose hair elastic, pose turns and pirouettes had to be practiced religiously. Sam had the ‘old school’ style ballet teacher who insisted on perfection without excuses and drilled her students until this standard was reached. Fortunately for Sam her demi- plie was regarded as one of the most beautiful in the dance school and her teacher thought both she and Emma had beautiful feet.

To pirouette, they were taught to stand at the rear corner of the room in fourth position, left foot in front of the right, hips and feet turned out; arms loose in front. After a releve, they were told to concentrate on one spot in front of them and commence the turn. They focussed on that spot until they could no longer keep their head forward, then they would turn their head around to focus on the spot again as they finished their revolution. It seems, this art of spotting, after much practise prepared them for multiple spins and turns without ever getting dizzy or loosing grace or stance.

This conversation with Sam has been stuck in my heads for weeks as I consider the dizzy journey I feel I am on this year. Ever since her diagnosis I have had to remind myself daily to ‘fix my eyes on Jesus.’

Philippians 4:6-8 Do not fret or have anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your requests known to God. And God’s peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of it’s salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God…the sort of peace that shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Jesus Christ.

If I lose my focus for a moment I find myself unable to keep going. Instead I hear the complaints loud in my head about how unfair this journey is, how tedious, how tiresome. I don’t want to go back into that corner, choose me focal point, prepare my feet, position my hands and start the turn. I want to sit for a while, I want to enjoy someone else performing the dance.

Still God reminds me of my passion to know Him, the prayers I have prayed. I didn’t think obedience would require this. Would I have said “Here I am, send me” if I’d known it would require this path? When we lost money on the house and in business; when I broke my leg in the car accident, when God challenged us to walk away from ministry and trust Him to give it back in His timing somehow it was so much easier to agree with Paul, “I count everything as loss compared to the possession of the priceless privilege of knowing Jesus Christ, my Lord.” This year however as I’ve spent days by Sam’s bed, waiting for her to wake from a bone marrow biopsy, a lumbar puncture, or to shake off a fever I have had much opportunity to ‘know God.’ In the stillness, in the uncertainty of it all He has truly become all that I have.

There have been many opportunities to fear for Sam’s life but as Paul writes, “Whatever is worthy of reverence and is honourable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things [fix your minds on them].

It is only when I have determined to find Jesus and his incredible goodness that I am able to start the dance again. I know that He is training me. I know that He is teaching me to dance. He is showing me not to wait until the storm is over but rather how to dance in the rain.

I have watched my daughters progress from the adorable routine of primary ballet where the exercises focussed on the hands, and the feet in isolation before the moves ever became a dance.

I watched them grow and discover how to find synergy with the music. I saw them become light and graceful on their feet as if they were one with the music. Completely entangled, bonded in harmony with it.

Eventually the time came for the stage, the costumes and the lights but such was their love of dance that they would dance wherever they were. They would pose turn down supermarket aisles, they would pirouette in their pyjamas, sometimes they forgot where they were and would only stop because they saw me smiling and realise what they were doing.

How amazing to be so caught up with the music and the passion that to dance could come so naturally. This is what I strive for now in my relationship with God.

For days, Sam has been fibrile neutropenic. This means she has fevers over 38 and no capacity to fight infection. The consistent fever indicates she has an infection somewhere in her body but as yet the blood cultures that were sent to the lab haven’t revealed anything.

As I sponge her head with face cloths soaked in ice I look out the window over the park to the hospice garden. There beyond the chapel is the most magnificent display of wisteria vine I have ever seen. From my vantage point on the 9th floor the trellis it clings to is covered like a purple carpet.

I’m reminded of John 15, where Jesus instructs his disciples to cling to him like branches on a vine. He tells them that the branches that do not bear fruit will be snapped off and burnt in the fire yet those that are bearing will  be pruned so they can bear more fruit.

Pruned branches look lifeless and dead but they are simply dormant for a season. My life feels like that this year. I feel like an ugly stick that is waiting to bear. Waiting, I’ve discovered has many meanings in Hebrew. One of which is ‘to bind together by twisting, to be joined.’

Late yesterday Emma came on the bus from Uni to see Sam and I at St Vincents. I met her on the corner of Oxford St and asked her to come with me to look at the wisteria in the hospice garden.

As we walked beyond the brick walls and into the garden the fragrance overwhelmed us. In the centre of the garden a gentle waterfall bubbles. It’s incredible. Then we stood under the wisteria vine and Emma remarked that it was like a tapestry. All messy and tangled yet from above the flowers were so beautiful spreading their sweet aroma heavenward.

‘Thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumph and through us spreads and makes the fragrance of the knowledge of God everywhere.’ 2 Corinthians 2:14

I’m praying that in this year of waiting; this season of pruning that my life has become entangled to the vine. That every twist and turn of the journey is wrapped around God’s purpose. That, even though my nights are sleepless, my hands, cracked and dry (this week) from hours spent dipping cloths in ice water. Even though this is not a path I would ever have chosen that somehow God would turn it around to bring forth a branch connected to Him and bearing much fruit.

More than that I pray for Sam that the year that seemed to put her whole life on hold would in fact catapult her into a magnificent future. That God ‘will give her back her vineyards and will make the valley of weeping a door of hope. There she will sing.’ Hosea 2:15

On September 3rd, the day of the bone marrow transplant two friends came to St Vincents at 7 am to pray in the chapel for Sam. Afterward they sent a note to our room. It read ‘as we prayed we saw the new stem cells delight in Sam’s body – every nook – everything new and fresh. They love it so much they dance through it.’

T.S. Eliot writes ‘ except for the point, the still point, there would be no dance and there is only the dance.’

May we be so entwined in God’s purpose that every twist and turn from this moment be pleasing to Him.


Filed under Life

11 responses to “Twists and Turns

  1. Sonja

    My Kindy Buddy Clare,
    You are such an amazing writer. I will never stop telling you. Every time my children write stories in class I think of you. I think of the beautiful stories your class would produce and how I secretly wished that I was sitting in your class each day writing my own stories and being encouraged by you. Such a gift you have of bringing words to life. Painting pictures and really transporting the reader into your world.
    A loved reading your blog about ‘spotting’. Going back to ballet recently and starting to spin again. I am shocked that I could spin endlessly and not get dizzy but now only a few spins and I’m ready to sit down! Your girls were beautiful dancers. I remember staring (jealously) at their beautiful feet and Sam’s gorgeous demi -plie.
    Not a day goes by where I don’t pause from the busyness of life and get on my knees and pray for you and Sam. I pray for Gods peace to wash over you and for Fear to be far from you. You know that I miss you and that I love you so very much.
    Keep writing Clare. You’re amazing xxx

  2. Marilyn

    Thank you for sharing your world with us…..and touching my world during your journey.
    I continue to stand in pray for Sam’s healing and miraculous recovery every day!
    You’ve reminded me what it is to dance and where to put my focus….thank you.

  3. Jane Grover

    magnificent words beautiful Clare…. though can’t ever, ever imagine you as an ugly stick….that image is so not working for me xx
    remember Clare that God is the ultimate quiet achiever, Jesus said not a word, God is so not focussed on what the world sees, He looks not at the outward appearance, but looks at our heart and in the hidden places come the intimate times with him, hidden from man but seen & deeply connected with Him.
    So while the world continues on seemingly without you, God sees it all & delights in the desires and motives of your heart&smiles that in all you are facing, still you cling to Him xx

  4. Wendy Gilbert

    Your journey is unimaginable dear Clare. Out of your silent place, your voice cries louder – Hope! Hope! Once this over, your voice will be heard far and wide.

    Your analogy was delightful as always. Another square in your tapestry.

    It is hard to describe the respect I have (in fact, we all have) for you right now.

    All my love Wendy

  5. mummy of 3

    Morning Clare
    Always amazing to read your thoughts. As i was reading i remember once hearing a story about a the underneath of a tapstry and how messy the underneath is. it’s not to later on you will see the beautiful creation u and sam are making a master piece.
    I went looking for this story while up early this morning i came across this blog with poem
    My favorite bible passage is also PS 139 :13 -15

    today i carry you both in my thoughts and prayers
    Michelle xxx

  6. Nel Dekker

    Dearest Clare,
    A bare stick is not really ugly when seen with the ‘innner eye’. There is green sap surging just underneath the bark and new life ready to burst out.
    You are a tree firmly planted (and tended) by the streams of water, ready to bring forth your fruit in your season. How good that fruit is and will be!!
    With love……

  7. rosalie quinlan

    Dear Clare and family,
    My prayers and thoughts are with you every day. May God bless you and keep you.

  8. Susannah

    Oh Clare.

    Today was my prayer day for Sam and I forgot until late this afternoon when my beautiful friend Rose rang to remind me. She is so encouraging and we haven’t even prayed together yet for beautiful Sam!

    I used to really struggle with fear in my late teens /early 20’s. The first scripture that always came to mind when I’d wake in the night was “…and your peace, which surpasses all our understanding will guard MY heart and MY mind…” The second thing I would do, in once the terror had started to lift, was speak to the darkness. The bible says that every demon must flee at the mention of His name…so I would almost scream from the inside out the name of Jesus until I felt bold and courageous! Once I felt confident I would speak the Armour of God over my life – Helmet of Salvation, Breast Plate of Righteousness, Feet shode with the Gospel of Peace and the Sword of the Spirit in my right hand…by that time I would fall back into a peaceful sleep and wake feeling rested and like nothing had ever even happened.

    I won’t forget to pray again…

    All my love,
    Susannah xx

  9. cath riches

    So glad to hear that Sam has turned a corner!! Our love to you all, and we will continue to pray for healing and peace.

    Love Cath xx

  10. Sandy Foster

    Hi Clare – today is my Tuesday on the mighty army prayer roster. My heart breaks when I hear and now have seen how much your precious darling has suffered – especially over these recent days. However we are not of those who shrink back – we are those who press in and receive the great reward that He has for you. Rom 5 (Message) “We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open His door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand – out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise. ” I see your beautiful Sam dancing again – looking radiant, beautiful, stunning, whole and healed and so full of God’s love. We are standing with you praising our God and silencing the enemy. All our love xxx

  11. Pingback: Solitude | Girl on a swing

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