Saturday, 20 September 2014

Approaching Adventure

I observed such a fascinating thing today.  And it summed up all three of my boys so precisely that I couldn't help but write about it.

We needed some fresh air today.  We were craving the wild spaces.  The boys needed to be able to shout and holler.  They needed to make wolf cries and throw sticks.  They needed to lift heavy logs and climb trees.  Their bodies had to slip and slide down muddy hills, doing stunts and landing upside down.  Sometimes there is nothing else that will do.  So, despite the drizzle, we headed out to the nearby hills.  

We found beauty in wet, glistening cobwebs.  We laughed at knobbly bits on trees that looked rude.  We threw sticks up into chestnut trees to make the conkers fall down.  We stamped, rolled, lifted and climbed.  Oh, how we needed the freedom.

And then we found this 'awesome' tree which was asking to be climbed.

With a leg up, all three boys managed to climb and explore.  They breathed in the high up air, which is so much more liberating than the air on the ground.  They pulled each other up and congratulated one another.

And then it was time to move on and get down.

Toby, the cautious risk taker, assessed the situation searching for the best way down.  "What do you think, Dad?  Is it about 2.5 metres?" he asked as he peered over the branches.

Max laughed and launched himself out from behind Toby. "What do you mean 2.5 metres?  I'm just gonna jump!" he hollered as he landed and rolled across the wet leaves.

Meanwhile Jonah had found a 'throne' in the tree and sat quietly, watching his brother's responses and trying to gauge his own.  "I'm not getting down." He declared. "I'm going to live here."

Eventually, after much huffing and puffing, Toby made it down the tree by holding on carefully and sliding down.

Jonah was the last climber left.  "Dad!  Will you catch me?"  He found a safe place to jump from, but not onto the far away ground like his brother.  He would only jump when he could see his Dad's arms were ready and strong enough to catch him.  When he was satisfied, he leapt into the safety of his father's arms.

I have never witnessed such a truer representation of the way my boys approach risk-taking and it made me understand that we must teach them differently and treat them individually when we are faced with larger risks than an enormous tree.  

It doesn't mean we must never take the risks, it means that our job as parents is to help them approach the adventure they were made for in the way that is best for them.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

A little potted history and why we don't have to be super.

Growing up, I devoured biographies about missionaries.  I was so inspired by the likes of Jackie Pullinger, Jim Elliot, Hudson Taylor, William Carey and so many more.

As a student, my bedroom was decorated with an enormous world map and the walls were littered with quotes from missionaries who had given up everything to serve God in another nation.  I woke every morning to this prayer next to my bed:

'I give up all my own plans and purposes, all my own desires and hopes, and accept your will for my life.  I give myself, my life, my all, utterly to You to be Yours forever.  Fill me and seal me with your Holy Spirit.  Use me as you want, send me where you want, work out your whole will in my life at any cost, now and forever.'

This prayer was written by Betty Scott Stam, who served as a missionary in China and was marched naked through the streets and then murdered in 1934 shortly after hiding her baby daughter to protect her life.

I lived and breathed these incredible stories of courage and sacrifice.  

For me, following Jesus meant there was no other way to live.

Despite having 'settled' with three children for the last 13 years, these stories have continued to gnaw their uncomfortable teeth into the relative comfort of my world and they still make up a fundamental part of who I am.

That honest and powerful prayer is still written at the front of my bible.  There have been times when I have chosen to ignore it, but deep down I am still that girl who yearns to just be obedient to her God whenever and wherever he calls her.  That strand, woven into me so young, has wound it's way around the rest of my life and has made me the woman I am today.

But here's the problem.  When I look again at those tough, sacrificial people who spent years in remote jungles with no Facebook or Skype; when I read again about women living on their own in the middle of huge drug dens; when I remember stories of diseases rampaging and eight week boat journeys I wonder if those people are some kind of 'super-Christians'.

How can any normal person attempt anything like that?  How can I, so flawed and often so lacking in faith, say 'yes' to the call to something so far removed from any comfort zone I have ever known?  I'm no 'super-Christian'.  I shout at my children (shhh). I get cross with people who leave dog poo on the pavement.  I like to be comfortable.  I don't like spicy food.  I get tired and irritable.  I don't like camping in a tent for a week so I'd never be able to live in a mud hut for endless years.  I'm not super.  I'm just me!

And then I realised I don't have to be super.  In fact, there's no such thing as a 'super-Christian'.  All those people I read about were normal too, but they were following a super-God.  I don't have to be super.  I don't have to perform or look like I'm a very holy and sacrificial person to others.  I just have to love and follow my super God who was more than enough for those people who left everything to answer his call and He will be more than enough for me too.

He's enough.  And that's all that matters.  

So when He calls us to do something scary, whether it's boarding a plane to a far off country or showing kindness to a neighbour, we can say 'yes'.  It's not about us, it's about Him.  He's the one who gives us all we need and He's the one to receive the credit.

And, of course, a blog about my favourite missionaries wouldn't be right if I didn't end with one of my favourite quotes.  William Carey, a normal shoemaker turned Baptist missionary, lived in India for 41 years.  Often referred to as God's plodder, there were no big stages and bright lights for him but he loved faithfully adventuring with his God.  He said this:

'Attempt great things for God.  Expect great things from God.'

Let's live attempting great things knowing we don't have to be perfect, because we know the perfect One will give us all we need and more.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Tell me what makes a man....

During one of our long car journeys this summer, we managed to have a family philosophical conversation instead of the usual whining, arguing, 'are we there yet's and wee stops. It was so refreshing.  

Interested in the culture of muscles and brute (and with the old Take That song singing inside my head) I asked the boys this question:

What do you think makes someone manly?

Their answers surprised me.

1. A man can burp over 100 decibels. (Ok, that one didn't surprise me.)
2. A man is strong enough to cry.
3. A man is not bothered by what other people think.
4. A man is courageous.
5. A man is sacrificial.
6. A man knows he is weak but knows the God of all strength.
7. A man has a good friendship with God.
8. A man is able to walk away from a fight.
9. A man works hard and finishes a job he has started.
10. A man is wise like Jesus.
11. A man is humble enough not to win every argument and puts others first.
12. A man can pop his pecs. 

What a list!  In all their boyish fun about farts (and lighting said farts), burps and boobies, they shocked me with their wisdom.  

What would you add to the list?

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Specks, planks and machine guns.

This morning I read this:

"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?... You hyprocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."  (Jesus Christ)

Then I read a devastating story about a nine year old girl, taken for firearm lessons by her parents, who inadvertently lost control of the sub machine gun she was learning how to use and killed her instructor. Tragic.  For the little girl, her parents and the family of the instructor.  It sickens me to the pit of my stomach to think about how this one incident has completely wrecked the life of this little girl.

And the uproar on social media, the modern-day judge and jury rolled into one, has spread like wildfire.

Are any of us perfect parents?

Have we all made mistakes?

Can any of us claim to have made the right decisions for our children all the time?

Certainly not me, and I doubt you can too.

Let's focus on the planks in our own eyes and let these parents deal with the utter devastation of their own lives without adding our own online slaughtering of a choice they are, without any doubt, regretting and mourning.

It's not our place to play judge or jury.  Our own eyes are too full of wood to be able to see clearly.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Re-living the Littlie Days

Due to a shark attack (I know it sounds like a made up excuse, but it's actually true!), Jared's phone was damaged and for the past week he has been using an old phone.  It doesn't get email, Facebook or anything exciting but it does have some very funny old texts stored on it which we've had a little giggle over the last few days.  I thought you might like to have a chuckle too.

So, from 2009 (Jonah was 2, Max was 5 and Toby was 7) here is a snippet of my life by text:

"We're in a park.  Jonah is off on his own.  Next time I'm gonna bring a book,"

"Thanks but if I'm pregnant I think I'll find it hard 2 b moulded thru that!"

"Thank u 4 being so incredibly wonderful."

"How come Jonah hardly poos all weekend and then this morning when you're not here he does loads?!"

"Controlled crying.  Why?"

"Aaah. A few mins peace while I walk down 2 sch.  I can't believe you're going away again 2nite.  I'm not recovered from Monday yet!"

"Sorry about the muddy boys.  They r v happy tho and playing nicely."

"Jonah has been following me around screaming since I spoke 2 u.  Boys r fighting and not getting dressed properly.  Not sure I can do this."

"It's really cold and raining and Max has insisted on wearing shorts.  He says he likes the cold.  How did we produce such irritating children?"

"Ok, don't worry.  I have ear plugs in my ears and chocolate in my mouth."

"Max has drunk the entire contents of his water bottle.  I dread 2 think wot state his trousers will b in by tea time."

"I have just got j ready 2 go out and knee'd him into the pushchair mid tantrum.  I think he's burst my ear drum he was screaming so loudly!"

"Phew toddler group all done.  Jonah enjoyed it.  I was so glad Flic was there cos I was bored beyond belief."

"I need chocolate.  Where is it?"

"Ugh.  Those ducks are evil."

"The toilet has been baptised with bleach. If it smells after that then there must be something wrong."

"I have just written 9 pages of instructions 4 my mum!"

"Sorry to interrupt but is there any choc anywhere?"

"Bored bored bored bored bored bored."

"Jonah has just walked up 2 a grandma, pointed to his runny nose and said bogey."

"I have just been sat watching tv with J whilst rocking the doll like a baby.  How sad has my life become?!"

"Wot time is yr eta?  Struggling here.  Toby having tantrums cos club penguin not working.  Max ordering me about like a sergeant major and Jonah being Jonah."

"Jonah is lying on floor in car park cos he wants me to let go of his hand.  I will sit here 4 as long as I need 2 as long as I win."

As well as making us laugh, it has reminded me just how hard those days were and how things have changed!  If I am ever tempted to look back through rose tinted glasses (and I do sometimes), I will just re-read this blog and remind myself of the sheer and relentless exhaustion that having littlies brings.  Respect to all of you out there still in this phase.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

A Mother's Separation

The little boy whose hand used to fit snugly in mine (when he wanted it to) is now bigger than me.  He's taller than me and his feet are several sizes larger than mine.  Now those hands which I distinctly remember squeezing tight and holding next to the pushchair handles as he screamed his way down Ashton Old Road, refusing to hold on, are now bigger than my hands.

Things are happening to this little boy of mine.  Things I don't understand as a woman.  Things he doesn't want me to understand as his mum.  And I can't keep up.

One minute he was bouncing across all the sofas and playing 'tickle monster' with me.  The next minute he is confined to his bedroom, music blaring, and when he does join us he lolls around on the sofas making inhuman sounds.

And I feel panic rising up.  That little boy has disappeared, never to return again.  In his place is a young man, full of opinion and youthful arrogance.  

I knew that little boy.  I knew every inch of his body.  I knew when he'd done a poo, when he'd cleaned his teeth and how much fruit he'd eaten each day.  His body was mine too and I could cuddle, stroke and touch whenever I wanted.  I could scoop him up in my arms and kiss his chubby little cheeks.  I could blow great big raspberries on his belly as he laughed from the depths of it.

That body is changing now.  It's not mine anymore.  Rightly, it's his.  But I grieve that soft skin and that little hand worming it's way into mine.  I feel sad that this body, created and grown inside mine, is doing it's own thing without my help.

Separation anxiety is now reversed as I have to separate from my boy.   I have to work out what it means to guide my boy into becoming the young man he is supposed to become.  

Time to take yet another step back, watching and waiting in the wings for when he needs me again.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Depression, The Secret Illness

I've had depression.

Sometimes it still tugs at me, pulling me underneath the black swirling waters again.

It's not something that can be controlled by positive thinking.  It can't be 'snapped out of'. It's not just a bad day. 

If only.

Depression, the thick, draining fog from which there seems no escape is debilitating at best and life-threatening at it's worst.  It sucks the breath from your life and leaves you anxious, confused and exhausted.

Be kind to those suffering. Avoid encouraging them to 'go and feed the ducks in the park' (actual words from my GP) and just be there for them, loving them through their fog.  Don't make them keep it a shameful secret.

Then maybe, just maybe, they will find hope again. Perhaps they will find a reason to live instead of a guilty list of things to die for.  

There's no shame in depression. Get help before help is too late.