A Garden of Roses

A whole year ago I wrote in my diary one question: Will I make it to one year?

This was because I had already begun to struggle with the cost of unpaid ordained ministry juggled with my paid job (teaching) and wider family life too. I sat with one of our bishops and shared that the pattern wasn’t sustainable and that I wasn’t sure if I’d make it to the end of my first ordained year, never mind to the end of my curacy.

Well, I made it to one year… but in a way unimaginable this time last year.

I had hoped there might be a stipend (paid role) for me, an investment in me, an imaginative solution to the problem of the ever-increasing over-stretching of self.

Did I think I’d find it in rural Shropshire?

No.

I’d never visited the place, not even for a day trip – though I came dangerously close on a road trip once upon a time.

But an invitation was extended… to follow Jesus to Shropshire, that I might find space to grow into myself as a minister, wife and mum.

“But I heard less of the crazy talk and a lot more of the wise talk and I was hopeful enough to keep listening until the day I found myself transformed into an entire garden of roses.”
Mary Oliver, Rumi

The poet, Mary Oliver, expresses the kind of total life transformation that somehow takes us completely by surprise. As the protagonist follows the famous fellow with “long beard and dusty feet”, they linger on, listening with hope.

There is no indication of time lapsed between this hopeful following and the transformation, and yet we know that time must have lapsed. A garden of roses takes time. A garden of roses requires patience and imagination. It requires careful pruning and a skilled gardener. It requires love.

The same too for our lives, as we accept the invitation to follow Jesus. It will bring transformation, some of which may be sudden and immediately noticeable, much of which we will only notice when we’re surrounded by the roses.

A whole year ago I couldn’t have imagined much of how the 12 months would unfold. There was a lot of pain, as the pruning and cutting back has taken place. But there’s also been joy and laughter in abundance. That’s life, I suppose. A mixture of painful thorns amongst beautiful roses. I am just so very thankful for the patient gardener working in my life.

The most loving gardener.

His name is Jesus and he invites you to follow him into hope.

Invitation

Isn’t an invitation wonderful? Come with me. Let’s spend time together. Let’s eat. Dance. Drink. Celebrate. Mourn. Play. Or party.

Whatever the invitation, we can be sure that receiving it is a fabulous thing. It means we have been thought of; that someone wants to spend time with us. Isn’t that wondrous in a world where, despite apparent connectedness through social networking sites, 1 in 10 of us feels lonely often? In fact, Britain was voted the loneliness capital of Europe, by the Office of National Statistics. 

The last 12 months have been lonely for me. I’ve become a mum and, whilst much of it has been wonderful, I have struggled with the lack of business and noise around me, as I had when teaching full-time. Not only that, but we (my husband and I) have had to turn down many invitations either as a couple or as an individual. Many of the things we are invited to are in the evening, so one or both of us has to stay home and look after our little girl. We’ve been so blessed to have had a couple of nights out together, courtesy of good friends babysitting.

That being said, I’ve met lots of wonderful women, their babies and their partners in the past 12 months. I’ve been to birthdays, baptisms, and even have a wedding in the diary. We’ve been for tea and cake at people’s houses, caught up in coffee shops and taken up invitations for bumbling round town.

Invitations may have to be declined, or plans altered to fit in with this new life, but it is good for the soul to think of someone else first. But it doesn’t really matter whether I get to go out or not, because that isn’t necessarily what helps us to feel connected.

It is the imple invitation – knowing you were thought of and wanted, knowing you were included – that has a transformative power. The power to overcome even the most loneliest of feelings.

To feel connected.

To feel loved.