Look, then, into thine heart, and write! Yes, into Life’s deep stream! All forms of sorrow and delight, All solemn Voices of the Night, That can soothe thee, or affright, Be these henceforth thy theme.” (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow,1893)
Had I not returned to my writing three weeks before Sam was diagnosed with ALL Leukaemia, I am not sure that I would have survived. I’ve kept a journal for most of my life but hadn’t written for a while when the urge to do so returned on the 9th of January 2009. Even now it is my writing that seems to save me. I write for myself and receive great encouragement when I learn that somehow my writing has been of some help to others.
There are many roads on the journey of life, some are highways and others are backstreets and lanes. They may be curbed, guttered, marked with lines or dusty country roads complete with potholes. We are all going somewhere, though at times it seems, we do not know where. It’s in these times we need each other’s stories most. We look for the parts of the roadway that are familiar and the stories that are shared give us glimpses of what others have gone through, they ease the loneliness and confirm that we have not gone completely mad.
I take Longfellow’s advice and notice that each week, if I look into my heart, there is an underlying message in ‘Life’s deep stream.’ Surely this is the river of ‘Living Water,’ the refreshing of His Holy Spirit, the voice He promised would come so that we might never be alone. The Message Bible puts it this way “If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; but when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed.” (Proverbs 29:18)
I can’t always see what God is doing. Sometimes I look at my life and I can only see 2 dimensions. It is flat, lifeless and all the lines are blurred. I find myself paying attention, looking at the images, trying to see. I am listening for the whisper that reveals what comes next. There are many voices but really only one voice that we should heed. Sometimes it takes fine adjustment and tuning to hear right, I try to find time to be still.
His voice is like a subliminal message that flashes before me all week long, leaving its imprint on my mind yet still I fail to notice. I am so busy doing life I don’t realize He is telling me how. He speaks to me in all the ways He knows I will hear Him. Through friends, through experiences, through His Word, through movies, through books, even through the innocence of small children but despite His efforts to gain my attention, I think prayer is an effort, something to be endured and I miss the romance He longs to have with me.
“Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs forth; do you not perceive and know it and will you not give heed to it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19
There is nothing quite like His presence. It is a deep stream of refreshing, it’s a babbling brook, it’s a warm conversation, it’s light and rest, it’s comfort and peace. If we sit in His presence for long enough and allow Him to sit beside us, He changes the lens of our perception; He shows us how to see.
The children and I are working our way through ‘The Premier’s Reading Challenge.’ This is pure indulgence for me and I find myself feeling guilty for enjoying what I am doing so much. I borrow a stack of books from the school library and we take every opportunity to transition between lessons through reading our books. We read again at the end of the day. The children lean against their backpacks as if they are miniature couches, legs stretched out in front of them and under their wide brimmed hats I see the pictures that accompany my words, reflected in their eyes. Some books I just read, other we discuss at length in the middle of the day. All of them fill us with delight.
This week we are reading Anthony Browne. One of the titles, “Voices in the Park,” presents the story from four perspectives and I wonder if this story has gone completely over their heads? The first voice is that of an uptight, rich mother, the second voice is that of an unemployed dad, the third voice is the lonely son of the rich mum and the fourth voice is the joyful daughter of the unemployed dad. It’s told through the seasons, starting in autumn, through winter, spring and then summer. ‘If the kids don’t get it we’ll discuss the seasons,’ I think as I read.
One reviewer (Publishers Weekly) writes ‘Browne again proves himself an artist of inventive voice and vision as he creates perhaps his most psychologically complex work to date via a commonplace experience, a brief sojourn to a city park… What transpires factually is simple: the two children play together, their dogs do the same, the adults keep to themselves… Browne also celebrates the redeeming power of connecting with another human being.’
Hands fly up as I close the covers. The children can’t wait to tell me their opinions and in the end they decide that the dogs at the park had the most fun, the kids had fun too once they worked out how to be friends but the adults are boring and they don’t know how to be friends. The children love the visual images and want to stand to their feet to turn back the pages, revisiting the complex changes throughout the book. We have a long conversation about the story and then I perceive that God is in the room. He is communicating with me, just as the book communicated with the children. I acknowledge that He is there but it is not time yet for our conversation. He waits at the back of the room, He takes off His hat, He looks at the paintings, His body language tells me to take my time.
We have a ritual we perform at the end of some great stories. I dim the lights, the children tiptoe to their tables, I turn on the OHP and in hushed silence we illustrate the story, paying homage to the author. I tell the children that in art you can show perspective by making the things that are closest to you bigger and the things in the distance smaller. “That’s beautiful!” the children chorus, “You are an artist!”
“Why, thankyou!” I say, knowing I have trained them well in the use of encouraging words.
Even I am pleased with my texta drawing, it has a third dimension. It lifts off the board, it focuses the eye into the distance to the young friends and though it is the smallest part of the picture as you pass through the trees, its where you are centred and somehow you feel secure.
“Again I tell you, if two of you on earth agree (harmonize together, make a symphony together) about whatever [anything and everything] they may ask, it will come to pass and be done for them by My Father in heaven.
For wherever two or three are gathered (drawn together as My followers) in (into) My name, there I AM in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:19-20)
There it is, the voice, His voice! I look up from my drawing. He tips His hat and is gone. Yet He knows I have heard Him. I have everything I need to get through this. Even though, like the adults in the story, I am quite bored with my life, tired of the unrelenting nature of illness, the demands that it places on my time, I am grateful to God for the children. I am thankful that they see what adults don’t see! Children know how to press through the barriers of social hierarchy to discover that we really all are the same; we really all need to just get out and play.
The brief sojourn in the city park is much like the long journey through cancer. In the hospital ward there are no distinctions, no class structure, no preference for person, or rank. When we are stripped of everything we discover that we are all just people who need help, love and friendship. You find people who get this, to link hands with and suddenly life isn’t completely fuzzy anymore. Though you can barely make out the picture of what your life will be in the future, you have more clarity for today. It soothes you, just as Longfellow said it would and you are glad you took the time to write, to listen, to see.
Dr Moore is back from Europe and I am very relieved! The mouth swab taken by the registrar shows no evidence of GVHD of the mouth. He is glad that we kept the prednisone at 3 MG however the ear swab is still showing staf infection, he (like me) is keen for another opinion and is urgently making appointments for Sam to see an ear specialist at St Vincents. This infection has gone on for 3 months and untreated could render Sam deaf. Please pray for her protection and for everything to be well with her hearing. More prayer requests on http://www.samfroggatt.blogspot.com