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.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Smashed Windows and Angels: Parenting In The Extremes

If, like me, you are blessed (I convince myself of it daily) to have a child with an extreme temperament then you will be familiar with the following description.

Passionate, emotional and often loud, the child with an extreme temperament will throw themselves, heart and soul into the things that are important to them.  Emotional reactions will often be violent and physical, and they will sometimes be confused and even frightened by the strength of their own emotions.  Happiness can easily and swiftly transform into rage.  Utterly convinced and un-persuadable, they will immerse themselves in their beliefs (even if they are incorrect).  Yet at the same time they have a soft heart towards others and take a passionate stand against injustices.  

We find ourselves parenting one of these almost indescribable creatures who swings from the rafters in joyous celebration and sobs from the depths of his soul. 

One minute he is smashing windows (double glazed - how?) with a football and screaming because he thinks his younger brother is laughing at him.

The next he is serene, face shining, telling us about the angels he has seen and how much he loves to be in the presence of his friend Jesus.

There's no doubt about it, he is an odd boy who makes us laugh and cry in equal measure.

We love a challenge, but how, oh how, do we parent a child like this?

Hope. 

I refuse to be discouraged by the negativity surrounding anger.  I refuse to allow his anger to be his identity.  I refuse to let this anger define the rest of his life. 

I choose to believe that my boy, passionate as he is, will use his anger for injustice to make a difference in this world full of evil.  I choose to believe that his Jesus, who he adores, will use him in ways I can't even imagine.

Dependence.

I refuse to pretend we can do it all ourselves.  I refuse to play the 'I'm a great mum' game.  I refuse to become all-knowing in my self-sufficiency.

I choose to depend on our God who promises to be enough.  I choose to let Him take the credit.  I choose to ask Him to be generous with wisdom.  I choose to let Him father me as I mother this boy of extremes.

Acceptance

I refuse to squeeze my boy into a box of 'being normal'.  I refuse to try and make him into someone he is not, and can never be.  I refuse to be embarrassed about his eccentricities.

I choose to embrace the boy he has been created to be.  I choose to love him, including all his quirky and odd ways which make me feel uncomfortable sometimes.  I choose to love despite the pain.  I choose to accept him and present him to the world around us as an accepted boy.


And so, as our boy decides to do body-building poses in front of the mirror instead of getting dressed, or forgets to wear his underpants to school again, or comes home full of his news about how he has saved yet another boy from 'the bullies' at school, I am overwhelmingly grateful for all he brings to our lives. 

There is no doubt in my mind that the world would be an infinitely more boring place without him in it.




Friday, 13 June 2014

Time with the Father

Oh how my boys love to copy what their Dad is doing.  Whether they like it or not, they try everything in their power to be miniature (or not so miniature anymore) versions of him.  Exasperatingly, they copy the way he burps; the way he keeps a tea towel over his shoulder and of course, they take on his love for the outdoors and adventures.

They love him, so they do what he does.

But if they never spent any time with him, they wouldn't know what to copy.  They wouldn't know that every now and then he loves to get on the floor and wrestle until it hurts.  They wouldn't know that he likes to iron or that he enjoys serving other people.  They wouldn't know that he can't resist trying new foods, even if he has no idea what he is eating (And they wouldn't know that I have no sympathy for him in the aftermath).

In the Bible, Jesus says he only does what he sees his father doing.  How would he know what his father is doing unless he spends time with him?  The very reason he spoke to the people he spoke to, healed the people he healed, rescued the victims of injustices and called to follow him the people he called was because he spent time with his father, searching to see what he was doing.

Likewise, in order to live our Jesus-following lives to the full, we need to spend time with our father seeking out his heart.  A legalistic, clock-watched half hour of reading the bible and praying through a dry prayer list doesn't quite fit the description.  Father God is calling us to actually be with him.  He wants us to know his heart.  He wants to talk with us and love us.  He wants us to pray for his kingdom to come on earth like in heaven. He wants to lead us and show us the next steps.  

He wants us to do what we see him doing.  

And then, we do it too!  

No complicated formulas for success, just spending time with our father in heaven and saying yes when he calls us.  There's never been a more exciting adventure!

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Mealtime Diamonds

Our mealtime conversations are becoming renowned for their randomness.  One day this week we were discussing liquidising goats testicles.  The next day we worked out an emergency plan for if someone chopped off your (obviously, not in my case) penis - including detailed descriptions of blood loss and jokes about barbecued sausages (whilst I was eating a sausage).  The following evening, we created new words to Frozen's 'Let It Go' song.  And you do not want to hear them, I promise.

Today, we discussed 'what would you do?' scenarios.  And here's the one that took me aback.

What would you do if you were one of Jesus's disciples when there were 5,000 people to feed and then a boy came forward with just five loaves and two fish?  

Laugh?  Cry?  Feel angry at the boy?  Invent McDonalds sharpish before a riot breaks out?

This is Max's answer:

I'd ask Jesus 'What are you going to do with that?'

You know, for all the funny talk about farts and pee, our kids sometimes come out with bombs of wisdom and this is one of them.

When we are overwhelmed with finance difficulties, busy-ness, parenting exhaustion and demands of life all we need to do is offer ourselves to Jesus and leave the rest to him.  

That little boy gave all he had.  Did he know Jesus was going to turn it into enough food for thousands?  I doubt it.  Did he have faith that Jesus was going to use it in the best way?  Yep.

So, we give all we have into the hands of the One who can multiply beyond our wildest imagination and we ask Jesus 'What are you going to do with that?'  

Our role is faith and obedience.  

His role is multiplying to meet not only our needs but the needs of people we don't even know about yet.

Can we offer ourselves and wait for Jesus to show us what he's going to do with us?