A Beautiful and Messy Story

In the large Lincolnshire village of Nettleham, close to where I live, there is a majestic church that has stood sentinel over the community for 800 years. The church is splendid and full of history both dreadful and delightful yet despite its charm and beauty (and I urge you to visit it if you ever get the chance) it is wandering through the graveyard that gives me the most pleasure. I know that makes me sound a bit weird and before you start removing me from your Facebook family or Twitter group, let me explain. 

Rather than hang out in graveyards on a dark and stormy night, I prefer a bright, dry day complete with the melodies of blackbirds and the gravelly jackdaw voices that call grumpily to each other from the balls of dried twigs and grass they call home. As I walk among the stones, there is solemnness and peace almost tangible as a mark of respect for each life that spent time in our world. Most walked the earth for many years, some only a few but each person has left a footprint. Some footprints are deep and strong and people will remember them for many years or even decades and others are very faint, with the softest outline. But despite the tread, everyone has left a presence; a story. 

I love to stop at the gravestones and read the names, work out their ages, imagine what the world was like during their lifetime, and discover little clues about them from the tiniest epitaph and even from the state of the stone. Perhaps their loved ones still live and lovingly tidy the space around the stone, collect the curled, dried rose petals, and clean away the nettles that cheekily push their way through the soil.  Maybe others have joined them in the afterlife and their stones sit embraced by ivy and inhabited by earwigs. I am fascinated by all these beautiful people and their messy lives. Beautiful because that’s how God made us. He made us all in His own image and he actually calls us His masterpiece… For we are God’s masterpiece…Ephesians 2:10. Messy, because that’s how we all are and, I believe, what makes our stories so wonderful. We mess up, we need God, He helps us through one way or another and we share our stories of life. 

Another reason I love graveyards is that though many believe graveyards are for the dead, there is so much life. Birds sing, children’s voices are heard from the nearby playground, dogs sniff about, blossom falls, grass grows, buttercups flourish and the presence of the past lives on. Death is defeated. Life is abundant. Everyone leaves behind a story, albeit and beautiful and messy one. 

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