Thursday, 18 December 2014

When children become gods

A few weeks ago my very astute and surprisingly wise middle son made this remark to me: 

Mum, I think some people turn their children into gods.

It hit me like a nerf bullet in the stomach.

Questioning a future that was entirely different to the one I had expected, including a possible move to another nation at the 'wrong time' in our boys' education, I realised that perhaps I was doing exactly that.

This particular (middle) son is also known in our house for his 'not now' phrase.  

"Max, go and clean you teeth."
"Not now."
"Max, empty the bins please."
"Not now."
"Max, time for a shower."
"Not now."

You get the drift.

And in my "not now" of disobedience I had put my boys before God.  I had put their (perceived by me) needs before my obedience to the One who knows their needs so much better than me.

"Not now God," I had said " Toby is a teenager!"
"Not now God, Jonah is settled in his school!"
"Not now God, Max is difficult enough to cope with in this country let alone another one!"
"Not now God,  Toby wants to go to his end of year prom!"

And in my disobedience, I had made my children my gods.

Opening my Bible, I read about another young man,  Daniel.  Taken from his home and his culture, Daniel ended up in the courts of the Babylonian King.  Despite the pressures to conform, Daniel resolved in his heart that he wouldn't 'defile himself' by eating food that was unclean and he decided to just eat vegetables instead of all the rich foods offered to him.  Explaining this to the palace official was not easy.  The official argued that Daniel would be under nourished and far worse off on this restricted diet.

So, Daniel made a deal with him and he was able to try this diet for ten days.  Of course, after ten days he was far more healthy and better nourished than the other men in the palace and so Daniel was allowed to continue with his strange food habits.

As I read this story, I realised three things:

1. Daniel was resolved.
2. He made a choice which others didn't understand.  He had decided to follow his God and, even if he was worse off, he chose to trust God for his health.
3. The risk paid off and following God, despite the sacrifices, was actually better for him than if he had to continue to just fit in and do what everyone else was doing.

Daniel was known for his unswerving faith.  He gave up 'good things' because he chose to live a radical life of obedience to his God and in the end it was better for him.  The 'good' was replaced by the 'even better'.

And so whilst I had all these good plans and ideas for my boys and their futures, I realised that more than anything else I wanted them to live a life like Daniel - resolved, trusting God and being obedient to Him.  I couldn't make them and their futures my god anymore and yet again I had to put them back into the very safe palm of God's hands, wherever that would take them.

No more 'not nows'.  When God says 'do', I want to be able to 'do' instead of thinking of all my (very good) excuses.  My children are not my gods.  They are with us on the mission and as I keep putting them back into God's hands, I am excited about the 'even better' that He has planned for them.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

All is calm, all is bright?

The films and adverts depict beautiful scenes of smiling families (one boy, one girl) laughing together as they decorate their Christmas tree. You can feel the love emanating from the screen. It's what Christmas is all about, isn't it? Precious family time, bringing peace and good cheer.

You'd think.

I'm guessing then that fighting over who will put the star on the tree, taking it off again when somebody else has put it on and then rolling across the floor howling isn't what normal families experience. 

And what about the putting together of the (bargain, and still going strong) fake tree? Do the pieces get thrown on the floor in a strop because the person 'fluffing up the branches' can't do it properly? I've never seen that on a Christmas film.

Do the tangled Christmas tree lights cause tears of frustration on the adverts? So knotted up, they are just asking to be thrown across the room, surely. And once around the tree, the person who will remain nameless, suddenly remembers it's a good idea to check they work first. They don't. 

To encourage the festive cheer, one child plays 'frosty the snowman' loudly from you tube. Unfortunately it is so loud that we have to shout at each other to be heard. Causing more of a frosty atmosphere than the snowman would have liked.  Just stay quiet, Frosty, you're not helping.

'No-one's letting me do anything!' Shouts the youngest, flopping to the floor in tears before running upstairs to his bedroom.

'I'm not sure I can live with that for the next three weeks' whispers the parent looking at the star lights randomly stuck over the window in no particular order.  The boy who'd huffed and puffed over the star lights heard the whispered comment, shook his head and stomped up the stairs leaving the parent feeling guilty.  I've never seen that in the Christmas Downton.

And the tinsel fights? 'He's got more tinsel in his room than me! MUM!! Will you tell him?!!!' 

And so, expectations of a joyous family activity lead to raised blood pressure and stress levels that could reach Santa's sleigh.

Maybe tomorrow we can be the family on the telly.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Protective Parenting?

Sometimes we've been misunderstood in our parenting.  Criticised, even, by people who don't quite see where we are coming from.  

Because we've never been the type to hover over our children while they are on climbing frames.  When they have wanted to leap over a stream, and we can see they probably won't make it, we've never stopped them.  (I think our washing machine might wish we had).  When it was time to learn to cross roads, we taught them to do it themselves rather than keeping a tight hold of their hands.  When the tree has been swaying because they are sitting in the topmost branches, we have cheered them on in their climbing accomplishments. 

And when God tells us to take them on a plane and visit a country totally alien to them, we share it with them and they jump into it with the gusto they use to jump the streams.

India's not a normal holiday destination, that's for sure.  There was no way we could shield them from the pleading eyes of the ragged girl tapping on the car window, begging for money.  We couldn't ask them to look the other direction when we passed the strips of material on the side of the road that served as family homes.  We couldn't put ear plugs in their ears when we listened to the stories of young girls who had been sexually exploited and trafficked.  There was no way we could leave them behind when we climbed onto the crowded bus full of street children and spent the day washing them, feeding them and helping them learn.  Our boys were there and together our hearts were broken several times over.

We couldn't protect them from the horrors and injustices of the world.  

Do I regret it?  Was it a mistake to expose them to such heart-ripping sadness?

Oh no.  Rather than wounding them, their hearts have grown immeasurably.  They have seen and heard so much more than so many of their friends at school and their compassion comes from a knowing.  They talk from experience now and when they pray for other nations, they pray with a maturity that surprises me.  When we talk about giving to others, they are generous with their time, money and possessions.  This Christmas, when the extravagant worship of money and consumerism threatens to take over, they have spent each day thinking of others and choosing ways to give.  And we are in this together.  

Our family adventure is a shared one.  And I love sharing this gift with them because I know, without a doubt, that it will better for them than if we had tried to keep them closeted.  Ultimately, we can't protect them but we trust them into the hands of our God and we know that whatever He asks of us as a family, they are fully protected there.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

A Story of Surprises

This year has surprised me.

Some years whizz by.  When you look back you can't remember anything other than school runs, busy workdays, even busier weekends, grumpy children, smiling children and toilets that need cleaning again the second after you just finished cleaning them.

Other years seem to be pivotal.  You get married.  You have a baby.  You graduate.  You move house.  Those years are like the foundational stones in the story of your life.

But, for me, this year has been surprising.

My prayer for this year has been this:

Be the author of my story. 

Perhaps because I am a writer, this feels more poignant to me.  I know that when I write a story, I can create characters exactly the way I want them to be.  I can send them wherever I choose.  I can give them obstacles to overcome.  I hold the pen and I breath life into them.

And letting go of the penmanship of my life has brought changes and events that have, quite honestly, sometimes shocked me.

There have been fast-paced times, full of action and adventure which have taken my breath away. 

There have been slower, careful times which have brought pause, rest and nourishment.

There have been twists and turns which have caused me to lean deeper into the only One who is steady and hold on tight. 

There have been weeks and months of heavy, thick and confusing fog where I couldn't see the next step and didn't know how we would reach any kind of goal. The Author didn't have writers block but sometimes it felt that way and so I had to lean in harder, trust more and keep giving back the pen instead of snatching back into my little hands.

And there have been times when my heart has been so wrecked, so sore and so pained by the events I have witnessed around me that all I could do was lie flat on my face and sob whilst the heart of the Author has been breathed into mine and I have felt His compassion, His anger at injustice and His love.

And now this year is coming to a close, I can see how it all fits together.  All year, it has felt like separate chapters, not merging and sometimes even from a completely different story.  But now, looking backwards and forwards into the next year, I am surprised at the intricate weaving of a story which never started with me, and won't finish with me.

Because it's not my story.  It's His, and I am overwhelmingly grateful to be a part of it.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

What the Parenting Books don't tell you.

Parenting books.  The bookshops are flooded with them.  And I was an avid and naive reader of them until I realised one thing.  They weren't about my child.

Here are the things parenting books don't tell you:

1. When you have tried the controlled crying, the 'shhh pat' method (yes, it really exists and yes, I really did try it), co-sleeping, rapid return, gradual withdrawal and all sorts of other ways of making your baby sleep at night and NONE of them work, you have not failed.  

2. Sometimes ignoring a toddler's tantrum involves allowing them to follow you around the house screaming for hours on end.  Wear ear plugs.

3. You cannot force a baby to open their mouth when you are trying to feed them mushed up, snot-looking puréed broccoli.  It just goes all over their face instead and adds to the smeared bogey already on their cheek.

4. Some babies hate lying on their stomachs for 'tummy time'.  They will still be able to sit, talk, walk and do their GCSE's.  

5. I have never met a child who likes to stay still on the 'naughty step'.  Instead the battle then becomes 'stay on the naughty step or you will have to sit on the naughty step'. What?  Exactly.

6. Despite trying all the advice given to you, sometimes you will still feel like the worst mother in the world and you will want to run, screaming and flinging your arms around, out of the house.  In those moments, lock yourself in the bathroom.  If you haven't got a lock on your bathroom door for safety's sake, get one for your own safety.

7. When you leave your children to learn negotiation skills during an argument, expect to have to physically pull them apart seconds later when they are punching and kicking each other.  

8. I'm all for consequences, but make sure the consequences you give aren't more of a punishment for you.  Never, for example, ban screen time while you are making the tea.

9. Expect to be an expert on all alien body parts.  You will need to know how to answer statements such as 'Mum, my penis is keeping me awake.'

10. Spending 'quality time' with your children is very important.  But don't expect this to affect their behaviour.  They will continue to moan and cry at you, despite the fact that you have spent hours following intricate Lego instructions with them.  

11.  Some days your parenting brainwaves will work, and some days they will not.  All you can do is pick yourself up, dust off the insults hurled and the broken promises, and carry on.  

And I've only done 13 years.  After all this, the next 13 are going to be a breeze, surely? 

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Christmas adverts - sneaky marketing or Christmas spirit?

Since when was Christmas about sentimental adverts?  

Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas.  I enjoy spending time with family.  I love the excited squeals as my boys open their presents.  I enjoy the chocolate.  And the rest of the food, of course.

But these adverts?  They are a bizarre phenomenon to me.  Sneaking their way into Christmas tradition with their clever marketing, they somehow have become part of our modern day advent.  We all know Christmas is on the way when we see the soppy adverts populating our screens.

And do we really think that the big companies are just making these adverts so that we can enjoy Christmas more?  Are they simply to add to the excitement of Christmas?  Call me cynical, but they are out to make more money.  They make these adverts to change the way we think about their products, so that we suddenly can't have Christmas without them despite the fact that we have managed pretty well without them for the rest of our lives.  

We can all have a little smile and sigh at Monty the penguin, and we can feel nice on the inside about enemies playing football together, but I refuse to be sucked into their attempts to make themselves at home in my Christmas.  They are what they are - adverts to encourage us to spend our money.  No more, no less.  And they may be sweetly perfumed, but to me they smell of the ugly whiff of consumerism which gobbles it's greedy way through our Christmases.  

But that's just me.  

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

The Missing Child

Eleven years ago, around this time, we would have been meeting our very own little firework.  Anticipated with excitement, this child was given to us and then, just as a firework disappears into a thin mist, was taken away again.


A cruel word that somehow denotes failure on the part of the mother.  Did I carry the child wrongly?  Did I make a mistake?

It's not a word that can ever convey the stomach punching, gasping for air shock when the sonographer looks at you over the top of her glasses and tells you that your baby has died.  

It's not a word that explains the raw pain, like pouring vinegar on an open wound, as you come to terms with the fact that your child, safe and protected inside you is no longer safe.

It can never explain the sudden emptiness inside as you contemplate the fact that this life, once growing, has now gone.

This word cannot be weighted with the sadness that comes from knowing you will never hold your child, never rock them to sleep, never kiss the graze on their knee, never despair with their homework and never watch them grow taller than you.

It doesn't warn you of the sadness which lingers, years afterwards or of the confusion as you have other children and think of the 'what ifs'.  

It doesn't tell of the empty space in your family, and it doesn't give you permission to include in your number of children another one you've never met. 

The word doesn't alert you to the anxiety you will feel in subsequent pregnancies, obsessively checking to make sure this one is a keeper.

It doesn't allow you to grieve as you would for a child you had held, despite the fact that you already had given your heart in love to this tiny soul growing inside.  Your private grief cannot be shared because no-one else loved your child yet.

This one word, used so often and sometimes so flippantly, will never sum up the devastating anguish which rips apart your world.

And yet, as time moves on in its frenetic way, the tenderness of the pain passes, becoming a sadness and then simply a hollowness.  There is a space in our family and in my heart for this child, and I miss them.  

And so, as I watch the fireworks I remember our other child, the one who is missing, and I am grateful.  I'm thankful for all that has passed and for our boys, given to us in the here and now, for us to love, train and make happy memories with.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Dear Teenage Girl

Dear Teenage Girl,

I was you, once. 

I understand how it feels to need the world to affirm you. I know what it is to want to fit in and look the part.  I understand that the world around you sometimes dictates the way you dress and behave. And these days that pressure weighs far more heavily on your skinny shoulders than it did on mine. Everything surrounding you is screaming at you to look like a fake woman, and the screaming never stops. It reaches into your heart and twists, hard, so that eventually you give in. And you try. You try so hard. I can see that.

But, sweet girl, here's the truth. Beneath the sultry pout and the 'messed up bed hair' Facebook profile picture lies a strong, beautiful woman. Under your layers of foundation and heavy eye make-up there is a naked and raw intelligence that our world needs. Inside the body that you stare at in front of the mirror for so long, desperately trying to squeeze and tuck those gorgeous curves away, there is a confident young lady who is stretching out of her crysallis.  Under the 'I want my hair to look like I've just had sex' messy hairstyle lies a brain that is crying out to be used for good purposes.

And guess what? Young men aren't actually looking for a fake woman. 

Young men love your smile. It brings hope and warmth. They're not bothered about whether you can achieve the perfect pout.

The young men I know are searching for a girl they can cherish, just for who she is.

Young men are looking for a girl they can put the world to rights with not a poster girl.

Young men are looking for a girl who is beautiful in her vulnerability and strong in her resolution.

Young men are not looking for a girl who can't leave the house without make-up. Rather, they want to love a girl for her naked confidence.

Young men are looking for a girl who can throw her head back and laugh with abandonment, unconcerned about the whiteness of her teeth.

Young men love your curves. They're not interested in whether your bum squishes out or whether you have draped your half -naked body across a screen in an attempt to find favour.

Young men want to hold your hand and love your heart. They see beyond the mask you paint over yourself and they are in awe of who you really are.

And if they don't want all these things,  are they really the ones you want to give your heart and your body to?

So, beautiful girl, you can give up trying. Just stop.  
Breathe a sigh of relief.  

All you need to be is the courageous, clever, funny and beautiful girl you were made to be. 

And then wait. 

Wait for the one you don't have to try for.

He's worth the wait, I promise.


Thursday, 16 October 2014

The Good Samaritan?

It seems we have a 'good Samaritan' in our family.  One who simply cannot walk past injustice.  A courageous boy who has to help others, despite any dangers to himself.  A young man who, seeing the world in black and white, launches himself passionately to rescue others.

All of this is to be nurtured and celebrated.  In fact, it's exciting to know that if we do support him and help him to shape his passion for justice then he can, in his own way, be a part of the fight against injustice across the world.  Who knows what this could lead to?  I don't.

But at the moment he is 10 years old and the injustices that are in front of him are the ones on the playground.  Always impulsive, when he sees someone being hurt he intervenes.  And he intervenes physically.  He hasn't developed mentally enough yet to know that it's not always a good idea to throw someone to the ground at school but he's certainly strong enough to hurt them.  In that split-second moment of anger at the injustice in front of him, he forgets about the fact that he might get into trouble with the teachers and he doesn't care about the beating he might get from the other children.  He just throws himself in to rescue the 'victim'.

Then he finds himself in a detention for fighting, and rightly so.  Consequences are important.

And so we find ourselves walking this difficult line of encouraging his inbuilt passion for justice but helping him to find other ways of outworking it.  Of course its not acceptable for him to punch someone simply because they punched someone else.  But in his black and white world of retribution and vengeance, he is only doing the right thing.

I wonder about the good Samaritan in the story Jesus told.  This was a man who also couldn't walk past, unlike the Pharisees.  He helped someone he was supposed to hate.  Like our boy, he put aside any thoughts of danger to himself and he went out of his way to save this man's life.  But I wonder what he would have done if he'd come across the man a few hours earlier, when he was being beaten almost to death by the robbers.  Would this Samaritan man have risked his life to save someone else?  Of course, it's only a story and we don't know the answer to this hypothetical question but I do know that some people are made to fight injustice.  They can't look away.  And our boy is one of them.

So we have no choice but to continue shaping and whittling away at this boy, one of our three arrows.  Sometimes we have no idea what to do or say that will help him to learn to use his passions for good.  We will not force him to squash them down or hide them away.  We will encourage him to be the young man he was made to be.  As parents, this is our job and not to be delegated to anyone else.  But it's not an easy tightrope for us to walk across and mistakes, of which there will be plenty,   can have scary consequences.

We know this boy is most definitely a challenge but, mercifully, we love a challenge and we love him.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

When blindness is the only way forwards.

Perhaps I was a strange child (and that would explain a lot about my boys), but when I was younger I used to enjoy walking around the house with my eyes closed, pretending to be blind.  I enjoyed the feeling of not quite knowing what was coming up next.  It was vulnerable.  I knew the layout, of course.

But sometimes, in my minds eye, I would imagine that a step or a piece of furniture was closer than it was in reality.  I would move my legs and prepare myself for it only to have a surprise when I realised I hadn't quite reached it yet.  Anyone else experienced this or is it just strange old me?

The thing is, the piece of furniture was still there.  I just had a few more steps to take before I reached it.  It hadn't disappeared.

It's the same with the dreams that have been planted, some very long ago, in my heart.  

When you can't see what's in front of you and you walk by faith alone, sometimes you imagine things are closer than they really are.  They feel close enough to reach out and touch, because your heart tells you that you simply cannot continue without knowing they are finally at your fingertips.  Surely it's time to grasp hold of all that has been weighing heavy in your heart.  

And when this happens to me, I begin to prepare myself for a different movement, excited that this is the time.  

And then it isn't.  And I'm surprised and confused.

And I have to do something with the dreams and promises that refuse to be pushed down any longer. I have to stop trying to peek out of the corner of my eye and remember that walking by faith is just that. It's not by sight.  You can't see ahead, and you're not supposed to.

All I know is that there are some more steps to be taken.  I can't jump from here to there.  I have to walk it.  

And I have to keep tight hold of those dreams for a while longer.  They are still there, just like that piece of furniture, solid and waiting for me.  I haven't made a mistake or got the wrong end of the stick.  They hang there, over my days, like a banner calling me towards them.  I can't turn around and head back now.

So, I keep my eyes closed and plod ahead, tentatively sometimes, grateful that my God knows the layout and will direct my steps.  I keep learning to walk by faith, without peeking out through scrunched up eyes.  Like my childhood game, it's vulnerable but it's the only way.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

The Honour

This very special badge has found it's way into our family this week.

And even better is that the Deputy Headboy is his best buddy and partner in crime.  The pair of them will be a force to be reckoned with.  We are very proud.

But are we more proud of him now than we were before he had this badge pinned onto his blazer?  Absolutely not.

This boy has worked hard consistently.  He has shown leadership skills and managed responsibility well since he was very little.  It's what he's good at and so we have encouraged him to be all he was made to be.

But there are some words of warning too.

Our job is not only to encourage him in his strengths, but also to warn him of the dangers.  Power brings responsibility.  It can be used to bring great joy but also to cause enormous damage.  As parents, we need to steer him and teach him to be the best he can be, but to continue in humility and looking to serve others before himself.  This new role will be full of opportunities for him to learn these important lessons and this, more than anything else, is why I am excited he has been chosen.  A year-long learning curve for my boy.

We also need to remember that within a family, each person has their own strengths.  As the first child, Toby is not setting any standard for which the others must aim.  He is being himself.  The others will not have any expectation from us to follow in his footsteps, but simply to be all they were made to be too.  Everyone is brilliant at something.  Our job as parents is to find that 'something' in each of our children and draw it out of them so they can excel and grow.  And whilst we have one very strong leader who is gifted academically, we also have a boy who is fearless, brimming with compassion and ready to fight the injustices of the world.  The little one is more persistent than a dripping tap, curious about the world around him and full of fun.  Each one is beautifully individual.  Each one walks a different path.  Each one requires a different hand on the shoulder.

So, Headboy or not, our parenting privilege of shaping and guiding continues.  What an honour.

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.

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?


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.


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.


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?  

Tuesday, 3 June 2014


Sometimes when you are a passionate person (me?  never....) you forget that there are other issues in the world that need attention.  For example, the fact that the dinner needs cooking or the toilet needs cleaning (again) but you are busy sobbing over a video about a child trapped in slavery.  Dinner and toilets can wait at that moment.

I know how these things work and I know that when I've spoken too much about something, people's eyes start to glaze over as they realise I'm going on about it yet again.  In fact, I feel the same when Toby witters about the camera he's saving up for or the latest tune he can play on his ukulele.  He never shuts up about it.  I 'umm' and 'ahh' in the right places and let him say his piece.

Last week, someone spoke these words to me: "There is more to God's kingdom than human trafficking." 

I know that. 

I know that there are many injustices in our world.  I know that war, genocide, ethnic cleansing, terrorism, poverty, bullying and other evil things happen.   They make me weep too.  Sometimes I can't get through a news programme dry-eyed.  I know that God's kingdom needs to come in every area of our lives.

But try saying those words to the father whose precious daughter has been taken and sold into prostitution twenty or more times each night so that she can pay back an imaginary debt which will never ever be paid. 

Would that father not go to every single possible length to free his daughter?  Would his life carry on as normal or would it be totally and utterly wrecked?  Would he feel as though his very heart had been ripped to shreds every night as he wonders just who is raping his beautiful daughter at that precise moment?

And although I am not that father, I feel the same.  I am ruined for anything other than making whatever difference I can to free these captives.  My whole body shakes with the injustice of it. 

And so, I'm sorry if I'm a bore, but this isn't a camera or a ukulele.  I can't be quiet and whilst I know there are other horrific, life-wrecking things out there too, this is the one which has gripped onto my heart and squeezed it until there are no tears left to cry.

And so I won't shut up.  Because this is the kingdom of God, and I'm allowed to shout about it:

"Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
    Raise your voice like a trumpet....
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?

 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter –
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
    you will cry for help, and he will say: here am I.
‘If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
    with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
 and if you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry
    and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
    and your night will become like the noonday.

 The Lord will guide you always;
    he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
    and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
    like a spring whose waters never fail.
 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
    and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
    Restorer of Streets with Dwellings."
Isaiah 58

Friday, 30 May 2014

Purposeful Pain

Someone recently asked me why I'd had children in the first place.  It made me realise that whilst I enjoy the cuddles and the explosion of so many different feelings, I actually view my mother's role as one of preparation and launch.  We try to be intentional in the way we bring up our boys so that when the right time comes they are prepared and ready to enter the big wide world with plenty to offer.

I see our boys as arrows.  At the moment, they are blunt and misshapen.  It's our job to sharpen them.

And sometimes that's painful.  

Painful for the boys because discipline is tough.  When was the last time anyone actually enjoyed being  faced with the consequences of a wrong choice?  Sharpening the arrow hurts as you scrape away the dull parts which cling on but are of no use.  

It's painful for us too.  Our bare hands and hearts are covered in blisters as we repeat the same action, over and over again, until it is finally understood.  Repetitive strain injury sets in as we keep on reminding our boys of the same words, same consequences, same actions, same outcomes.  Exhaustion, sorrow, confusion and sometimes disappointment all add to the hurt.

Why put ourselves through so much pain?  Why bother?  Why not just enjoy and relax?

I don't want to produce blunt arrows which won't hit the target.  Our role as parents is to equip our boys for what is ahead and to shape them for the challenges and delights they will face.  Despite the blistered hearts, we are determined to keep sharpening our little arrows so that when we place them in our bow and fire them out they whoosh through the air like the nerf bullets they so often play with.  Our world needs disciplined, determined, loving, faithful, strong, courageous arrows to land all over it's needy and desperate shores.

I want to be a part of sharpening those arrows.

And that's why I had children.

Thursday, 15 May 2014


At Christmas I gave up my job, with an exciting master-plan in my head about what I was going to do next.  Full of faith, I was ready to conquer the world.

Five months later, with no sign of the master-plan in place but having been taken on a soul-searching journey instead,  here are some of the things I've learnt:

1.  I'm the most impatient person I know.  Seriously.  Why can't everything happen NOW?

2.  Rest and time to step out of the whirlwind of a busy mind is so often neglected but vital to our wellbeing - that's why God created a 'day of rest'.  We need it and it actually shows more trust in Him to provide for us if we take that rest than if we keep ploughing through the exhaustion.

3.  I am more worried about what people think of me  (lazy / scrounging off hard working husband / not spending enough time looking for jobs etc) than I realised.

4.  I can step out of 'the boat' of my comfortable life and do things I never thought were possible, including taking my brave boys to a completely different culture and survive it, because I find God's strength in my constant jelly-kneed weakness.

5.  Trusting in God's perfect time rather than MY 'perfect' time takes courage.  It's not normal in our world today to let someone else be in charge and when you try to explain it to someone, even when they believe the same as you, they sometimes give you a quizzical look.

6.  Being busy wasn't the reason I didn't do the housework.  I'm not so busy now, and I still don't do it. 

7.  Holding onto a dream when you can't see any possibilities of it coming to pass isn't easy, but is required. 

8.  Comparing yourself to amazing people (Jackie Pullinger, Christine Caine, Nelson Mandela to name but a few) is not a good idea.  Everyone runs their own race.  We don't have to be like them.  We have to be like us.

9.  I fear wasting my life. 

10.  My imagination is far more expansive that I had thought.  Writing fiction stories for the first time has opened a whole new level of discovery inside my head.

11.  The level of dog poo on the school run increases as the evenings get darker earlier, and decreases when evenings are lighter.

12.  I love being at home to hug my boys at the end of the school day.  And when I forget to hug them, they remind me, so they must love it too.

13.  Waiting is more about what God is doing in me, rather than what I am waiting for.

And so, I wait. 


Holding onto the flicker of excitement about what is next. 

In full knowledge that the Author of my life is one worth trusting.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

A Boy Snippet

For those of you still fortunate enough to be living in a civilised world, here is a snippet from my boy-filled world.

1.  Burping is to be applauded.  Oh yes.  The bigger and longer, the better. And if you can burp the alphabet then you have reached a special status.

2.  Why make daisy chains when you can find a frog / spider / other disgusting creature and feed insects to it?  This activity can last a very long time so where I once may have wished they weren't doing it, now I am grateful when I begins because I know they will stay outside and happy (away from me) for a good half an hour.

3.  Apps such as 'ultimate fart noises' and 'let the poo through' will appear on the iPad.  You do not want to know anymore, I promise.

4. Bodily functions continue to fascinate, including during evening meals when they talk freely and openly in front of the youngest members of the family about what they learnt in sex education.  Rather than take this education seriously, they spend most of the mealtime giggling about it.

5.  Muscles are a necessity.  The phrase 'look at my guns' will be followed by kissing each bicep.  (Or is that just in my family?)

6.  Personal hygiene leaves nothing to the imagination.  As they grow older and have to do more for themselves I am mostly disgusted.  They seem to have the ability to have a shower without actual washing themselves, although somehow the floor manages to get a good rinsing (flooding).

7.  Noise is constant.  Singing, wittering, drumming, tapping, bodily functions, shouting.....  It never stops.  Needless to say, I enjoy my ear plugs.

8.  There are smells galore.  Every mother of a boy understands the need for the sniff test, and the sickening moment when you realise that those trousers crumpled in a heap on the floor were actually dirty.  

9.  Amongst a group, boys must always establish their pecking order.  Whoever is older / braver / taller / best at armpit farts will become top dog.  Competitions and challenges are therefore continuous.  Even silly ones like who can wash their hands first before mealtimes.

10. Topics of conversation on a car journey can include poo swinging out of bottoms and landing on the floor, evolution and adaptation, Minecraft and sky diving.  All in one journey.  I write from 'umming and ahhing to feign interest' experience.

Now you have been enlightened, you may re-enter your clean, ordered world.  Think of me, drowning in footballs, dirty stones (pretend precious jewels) and sticks.  Please.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

What Facebook doesn't tell you.

School holidays.  Love them or hate them, there is no escaping them.  

Facebook is full of photographs of happy children sporting cheesy grins.  Mothers post their exciting Easter activities as a badge of honour.  "We laid our own eggs, decorated them and hid them all over the globe for a mammoth Easter egg hunt" - We all know those amazing mothers who are organised and motivated.  

And who are so unlike me.

These holidays rushed at me and whacked me in the face before I realised they were here.  Still attempting to process our half term trip to India, I was nowhere near ready to begin making the usual holiday plans.  Feeling fragile and exhausted, I began each day without any motivation to make Easter nest cakes or create an egg hunt.

Of course, we can't put all this on Facebook.  We have to show that we are eggcellent mothers (sorry, couldn't resist) who are over the moon about spending time with their children.  We couldn't possibly confess to not actually wanting to be anywhere near them sometimes, could we?

And so our two weeks passed with three bored, arguing boys and an irritable mother.  I didn't want to play with them.  I didn't want to take them out anywhere.  I couldn't cope with the constant bickering but had no way of stopping it.  Weighted down by the guilty feeling that my children were an inconvenience, I buckled.

I'm not one of those mothers who can post how sad they are about their children returning to school this week.  Honestly?   I cant wait.  I want this failure over and done with.  I want to feel positive about my boys again.  

So, Facebook, let me be honest with you.  Being a mum is hard and exhausting.  We can't always have picture perfect 'Disney style' families.  Sometimes we cry and sometimes we shout.  Does this mean we are bad, incompetent mothers?  Nope, it just means we are real humans and we don't live in a virtual world.  

Tonight, I'm grateful for mercies which are new every morning, for teachers who work hard and for good friends who see beyond the Facebook posts.  

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Friendship Truths

Windswept and sweaty, I had made it to the top of one of the foothills of the Himalayas with my very dear friend, Fay.  But, oh, how I had wished that she wasn't my friend on the climb! 

Watching her striding ahead, resolved to reach the peak no matter what, I struggled to keep up with her.  Frog-marching a breathless, weary and rather unfit 20 year old, I'm pretty sure that if she'd had a whip she would have used it on me.  My one abiding memory of this climb was feeling very angry with my friend for forcing such hardship on me!

And yet, isn't that what friendship is about?  Shouldn't we all be spurring each other on along our life-journeys?

During the last few weeks I have appreciated my friends like never before.  They have encouraged me, prayed for me and spoken harsh truth to me.  And journeying together requires all three. 

Sometimes we need our friends to tell us we're doing great.  For example "You are such a brilliant mum - I love the way you spend time creatively with your kids"  or "Keep being faithful in those small things." (If anyone wants to say those things to me, you are very welcome!)

Sometimes we need our friends to be battling in prayer with us.  I have some friends who  I know will pray for me at the drop of a text.  They are the ones who have my back.

And sometimes our friends need to tell us some home truths.  It's painful and humbling.  And rather than feeling angry and defensive, as I was on this climb, we need to listen and examine ourselves.  Are they right?  What changes can I make so I can continue my journey in a better way? 

I am so grateful for those friends who love me enough to tell me the truth - even when it is so very hard to hear.  Without them, I would continue to blunder along my way and may not reach the peak. 

Thank you, my friends. 

(And my lovely Fay, thank YOU too ;-))

Friday, 4 April 2014

Through Different Eyes

Sometimes other people can say it better than me.  This lady is one of those people.  Watch and let your eyes be opened to the harsh injustice of the world around us. 

And when you can't look away any longer, do something to help stop it.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Pornography - Harmless Fun?

We read about the seven and eight year old girls locked in cages and being raped 20 or more times each day and our hearts weep.  It is inconceivable and horrific that such injustices exist in our world today.  We think of the young girls we know, perhaps our daughters or our sisters, and we shift uncomfortably in our seats.  This has to stop, we think to ourselves.  We might even begin to fundraise for an abolitionist charity or raise awareness about trafficking.

And yet, if we are buying or watching pornography either secretly or publicly, we are feeding the demand for this very industry that causes our hearts to break. 
This beautiful girl we met in Kolkata was around
9 years old and lived on the streets, making her
highly vulnerable to being trafficked.
Harmless?  Just a bit of fun?  Not affecting anyone else?
Now is the time to open your eyes and see the truth.
The truth is that viewing porn creates an addiction which trains your brain to expect more each time.  This distorts the way you think about sex and you begin to crave more violent or explicit experiences. 
Porn creates an ‘on demand’ consumer culture for sex which leads to sexual experiences being bought (and sold) regardless of the consequences.
The word ‘pornography’ comes from two Greek words meaning ‘prostituted woman’ and ‘writings’.  “But I’d never have sex with a prostitute” you protest.  If you’ve viewed porn, you already have.  It’s not glamorous, it’s not normal and it’s not acceptable.
Many women and children are trafficked for the purposes of making pornography.  Next time you click that button, imagine this girl is your sister or your daughter who has been kidnapped, brutally raped, probably drugged and definitely held against her will.  Your raging appetite may be silenced.
In a piece of research done by the WHISPER Oral History Project* 80% of prostitution survivors reported that their customers showed them pornography to illustrate the kinds of sexual acts they wanted for their money.  52% of these women said that their pimps used pornography to teach them what was expected of them.  This report was published 30 years ago before the age of the internet, smartphones and wifi.  How much more is pornography feeding this industry today?
Porn is deceitful, degrading and highly damaging.  So, the next time the lustful thirst for sordid sex comes knocking at your door, think about keeping that door firmly closed.  When your sons are old enough, teach them how to treat women respectfully and expose them to the dangers of porn so the next generation doesn’t sneer at the consequences.
We can do more to abolish trafficking this way than any other. 
It’s in your hands.

 *(A facilitator's guide to Prostitution: a matter of violence against women, 1990, WHISPER - Women Hurt in Systems of Prostitution Engaged in Revolt Minneapolis, MN)