Friday, October 16, 2020

Where things are now


Tonight, Jacob and I played diary roulette. We were meant to be swimming, but because of COVID-19 regulations you had to pre-book a slot in the pool and we didn't know that. So we tried to walk home.

I say tried, because we had to stop at one point and give up because my knee was hurting too much. Mum came and picked us up, the same Mum who hugged me this afternoon because (as she said) next year she won't be able to hug me like this, not when we're married.

And there in one paragraph, the happiest bit of my life as I think about the future and the saddest as I feel the present, and perhaps this is my life summed up in one sentence just for now: I am engaged to the one my soul loves, and I am crippled by a knee injury that persists and confounds.

I'll start with my knee. 

On the 11th of September, Jacob and I woke up at 4.30am and spent the next 18.5 hours running intervals of 2.1km around Punggol Park so that at the end of the day (three showers, three meals, three sports bras later) we'd done slightly over 42km each. It was to raise money for Just Love, it is the hardest thing I've ever done physically, and it was so much fun. But three days later, I decided to run again. And the day after that, I decided to run again. And that day, my knee began to ache and then gradually hurt so much that walking became a navigation of pain.

I don't know what it is, and each time the pain subsides and I wait and I listen to medical advice (initially from friends, then from a doctor who I went to) it seems to get better, and then I tentatively run again and pain returns. I've struggled with feeling betrayed by my body, useless, restless, impatient, hopeless, fat, and fearful that I won't be able to do the thing I love with such blissful thoughtlessness again. 

Today Jacob carried me up the forty steps to my house when the pain got too much. 'You know, our future home doesn't have a lift,' I said, 'You'll be stuck carrying me like this if I'm like this forever.' 'You won't be like this forever,' he said.

To think of forever with Jacob is a happy thought. He asked me to marry him on the 16th of August in Fort Canning Park as the sun went down. We had a couple of weeks of just being engaged - telling people slowly, seeing their reactions and smiling and laughing with them and smiling and laughing with each other because it's still a wonder and a mystery, how two people decide that they want to be made one. Since then, we've begun to plan and been blessed so deeply by the grace of God, and also seen our own sinful tendencies - Jacob's tendency to paralysis, mine to frantic, impatient action, both of us to giving too much, too soon, to each other.  But we make these mistakes together, and we forgive, and we love again and more divinely. 

Diary roulette goes like this: you lay out your old diaries and number them in your head. The person you trust picks a number, and you pick up that diary and thumb through it and he says 'Stop.' with his eyes closed and then you read out what you wrote. And you read out words you wrote about your anxiety, and listening to him play the organ, and the comforting words of a hymn, and how thankful you are that he loves and forgives even when you forget the keys and ruin the breakfast plans.

A while ago, Jacob sent me this poem. I listened to it on a walk this week, and it was all of life and more, so here it is:

Catalogue of Unabashed Gratitude (by Ross Gay)

Friends, will you bear with me today,
for I have awakened
from a dream in which a robin
made with its shabby wings a kind of veil
behind which it shimmied and stomped something from the south
of Spain, its breast aflare,
looking me dead in the eye
from the branch that grew into my window,
coochie-cooing my chin,
the bird shuffling its little talons left, then right,
while the leaves bristled
against the plaster wall, two of them drifting
onto my blanket while the bird
opened and closed its wings like a matador
giving up on murder,
jutting its beak, turning a circle,
and flashing, again,
the ruddy bombast of its breast 
by which I knew upon waking
it was telling me
in no uncertain terms
to bellow forth the tubas and sousaphones,
the whole rusty brass band of gratitude
not quite dormant in my belly—
it said so in a human voice,
“Bellow forth”—
and who among us could ignore such odd
and precise counsel?

Hear ye! hear ye! I am here
to holler that I have hauled tons—by which I don’t mean lots,
I mean tons — of cowshit
and stood ankle deep in swales of maggots
swirling the spent beer grains
the brewery man was good enough to dump off
holding his nose, for they smell very bad,
but make the compost writhe giddy and lick its lips,
twirling dung with my pitchfork
again and again
with hundreds and hundreds of other people,
we dreamt an orchard this way,
furrowing our brows,
and hauling our wheelbarrows,
and sweating through our shirts,
and two years later there was a party
at which trees were sunk into the well-fed earth,
one of which, a liberty apple, after being watered in
was tamped by a baby barefoot
with a bow hanging in her hair
biting her lip in her joyous work
and friends this is the realest place I know,
it makes me squirm like a worm I am so grateful,
you could ride your bike there
or roller skate or catch the bus
there is a fence and a gate twisted by hand,
there is a fig tree taller than you in Indiana,
it will make you gasp.
It might make you want to stay alive even, thank you;

and thank you
for not taking my pal when the engine
of his mind dragged him
to swig fistfuls of Xanax and a bottle or two of booze,
and thank you for taking my father
a few years after his own father went down thank you
mercy, mercy, thank you
for not smoking meth with your mother
oh thank you thank you
for leaving and for coming back,
and thank you for what inside my friends’
love bursts like a throng of roadside goldenrod
gleaming into the world,
likely hauling a shovel with her
like one named Aralee ought,
with hands big as a horse’s,
and who, like one named Aralee ought,
will laugh time to time til the juice
runs from her nose; oh
thank you
for the way a small thing’s wail makes
the milk or what once was milk
in us gather into horses
huckle-buckling across a field;

and thank you, friends, when last spring
the hyacinth bells rang
and the crocuses flaunted
their upturned skirts, and a quiet roved
the beehive which when I entered
were snugged two or three dead
fist-sized clutches of bees between the frames,
almost clinging to one another,
this one’s tiny head pushed
into another’s tiny wing,
one’s forelegs resting on another’s face,
the translucent paper of their wings fluttering
beneath my breath and when
a few dropped to the frames beneath:
honey; and after falling down to cry,
everything’s glacial shine.

And thank you, too. And thanks
for the corduroy couch I have put you on.
Put your feet up. Here’s a light blanket,
a pillow, dear one,
for I can feel this is going to be long.
I can’t stop
my gratitude, which includes, dear reader,
you, for staying here with me,
for moving your lips just so as I speak.
Here is a cup of tea. I have spooned honey into it.

And thank you the tiny bee’s shadow
perusing these words as I write them.
And the way my love talks quietly
when in the hive,
so quietly, in fact, you cannot hear her
but only notice barely her lips moving
in conversation. Thank you what does not scare her
in me, but makes her reach my way. Thank you the love
she is which hurts sometimes. And the time
she misremembered elephants
in one of my poems which, oh, here
they come, garlanded with morning glory and wisteria
blooms, trombones all the way down to the river.
Thank you the quiet
in which the river bends around the elephant’s
solemn trunk, polishing stones, floating
on its gentle back
the flock of geese flying overhead.

And to the quick and gentle flocking
of men to the old lady falling down
on the corner of Fairmount and 18th, holding patiently
with the softest parts of their hands
her cane and purple hat,
gathering for her the contents of her purse
and touching her shoulder and elbow;
thank you the cockeyed court
on which in a half-court 3 vs. 3 we oldheads
made of some runny-nosed kids
a shambles, and the 61-year-old
after flipping a reverse lay-up off a back door cut
from my no-look pass to seal the game
ripped off his shirt and threw punches at the gods
and hollered at the kids to admire the pacemaker’s scar
grinning across his chest; thank you
the glad accordion’s wheeze
in the chest; thank you the bagpipes.

Thank you to the woman barefoot in a gaudy dress
for stopping her car in the middle of the road
and the tractor trailer behind her, and the van behind it,
whisking a turtle off the road.
Thank you god of gaudy.
Thank you paisley panties.
Thank you the organ up my dress.
Thank you the sheer dress you wore kneeling in my dream
at the creek’s edge and the light
swimming through it. The koi kissing
halos into the glassy air.
The room in my mind with the blinds drawn
where we nearly injure each other
crawling into the shawl of the other’s body.
Thank you for saying it plain:
fuck each other dumb.

And you, again, you, for the true kindness
it has been for you to remain awake
with me like this, nodding time to time
and making that noise which I take to mean
yes, or, I understand, or, please go on
but not too long, or, why are you spitting
so much, or, easy Tiger
hands to yourself. I am excitable.
I am sorry. I am grateful.
I just want us to be friends now, forever.
Take this bowl of blackberries from the garden.
The sun has made them warm.
I picked them just for you. I promise
I will try to stay on my side of the couch.

And thank you the baggie of dreadlocks I found in a drawer
while washing and folding the clothes of our murdered friend;
the photo in which his arm slung
around the sign to “the trail of silences”; thank you
the way before he died he held
his hands open to us; for coming back
in a waft of incense or in the shape of a boy
in another city looking
from between his mother’s legs,
or disappearing into the stacks after brushing by;
for moseying back in dreams where,
seeing us lost and scared
he put his hand on our shoulders
and pointed us to the temple across town;

and thank you to the man all night long
hosing a mist on his early-bloomed
peach tree so that the hard frost
not waste the crop, the ice
in his beard and the ghosts
lifting from him when the warming sun
told him sleep now; thank you
the ancestor who loved you
before she knew you
by smuggling seeds into her braid for the long
journey, who loved you
before he knew you by putting
a walnut tree in the ground, who loved you
before she knew you by not slaughtering
the land; thank you
who did not bulldoze the ancient grove
of dates and olives,
who sailed his keys into the ocean
and walked softly home; who did not fire, who did not
plunge the head into the toilet, who said stop,
don’t do that; who lifted some broken
someone up; who volunteered
the way a plant birthed of the reseeding plant
is called a volunteer, like the plum tree
that marched beside the raised bed
in my garden, like the arugula that marched
itself between the blueberries,
nary a bayonet, nary an army, nary a nation,
which usage of the word volunteer
familiar to gardeners the wide world
made my pal shout “Oh!” and dance
and plunge his knuckles
into the lush soil before gobbling two strawberries
and digging a song from his guitar
made of wood from a tree someone planted, thank you;

thank you zinnia, and gooseberry, rudbeckia
and pawpaw, Ashmead’s kernel, cockscomb
and scarlet runner, feverfew and lemonbalm;
thank you knitbone and sweetgrass and sunchoke
and false indigo whose petals stammered apart
by bumblebees good lord please give me a minute...
and moonglow and catkin and crookneck
and painted tongue and seedpod and johnny jump-up;
thank you what in us rackets glad
what gladrackets us;

and thank you, too, this knuckleheaded heart, this pelican heart,
this gap-toothed heart flinging open its gaudy maw
to the sky, oh clumsy, oh bumblefucked,
oh giddy, oh dumbstruck,
oh rickshaw, oh goat twisting
its head at me from my peach tree’s highest branch,
balanced impossibly gobbling the last fruit,
its tongue working like an engine,
a lone sweet drop tumbling by some miracle
into my mouth like the smell of someone I’ve loved;
heart like an elephant screaming
at the bones of its dead;
heart like the lady on the bus
dressed head to toe in gold, the sun
shivering her shiny boots, singing
Erykah Badu to herself
leaning her head against the window;

and thank you the way my father one time came back in a dream
by plucking the two cables beneath my chin
like a bass fiddle’s strings
and played me until I woke singing,
no kidding, singing, smiling,
thank youthank you,
stumbling into the garden where
the Juneberry’s flowers had burst open
like the bells of French horns, the lily
my mother and I planted oozed into the air,
the bazillion ants labored in their earthen workshops
below, the collard greens waved in the wind
like the sails of ships, and the wasps
swam in the mint bloom’s viscous swill;

and you, again you, for hanging tight, dear friend.
I know I can be long-winded sometimes.
I want so badly to rub the sponge of gratitude
over every last thing, including you, which, yes, awkward,
the suds in your ear and armpit, the little sparkling gems
slipping into your eye. Soon it will be over,

which is precisely what the child in my dream said,
holding my hand, pointing at the roiling sea and the sky
hurtling our way like so many buffalo,
who said it’s much worse than we think,
and sooner; to whom I said
no duh child in my dreams, what do you think
this singing and shuddering is,
what this screaming and reaching and dancing
and crying is, other than loving
what every second goes away?
Goodbye, I mean to say.
And thank you. Every day.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Health wobble and learning about grace

About a month ago I had what I've come to call a 'health wobble'. I was running on my usual route, when I begun to feel a cramp developing. This usually happens when I'm on the eve of or have just started on my period, and sometimes gets so bad I have to stop and walk for a bit until it abates before I can continue running. It didn't feel too bad, and I was only about a kilometre away from my turning point so I tried to keep going.

Soon, however, the pain was undeniable. It's hard to describe this pain - it kind of reaches up to you heart and makes you feel anxious, and reaches down to your legs and make them feel cold and weak. It makes you feel nauseous. It is not the sometimes friendly pain of effort or intensity (e.g. post hill sprints), but the sort of pain that makes you feel like something is wrong and you don't know how to fix it. 

I wasn't able to walk the pain off, so I ended up crouching, then sitting. One of the people who I walk past and who waves to me (I wave back - it is very pleasant to have a anonymous group of friendly faces on a morning run) stopped and asked if I was alright, and stayed with me, talking to distract me and to accompany me until Dad and Hannah could come. We tried walking a few times, but sometimes his voice would start fading and the edges of my vision would start blurring so eventually I just stayed sitting with my head between my legs. Dad drove me home and I spent the rest of the day resting. 

The feelings that came out of that episode were strange to reflect on. On one hand, I felt rather unhappy - that I hadn't completed the run, that I was betrayed by my own body, that I had some sort of perceived weakness which I couldn't 'cure'. On the other hand, the physical fatigue and its evident manifestation in real life made me feel justified in taking a rest that day and only doing very light work. Usually, if I feel inexplicably tired I find it hard to give myself a rest, particularly when I can't see the problem or justify the tiredness. 

This physical health wobble, combined with increased responsibility at work which had been making me feel incapable and inexperienced, made for a difficult week. Friends counselled me with wise words I often offer to others myself: 'Have grace for yourself.' But I've realised that, while the core of my belief system is that I have been given abundant grace by the creator of the universe, I find it incredibly hard to claim that grace for myself. It's as if God offers me the grace I so crave and I say in return, 'Oh, but wait. Let me make myself worthy. Let me prove myself.' Which, of course, works the wrong way round. Grace gives me the platform of security and encouragement that allows me to grow into the person I was made to be. 

Just before that health wobble, my lovely friend Naomi wrote an article about experiencing 'chronic not-wellness' on her blog. Her words had so much wisdom, and say what I'd like to say with beauty and sensitivity, so I have put them here (read the whole article here):

Scripture teaches us that we don’t have bodies, we are bodies. It was just such a body, beautiful and limited and strong and fragile, that God himself decided was good enough for him. It is just such a body that the Holy Spirit declares a temple, holy, sacred. You cannot abuse that body without consequences. Chronic Not-Wellness at many times has functioned like a warning shot, an unavoidable reminder of the thoughtless way I was treating my body. Slowly, I came to rely on its communication, my illness weirdly functioning to make me more whole.

I am gradually realising that the people I admire and want to emulate are the ones who I perceive to be most ‘useful’ in the world, in my own flawed and prejudiced judgement of what constitutes usefulness – most gifted, most productive, most charismatic. Sometimes those things disguise themselves under other words: most sacrificial, most servant-hearted, most faithful, most committed. 

Except that I worship a man who lived in total obscurity for thirty years, worked an unremarkable job as a manual labourer, had a brief, local ministry in a remote part of the Middle East and was finally killed for his pains. Much about Jesus’ life baffles my capitalist work ethic: why didn’t he get going sooner? Why did he try to keep his identity secret for a significant portion of his ministry? Why did he let himself be stopped so quickly? There were so many more people to heal, feed, teach – so much opportunity for usefulness. Hanging on a cross is not useful. Why did Jesus throw away his highly promising career? Sacrifice effectiveness for the sake of total, naked vulnerability?

[...]

Chronic Not-Wellness reminds me that as long as I believe, in my secret heart, that life is about getting as much done as possible and that anything that stops me doing things is an evil, I will be blind to what has already been done for me. I will act with impatience, not gratitude and wonder, towards what I perceive to be slow or unproductive. I will be perpetually dissatisfied with what I have and what I have achieved. And I will fail to understand Jesus Christ, who declares that it is not healthy people who need a doctor, but the sick; not the whole who he came to save, but the broken. I will fail to understand the terrible, powerful truth contained by Paul’s words that Christ’s strength works most powerfully in my weakness (2 Cor 12:9), because it is then that it is all about him.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Language in a time of corona

Dancer from Kettle's Yard
 was listening to a podcast where Krista Tippet interviewed Ocean Vuong. Vuong's answers were incredibly perspicacious, but one conversation struck me in particular given this moment.

-----------------------------------

Vuong: We often tell our students, “The future’s in your hands.” But I think the future is actually in your mouth.

[laughter]

Vuong: You have to articulate the world you want to live in first. […] we have strong, good sciences, good schools; very advanced weaponry, for sure — but I think we’re still very primitive in the way we use language and speak, particularly in how we celebrate ourselves. “You’re killing it.”

Tippett: You’re so acute about the violence of the American lexicon …

Vuong: We have to ask. I’m not saying it’s wrong, per se; I use it, too, being a product of this country. But one has to wonder, what is it about a culture that can only value itself through the lexicon of death? I grew up in New England, and I heard boys talk about pleasure as conquest. “I bagged her. She’s in the bag. I owned it. I owned that place. I knocked it out of the park. I went in there, guns blazing. Go knock ‘em dead. Drop dead gorgeous. Slay — I slayed them. I slew them.” What happens to our imagination when we can only celebrate ourselves through our very vanishing?

Tippett: I mean, even you, as a poet, have said people will say to you, “You’re killing it.”

Vuong: What does it do to the brain? We know language matters. […] And so I think, what happens if we alter our language? Where would our future be? Where will we grow towards if we start to think differently about how the world is?

(Full interview and transcript available here)

-----------------------------------

Already, there is a conversation around the language we use regarding the virus, such as the difference between saying physical distancing instead of social distancing. I've personally been observing the range of words used for the measures put in place by governments to reduce the spread of the virus - lockdown, shelter in place, circuit-breaker. (I think shelter-in-place sounds the most beautiful, reminding me of Pslam 91. But I mostly been using lockdown because that is what is feels like and what most of the world understands. No one intuitively undertands circuit-breaker.) But something more troubling I've noticed is how the language used around the virus is laced with the lexicon of war or violence.

'frontliners'

'zoombombing'

'we will beat this virus'

Politicians, especially, use the language of violence. Boris Johnson stated that: 'This enemy can be deadly, but it is also beatable.' Donald Trump, Emanuel Macron, Narendra Modi and Xi Jinping have all referred to their response to the virus as fighting a 'war'.

South Asian University Senior Assistant Professor Prabhash Ranjan suggests that war metaphors are being used to galvanise people, to explain the gravity of the situation, to raise support for the governments measures and to create a sense of unity. He goes on to list the ways in which government could use such language for their own benefit, for instance to heighten surveillance and other authoritarian actions, create a cult of personality, or as a convenient excuse for mistakes. Yet his own article employs military diction: 'marshal resources and galvanise people fighting the pandemic'.

--------------------------

When I get voice messages from Naomi and Anais, often they begin with word of safety and love. 'Dear', 'my love', 'sweet', 'dearest'. I feel safe, cocooned in my earphones and their words of trust and confidence. Wrapped in their words, I am in a bubble and filled with peace. Again, I think of that passage in John and the disciples in the locked room. 'Peace be with you,' Jesus says, 'Do not be afraid.'

These words cannot, and should not, give a false sense of security. We do need a healthy respect of the virus, and we do need to respond with compassion and love for other people (wearing a mask outside, I've come to think, is a wordless way for me to tell someone I care about you, an intention I've found is best accompanied by a eye-crinkle smile above the line of your mask.) But these words can remind us that while this virus has taken away a lot and changed so much, there is a gentle strength in being able to love and communicate love and peace while we walk through this. Instead of a people 'besieged by an enemy', we can begin to sow the words of love and safety that will birth a more considerate world.

There are words of safety and there are words of fear - how comforting, when Jacinda Ardern said that you could see people in your 'bubble'. That image of a glistening sphere, source of childhood delight, is powerful. There is so much fear at the moment - people take pains to walk on the other side of the pavement to avoid other people, shelves empty, WhatsApp messages about the latest news and fake news fly from phone to phone. We could use more words of safety.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Gate A-4



Gate A-4
Naomi Shihab Nye - 1952

Wandering around the Albuquerque Airport Terminal, after learning
my flight had been delayed four hours, I heard an announcement:
"If anyone in the vicinity of Gate A-4 understands any Arabic, please
come to the gate immediately."

Well—one pauses these days. Gate A-4 was my own gate. I went there.

An older woman in full traditional Palestinian embroidered dress, just
like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing. "Help,"
said the flight agent. "Talk to her. What is her problem? We
told her the flight was going to be late and she did this."

I stooped to put my arm around the woman and spoke haltingly.
"Shu-dow-a, Shu-bid-uck Habibti? Stani schway, Min fadlick, Shu-bit-
se-wee?" The minute she heard any words she knew, however poorly
used, she stopped crying. She thought the flight had been cancelled
entirely. She needed to be in El Paso for major medical treatment the
next day. I said, "No, we're fine, you'll get there, just later, who is
picking you up? Let's call him."

We called her son, I spoke with him in English. I told him I would
stay with his mother till we got on the plane and ride next to
her. She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just
for the fun of it. Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while
in Arabic and found out of course they had ten shared friends. Then I
thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian poets I know
and let them chat with her? This all took up two hours.

She was laughing a lot by then. Telling of her life, patting my knee,
answering questions. She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool
cookies—little powdered sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and
nuts—from her bag—and was offering them to all the women at the gate.
To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a
sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the mom from California, the
lovely woman from Laredo—we were all covered with the same powdered
sugar. And smiling. There is no better cookie.

And then the airline broke out free apple juice from huge coolers and two
little girls from our flight ran around serving it and they
were covered with powdered sugar, too. And I noticed my new best friend—
by now we were holding hands—had a potted plant poking out of her bag,
some medicinal thing, with green furry leaves. Such an old country tradi-
tion. Always carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.

And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and I thought, This
is the world I want to live in. The shared world. Not a single person in that
gate—once the crying of confusion stopped—seemed apprehensive about
any other person. They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women, too.

This can still happen anywhere. Not everything is lost.

Meditations on John 20:19-22



On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

I have been deeply blessed by a series of four meditations on the nomad podcast website - the last one being this meditation on the Power of a Greeting. Anna Robinson goes through an imaginative exercise in which you close your eyes and imagine yourself as a person living just after Jesus died. Like the disciples (maybe you are one of them), you are in a locked room, and Jesus comes back - no knocking, just there.

'Hello,' he says.

I touch his arm - the soft fuzz of hair on his wrist and the veins beneath. The life. His face - he's real. There's a pain in my throat and I'm frowning and blinking and then I'm crying because I really missed you. 

'Will you stay with me?' I ask.

'No,' he says.

'Can I stay with you?' I ask.

'Yes,' he says, and smiles. 'Always.'

Hope in a time of Corona


On the day the circuit breaker was extended, I was calling Naomi before I knew. I lay on my parents' bed on my stomach, glad of the break from work to listen to her in her garden while I watched the fan spin and wondered about fate. I told her the Prime Minister was about the speak, she wished me well and we said good bye.

I called Jacob that evening while on a walk, wearing a mask that I felt was holding my face - my whole body - together. It didn't do a very good job. Crying in a mask is damp, suffocating, snotty and pathetic. 

'I feel like I can't be in past because it is so different from now. I can't be in the present because I really dislike the present. And I can't be in the future because I don't know what it will look like any more.'

'Jacob, where can I go?'

------------------------------------------

I found things particularly hard when the lockdown was extended because I had plans. Every year, at the beginning of the year, I make predictions. I like to say they are my hopes and fears for the year, with a bit more magic. 

This all started with Alex, and we sat one new years day making predictions which we then folded up and put into an old ferrero rocher box with some sweets and glitter, and buried in the woods near her house. She's gone back now and then, but has never found that box again despite one focused session of intense digging. I can't remember exactly what I predicted then - something about liking tea and having an argument with Jacob I think. 

This year, I predicted Jacob would grow a beard, and it happened.

This year, I predicted that Jacob would propose on a Sunday in May.

------------------------------------------

Last week, I read that Wuhan had seen more cases. I read that the PPE delivered to the UK was useless. I read that people were dying, and people are dying. 

'How do I hope when I can't see what it looks like? When I don't know what to hope for?' I asked Jacob, sitting on the floor in the windowless back room.

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This week, I went on a walk and listened to a podcast about Hope in a time of disappointment. Hope, it explained, is different to prediction. Prediction, or planning, is magical thinking. It is creating scenarios which can can see happening - scenarios with likelihood and benefit for you - in which you place your hope. But hope, real hope, is more about trusting something (or someone) that won't fade or change or be overturned by government rules. I can hope in Jesus - his promises to never leave nor forsake, his victory over death, his loving kindness (always). 

Maybe that looks like, instead of predicting that Jacob would propose on a Sunday in May, I trust that Jacob loves me and therefore hope that he will express his love to me in the best way for us. Maybe that looks like, instead of predicting that the world will come out of its lockdown and find a vaccine by July, that God will use this time to show his love and mercy and to deepen that precious knowledge of our need for him. I still pray for a vaccine, and for healing, and to see the people I love again. Prayer negates prediction since its very premise is one of helplessness. But I hope in Jesus, in his resurrection and his life - the life he gives to all who believe in him.