Thursday, 31 May 2012


I bet no-one ever told you that parenting is like archery. One of the many things I have had to learn about through my boys is bows and arrows. Oh yes, we've made them, bought them at extortionate prices from gift shops that you can't avoid walking through and even played imaginary bows and arrows. I actually surprise myself sometimes with my new found knowledge of these things. Little boys (and big ones, it seems) love bows and arrows.

And last night I was having a bedtime conversation with Max. You know, the kind where they actually talk to you not because they want to chat particularly but because they don't want to go to bed yet, but I make the most of every chatting opportunity with Max because he mostly doesn't tell me anything except the football score or the latest injury inflicted on him by one of his brothers. We were chatting about the future, and how we are helping him to get ready for his future.

It dawned on me that actually, being a parent is just like being an archer. (Ok, now I apologise if I take the little boy illustration too far, but it really was a light bulb moment). You've heard the phrase "I've got a quiver-full". Well, it's true! Our job as parents is to sharpen, polish and prepare our arrows. They're not going to stay in our quiver forever. Arrows are designed to be shot out, and to hit the target they must be prepared properly. A dull, shapeless arrow is not going to be very effective.

Our role as the archer is to sharpen our arrows. It involves scraping and whittling off the bits that shouldn't be there, and shaping it into the point that is going to hit the target. This is what disciplining our children is all about. It is our job. Not the teacher's or the grandparent's or their friend's job. It is ours. They are in our quiver, they are our responsiblity to sharpen. As hard as it is (and believe me, I KNOW how hard it is) we have to sharpen and discipline our children. We must give them boundaries. We must help them become the person they are meant to be. We must train them so that they are ready to hit the target. We love them, cherish them, keep them safe in our quiver and we shape them. We accept them as they are but we help them to change. If we just accept them as they are, and leave them at that, we will end up with blunt arrows that aren't in anyway ready to be fired. This is our job, and we must 'man up' and accept the challenge.

And then, when they're sharpened and ready to be shot, what then? I think that will be the hardest part of all. We must remove them from our quiver of safety, put them in our bow and fire them out. We have to let them fly. On their own. Without us. We have to trust that we have shaped them and prepared them enough for them to reach their target. I have no idea how this will feel. Even now as my boys begin to pull away from me, I feel the shadow of an empty quiver on my back.

As I explained all this to Max last night, he looked at me with his lovely, expressive face going through stages of confusion, understanding and finally excitement.

"What's my target Mum?" He asked me.
"Well, I don't know yet Max, we just have to make sure you're ready when it's time to fly!"

He was thrilled. I left him in bed, thinking up exciting ideas for the rest of his life (unfortunately he stayed awake until 10pm thinking up those ideas) and came downstairs wondering how I will feel when it's time to shoot. Will I be ready? Will they be ready? The quiver will stay on my back forever now, but one day it will be empty and my job will be done.

Monday, 28 May 2012


Yesterday I joined with hundreds of other women and 'ran' the Race for Life. It was sweltering and, as I get hot and sweaty even when the pavements are covered with ice and snow, I knew that it would be a hard, wet slog. And it was. Still, I managed to run most of the way with only 20-30 second walking breaks a few times. I was pleased with that achievement. So pleased that I actually wore my medal all day afterwards (along with Jonah, who also wore a medal he'd received at a party the previous day).

Being new to 'running' (which, in my case really means plodding whilst breathing like the worst dodgy heavy-breather you could have down the phoneline) I had never experienced anything like the Race for Life yesterday. Usually I attempt to blend into the background whilst running, which is fairly easy because I certainly don't run at the speed of light. I try to hide away so that no-one notices me and my trail of sweat racing along behind me. Yesterday, however, there was no hiding. We were in the spotlight. I had never in my life run in front of so many onlookers before and it was a strange sensation. And they weren't laughing at me either (they were smiling, but I think that was a kind smile not a 'don't you look stupid' smile). It was a revelation to me.

These onlookers were also cheering. They were cheering me, while I ran! I never ever thought anyone would do that for me, and it took all of my self control not to burst into floods of tears full of gratitude. These people had given up their mornings to come and cheer me on. And it worked. I never realised how important the cheerers were until yesterday. They gave me determination and courage. They helped me to believe I could actually finish it.

And of course, I knew that my boys would be waiting at the finish line ready to shout me along the last few metres. This kept me going and focused. I looked out for them constantly. Then, as I rounded the last bend I heard Toby shout "MUM!!!!". I looked up and saw my boy, beaming with pride at me! Me! My boy was proud of me! I heard the rest of them then, cheering, shouting, hollering and grinning from ear to ear at their hot, sweaty, tired, plodding but determined Mum taking those last few steps to the finish line.

And that was when it dawned on me. Those people, to whom I belong, are rooting for me. Whilst the encouragement of the spectators was incredible, when I heard the voices and saw the faces of my boys it was awesome. There is nothing that could describe how I felt, seeing them watching me and hearing them shout for me. But I belong to One far greater, who is also cheering me on. How incredibly peace-filling and encouraging it is to know that the Creator of the whole universe, is watching me run my Race of Life and cheering me on. How wonderful to know that I am in His hands. As I run my race, and go through tough, dry, hot, desert like seasons or busy, manic, noisy seasons, my God is cheering me on. To know his pleasure and delight in little old me, is far greater than even seeing the pleasure and pride on my boy's faces.

He is the One whom I want to please and in whom I find ultimate pleasure. He is the One for whom my life is lived and my race is run. And when I finish my race, He is the One whose face I will see, beaming at me.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Last Chance Saloon

It always makes us chuckle when we hear our children repeating back to us the ultimatums and phrases we have used on them. If nothing else, it shows they were listening.

Jonah. Oh I do feel sorry for him. He tries every trick in the book, without realising we have seen it twice before already. In his mind, he has thought up a new way to manipulate us and is always rather pleased with himself. We just giggle quietly to ourselves whilst reminding him who is actually in charge around here.

His latest idea is to give us a 'last chance'. (Do I really say that? I don't remember giving him last chances...)

Picture the scene. Three hour journey, travelling home at night after a long (but lovely) day out, with three boys squished into the back of the car. My clearly ridiculous expectations were that Jonah would sleep most of the journey home (and being honest, I was hoping the other two might sleep too). My expectations were not met. Not even slightly. Several sherbert dips, dip dabs and bag fulls of sweets later, he was wired and definitely not going to sleep.

Every 5 minutes or so, for the whole journey, he asked me what he could do. "Muuuuuuum," he whined, "What can I doooooo?"
Me: "Go to sleep."

This conversation repeated itself over and over again with different variations for the whole three hours. Sometimes I told him to snuggle up with his doggy, bobby (muslin cloth) and saw (yes, really, he cuddles a plastic saw in bed). Sometimes I told him to snuggle under Daddy's jumper. Sometimes I told him to just look for stars and the moon. I tried to be as patient as possible, and that was a challenge.

Towards the end of the journey he began giving me ultimatums.

"Muuuuuuum", (Ooooh that whiney voice does nothing for my patience levels, especially at 11 'o' clock at night) "This is your last chance......Tell me something to do that isn't going to sleep."

My last chance? Jared, Toby, Max and I all had a good laugh at that one! What was he going to do exactly if I didn't comply to his specific wishes?!

My reply? "Go to sleep, Jonah."

And low and behold, 5 minutes before we arrived home, his gentle snoring began to rumble through the car......

Friday, 18 May 2012

Just Say NO!

Anyone else out there old enough to remember the old Grange Hill anti-drugs song? It has sprung to my mind recently, but for totally different reasons.

At the risk of sounding like a Grandma way before my time, I have begun to watch a new generation of parents emerge. Parents who do not seem to have the confidence, skills or determination to give their children boundaries and (dare I use the word?) discipline.

I watch toddlers running rings around their mothers, who sit and blandly smile at their precious angels. I hear mothers discussing their babies who apparently don't 'like' bedtimes (and I am not passing judgement on this - I had 3 non-sleepers, but there is a difference...). I see school aged children only eating a limited diet of breadsticks and chocolate ice cream. I hear mothers desparing. I also see laughing mothers watching their children, totally oblivious to the fact that their angel needs some boundaries setting. I hear about fathers who just do the playing and fun stuff with their children, instead of taking the responsibility.

I wonder how this all happened. How did we reach this point where parents are unable to discipline their children? Why is the 'no' word such a bad word these days? I am all for allowing children to explore, experiment and make their own choices but surely a parent's role is to guide and set limits on that exploration. How can children feel safe unless they are given boundaries? How can they really learn about the big, wide world of disappointment and failure if their parents, who love them unconditionally, are not the first people to say 'no' to them?

It is a dangerous place to be. What will happen to the babies and toddlers of this generation's parenting? How will they learn that the world does not revolve around them? How will they learn to share, to show kindness, to be respectful towards others or even to go to sleep on their own if they are not taught? Parents need to be the ones who say 'no'. We need to take the responsibility. We must step up to the challenge - and it will be a challenge - of disciplining our children. It is one of the best ways we can love our children. We must love them by saying 'no'. If we don't, the consequences for the next generation could be disastrous.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Soul Health

I have been very inspired by this incredibly faithful man of God recently. He's not some 'celebrity platform preacher' or 'star missionary', just an ordinary family man with a name that makes me want to giggle - Horatio Spafford. Go on, have a giggle with me, I don't think he'll mind.

Mr Spafford had a beautiful wife, 5 children, a business and a welcoming home. They were faithful christians and active in their Presbytarian church. In 1870, however, the Horatio's faith was tested by the devastating death of youngest child and only son. Just one year later, the Great Chicago Fire burnt up Spafford's business. They decided to take the family to Europe for a break and in 1873 Spafford's wife, Anna, and 4 daughters boarded a boat bound for new shores and new adventures. Spafford was to join them in a few days. The boat they boarded was hit by another ship and sunk in just 12 minutes. Only Anna survived. Once she was on dry land she sent this telegram to her husband: "Saved alone. What shall I do." I cannot imagine the utter devastation this man must have felt in losing all of his children.

On hearing the news, Horatio Spafford boarded the first boat he could find and made his way over the very same waters to find his wife and bring her home. As they passed over the now still water where his four daughters drowned, Horatio hid in his room and penned these words:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trumpet of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trumpet shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

This man who had lost everything was able to lift up his eyes to the One who makes his soul well. This isn't positive thinking. This is not 'living in victory' but denying the realities. He wasn't reading a self help book to get him through a rough patch. Did this man deny his feelings? I am sure he would have wept with inconsolable grief as he passed the site where his four daughters drowned Yet he praised his God. He said his soul was well. How can his soul be well when his life has been devastated by death and fire? The wellness of his soul did not depend on circumstances, it depended on the One who gives him peace like a river, even when his sorrows roll like the waves. The wellness of his soul depended on the One who never changes.

So simple. So uncomplicated. So real. So true. May the wellness of our souls depend on the One who is steadfast and generous in goodness, love, faithfulness, wisdom, grace, mercy and hope.

Sunday, 13 May 2012


There is something very satisfying about seeing my boys playing in the sunshine. This weekend has been the first dry weekend forever (well, it feels like that anyway) and although they do play outside in all weathers they have, this weekend, spent most of their waking hours in the garden. Apart from the wonderful fact that when it is dry they do not walk mud all through the house, I just love to watch them having their adventures.

I have given up having a garden which is beautiful. Instead I have a garden in which my boys can have adventures, take risks and make up their own games. Times have changed since those 'Just William' days when children would be out of the house from dawn until dusk making dens, building bridges over streams and climbing trees but I have tried to let my garden be one of possibilities for them. Mostly, it has worked.

This weekend they have spent hours out there with hammers, nails and old offcuts of wood transforming their 'playhouse' into a 'nerf base'. To my unseeing eyes, it looks like a piece of old junk but to them it is a wonderful creation. Their masterpiece. They worked so hard on it together. If I was to include it in a CV, I would write "Team building activities".

As I type they are kicking footballs into a tree and working out different methods of retrieving them. So far they have used rope, an old bike tyre, a stepladder and an enormous pole. They don't even realise they are learning as they play.

One day, when they have their own families, I might be able to have a beautiful garden full of flowers that won't be trampled on. But at the moment, I don't need flowers to bring me joy. My joy is complete in seeing the sunshine streaming onto their muddy faces, their legs hanging out of a tree and a rope dangling precariously from a ladder.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

A Rainy Forest School Morning

This morning I helped out in Jonah's Forest School. The children are aged 3 and 4. It was pouring with rain, and I mean pouring. Even I wore waterproof trousers, and for an indoor girl like me (and yes, I am one on the inside), that is quite a major feat. It was thrilling.

These are the things I noticed them learning:

Perseverance. When they got cold hands, they rubbed them, shook them, clapped them together and then carried on.

Safety of those around them. They looked out for each other and made sure they weren't waving around big sticks. When they came across nettles, instead of completely avoiding them (far too much of a risk, surely?!) they all put their hands up in the air and walked through them.

You can still have fun in the rain - lots of it. They lay on the wet floor under trees, while others shook the water all over them to give them a shower. They stood in the rain, mouths open, to taste the raindrops. Apparently they taste like strawberry jam. They rolled down a wet, slippery hill. They splashed, jumped and kicked their way through enormous deep puddles.

Dressing and Undressing. When they came in, they were so wet (despite being covered in waterproofs from head to toe!) that they all had to get changed. Some of them looked at me helplessly, holding out their wet wellies for me to pull off. Instead, I gave them my most patient smile and said "You can do it! Give them a big tug and they'll come off!". They tugged and, to their amazement, the welllies came off.

Confidence - Those who were a little more wary of rolling down a wet hill, soon took the plunge (almost literally) when they saw how much fun the others were having.

It gives me such a thrill to see children discovering the joy that can be found outside, whatever the weather, and watching them learning even when they are not aware of the things they are learning. Despite being soaked to the bone, it has put a huge smile on my face for the rest of the day. What a privelege to be a small part of the development of those children. It is so important for them to experience the changing seasons and the different weather patterns. They learn so much more than about plants and nature. Taking children outside in all weathers is vital for their development. I love, love, love Forest School.