Blessings #146 – New Era

This week a new era has started in the Chastney household – Jonathan has passed his driving test.

Levens SnowThings are never going to be the same again.

At the start of the week he couldn’t drive and that meant that his options for going places were restricted to places his parents would take him, or public transport.

At the end of the week he has a new freedom – he can drive himself places.

One era has ended and a new one has started. There is no going back to the old era it’s finished.

I know many people who look on change as a scary thing. Each new era brings a new set of concerns and worries. Sometimes those worries are just the fear of the unknown. We can look at situation and imagine the worst-case-scenario. Our brains go wild and conjure up all sorts of terrible outcomes.

A new era is really a sign that we are alive.

Only dead things never change – things that are alive are always changing.

Watching the children move through different era is a sign that they are growing and moving towards adulthood. That’s a wonderful thing. Without it they would remain children forever and that wouldn’t be normal or healthy.

Moving from one era to another era gives us the opportunity to reminisce about the journey that we’ve been on. Much like the experience you get when your mountain climbing, and you stop to look around you, reminiscing lets you realise how far you have come. We can spend so much of our life with our head down looking at the next step, making sure that we don’t trip and fall over. We need times when we stop, look up, and realise that things around us have changed.

We’ve built up experiences in one era and now it’s time to naturally move into the next. Rather than fighting it we should look forward to it and celebrate it.

“Hooray, I’m alive, I’ve moved into something new, something I haven’t experienced before”.

I’ve never had to hand over a set of car keys before and watch a car leave the drive with my son in it on his own. I’m not sure how long it’s going to take for me to get comfortable with that experience, but I know that I will.

I’m not sure how long it will take us to work out the practicality of having three drivers and two cars, but we will.

I’m not sure how long it will be before Jonathan realises how much a car costs to run, but he will.

It’s a new era and it doesn’t quite fit yet, but it will.

And no sooner will this one fit than we will be entering into a new one.

Count Your Blessings #142 – Being Home

I’ve been travelling quite a lot recently. Over the last couple of weeks I have slept in nine different beds and that’s not including the night I spent in an economy seat on an overnight flight from Seattle.

Down by the water in BellevueMany people regard staying in a hotel as something glamorous but I’m not one of them. Don’t get me wrong, the hotels I’ve stayed in have been nice, even very nice, but they haven’t been home.

It’s great to have someone come and tidy your room for you, but it’s not home.

Eating in different places and fine restaurants can be really nice, but it’s not home.

Getting to know knew people and experience new places is interesting, but it’s not home.

Having breakfast on the 36th floor of a hotel as the sun rises over San Francisco Bay is a wonderful sight, but it’s not home.

Taking a morning walk along the beach listening to the Pacific Ocean isn’t something I can do in Preston, but Santa Barbara isn’t home.

Home is home.

It’s interesting to see how often Jesus instruction to someone who had been healed or released from bondage was to “go home”.

The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, "Return home and tell how much God has done for you." So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.

Luke 8

Jesus knew right away what they were thinking, and said, "Why are you so sceptical? Which is simpler: to say to the paraplegic, ‘Santa BarbaraI forgive your sins,’ or say, ‘Get up, take your stretcher, and start walking’? Well, just so it’s clear that I’m the Son of Man and authorized to do either, or both…" (he looked now at the paraplegic), "Get up. Pick up your stretcher and go home." And the man did it—got up, grabbed his stretcher, and walked out, with everyone there watching him. They rubbed their eyes, incredulous—and then praised God, saying, "We’ve never seen anything like this!"

Mark 2

Where do restored people need to be? They need to be at home. Perhaps there’s a sense in which their restoration wasn’t complete until they were home.

I certainly feel restored now I am home. We all need a place that we can call our own and that is what makes it home. I regard myself as very privileged to have a home that is warm and dry, safe and secure, a place of rest and restoration.

Count Your Blessings #140 – Buying Experiences

The feature in The Guardian magazine this weekend was titled “How To Be Happy Right Now” in one of the articles – “How to feel up in a downturn” – they had this advice for people looking for happiness:

“The advice is straightforward. Remember to be grateful. Spend your money on experiences, not objects. Volunteer. Nurture your relationships. Spend time in nature. Make sure you encounter new people and places. And never assume that you know what will make you happy.”

It’s an interesting list and I was intrigued by the parallels in my own experience and practice.

We’ve recently got back from a glorious Pisa - We Went Up The Tower at Sunsetholiday in Italy where we decided to create some new experiences and to see some new places.

On one particular day we decided to go to Pisa. We didn’t give ourselves a huge amount of time, and set off late in the afternoon after a lazy day by the pool. A few people had said to us that their wasn’t much to see in Pisa. We had nothing to go on so we didn’t plan a day around the place, but wanted to go and see the tower anyway.

With these low expectations we drove into Pisa without a plan following the signs for the Duomo. Seeing the tower and dome get steadily closer we drove past the entrance to the Square of Miracles and pulled into a street opposite paying a couple of Euros to park up for the rest of the evening. We walked down the street and across the road through the archway.

We’d already been surprised earlier in the day by the knowledge that the tower of Pisa didn’t stand on its own and was actually stood in a piazza incorporating the Duomo, Baptistery, Campo Santo and the tower itself.

We also knew that there had been all sorts of engineering work undertaken to secure the tower and rectify some of its lean. We were, therefore, surprised as we walked through the archway to see people stood at the top.

With time going on and the knowledge that the building would only be open for a couple of hours I headed off to the ticket office. The gentleman behind the counter was very helpful and advised me to buy a ticket for the Duomo and the Campo Santo ensuring me that they were the most interesting. There was a sign explaining that a trip to the top of the tower would cost 15 Euros and that they allowed 30 people every 30 minutes. There were loads of people outside and I expected the answer to my next question to be that they were sold out, but I asked it anyway.

“Do you have any room left in the tower today” I said

I was very pleasantly surprised by his answer:

“We have room for four people on the last trip of the day.”

To be honest 15 Euros seemed like a lot of money for the privilege to walk to the top of a tower, 60 Euros for the four of us. But this was an experience that we weren’t likely to repeat, and perhaps not even have the opportunity to do again.

It was a great experience.

Walking up the tower is a strange thing to do because the angle of the building makes it a bit disorientating. Pisa - We Went Up The Tower at SunsetBeing the last of the day does, however, mean that we were at the top as the sun was setting. Watching the shadows grow on the mountains and across Pisa was wonderful. The silhouette of the Duomo with the sun setting behind it was an experience in itself.

We will talk about those experiences for years to come. They make me feel happy every time that I think about them.

Count Your Blessings #137 – Wednesday Evening Adventures

Most Wednesday evenings Sue runs a ladies event (Revive) at church. That leaves myself, Jonathan and Emily at home; so we’ve decided to make this a time when we go out and have a bit of fun ourselves.

Island HopingOne week we decided to go and check out the new art work on Blackpool Prom, not somewhere I would normally choose, but for a bit of an adventure, why not. It was sunset and we had lots of fun interacting with the different pieces. There’s a slideshow of some of the pictures at the bottom of this post of some of the many pictures that we took. We particularly liked the huge glitter-ball, the setting sun meant that we were able to dance in and out of the reflected sun on the pavement.

Last week it was a wonderful warm spring evening and we called in at Hurst Green, home of the famous Stoneyhurst College and probably the inspiration for some of the places described in Lord of the Rings.

We decided that we would walk up alongside a small stream I think is called Deanbrook.

There are some woods and plenty of places to explore. There’s even a big amphitheatre which was probably once a quarry, but the star attraction has to be Deanbrook itself. The stream makes it’s way down the valley over limestone which has been worn out into pools and small waterfalls; it’s quite idyllic.

It was a shame that it was still April, because on a summer’s evening it would be a great place for a paddle and swim. Jonathan pleaded with me several times to do precisely that; I thought about it, but sometimes there are limits.

On our way back down the stream we decided to take a closer look at one of the pools. The main attraction of this particular pool was that it looked deep and right next to it was a very long stick so we could get a good idea of how deep.

Jonathan bounced across a rock and picked up the stick plunging it deep into the pool to demonstrate that it was well over 6ft deep in the middle. Again he pleaded to go swimming.

My progress was a little more cautious, but resulted in me sliding down the rock and careering out of control towards the pool. I was just preparing myself for the inevitable cold dip when I regained grip right on the edge.

Just as I was regaining my composure Jonathan decided to step across the narrow stream feeding the pool to take a look at it from another side. It was only a short step from one side to the other, but the mossy rocks meant that both his feel lost their footing and propelled him down into the stream.

Much to all of our surprise the stream was very deep at this point and Jonathan sank down all the way up to his outstretched arms. There he hung, with his elongated arms holding head and shoulders above the water, trying to catch his breath while the rest of him was getting used to the idea of being plunged into a pool of cold water.

As a loving caring compassionate parent I took the only action I could and laughed. Emily, however, saw things a little differently and went white at the thought of losing her brother to the elements.

In retrospect Emily’s reaction was probably a bit more appropriate.

So there we are, I’m standing shakily on a slippery rock, Jonathan is acclimatizing himself to the temperature of Lancashire stream water in April and Emily is getting whiter by the second.

After what seamed like an age I managed to regain my composure and reach in to give Jonathan a hand out of his predicament. It was then that Jonathan realised that his (new) mobile phone was in his back pocket and had been subjected to the same experience as himself. Thankfully it dried out over the next couple of days and is now working fine.

Jonathan regained his composure steadily and a few hugs reassured Emily that everything was going to be alright.

Thankfully it wasn’t a long walk back to the car, but you could tell where Jonathan had walked by the trail of wet footprints that followed us.

Oh, and did I tell you, we also played in the park and watch crown-green bowling. It was a wonderful adventure.

I’m writing this on a Wednesday lunchtime, we don’t yet have a plan for this evening, but perhaps something a little less adventurous might be in order, I wonder where the nearest zip wire is?
Created with flickr slideshow.