Saturday, 27 April 2013

The Stuff

When John Wimber, a church leader from years ago, first became a Christian, he read the book of Acts and asked his church leaders " When do we get to do the stuff?".

The same question applies now.

Any group of people can love and care for each other. They can have a sense of community, they can even be sacrificial in their love for each other. Any group of people can organise meetings and accept those who aren't acceptable in society. Anyone can have good values and morals. Anyone can do good acts and set up charities to help others. Anyone can play and sing uplifting music. So what makes the church any different?

'The stuff'. That's what.

Moses, before he took the Israelites out of Egypt, met with God and pleaded with him. "Don't send us unless your presence goes with us. How will the people know we are any different if you're not with us?"

He wanted to do 'the stuff' too. Like John Wimber, he knew that if God wasn't with him powerfully and in a real way, then there was no point to what he was doing.

When we, as the church, are seeking God and asking for His presence to be with us, we'll get to do 'the stuff' too. When we realise that nothing and nobody else satisfies us in the same way as Jesus, we'll put aside all our differences and focus on the important things. We'll see people healed. We'll see miracles. We'll see lives transformed. We'll see amazing provision. We'll sense the awesome-ness of God and we will be changed by it. We will have an unquenchable thirst and passion for Jesus which will be contagious. Far from being boring and irrelevant anymore, church will be the most exciting group of people on the planet. People will see how incredible and amazing God is, and they'll want to know Him and do 'the stuff' too.

The question is, are we happy with the status quo now or do we want to do 'the stuff' too? How much are we willing to step out and take some steps of faith? How desperate are we for God to be with us? How hungry are we for God? Or are we quite satisfied with what we have?

There is so much more. I want to see it. Do you?

Friday, 26 April 2013

Nine years. Nine Lessons.

Today my Max is nine. Whilst this is a cause for celebration for him, it is rather disconcerting for me. We are now halfway through his 'training for life' and we still have an awful lot of ground to cover. We've taught him how to speak, how to use a knife and fork (although that is sometimes hard to believe) and how to use the toilet. Now it's time to step it up a gear.

But what have I learnt in the last nine Max years?

1. He needs to know that we're in charge. Whilst he would very much like to be in charge, he knows that ultimately we call the shots. This isn't a dictatorship. Giving him boundaries gives him a sense of safety and security. He needs them so that he can learn to make decisions for himself.

2. When he climbs a tree, it's best to look away. When my boys were little and I took them to the park, I remember overhearing another parent telling their child that they couldn't do a particular climbing frame because it was too big for them. I resolved there and then to never say that to my children. I will never tell them they are unable to accomplish something just because it is too big. I will always encourage them to have a go, even if they don't manage it. With Max, however, this has backfired on me somewhat. The bigger the tree is, the better! And so, when he climbs up so high that the branches at the top are swaying, I look in the opposite direction.

3. Just because he is fiddling with his shoelace, it doesn't mean he is not listening. Max is a 'do-er'. In order to listen, he needs to be doing something with his hands. I fact, I have realised that I'm the same. Listening to someone talking is much easier when I can doodle on a piece of paper. Max isn't being rude. He is still listening (at least, that's what I tell myself).

4. Box? What box? When it comes to thinking outside of it, the box doesn't even exist for Max. His creative thinking both delights and frustrates me equally. The disorganisation that co-exists with his ingenuity means that he forgets to put his underpants on, or that he wears his clothes inside out. His bedroom awash with dirty clothes, clean clothes, snails, books, blunt pencils and pieces of paper with his latest ideas strewn across them. Perhaps Albert Einstein's bedroom looked the same. I'm hoping so.

5. Sssshhhh, but there is actually someone more stubborn than me. Don't tell him, but I actually think he might be able to dig his heels in for far longer than me. I have had to learn when to battle and when it is not worth it. Max, at four years old, was at war with me constantly. He fought over everything. I have learnt to compromise with him (without him knowing!) so that when I dig my heels in now, it is for the important things. Some days I took him to school with no shoes or coat on. Some battles are just not worth having.

6. Injustice makes him angry. One day, he might fuel those passions into standing up for justice, but at the moment he just shouts, slams doors and occasionally throws things. I have learnt to look for the signs for when he is going to erupt, and we have taught him how to deal with his anger. It's not always successfully carried out, but we have made a good start.

7. Beneath all the bravado, lurks a sensitive soul. Max inspires me to keep pressing on in my friendship with Jesus. He amazes me with his simple faith. He has prophetic dreams, he often sees angels, he hears God and he really believes that if God says something then it will happen. One minute he can be producing impressive armpit farts, and the next he will be bowled over by something new he's discovered about his friend Jesus. It's a privilege to watch him blossoming like a flower in the sunshine.

8. There is no point trying to teach him to aim for the toilet. I have spent years trying various methods including Cheerios to aim at, ping pong balls to hit, withdrawal of privileges etc etc. All to no avail. I'm so sorry future-daughter-in-law. I think I might have failed on this one.

9. Last but by no means least. Adventure should be his middle name. Give Max a challenge and he will face it head on, without taking a second to contemplate the consequences. When Max saw Felix Baumgartner take his giant skydive, he decided he wanted to go higher and beat the record. My job is to help him think about what he is doing, not to stop him doing it.

My boy has taught me so very much in just a few short years. I'm so grateful for him. I wonder what the next lessons will be as we head towards the pre-teen and then the dreaded teen years.....

Thursday, 25 April 2013


Dry, broken bones.
No life.
No hope.
No use.
Remnants of a life now dead.

Blowing, gently at first, through the bones.
More violently now.
Breath with power.
Breath with purpose.
Breath that creates change.
Breath that brings hope.
Restoring breath.
Life-giving breath.

Dry bones knit with tendons.
Bones become legs.
Bones become arms.
Fresh breath transforms.
Bones have life.
Bones have hope.
Bones become an army.

A vast army.
Fuelled by the creative breath.
Ready for battle.
An army revolutionised by the breath.

Taken from Ezekiel 37.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013


If you thought this was going to be a 'good mother' or even 'smug mother' post, you're sorely mistaken. The truth is, whilst I desperately want my boys to have a love of reading and enjoy being lost in the world of a book, I actually hate reading with them.

There, I've said it. The truth is out there now.

It's not that I hate reading TO them. Oh no, I love doing that (unless I've read the book more than a thousand times, and then it loses it's appeal). It's when they have to read to me. That's the bit I hate.

First of all we have the battle about them actually sitting down to read. I try my hardest to be positive, I really do. This is how my conversation went yesterday with Jonah.

Me: Jonah, we need to do your reading book. Oooh, it looks like a good one! Look! There's a rope swing on the front, and you love rope swings!
Jonah: I don't want to read it tonight.
Me: How about we just read a few pages? Just to see what happens with this rope swing.
Jonah: I'll read one page.
Me: How about five pages?
Jonah: Two.
Me: Four
Jonah: Three
Me: Four pages, and I'll play a game of Uno with you afterwards.
Jonah: Four pages, and you play two games of Uno with me.
Me: It's a deal.

Then when we finally get to the reading part, they suddenly have ants in their pants and can't keep still. They roll around the sofa, holding the book upside down which makes it even harder to read those tricky words. They turn the pages over too quickly, to see what will happen next. They get distracted by a brother playing Minecraft. They don't read the words they know well, but mess about and say different, silly words instead. They sound out words that don't need sounding out. They suddenly need a wee or even worse, a poo, in the middle of the reading time. Someone turns the TV on and their attention is instantly drawn away. It all takes far longer than it needs to. The whole process is painful, and tests my patience every single time.

And so, instead of helping them to work out words for themselves, I end up shouting the words at them. And I also impatiently say:
"Hurry up and turn the page."
"No, just let me hold the book in the right place."
"You've just read that line."
"You know what that says, just READ it!"

And all in all, it doesn't turn into the pleasant experience that I'd like it to be and the days when they can read to themselves are just heavenly.

So, there you have it. My bad mother confession. Now I've got that out of my system, I'd better go and do the reading books....

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Please Mr Washing Machine Man

Please Mr Washing Machine Man
Fix my machine today.
Don't tell me that you need a part
And you'll be back another day.
I'm not sure if you realise
But I have three boys who play
In mess and mud and grime, you see,
The dirt won't just go away.
I tried to limit the mud they found
But it was too attractive
The dirt just seemed to stick to them
Regardless of my protests.
So, Mr Washing Machine Man,
I hope you see my plight.
Please help me with my battle on dirt.
Please let me win the fight.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Jonah's Jokes

Thought you might want a laugh.....

Why does a kangaroo jump up the tree?
Because it wanted to have something to eat.

Why does a monkey hang on a tree?
Because it wanted to get more energy.

Why does a man cross the road?
Because he wanted to smash his head on the ground.

Why does a sheep cross the road?
Because it wanted to get its wool off grandad.

Why does a kindle cross the road?
On the other side is some energy so it can walk properly.

What do you call a kangaroo with ears on its bum?
Kangaroo bum.

What do you call a leopard with horns on it's back?
Leopard horn leopard.

What do you call a sofa with spikes on the back?
A Gruffalo sofa

Knock knock
Who's there?
Me sir, I'm hurt by a bow and arrow.
Sit on this bench before you hurt yourself.

There were 5 people and they were walking across the road and it was raining and they had to get to their house quickly before it stopped raining. How did one person not get rain on its head?
Because it was bald.

Why did a baby shave its hair?
Because it was too long.

There was a man and he was carrying sand on his back and he worked out that he could find something to put in the sack of sand that was lighter. What did he put in? A hole.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013


Standing by the edge of the waters of Daisy Nook watching three-year-old Toby and one-year-old Max throwing stones in, I wondered how many more years I would have to endure these activities.

Eight years later, standing on the edge of Lake Windermere watching all three boys having a stone skimming competition, I realised I am still enduring.

I have come to terms with the fact that they will never find pleasure in the same things as me, so I have decided to find pleasure in the same things as them. Last weekend was a perfect example. My idea of fun is most definitely not throwing myself down zip wires (ok, that WAS a teeny bit fun) and wobbling across high ropes courses (that was not fun, in any sense of the word) but because I knew how much the boys would enjoy it, I swallowed my girliness down and, step by wobbly step, I got on with it. I would not choose to sleep in a bunkhouse in the middle of nowhere with only basic facilities, but because the boys adored the adventure, I pushed luxurious hotel rooms to the back of my pink mind and set my expectations low for the weekend. Searching for bats comes close to my limits of comfort, but the boys were so very excited that I attempted to still my frightened heart and show them I was as pleased as they were when we saw a fluttering black bat flapping overhead.

To my surprise, I discovered that there is joy to be found in stone skimming (I can't do it), tree climbing and muddy walks. There is a freedom in being able to 'rough it' (although my husband informs me that we were not, actually, roughing it). I didn't have to brush my hair all weekend. Nobody cared what I looked like. The fresh air surrounding us was deliciously invigorating. The sense of achievement after the zip wire from hell was incredible (and I have gone up in the boy's estimations too). Watching the boys' wide smiles and imaginative play in the fresh air was enough to make my own heart smile. It was liberating.

I may not have children who want to curl up in front of a fire and read quietly or enjoy a day's shopping with me but I do have children who have an awesome sense of adventure and who teach me, nearly every day, to find that adventure inside of myself. My boys have pushed me to discover new pleasures in life which I would never have known about had I not joined in with them. Wellies have become my favourite footwear and warm hoodies my preferred item of clothing.

I wonder what I will find myself doing in the next few years. If nothing else, being a mum of boys is certainly an adventure. And you never know, maybe one day I'll be able to skim a stone.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Simplifying - One Year On

One year ago today my courageous husband gave up his safe but very stressful mortgage and bill paying job, halving his salary and not really knowing where the rest of the money would come from.

There were a number of reasons we made this choice, but the main one was that his job took him away from our family too much and he was frustrated that he couldn't be here for us and for our church family, Gracechurch. He felt trapped in a cycle of needing to work to pay the bills, but also needing more time for the people and things that are more important than bills. His job was often stressful and regularly contributed to illness. He could never get the work done that was required of him and his email inbox became his enemy. At home, we suffered the consequences of his stress and even when his body was here, his mind was elsewhere. He was anxious about money and always checking our account to make sure there was enough in there. It felt like we were trapped between rock and a hard place. As they say in the TV programme, The Cube, we needed to simplify.

And then we made one of the most liberating decisions we have ever made. He gave up the career ladder progression (for which he was earmarked in the company, but deep down we knew it would take him further away from us) and took a part time job as the assistant to the person who is now doing his old job. He set up Outdoors Unlocked as a way of making this happen and we thought this would be the road down which we would walk.

And it still is the road, but as we have taken each step forward we have discovered new provisions and different ways of earning the money that we need. We have realised that, in a strange way, it doesn't really matter where the money comes from. Jared gave up the notion that he had to provide for us and began to look to our Father in heaven to do the job instead. Now he has several jobs which all fit into our family life (including cleaning toilets, much to the boy's disgust!) and I contribute too with my job and my writing. Far from being anxious about money, Jared actually stopped worrying about it altogether! Every time we have a need, it is provided for. We've had more problems with our car this year than any year since we've been married, but each time we have been able to pay the bills fully and on time.

It sounds as though life is more complicated but actually, it all fits. It's so simple, and our goal of having Jared at home more for our family and our Gracechurch family, has been achieved. It brings so much freedom and has transformed our lives.

The last year has taught us so very much about our priorities, about where our provision really comes from, about who we trust in and about what we can actually live without. It has shown us how much we were relying on ourselves to pay the bills. As we have given up the reins of our finances, we have breathed out a huge sigh of relief. It hasn't all been plain sailing, but our Father in heaven has not once let us down. He is so very faithful and has, this year, given us so much more than just the money we needed. We have sat around the table together as a family and asked God to provide for our needs, and then celebrated together when these prayers have been answered. Our boys' faith has grown as they have seen these awesome answers, sometimes in such small and simple ways. It's exciting, liberating and far far less stressful than our complicated life a year ago. Simplifying, whilst it felt scary at the time, was the best choice we've ever made.

I don't know what the next year will bring, but I am not so afraid of the unknown anymore. Our family is on an adventure with the One who always holds us in His hands, even when it doesn't feel like life is going the right way. He knows, and that's all I need to know.