Friday, 14 February 2014

Cotton wool and precipice of social media

I never had a problem with being over-protective.  When the boys were little, I trained them to do all the play equipment in the park on their own so that while other mothers were hovering over their precious ones, I could sit and read my book.  When they wanted to jump from the top of the climbing frame (and I mean the very top, the bit that you're not meant to climb on), I cheered them on.  From the age of seven I began training them to cross the road on their own.  They used kitchen knives, axes and other dangerous paraphernalia from about the age of three.  I was satisfied with my 'equipping them for life' programme.

Cotton wool wrappping was not for my boys.  Oh no, they were made of tough stuff.  And so was I.

Or so I thought.

It was easy then.  The dangers were real enough, but in some strange way I was still in control. 

And then 'social media' began to beckon it's bony finger towards Toby.  Suddenly I began to rummage in my bag of motherhood for the cotton wool I had never used before. 

Of course, Facebook helpfully has a lower age limit of 13, so we could easily say 'no'.  But Twitter brought us to a standstill of discussions.  'All' his friends were on Twitter.  He was missing out on social arrangements and 'in jokes'.  He could make his privacy settings very strict. 

The dangers were staring me in the face.  I knew, more than Toby (although that isn't, of course, possible), that he was standing on the brink of something damaging.  Everything in me wanted to pad him out with as much cotton wool as I could find, transforming him into a well-protected Michelin-man. 

Then I realised that just as we had taught them to climb trees and cross the road, walking through the perils with them step by step, so we could teach them to navigate their way through the danger-zone of social media.  Taking a deep breath, we agreed on some Twitter rules, wrote a contract and signed it together.

We can't just leave them to work this out on their own.  It's our job to train them and equip them for life.  They might be hurt.  They might encounter difficulties.  We can't protect them forever, and I'd prefer to teach them myself than have them learn from their friends.  I'd like to keep our communication airwaves open so that when they see a tweet that shocks them, we can talk about it.  Just like when they wanted to leap, arms wide open, from the highest branch of the tree, I have to keep my eyes open and teach them to land squarely on their feet.

No cotton wool allowed.  However tempting.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014


For an extreme 'planner' like me, the next few weeks are completely terrifying.   Two weeks in India with our boys (all of whom have never been on a plane before) when I struggle to even take them to Worcester City centre feels a little bit stupid.  When there is a lovely, well-thought out plan and a list of what I will need, I feel safe.  Perhaps I am more like my father than I thought!

Attempting to pack for every single eventuality yesterday, I realised it was futile.  How can I even write a list of all we will need when I don't know exactly what we'll be doing?  

Suddenly the ground underneath felt wobbly.  My safety in planning was being rocked.  I couldn't be in control and the unknown future loomed up, mocking my attempts to take charge.  I felt tripped up.  Normally I can write a list and grab hold of myself.  But there was no 'normally'. This was outside of 'normal'.  Scurrying from the chemist to the charity shop to poundland and back to the chemist again, I desperately tried to regain control.  But it was useless.  The unknown was just too big.

LIke the shock of a nerf-gun bullet in the face (I don't care what the advertising says, they DO hurt), I suddenly realised what I was doing.  My safety had been in the planning when it should have been in the trusting.

I am scared.  I feel like I am tentatively tiptoeing through a dark cave, not knowing what I will step into next or where the end will be.  That's the truth of my feelings.  But God's truth tells me He has already walked ahead of me and it's ok.  Wherever my feet tread, it's ok.  He already knows the unknown.  It doesn't mock him - He's in charge of it.

And so I try to breathe out again.  I stop writing one thousand lists per day (and night).  And I rest.  And  I trust.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of The Lord 'He is my refuge and my fortress',
My God in whom I trust.

Psalm 91

Thursday, 6 February 2014

The Graveyard Walk

Wandering through a graveyard the other day (yes, I know how to live life to the full!) I began looking at the gravestones.  Memoirs of loved ones, scattered across the lush grass.  I felt the love and care, and pictured lives being lived.  Some were simple, some more elaborate but all were people who have been loved.  

I began to wonder what would be on my gravestone.  What would I like people to write so the world will know I once existed?  A life so fleeting as a breath in the wind surely has to be commemorated somehow.  I thought of phrases I might write down for the boys so that if they were ever in the position of organising my gravestone, they would know what I'd like.  Or should I leave it to them to decide?  In 100 year's time when someone walks / flies past my gravestone, what do I want them to know about me?  How will I be celebrated?

And then, like a blow to my windswept forehead, it hit me.

It doesn't matter.

What others say is not important.  What others think is not important.  Even in death, here I am trying to live for the approval of others.  

Whether they write 'Wonderful mother, grandmother and wife' or 'grumpy old bag' has no significance.    
The only approval I need is that of my Father in heaven and He says I am accepted, loved, cherished and secure.  He delights over me with singing.  Seriously?!  He sings songs of love and celebration over me.  

My significance in this world and the approval I need to live for doesn't come from my friends, my family or a random person on twitter who might retweet the odd comment.  It comes from my God.

And so, beautiful gravestone or not, when my life's work is done, I will be satisfied in Him because He is satisfied with me.

Monday, 3 February 2014

A Story of Faithfulness

I like telling stories.  I especially like telling ones that are true (I'm not so good at the made up ones). I like reading stories too, and last week I read the story of George Muller.

Originally from Germany (or 'Prussia'), George Muller set up an orphanage for tens of thousands of children in Bristol without ever doing any silly marathons, skydives or mountain climbs for fundraising.  He never once asked anyone for any money, and yet he had none himself.  This man believed in a God who was faithful.  He took what his God promised to be true and built his life, and the lives of those in his care, on those promises.  He believed in a God who answered his prayers.  And so, instead of setting up a Justgiving page, he prayed.  He prayed for every single need.  He prayed for shoes for the children, for bread for breakfast, for beds for them to sleep in and for staff who would be happy not to accept any salary.  He never took a salary for himself.

And every single prayer was answered.  Every single prayer.  For more than sixty years.  

I related to his story in so many ways.  I understood his compulsion to 'do something' for the children in so much need, despite the fact that he didn't have much to give.  I celebrated his simple obedience to God.  I was inspired by the small stories of food arriving just in time for breakfast.  I felt excited that this normal man could achieve so much just by believing in a God who was so much bigger than we sometimes expect.  And his faith was truly astonishing.

And it became part of our story too.  Ten days ago we were wondering if we had made some rash decisions.  Money was more than tight.  A trip to India was looking like a foolish thought when we didn't even have enough to pay the mortgage.  So, in true Muller style, we prayed.  Oh boy, did we pray?!  "Come on God,' we pleaded, 'you've got to show us you are with us in this.'

A week ago, an envelope plopped onto our doormat containing £500.  Weeping with joy and thanksgiving, we were amazed.

But there was more to come.

Three days ago, another envelope was pushed through our letterbox.  Max ran to the door and opened it.  £400.  He slid down onto the floor, thanking his God.

But there was more.

Two days ago Jonah woke us up in the morning telling us he'd heard a funny noise downstairs.  Yep, you've guessed it!  Another envelope.  £100. We sat on our bed and thanked our God.  

But there was more.

Just yesterday we were given another envelope whilst meeting with our church.  £200.  Coming home in the dark, we opened the front door to discover another one!  £200.

Overwhelmed by generosity and overflowing with thankfulness we have learnt one enormous lesson this week. 

"So do not worry, saying 'what shall we eat?' Or ' what shall we wear?'....  Your father in heaven knows that that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. "

Great is His faithfulness.