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.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Notes from a Newbie Working Mother

It's a different kind of summer holidays for me this year.  I'm working 2 and a half days each week while  Daddy Day Care takes over with the boys.  It's very strange being the one who gets out of bed first and heads out while everyone else is still snoozing.  I can't say I like it.  But I do like the fact that I don't have to deal with the fighting and entertaining all day.

The big debate on working mothers rages on and, whilst the guilt felt in both camps is completely unnecessary (every family is different and judging others is irresponsible and ignorant), I have noticed a few things as a newbie working mother.

1. Men don't notice the same things as women.  As much as he has tried his very best, Daddy Day Care does not automatically, but silently, clock where Max leaves his crocs so that next time he needs them he can easily locate them.  He also does not think about putting wet swimming towels and trunks into the washing machine.

2. The boys still love being with him.  I thought he might be stricter, which would make them want me back again, but they still groan when I over-enthusiastically announce 'It's mummy day today, boys!'

3. Having spent my stay-at-home-mum years working out my identity and value as a woman cherished and loved by my Creator, it is very easy to slip back into choosing to find my worth in a job title.  This is a battle which I will continue to fight as job titles mean nothing compared to what my Father says about me.

4. It doesn't matter how important you feel putting on your name badge and going to work, nothing beats having a conversation with your little boy clad only in spy glasses and a pair of pants who is 'turn around touch the ground bagsying' a sleeping bag for his homemade den.  

5.  My brain still exists.  It made it through the endless years of play dough, ride-on toys, pingu, duplo, dinosaurs, trucks and stressful sand and water play.  Let me give you hope.  There is light at the end of the (let's be honest) tunnel of boredom.

6.  They can all survive without me.  They may spend more time on screens than my control-freak-self would cope with.  They may not eat as much fruit as my obsessive-counting-5-a-day-self would like.  But they can do it.  And not only that, but they can actually thrive without me being there to keep my careful eye over what they are eating, drinking and doing.  Perhaps that's a good thing.

So, for those of us who haven't found the elusive 'term time only' job and are dealing with complicated logistics for weeks on end through the summer, let's keep our chins up and not give in to the guilt.  It's not worth the time, and there certainly isn't much of that anymore.


Friday, 25 July 2014

Finding the Shade

We love to moan about our weather.  It's too cold, too wet or too hot.  Our country isn't geared up for the heat, the snow or the heavy rain.  We don't cope too well.

Of course this week has been full of waterfights (always ends in tears), ice creams (not from the van that plays music - when the music is playing it means they've run out, doesn't it?) and trying to find the relief of the shade.

Our lives get hot sometimes too.  The pressure is too much.  Work is relentless.  The demands of our children are exhausting.  We carry financial burdens of debt.  Our relationships are difficult.  We worry, constantly, about our children.  It's just too much.

And then we watch the news and see the heat in other nations too.  The horrors of Gaza.  The ethnic cleansing in Iraq and Syria.  Plane crashes that seem to happen every week at the moment.  The fear of nuclear weapons.  Politicians that are increasingly lacking in integrity.  

And we feel like there is no relief from the tormenting downward pull on our emotions.  We are surrounded. The heat seeps through our skin, burning us from the inside out.  This is no comfortable sunny day.  This is the heat of a ferocious fire, pressing down on us and bringing us to a place of surrender, until we shout 'no more'.

But there is some shade.

The Lord watches over you - The Lord is your shade at your right hand;
The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.               Psalm 121

When the heat of the day is too much, find the shade.  He is our shade.  He brings sweet and refreshing relief from the devastating burning that threatens to wreck us.  

We don't have to sit in the midday sun, sweating and wilting.  We are watched over by a God who promises to breathe coolness over us.

So, find the shade.  It's good.

And pray for those imprisoned in the fire - those in Gaza, Iraq and other nations, that they will know this shade too.  May this fire of destruction that is ravaging it's way across the world be stopped in it's tracks so that these people with such soul-destroyed sadness in their eyes can know the freedom that comes from sitting in the coolness and peace of the shade.


Wednesday, 16 July 2014

When dreams are just dreams.

'You're going to be a mum!' 
'Me?' Laughs Sarah, 'I'm far too old now!'

'You need to build a boat.  It's going to rain.  A lot.'
'In this dry land?' Quizzes Noah.

'You're going to free my precious people from slavery.'
'But I'm a murderer and I can't even speak properly.' Protests Moses.

'You're going to be King.'
'I'm the youngest and I'm only a shepherd boy.' Wonders David.

Dreams and promises.  

We've all got them.  They might be squashed down, hidden beneath layers of a busy life, but they are there and every now and again they pop their heads up again to remind us of their presence.  

When we look at ourselves and our circumstances they seem impossible.  That's what makes them dreams.  If they were realistic, we'd have done them by now.  It's so easy to whitewash over them with our realism and sometimes cynicism but however many coats we paint, the rainbow coloured dream-paint always manages to show through.  Those dreams never completely vanish and our naked hearts ask the 'what ifs' and the 'hows'.

How do we live with the rawness of the promises and the unfulfilled reality?  How did Sarah live with the promise of a baby without any glimmer of hope?  How did Moses untangle the mess of his utter pain of watching his people live through such injustices whilst not being able to act until the right time? How did Noah survive the presumed misunderstanding of his friends and family while building a boat for a supposed flood?  There was no sign of these dreams being fulfilled.  Not even a droplet.

I find myself looking for a droplet.  I want to know that the heart-wrenching, stomach-squeezing pain I feel is going to result in a fulfillment of the dreams and promises I hold in my heart.  But there is no sign.  

And so I take one step after another, completely blind to what is ahead, but holding on to the One who already knows and I put my hope in Him.  I walk through each door He opens, sometimes completely confused.  I try to keep the tears and the ache of injustice from spilling over and I take my cries to the One who will wipe away every tear.

I stop whitewashing over my dreams.

And I keep my eyes fixed on Him.

I don't know how to live a different life. 

Post script...
As I finish writing this, I look out of my window to this...


He keeps his promises.  Every single time.