No Ordinary Love Story

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A reader used the phrase “no ordinary love story” when they contacted me recently to tell me how much they enjoyed my book, Strong as Death. It got me thinking. Can love ever be ordinary?

Over sixty years ago, a fourteen year old girl caught sight of a sixteen year old boy.

“See him there, I’m going to marry him,” she told the friend standing next to her.

“Who is he?” her friend asked.

“I have no idea,” the girl replied.

Fifty eight years ago this week, seven years after she fell in love at first sight, the girl married the boy whose name she hadn’t known. Today, there are probably only three people in the world who remember that anniversary. I am one of them, my siblings the others. That boy and girl were my parents.

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My parents on their wedding day in March 1958

I grew up experiencing every day what it is to have parents who love each other. And I grew up knowing what it is to have parents who loved me, who would comfort me when I hurt, fight my corner when I needed someone standing there with me. I will be eternally grateful for that. There is nothing ordinary about a child experiencing unconditional love.

Death robbed me of my father’s love when I was twenty three and my youngest sibling was just fourteen. My mother’s heart broke, but still she loved her children through their sorrows and joys and triumphs and disasters until her death twenty two years later.

I remember my parents’ love every day. But it came to an end, because that’s what death does. It ends things.

Thirty four years ago, I met the wonderful man I married. He loved me every day, and I broke what we had. For the first time in my life, I learned what guilt really tastes like, how heavy shame is. We divorced.

And then something astonishing happened, a longer story for another time, but one that involves reconciliation, forgiveness. A slate wiped clean. A rebirth of love and a second chance at a marriage that will last until death us do part, because, though some broken love stories can be redeemed, death finally defeats even those that last a lifetime

But there is another kind of love, one that fills me every day with awe and wonder. It’s the love of a father who went through the unimaginable loss of his only, extraordinary son, so that the guilt and shame of ordinary people like me could be banished forever. So that death could never again have the final word, could never again write the end of the story.

No love is ever ordinary, but there is only one love not even death can break and I’m so glad to have discovered it. Of all the astonishing and undeserved loves I have ever known, none compare with the extraordinary love that was unleashed on the day Jesus rose from the grave, the day people all over the world, including this ordinary woman, who has been loved back to life by that same extraordinary God, remember this Easter weekend.

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Catching magic

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Golden dragonfly.

Golden dragonfly.

Recently, my husband suggested an evening walk somewhere magical. A Site of Special Scientific Interest, Drumbrugh Moss is an ancient and rare place that is home to flora and fauna that has been established for thousands of years. With each step we took, dragonflies, clouds of them, took flight. As the sun caught their wings, the air was filled with shimmers of turquoise and emerald and copper and gold, and my breath was taken away as that place seemed to be alive with more than the memory of the time when faeries were real and their tales were true. I wish I could have captured the sight, but I’m not a photographer and the only camera I own is on my phone. I’ve done my best with these images I’m sharing here.
Dragonfly landing on Steve's hand.

Dragonfly landing on Steve’s hand.

Drumbrugh Moss - a magical place.

Drumbrugh Moss – a magical place.

Turquoise dragonfly.

Turquoise dragonfly.

Dragonflies are a symbol of resurrection, a symbol of hope, and I was reminded of a scene in my novel, Strong as Death. Omitting a name for those who haven’t read it, this passage came to mind:

“Music I’ve never heard before, sung by a voice I never thought I’d hear again, joins in with the silvery snow-dance and floats towards me and I search through the lacy veil to find the source. And there he is, singing his song of darkness that became warm, like liquid velvet that shimmers with a promise, velvet black that swallowed the shadows of the pain that was his charred and broken body. And there is light, singing to him, and in him and through him, pulling him into the circle of silver that glimmers at the end of the dark. And the silver explodes and the sound is glorious and the broken body, the body that’s no longer his, falls away to the bottom of the dark. And iridescent wings lift him towards a blue he never imagined, rays of light touch his body reborn, sending flashes of green and flares of cerise like a first sunrise. And his new song reaches for the chorus of the dragonflies that flock above him as he soars to join his dragonfly-song with theirs.”

Strong as Death second edition

Strong as Death
second edition

I hope I catch the imagery of these magical creatures with my words, if not my pictures and if you’d like to give Strong as Death a try, you can find it:

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Many happy returns

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Recently, I changed my car. Now, everywhere I look, I see the same model and colour; there’s even one that parks two spaces away from me at work. I never noticed it before. Synchronicity? Coincidence? Or maybe there’s a part of my brain that just notices them more now that I own one? Over the past few days, I’ve stumbled across several articles about the experience of losing a parent where I’ve read about grief, gratitude, guilt and a plethora of other complex emotions.

Why is it that, even years after the event, adults who lost parents can still carry so much overwhelming emotion? Surely, as grown-ups we’re programmed to expect the loss of our parents? Surely that means our grief will not be as great as other griefs? Perhaps, but I don’t believe bereavement comes with a colour chart that tells you how intense the shade of your grief should be, though, for a
long time after my father died, I thought perhaps it did and that I’d got my hue wrong. Someone asked me whether I thought I’d have been more upset if my boyfriend (now my husband) rather than my dad had died, whilst six weeks after his death someone told me: ‘You’ll be over it by now.’ Yet another someone

Dad

Dad

declared what had happened would be “the making” of me.

Our parents made us, physically, emotionally and spiritually; that’s why, whatever their legacy in our lives, we cannot remain ambivalent when we remember them. For me, I am thankful without reserve for the inheritance of love, faith and resilience I’ve been gifted by my parents.

Just last week, I read in the book of Zechariah chapter 8: “The traditional fasts and times of mourning you have kept in early summer, midsummer, autumn and winter are now ended. They will become festivals of joy and celebration …” This weekend saw the anniversaries of both my parents’ birthdays. Rather than mourning, I have imagined the celebrations we would have held as my dad turned eighty; the secrets and surprises I and my siblings along with the spouses he never saw us marry, the grandchildren he never got to meet, would have planned. And right there in the middle of it all Mum, composing and orchestrating it all. For my parents, their birthdays reached the end of their returns, but for me, this anniversary is an opportunity for joy and celebration for all my parents were during their lives on this earth, for their hands in my life and for the rewards their faith brought them in their deaths. The happy returns are now for me to enjoy, along with all who loved, and lost, them.

Strong as Death

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My novel, ‘Strong as Death’, is available over the next few days on a Kindle Countdown Deal on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com (Amazon Countdown Deals aren’t available in other territories, though you can still download the book worldwide). If you’d like to find out more, follow one of the links below, and if you do decide to download and read, I hope you enjoy reading my book as much as I loved writing it.

Amazon.co.uk

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Strong-as-Death-love-live-ebook/dp/B00IIOWO4U/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1404729663&sr=8-1&keywords=strong+as+death+julia+lund

Amazon.com

http://www.amazon.com/Strong-as-Death-love-live-ebook/dp/B00IIOWO4U/ref=la_B00IIVGB24_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1404729797&sr=1-1

Happily never after

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The day is not dawning, but is still brand new. Reluctant sunshine slips through the mist that whispers of winter. An echoes-with-the-past day.

The letter he will not read, lies on the table.

She remembers his arms, his skin warm on her face, his heart beating stolen time: once-upon-a-time; once-upon-a-time. Once. Upon. A. Time.

The hymns will have been sung, by now his widow, immaculate in mourning, accepting graveside sympathies for her loss.

She puts a match to the he-will-never-read letter. Flames consume her words. Smoke tears her eyes. The taste of the silence of happily-never-after rubs her throat raw.