Thursday, 3 December 2015

Why I'm praying for Isis.

I've got to write because writing helps me process my thoughts.  I guess I don't have to actually publish this.  But, weirdly, knowing my thoughts are out there helps me too.

I'm a feeler.  I can't help it.  I feel stuff deeply and sometimes this paralyses my thoughts and actions.  Today, I feel paralysed. Not by fear (although there is a certain amount of anxiety whispering what-ifs into my ears).  Not by disappointment (although, again, I am extremely disappointed with our government's rush to air strikes).  I'm not even paralysed by the crushing despair that wraps around me whenever I think about the ugly and beautiful state of humanity.

Today I'm paralysed by this phrase:

"Love your enemies and pray for the ones who persecute you."

I follow the one who said it.  I don't just follow him on twitter or Facebook.  I have given my whole life over to him.  It means I want to be like him.  It means that I want to live my life for him and find my whole purpose of existence in him.  It's not a 'liking his posts and moving along quickly' kind of following.  It's a life changing kind of following.

And this guy died because he loved his enemies.  He came as a baby, giving up all his glory and honour, to live like us.  In skin like ours.  He sacrificed everything for his enemies.

Eh?  This is hard to swallow.  Surely he doesn't expect me to follow that bit.  Surely that's a bit extreme.  An enemy is an enemy.  I don't even know if I can like an enemy who chops heads off children, rapes and imprisons women, brainwashes and radicalises young people and shoots and kills innocents.  

But, to Isis, those innocents are the enemy.

So this is where the rubber hits the road.  Jesus was counter-cultural in his day.  Oh yes.  And he certainly continues to be the same today.  The terrorists hate their enemies.  They hate them so much they have made it their mission to kill them.  Jesus loves his enemies.  He loves them so much that he made it his mission to die in their place so they could know him.  Jesus isn't a terrorist-sympathiser.  He hates what they do.  But he's a terrorist-lover.  He loves them.

Woah.  

If I follow Jesus, then I have to work out how to love them too.  Does this come naturally?  No.  Does this make me a terrorist-sympathiser?  No.  It makes me a Jesus-follower.

So, I pray for Isis.  I pray that (like the Christian-slaughterer, Paul, in the New Testament), the leaders of Isis would find Jesus.  I pray they would be led to conviction and repentance.  I pray for them to know the love of a God who dies for his enemies instead of killing them.  

And I trust in a God whose rule and reign over the earth will never, ever end.  And I wait for the return of the King, who will bring justice to our on-it's-knees (in so many ways) world.

Come, Lord Jesus.



NB: Before anyone berates me, I am praying with equal fervour for the innocent people across the world whose lives are being torn apart by Isis (and other terrorist groups) too.


Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Giving

"Have you written your Christmas list yet, Jonah?" Our lovely hairdresser (who puts up with wriggling boys, complicated hairstyle requests and the occasional dirty ears) asks my boy.
"Ooh yes!" He replies enthusiastically, "I've bought everyone's presents except for Dad's!"  
The hairdresser looked surprised as Jonah didn't list off expensive item after expensive item that he wanted for himself.

And this is how this Christmas has been so far in our family this year.  It's come as a pleasant shock.

Rather than constantly asking us for extravagant and expensive presents, my boys have seemed to focus more on what they are giving other people.  In fact, two of them haven't even asked us for anything at all!

And unfortunately I don't think I can take any credit for it!

This year, for the first time ever, we have no TV aerial and so they are not watching the brainwashing adverts which tell them what they need in order to be happy.  This isn't by choice but simply because the aerial needs fixing and we've had other priorities (like damp walls and broken ovens) to spend the money on.  Having no live TV (we can still watch catch up TV) has transformed our family life and has made an enormous difference so far to the requests for Christmas presents.  And in such a fast paced culture which constantly tells us we need more and more and more, my boys seem to be content with what they have.  It's such a relief.  

So, this morning when we began our Bible Society Advent challenge (we love a good challenge, as you know!) and read the verse that says 'it is better to give than to receive', my boys just got it.  They simply love giving.  They've spent hours making and buying presents for other people.  They love watching them open presents they have carefully chosen.  

I wish I could explain in three easy steps how this has happened, but I can't.  It just has.  And I'm making the most of it.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Dirty Treasures

Jonah went to school with a pocket full of 'important stuff' this morning.  Those of you with little boys will know that this oh so vital 'stuff' consists of elastic bands, fossils, cool looking stones, marbles, football cards and even occasionally dried out worms.  It is always in their pockets (and now in my pockets and bag too) and they love to impress their friends with it.  

I love this about little boys.  His 'stuff' now spreads across his bedroom in various little pots and bags.  All important but none of it looks like much to our untrained eye.

Cycling to school this morning (whilst I was half running behind him), he spotted yet another item for pocket-filling.

A dirty, almost squished ball-bearing.



I hadn't even seen it but as we crossed a busy road, he wanted to stop and pick it up.  

'Mum! Stop!' He shouted at me.
'We can't stop here, it's too busy.' I shouted back (I wasn't cross, honest, the traffic was loud.)
'But there's something really special down there, didn't you see it?'
'No, I was actually concentrating on crossing the road.'

But it was important to him.  So important that he couldn't simply leave it there.  He excitedly talked of the treasure all the way to school and, using his incredible powers of negotiation, persuaded me to collect it on my way home, giving me detailed instructions.

'I don't think it was dog poo, mum, but touch it before you pick it up. If it's squishy, then it's dog poo so don't pick it up.'

As if I I would.

I hoped against hope that I wouldn't be able to find this treasure as I walked home again but sure enough, there it lay on the side of the road, covered in gunk and oil.  It was barely glistening.  The roads were busy and I tried to look normal as I picked up this tiny treasure from the gutter and quickly deposited it into my pocket before anyone called the police on this weirdo mother.

Jonah thought about this treasure all day, wondering if I had found it.  And when he arrived home he took time to clean and polish it.

And I realised something as I looked at this dirty treasure from the gutter.  There is a boy who stopped in the middle of the road and, had I not been there, would have got down onto his hands and knees into the dirt to pick up this precious item that others hadn't even noticed.  He would have covered himself in the oil and grit from the road, just to hold it in his hands.  It didn't matter that it was filthy.  He saw past the grime and saw what was underneath - a bright, strong, shining ball-bearing.  It had purpose.  It wasn't meant to be left on the side of the road.

We need to stop for each other.  We all have grime.  We all make mistakes, shout at our kids (who, me?!), get relationships wrong, judge others wrongly, speak untruths and idolise other things instead of God.  We need to look behind the dirt and call out the best in each other.  

Just like Jonah (and most other eight year old boys) saw the slimy ball-bearing as a treasure, so we need to see the treasures in each other.  Let's not leave each other on the side of the road to rot away.  Let's encourage each other and 'polish' each other so that we can be the best we were meant to be.

Let's fill our friendship pockets with encouragements, faithful friendship, seeing the best in each other and treasuring our relationships with one another.

Friday, 20 November 2015

In our pain-ridden world, how can we think about Christmas?

The slaughter of young children.
A tyrannical, paranoid leader.
Families fleeing to cling onto a remnant of safety.
Fear and corruption.
Violence and extremism.

Sound familiar?

Into this world, so similar to today, a baby was born in a little town in the Middle East called Bethlehem.    The power-crazed leader, so jealous for his throne, set his soldiers the bloodthirsty task of slaughtering every boy under two years old.  To save their son's life, the family fled to Egypt where they lived until the reign of terror ended when King Herod the 'Great' died.

Jesus was a refugee.  When I see the photographs of desperate parents, arms wrapped as tight as they can be around their young ones, I look into their traumatised eyes and imagine the eyes of his mother, Mary.   Jesus was born into a world of fear and he grew up under Roman rule as an 'outsider'. It wasn't like the Christmas carols tell us.  It was a violent world, full of war, death and terror.

It was like our world.  

And Jesus came into that world to love the ones nobody else loved.  He arrived on the scene to point terrified people to a peace that they could find even when war was raging around them.  He touched the diseased, dirty ones that others walked past, holding their noses.  He brought hope into the lives of the ones who never even knew hope existed for people like themselves.  He shocked by teaching his followers to love the very people who hate them.  He talked of a different way to live - a way that brought life even though death was a reality.  He brought freedom to a world trapped in dictatorships and persecution.  He called the children to him.  He spoke out against the hypocrites.  He loved the fraudsters and the sex workers into a new dignity.  

And who are we, his church?  We are his body.  That means that what he did when he walked the dusty roads and talked such radical sense is what we are meant to be doing now.  

We can't turn a blind eye or pretend none of this is happening.  We can't pick and choose who we love.  We can't sit back and hope that 'someone else' sorts it out.  We can't wait.

If we follow Jesus, then we do what he did.

It's quite simple. This is who we are.

And this is our response to Christmas.  It's more than decorations, presents and even time with family. It's being who we're meant to be.




Thursday, 5 November 2015

Whispered Words

I never knew my Grandad properly.  Oh yes, we'd had fun together and made memories.  But at eighteen you don't think you need to ask anything from an old man.  You think you already know everything there is to know about the world.  It never occurs to you that they have lived a whole life before you came along.  You never ask them how they did life.

And so today, as I remember my Grandad with a mischievous twinkle in his eye and a fierce faith in his heart, I wonder what he would say to us today with the challenges we face.  In the busy-ness of our lives full of heartache and joy, how I wish I could sit down with him now and pluck the wisdom that must have been oozing from his very being.  

Then I think of the words of a hymn we sung at his funeral.  And I realise these are the exact words he would be saying to us now, his grandchildren, his heritage.

Fight the good fight with all thy might!
Christ is thy strength and Christ thy right;
Lay hold on life, and it shall be
Thy joy and crown eternally.

Run the straight race through God's good grace,
Lift up thine eyes and seek His face;
Life with its way before us lies
Christ is the path and Christ the prize.

Cast care aside, lean on thy Guide;
His boundless mercy will provide;
Trust, and thy trusting soul shall prove
Christ is it's life and Christ it's love.

Faint not, nor fear, His arms are near,
He changeth not, and thou art dear;
Only believe and thou shalt see
That Christ is all in all to thee.


And these words, whispered to me as though he is sitting right in my kitchen, throw me back into the arms of the One I lean on.  My Grandad is celebrating now.  His fight is over.  But ours continues and so we trust, we lean, we lift up our eyes and we run our race surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses cheering us on with the hope of our prize before us.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

The Dark Days of Post Natal Depression

Can't you just smile and put your worries to the back of your mind?  
Or maybe you should just drag yourself out of bed and you will feel better?  
Or just pray more.  That should do the trick.  
Haven't you got enough faith?  
It's a choice, surely?  

Mental illness is still so misunderstood and such a taboo so I have decided to write about my experiences and even include some telling photographs.  Pictures explain more than words ever could.  My memories are raw but I want people to know that this is real.  We can't shut it away.  There are women in our communities suffering right now.    

Almost 14 years ago, my beautiful boy was born after a traumatic emergency caesarean and my first words on seeing him were 'is that mine?'  This baby was like an alien to me and I was a disappointment.



No amount of antenatal classes or well meaning advice could have prepared me for the weeks and months of darkness that followed.  Post natal depression took over as irrational and scarily angry thoughts swirled through my mind.  I resented the intrusion of this screaming baby who never slept.  I cared for his daily needs but I didn't feel this mythical surge of love for him I was meant to feel.  I watched other new mums cooing over their babies and felt jealous.  Instead of nursery rhymes, I sung songs of destruction over him and thought about how to escape.  

Some days I raged and cried.  Some days I numbly got on with the tasks in hand.  I knew I had already failed and he was only months old.  I was never going to be the mum he needed, so what was the point in trying?  Actually, he would be better off without me.

Support came from my health visitor and a few friends, but no amount of cups of tea and putting on brave smiles ever removed the emptiness, anger, guilt and sense of failure I felt.  



It was only after a dramatic sleepless night where my anger spilled over to my precious baby that my kind and patient husband marched me to the GP who prescribed anti depressants and counselling.  By that point I was so numb and so desperate that I followed like a sheep.  

And slowly, slowly, over time, the days began to be less dark.  I discovered I could find joy in small things again.  I could sing songs of hope and faith over him.  I began to fall in love with my little boy.  And, instead of finding me rocking in a dark corner after his return from work, my faithful husband would see I had made the tea or hung the washing out.

I began to heal.

Post natal depression is an illness.  
It is not a choice. 
It is not simply tiredness (although sleep deprivation certainly doesn't help).  
It is not difficulty adjusting.  
It is not a lack of faith.  
It is not laziness.  
It is not failure.  

And there is hope.  

My boy, almost 14, stands taller than me.  His grin makes my heart melt inside.  He sleeps.  He makes me laugh.  He makes me so proud I want to shout to the world about him.  He hugs me with his long gangly arms at just the right moments.  Despite my failings and my illness, he has exceeded all my expectations.  



And that surge of love isn't mythical anymore.  It happens every day.


If you are suffering post natal depression, get some help from your GP.  Take someone else with you to the appointment so they can help you to explain what is happening.  You are not a failure.  Hold on tight.  It's not going to last forever, I promise.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Setting Sail

Our holiday this year was eventful.  Camping in Dorset on the site with the UK's most unhygienic toilets (I will not go into detail, suffice to say we nicknamed them the '$#€¥holes'.). We experienced beauty, hot sunshine, relaxing beaches, drenching rain and the occasional breathtaking sunset.

Without a doubt, my favourite excursion was to visit a lighthouse on Portland.  Jutting out on a cliff edge, this lighthouse is still in use and we (much to the boys delight - 'this is boring mum, why can't we just explore it ourselves?') took a guided tour to the very giddy top. The view was extravagant.  Open, glittering seas.  Bright blue skies.  Endless possibilities.

As we made our way round, singing a well know Rend Collective song just to embarrass our teenage son, we found this poster.



This tickled all my bones of adventure so I immediately snapped a photograph and lodged the quote at the back of my mind to ponder.

Speaking a few days later to some friends who have spent years working on boats across the world, I discovered an interesting fact:

If a boat is moored in the harbour for too long, it rots away.  Not only is a boat not built for staying safe at the shore, if it hangs around longer than necessary it is detrimental to the very workings of the boat. My learned friends went even further and explained to me that the Captains they knew would choose to 'island hop' with their boat rather than keep it in one place for too long because of the negative effects to both the boat and the crew.

Wow.

I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this.

As followers of Jesus and as a church, we are not called to stay safe in the harbour.  We are called to go.  Our lives are not supposed to be 'safe' but we have the opportunity to partner with a God who takes us on the most thrilling adventure we could ever go on.  

I know that, for me, when I stay still for too long I begin to rot.  I become introspective.  I find myself becoming anxious about circumstances beyond my control.  I trip up over small obstacles.  I begin to think rotten thoughts which in turn start coming out of my mouth.  I feel dragged down by an anchor that holds me back rather than being set free by the wind in my sails.

But when I look out to sea from the heights of the lighthouse, I see adventure waiting.  I see the unknown beckoning it's finger to me and calling me to set sail.  I see the potential for storms and for calm waters.  



see a whole, broken, bleeding world and I know that I cannot stay safe in the harbour anymore.



Thursday, 16 July 2015

A Million Years

I thought I had it cracked.  

When they were younger, I had a million years before they were going to grow up so encouraging independence and letting go felt easy.

I was really proud of myself when, at ten years old, Toby could do his own laundry.

What was all the fuss about?  Surely our whole role as parents was to encourage our children to take steps further away from us?

But as we make more memories and they begin to turn into young men who are good company, hugging me when they think I need a hug and laughing at the same things as me, I have found myself clinging on ever more tightly.

It's not a million years away anymore.  I feel like I'm standing on a train track with a high speed train rushing towards me.

And tonight as Toby goes to his middle school leavers prom, shocking me with his deep voice and tall, muscular body dressed handsomely in a suit,  I find myself desperately holding on to this young man who seems so familiar and yet so alien to me.



Why was I so foolish to think this 'letting go' thing was so easy?  Why didn't anyone tell me that each time they take a tiptoe away from me my heart would be ripped up just a little bit more?  How could I have wasted their years of holding my hand as we walked along the road and playing pirates by pushing them into independence?

And so I realise all over again that I didn't ever have this thing cracked.  My boy who towers over me, helps me lift heavy things and tells me to 'stop fussing' brings me so much joy mixed with so much pain that he will never know about.

I never, ever realised the million years would go quite so quickly and would be quite so much fun.

I'm not sure I want to let go anymore.  I'm beginning to quite like them now.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

What a difference two weeks makes....

Two weeks ago we moved house.

It's been a cardboard-box-filling-and-emptying, new-job-starting, house-moving, husband-away-for-ten-days, cleaning-everything kind of two weeks.

I don't like being over busy, and this has certainly been way too much for me.  Right now though, with blocked toilets and jumanji-like gardens filling my head, I look back over the last few weeks in awe of our friends and family. 

We have a community around us like none we have ever experienced before and we are overwhelming grateful for their support and practical help. 

Over the last few weeks I have kept a list of all the ways people have helped us...

Cooked meals
Had boys for the day so we could pack
Fixed grouting
Fixed hole in ceiling
Cleaned through old house on moving day
Put up beds
Looked after cat
Collected Jonah from school and delivered to new house
Lent car for the day
Lent microwave for a few months
Sewed button on trousers
Unloaded outdoor equipment into shed
Fixed sinks
Plumbed in washing machine
Taken apart wardrobe, carried it into different room, put it back together again
Brought cakes
Fixed washing machine
Sealed up bathroom
Checked broken oven
Made beautiful box
Made beautiful sign for the front door
Brought chocolate
Cleared a path to washing line in garden
Unblocked toilet
Prayed
Offered a shoulder to cry on
Sent encouraging texts
Made us laugh

So, you see, we are surrounded by this incredible bunch of people who have walked this journey with us so far. 

Thank you.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

How I'm learning to celebrate my 'different' child...

Last week I was surprised to be asked about advice for raising a child who is 'different'.  The last 11 years of parenting have taken me on quite a learning curve as I have battled with questions, fear of being judged by others and anxiety over the future of my boy who does not always meet the expectations of society.

As he left the house this morning with bright green sunglasses (despite the rain) to comments from his friends ('Max, you don't need sunglasses today.' 'I don't care, I like them'.) I smiled to myself and thought it might be helpful to write down some of the things I have learnt.  I know I'm not alone in this and I there are many parents who know far more than me and who inspire me with the way they celebrate their child.

My boy does not have a diagnosis of adhd, autism, aspergers or anything else.  I have questioned this so many times (especially after watching programmes about other children who seem to be so similar), and have even asked friends and teachers for their honest opinions countless times.  I am more than happy for him to be diagnosed if it was necessary and he needed any extra support.  But I have come to realise that Max is Max.  He is not a label or a diagnosis.  He is just different.  And different is good.

So, in celebrating his uniqueness, these are some of the things I have had to embrace:

1.  Being different is fabulous.  How boring would it be if everyone saw the world from the same perspective?  I notice the things that make Max different and (try to) find the positives.  There are often lots.



2. Choose battles wisely.  We often deal with Max in a way that other parents may not choose.  This has meant that I have had to battle through my fears of other people's opinions of me as a mother.  Some parents might not, for example, encourage their children to climb very high in trees or other equipment but I know that for Max this is the place he feels the safest.  He needs to climb and he needs high spots to sit - they help him to be calm. 

3. Teachers need educating.  We have had some amazing, inspirational teachers and some who expect every child to fit inside their box.  When you happen to have a child who doesn't even touch the box let alone sit inside it, you have some battles on your hands.  Nobody else is going to fight for your child except you and sometimes schools need some coaching on how to handle children who can't sit at their desks writing and listening.  I have had to overcome my fear of teachers (yes, honestly, I was!) and speak up for my boy.  And mostly it has worked.

4.  Allow off-the-scale creativity.  I consider myself a pretty creative person but for every idea I generate, Max has one I had never even thought about.  When he was little I encouraged him to play with toys by imagining different purposes for them.  This meant a messy house and garden but oh so much fun.  These days he often has unique solutions or insight into fixing problems.

5.  Change expectations.  For me, having an oldest son who ticks every conventional box possible, I found my expectations being challenged with Max.  He's disorganised (although trying to improve on that one - this morning he even closed the front door behind him when he left for school), messy, loud, funny and extremely passionate.  I had to wipe the expectation whiteboard clean and create new ones with Max.  And, unsurprisingly, he exceeds them constantly. 

6.  Laugh with him.  Oh how this boy makes us laugh!  Sometimes his humour makes me cry too.  And sometimes I have to tell him to stop joking.  But we love laughing with him as he mimics Jim Carey or pulls a crazy face at just the right moment. 

7.  Affirm him.  Being unconventional in a world where every child is expected to conform is not easy.  One of the things we have had to learn to do is give Max courage to be himself.  He has so much to offer the world around him but it's easy for him to be dragged down by the expectations of others.  So we hug him lots, feed him lots (food is his love language) and tell him how fab we think he is.



8.  Teach him that when he has to conform, he has to conform.  There are some things in life that he just has to do.  He has to wear a tie to school.  He had to do sats.  He has to help around the house.  It's all very well allowing a child to be free, but they also need to learn obedience and respect for others.  Some things have to be taught, and this is one of them.

9.  Validate his passions.  My Max is one passionate boy.  It might be about the green olives he is about to consume or it might be about the kid who was being beaten up on the way home from school.  Whatever is floating his boat at the time, rather than rail against it we have learnt to validate it.  We let him be passionate and we teach him how to handle his very extreme emotions.

I know from talking to other parents how hard some of this is.  I know that I haven't got it all sorted yet either.  I fail as a mother all the time.  But one thing I want to do is celebrate each child as a unique person.  I want them to be the young men they were created to be and my role as a Mum is to encourage this at every turn.  I will not squash my Max into a tight, harsh fitting box and expect him to squeeze in and be quiet.  As his mum, I take the box from him and give him the freedom to be himself.  It's my way of loving him.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Conferences - Why Bother?

I'm not a conference junkie.

I'm not a big fan of camping, either.

There is a British cynic inside me who struggles with the big 'celebrities' on the stage and the lights and loud music.  I look around the thousands with their hands in the air and wonder what's going on in their hearts.

The effort to squeeze the whole house into the car, set up a tent (in the rain) and live under canvas for a few days with the mud, the wee bucket being missed in the middle of the night and the cold that seeps into my bones at 4am makes me question whether it's worth it.

And then I remember.

I remember my childhood of 'Downs Bible week' and in my mind's eye I see pictures of my friends and I, face down, worshipping our God.  I remember having my first word of knowledge during a kid's meeting and someone was healed.  I remember the gunge and the leaders who (sacrificially, although I didn't think of this at the time) so inspired me.  I remember Katy Caterpillar the puppet who brought bible stories to life. 

I remember my teenage years at 'Stoneleigh Bible week'.  I remember racing to be the first in the queue outside the 'cowshed' and running in with a horde of teens to get the best spot on the floor.  I remember feeling like I had a part to play in bringing God's kingdom to our world.  I remember very late nights, star gazing with boys.  I remember seeing hundreds of people healed.  I remember the cool kids, worshipping God as though He was the only important One.  I remember lying, prostrate on the ground, as God broke my heart for the nations.  I remember holy moments where I felt like I had to take off my shoes.  I remember listening to inspirational people who had been there and done that.  I remember unspeakable joy.  I remember watching thousands of teenagers yielding their hearts to their God.

I remember the last two years of the Catalyst Festival.  So different as a parent.  So much harder in so many ways.  And yet I remember Max being healed of tonsillitis and of a stomach condition.  I remember Jonah beaming as he danced his heart out.  I remember standing together as a family as people we had never met before prophesied over us about loving the broken, adding people to our family and going on an adventure.  I remember surrendering my everything all over again, but this time including my own precious boys.  I remember a lady I didn't know telling me God was going to use me to restore broken women.  I remember Toby, inspired to start a youth alpha at school.  I remember weeping from the very depths of my soul as God gave me permission to be myself again after long years of trying to be someone different.  I remember watching as my friend was healed of deep-rooted OCD.  I remember feeling like God was breathing life over me again.

And so how can I even question whether this is worth it? 
How can I deprive my family of all that I was given as a child and young person? 
How can I stay away when I know God is going to be there, doing his cool stuff?

The changes that these precious times have brought to my life outweigh the mud, the cold and the effort every single time. 

I can't wait.  I wonder what God has up his magnificent sleeves for us this year.



N.B - That last phrase was stolen from someone else, but it's so good that I can't replace it with anything else!

Friday, 8 May 2015

Being A Voice

The results of this landmark election have led me back to Isaiah 58.  

‘Shout it aloud, do not hold back.  Raise your voice like a trumpet.

Declare to my people their rebellion and to the descendants of Jacob their sins. 

For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God.  

They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them. “Why have we fasted,” they say,“and you have not seen it?  Why have we humbled ourselves,and you have not noticed?”

Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarrelling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists.

You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. 

Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves?Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? 

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 hungryand 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 ruinsand will raise up the age-old foundations;you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. 

If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbathand from doing as you please on my holy day,if you call the Sabbath a delightand the Lord’s holy day honourable,and if you honour it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the landand to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.’  For the mouth of the Lord has spoken. 

I am praying for our nation. And I am preparing to raise my voice even louder.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

The day I nearly got myself arrested...

Last Saturday we set out in the sunshine for a family day out.  Stratford was our destination and we told the boys we weren't doing any packing but were just going to have a fun day.  

Little did we know the kind of fun we were going to have.

After an epic stall of the motor boat we had hired, causing us to call the rescue services of the lifeguard and embarrass us in front of all Stratford's public, we nipped to the shops to buy some sweeties.  

Outside the shop was a lady sitting on the pavement with a cap full of loose change in front of her.  I left the boys to their complex sweetie choosing and sat down next to her.

The town was busy and it felt like hundreds of feet walked past us as we chatted.  I ignored the looks of disgust and concentrated on the face of this precious woman.

"What does it feel like to be sitting here?" I asked her.

"I hate it." She replied. "I never wanted to be sat here and I hate having to scrounge off people.  Sometimes people kick me when they walk past and sometimes they spit on me.  It makes me feel like a real down and out.  I feel ashamed."

She then went on to explain how she ended up sitting there that day in the sunshine as the rest of the world enjoyed their ice creams and boat trips.  Leaving an abusive relationship left her homeless and waiting for a place in a hostel in the next town.  

'We're all only one step away', I thought to myself as I sat next to my new friend who began to pour her heart out to me.

As we were in mid-flow of conversation about kids and pregnancy (it's what us women like to talk about, whether we are homeless or not), a policeman rode up to us on his bike and shouted.

"OI! MOVE! NOW!!"

No chatting.  No preamble.  No attempt to see us as real people.  

No compassion.

We stood up and continued to chat.  My new friend had difficulty standing as her legs had become numb from sitting on the concrete.  I gave the policeman my best disgruntled look.

"GO ON!" He continued bellowing. "MOVE!!"

In my bravest voice (for in truth my legs were a little shakey by this point as we had drawn a crowd and I wasn't sure what was going to happen) I explained to the policeman I was merely waiting for my family and chatting to this lady.

"If I see you here again, I'll pull you in!" He warned me as he mounted his bike and rode away.

Outraged at the way we had been treated, I explained everything to Jared when he eventually found me.  

Seeing the policeman cycling past, Jared stood in front of him and stopped him in his tracks.

"Excuse me," he interrupted him, "But I hear you have just spoken very rudely to two young ladies."

The policeman smiled in a way that didn't reach his eyes. "Oh yes, and what evidence do you have for that then?"

"One of them was my wife."

And the policeman's face dropped.  

When I eventually joined them and explained to him what I had been doing he transformed instantly from harsh, rude and draconian to smiles and apologies.

But deep down, I knew that what had just happened wasn't out of the ordinary.

The so called 'undeserving poor' are despised in our country by the very people who should be protecting them.  I had faced the injustice that they face every single day, and it wasn't a good feeling.  My new friend never wanted to sit on a cold, hard pavement asking for people's spare change.   She did not choose to live a life that causes people to spit on her and kick her.  

There are people in our society who need our compassion, our understanding and our support.  They need a hand up not a slap in the face.  They need to be treated like the precious human beings that they were made to be.

Call me naive if you like, but I know where Jesus would have been sitting.  And it wouldn't have been on the policeman's bike.






 


Monday, 20 April 2015

Be Still My Soul

This morning I read about the Israelites' first few months in their Promised Land.  

Joshua had led them courageously across the Jordan river, watching it part before their eyes so they could walk across on dry land.  He had been commissioned by the 'Commander of the Lord's armies' and promised help from the armies of heaven.  He had marched the Israelite army around Jericho obediently for a week until, on last day, they shouted and watched in triumph and the walls simply collapsed in front of them.  

And then the good feeling went.  

The Israelites lost a battle and everything suddenly seemed to be going wrong.

And, despite all the miracles he had witnessed, Joshua got on his face before God and cried:

"If only we had been content to stay on the other side of the Jordan!"

And as I read those words I realised that I say them too.  Even today.  Despite the absolutely miraculous provision of our last few weeks, when the owner of our new house told us he wants to wait yet another six weeks before we complete and can move in I have cried "Why couldn't we just have stayed where we are and not tried to do this Hope House thing?"

How often am I content to stay in my safe, secure comfort zone?

How often am I content to stay where I am instead of taking big risks which will lead to seeing the faithfulness, might and power of God?

How often does my fear of taking those risks cause me to pretend to myself that I am content?

Going across the Jordan in my own life is a risk and, like Joshua, sometimes the good feeling goes.  My battle is to find my contentment in the God I have chosen to follow and not in my surroundings and circumstances.  So, despite the situation, I can choose to be content because of the hope and the promises that are before me.

When I am content in Him, my soul becomes still and I can face crossing the Jordan, even if I can't see what is on the other side.

So, I take a deep breath and I make my choice.  


Friday, 10 April 2015

The Joys of Boys

Boys get so much bad press, but there are so many reasons to celebrate them.  

Here are the things I love about my boys:

1.  I love it that they can spend two hours making 'nettle sting potion' with doc leaves and water.

2.  I chuckle to myself when someone asks 'who's farted' and they proudly own up, enjoying being congratulated by the others.

3.  I love listening to them whispering secret plans to each other: "Get dressed and I'll meet you outside."

4.  I smile watching them spend almost a whole week creating 'defence systems' for their playhouse, complete with water bombs, stinging nettles and elaborate traps.

5.  I love watching them eat their food with wholehearted satisfaction and enjoyment.

6.  It makes my insides melt when they hug me at just the right time.

7.  I love the fact that they can be arguing and bickering and then the cat suddenly sees another cat in the garden and is frightened.  Suddenly, the boys square their shoulders, forget their petty differences and go outside to protect their cat together.

8.  Their surprised faces when I wear clothes that are different to my usual 'mum' attire and their comments of 'wow, Mum, you look really beautiful' give me a glimpse of the men they are going to become.  And it's a good glimpse.

9.  I love the way they fight courageously for justice. 

10.  Their laughter, fun and sharp sense of humour makes me laugh, even when I am trying desperately not to.

11. I love the fact that a kiss from me is the ultimate threat.


They are hard work and exhausting sometimes but I wouldn't have my family any other way.  What a privilege to be able to grow these young ones into the men they are supposed to become.


Friday, 3 April 2015

What's so good about Good Friday?

We live in an age where we have to be enough.

We strive to be better.  We have to have the perfectly tidy home, children who aren't picky eaters, a satisfying job, dinner parties where we can cook Jamie Oliver's extravagant dishes.  We are supposed to be a size 12, or even a 10, and we sweat out that evil fat by doing ridiculous challenges.  Our children are meant to be polite, all the time.  Young people have to achieve academically or they are deemed failures.  Careers are the be all and end all.

We are told that we are good enough, strong enough, courageous enough.  We read enlightening memes in social media that tell us we don't need anyone else because we have it all.  If we can just summon up all our good qualities from within ourselves, our lives will turn out to be amazing.

And yet, beneath our facade of having it all together we feel like we are crumbling. Mental health issues are on the rise - and I know firsthand what this feels like.  Young people suffer from depression, and self harm and eating disorders are increasing at an alarming rate.  Women who were told they could have a satisfying career, perfect home and family life are on the edge of sanity trying to hold it all together.  Men and women turn to alcohol to numb the truth that they aren't who they are supposed to be.  Marriages fail because they've been built on the foundation of believing the other person is enough.  Ambition drives us forward at menacing speed.  

We wonder why we can't be like Everyone Else who seem to have it all together.  And inside we question whether we are good enough.

Good Friday gives us the opportunity to breathe out and realise we are not, in fact, enough.

Good Friday tells us to stop trying, because we can never be enough.

The events of Good Friday point us to the truth that we don't have to do it all because Jesus has done it.  

He died so we can live.  Not just survive.  Live.

He died so we can know what it means to find our fulfillment in God.  

Good Friday is so outrageously good because we can stop wearing ourselves out by striving to find the strength from within ourselves when it simply isn't there.  

Good Friday is jump-up-and-down-and-dance-round-the-kitchen good because our freedom from guilt and judgement has been bought.

Good Friday is extravangantly good because we can stop.  And breathe.  And know we are loved so much that Jesus would die in our place.  

Good Friday is life-changingly good because our purpose for living changes from 'be it all' to 'you're my all.'

Good Friday is overwhelmingly good because we can be free.  

This isn't a platitude or a Facebook meme.  This kind of life is offered to us, freely, without any effort on our part.  Sound unfair?  Ridiculous?  That's because it is.  God loves us unfairly and ridiculously.  He offers us this way of living when we don't even deserve it.  

The question to ask ourselves this Easter is will we take it? 

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Being a planner when you don't know the plan.

In May 2014 we sat in huge auditorium listening to a man talking, with great humour, about Abraham and the conversation with his wife, Sarah, when God had told him to move his family.  Abraham had to explain to Sarah that they were moving, but had no idea where they were moving to.

I laughed and looked at my modern-day version of Abraham sat next to me.  I could relate to Sarah's horror at the prospect of packing up her home and her family and leaving without knowing which direction to take.  It was funny because I was married to a man who is also a dreamer and has huge faith.  It was funny because we were talking about someone else.

And then it happened to us.  

And suddenly I wished I had Sarah to talk with.

The year following on from our trip to India has been a whirlwind for us.  Hearts ruined, tears sobbed, questions asked and eventually lives laid down daily, we have wrestled with wasting our lives and finding purpose.  Last summer Jared was offered a job in Bangalore and we began to prepare our hearts, our boys and our family and friends for the prospect of our moving out there.  After finding a peace in my heart about taking our boys to such a huge unknown life change, the job offer was withdrawn and we were left confused and back to the start.

We had no idea what God was doing with us.  We clung to our trust in His plan and the promises He has given us.  Like Abraham, we knew there were changes ahead but we didn't know what they were.

Over Christmas we noticed a house for sale down the road with enough bedrooms for our family to live in but also for us to welcome other people into our family.  We weren't sure who this would be, but we knew we had dreamt about this.

Was this the next step?  It was beyond our price range.  But after viewing the house we decided to put our house on the market 'to see what would happen'.

Our house sold.  For above the asking price.  Within six days.

Perhaps this was the right direction, then.

We put in an offer on the big house, knowing we did not have the money to afford the mortgage.  Some may say we are crazy.  I would agree.  

It took six weeks for the owners of the house to accept our offer.  Six weeks of agonised waiting as our buyers were organising the purchase of our house.  It was more than frustrating but in that time of waiting, we were able to see more clearly what the house was going to be used for.  We began to see our dreams being realised at last.  Dreams that we had held for over 20 years.  In the waiting, we found purpose.  

This week we have had a meeting with people who may invest in our house, partnering with us to restore and love those broken by modern day slavery.  We continue to pray for God to provide.

And so we have found ourselves, like Sarah and Abraham, taking steps of faith without knowing what the next step will be.  We put our foot down tentatively, and then look for the next place to step.  We only know one step ahead.  When people ask us questions about it, we don't have all the answers.  Often we simply have to say 'I don't know'.  Because we truly don't.  

I don't know if Sarah was a planner but if she was she will have learnt, like I am learning, that sometimes the unknown is more exciting than any plan she could have made.  When fear of wasting my life silences the fear of the unknown, I can take those tiny steps of faith knowing that my God, the Master Planner, already has it all mapped out.

One day, when I meet Sarah, I will have a chuckle with her over our husbands.  I think we may have lots to discuss.






Saturday, 21 February 2015

Hot Chocolate Loving

We've had an intentional 'give the boys some one on one time' day today.  It's been such a busy month and they are so fab at going with the flow and putting up with the demands of our life, but we felt it was about time to give them something back.  

So, I found myself in a cafe drinking hot chocolate with my favourite ten year old.


Wanting to make the most of the moment, I quizzed him about what he felt his strengths were.  Giggling at the thought of talking himself up, he settled on his top strength.

Being different.

'I like being different,' he explained. 'Some people try to be like everyone else and they try to be cool but when you are just being yourself then you are cool anyway.'

I glowed inside with his wisdom.  I love the fact that he is different too.  

Then he surprised me.

'Come on then, Mum.  What are you good at?'

Oh, I wasn't there to talk about me.  I was there to give him a boost and chat about his world.  His question threw me.

'Well, I'm not sure.  I guess I'm good at cooking.' I answered, a bit feebly.

And then he looked at me, his hot chocolate moustaching around his mouth and his eyes twinkling as he interrupted my ramblings about cooking.  

'I think you're beautiful.  That's what's good about you.'

This boy who has caused me so many sleepless nights and given me so many reasons to cry, completely stumped me with his unintentional love.

And he carried on.

'And I love it that you don't stick to the rules.  You stick to the good ones, but not the bad ones.  And that makes you beautiful too.'

I was speechless.  I had no idea where this depth had come from in my little boy who is growing up to have such a big heart.

Oh yes, hot chocolate was a great idea today.  This boy who hates love and romance and valentines and girls and leaves the room when we kiss is developing into a young man who loves naturally and with all of his heart.

His heart, by the way, belongs to me at the moment.  One day I'll have to give it away but at the moment I'm making the most of cherishing it and watching it grow.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Fifty Shades of Terror

I have resisted as long as possible, but I cannot stand by silently whilst everyone else enjoys the 'harmless' fun of this film.

Fifty Shades.

This weekend the news will be full of it.  According to the BBC news website London Fire Brigade are even on standby because of concerns about people being trapped in handcuffs. 

And yet, every day around the world women and girls are exploited, abused, dominated and controlled by men such as Christian Grey.  Charming on the outside and terrifyingly evil behind closed doors, these men are warped and twisted by their passion for selfish and self-gratifying sex that knows no love or tenderness. 

Does the term 'mummy porn' make it more palatable?  Seriously?  Should 'mummies' be okay with this?  Would 'mummies' be happy if it was their daughter being exploited by such a man? 

Across the world every day paedophiles from our country (yep - England) are hiring the services of young girls in karaoke bars, brothels, massage parlours and even from street corners.  Have these girls chosen to work in such places?  Of course not.  Stolen from their homes and sometimes sold by their families, they are raped twenty or more times each night by the 'Christian Greys' of this world.  In the UK alone, one phone call every minute is made to the police (Stanko 2000) by women desperate for help because they are being abused by a 'Christian Grey'.  Domestic abuse is about power and control not about the bright lights and dazzling glamour of the alluring paedophile or rapist. It's simply unjust.

And porn fuels this injustice.  Without a doubt, porn (even so-called 'mummy porn') twists a person's view of sex.  It is the petrol behind the terrible, degrading, evil bomb of sexual violence.    And violence is what it is.  Not love.  Not cherishing.  Not 'fun'.  Try explaining to a 10 year old girl locked in a cage on the streets of Mumbai and only let out when there is a paedophile / customer waiting to rape her for 20p that this is 'fun'.  Or perhaps you could laugh along with the lady who is regularly beaten by the husband who plays mind control tricks on her like moving the food around in the cupboards or throwing away the bread when she was certain she'd bought some at the shops.

I don't care how glamorous Christian Grey is or how much of a fa├žade of riches and beauty is pasted over it, Fifty Shades of Grey is not only offensive towards women, but downright dangerous.  This is not harmless fun.  And yet women are the ones supporting it.

Come on Ladies, open your eyes to the truth behind the film. 

See the message that is barely hidden. 

Don't celebrate the abuser but stand for the women around the world who face these degrading battles every day and every night. 

Be their voice when they have nothing left but a silent whisper for help. 

Be women who uphold justice and mercy. 

This is black and white.  There are no grey areas here.


Wednesday, 4 February 2015

The Truth Behind the Facebook Posts

I love honesty.  I appreciate authentic friendships.  I'm not one for small talk or superficiality.  Sometimes this gets me into trouble (my mum always used to say 'think before you speak' and I can still hear her whispering it in my ear on the odd occasion!).  

But social media sites are full of people pretending to be something 'better'.  We all fall into the trap.

Take this photo, for example.  Posted by me this week, it has had lots of 'likes' and comments.  It must look like we are having a whale of a time preparing for judo.




But the reality behind the fake smiles ("come on boys, smile and show Dad your new yellow belts") was that half an hour before this was taken we were all crying.  A smashed glass full of water all over the kitchen floor, a cut and bleeding finger, fighting boys, a Dad away for the week and a quick 'turnaround teatime' before judo led to my exploding at the boys like a mentos mint in a coke bottle. It was, quite seriously, one of the worst evenings we have had for a very long time.  

I was shocked by the amount of 'likes'.  How could that happen when our eyes were sore and puffy from crying?  Wasn't it obvious?

And I realised that not only was it not obvious, but it was also possible to live out a totally different life and nobody would ever know.  This gave me the heebyjeebies.  

It also made me even more resolved to pursue genuine friendships with those close to me.  I value vulnerability and honesty in my friends.  I don't want to try and keep up with the Joneses or pretend to be something I'm not and I don't want my friends to feel they can't be real either.  I may not splash all my woes across Facebook (that gets a bit boring) but I so appreciate being able to send a quick text to my close friends when life gets tough.  I know they will stand with me, sometimes holding me up.  I need them and they need me.  And I love that we support and encourage each other.

So, next time I am tempted to post an all singing, all dancing version of my amazing family (and they ARE amazing and we DO sing and dance around the kitchen quite often) I am going to remember this photograph and how uneasy it made me feel.  And I will remember that being honest is more important than being fake.

Who wants a fake family anyway?  Not me.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

What 'get dressed and clean your teeth' really means.

It's a regular occurrence in our house.  

When I say 'get dressed and clean your teeth', somehow this is translated into several different meanings in boy language.

So far, these are the translations I have observed:

'Go and find a nerf gun and shoot your brothers.'

'Do some balloon modelling.'

'Roll around on the floor, making farting noises.'

'Create new magic tricks.'

'Run in and out of your brother's bedroom to annoy him.'

'Hide and jump out on your brother to scare him.'

'Play loud music and dance around with no clothes on.'

'Suddenly remember you need to practice your guitar.'

'Study the world map on your bedroom wall.'

'Wee on the bathroom floor after realising it has been dry for far too long and may need watering.'

'Draw on your face.'

'Sit on your bedroom floor, whistling and staring vacantly.'

'Bang bedroom doors.'

'Stand outside the bathroom while your brother is doing a poo and make grunting and groaning noises in empathy.'

'Slide down the stairs in sleeping bags.'

One day I may manage to speak their language but for now I usually communicate with sign language.  

What translations have you discovered?






Friday, 16 January 2015

Shout Louder

There's a lot of shouting that goes on in my house.  Shouting from one room to the other (my pet hate), shouting in anger, shouting in celebration and the shouting of 'STOP SHOUTING' (I admit, that's my own ridiculous phrase).  It's a noisy place and sometimes I plead with them, and even bribe them, into being quiet.

I read about a man who shouted this week.  His name was Bartimaeus and he lived on the streets on the outskirts of Jericho.  Blinded when he was younger and without the NHS or Social Services to support him, he was reduced to living the hopeless life of a beggar.  Every day people walked past him and listened to his calls for help and every day they tossed a few coins into his hands.  But this wasn't the life Bartimaeus wanted to live.  He knew there must be more to life than this.

One day he heard a big crowd of dusty feet and chattering voices making their way into the city of Jericho. 

"What's going on?"  He called out.

"It's Jesus!  He's going to Jericho!"  The crowd replied.

Bartimaeus had heard of this Jesus.  He heard all sorts of things sitting along the side of the road, and word had travelled about all the healings and miracles Jesus had performed.  He'd even heard that Jesus didn't mind who he spoke to or touched!  Suddenly, inside, he felt hope taking hold of him.  He had to speak to Jesus.

"Jesus!"  He shouted.  "Help me!"

The crowd of people turned to Bartimaeus and hushed him.

"Shhhh," they called to him, "Don't disturb Jesus now.  He's on his way to important work in Jericho.  Be quiet!"

Bartimaeus was used to being treated like this.  People were quite happy to throw him some coins to appease their conscience, but they didn't want to have to actually speak to him.  He knew he was dirty and he could even smell himself.  He spent enough time sitting and pondering his life to know that he was not someone people wanted to associate with.  But he'd heard different things about this Jesus.  No, he wasn't going to shrink into the background anymore.  This was perhaps his only chance.  He took a deep breath of courage and shouted even louder.

"Jesus!  Help me!"

This time his shouts reached the ears of Jesus and he asked the crowd to bring Bartimaeus to him.  Bartimaeus found himself in the arms of those who had just told him to be quiet.  It was a long time since anyone had touched him.  He trembled.  He had no idea what would happen next.

"What do you want me to do for you?"  Jesus asked him.

What?  Wasn't it obvious? 

Standing in front of the one who could change his life, Bartimaeus dared to tell Jesus exactly what he wanted.

"I want to see again."  He could barely make out the words. 

"Then, see!"  Jesus said.  "Your faith has healed you."

Bartimaeus opened his eyes and looked into the face of his Saviour.  Slowly his smile grew across his face and, as tears fell from his newly opened eyes, he decided there and then to follow this Jesus.  He had saved his life.


Bartimaeus was one courageous man.  He held on to hope and even when it was crushed, he shouted even louder.

Have you been told to be quiet?  Shout louder. 
Have you had your dreams crushed?  Shout louder. 
Are there things you would dare to ask Jesus if you could just speak to him?  Shout louder. 
Do you wonder if Jesus would ever associate with you?  Shout louder.
Have you been praying and asking for the same things for a long time?  Shout louder.
Are you facing impossible circumstances?  Shout louder.

Don't give up.

Jesus wants us to come to him and to ask him for the things he has put in our hearts, however impossible they seem to us.  Prayer is not a quiet, polite experience to make us feel good about ourselves, rather it is a weapon of warfare that moves God's hand and changes situations in the spiritual realms and in the world around us. 

I want to see God's kingdom of peace, joy, right-living, love and wholeness in our world today and I this year I am going to shout louder and shout harder.  I'm going to follow Bartimaeus's example and get myself to the ears of the one for whom nothing is impossible. 

Want to join me?


Friday, 2 January 2015

When dreams make us vulnerable

I may have mentioned this before, but I'm married to a dreamer.  My husband is one of those 'ten thousand ideas before breakfast' people.  He has new businesses, inventions, creative solutions to difficult problems, ideas of people to network with and ways to be a hero pulsating through his brain non-stop.  New Year is a perfect example of his well-intentioned dreaming.  One year he wrote down no less than 27 goals for the year.  Sometimes I roll my eyes at him and bring some reality ("No, I'm sorry, but you are not going to be able to meet the President today") but on the odd occasion, I allow myself to dream with him.

We're good at dreaming together.  It's even more exciting when we start to push on doors to see if our dreams can become a reality.  

But when we start to investigate our dreams, we become vulnerable.  In talking to people about our dreams and hearing their responses we feel like we are laying bare our hearts before them and asking them to understand us.  And they often don't.  Sometimes our dreams are trampled across with well-meaning reality.

A lifetime ago our wedding invitations were, very aptly, adorned with this quote from W.B Yeats' poem 'He wishes for the cloths of heaven':

I have spread my dreams under your feet; tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

Our dreams won't always become a reality.  They may take us in different directions which others don't quite understand.  They might cause us to make unusual decisions.  They sometimes make us look crazy.  We might live life with different priorities to other people.  We might parent our children in different ways because of them.  They make us vulnerable to ridicule.

But if we spread our dreams under your feet and lay our hearts bare before you, please tread softly because our dreams are fragile, precious and God-given and we need you to hold our hands as we tiptoe across and journey into them.