Setting sail…

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Dear Lord, the sea is so big, and my boy is so small…

And so we are here, the final evening of a lovely 6 weeks of change in routine, of co-parenting fully with the ever lovely husbandface, of home improvements, watching boys grow and change, going on holiday, returning from holiday, seeing friends and generally living life a bit differently. It’s been one of the best since we got married, each year we learn how to give each other the space we need to do the things we love and learn how to enjoy life together as a family. Son1’s scrapbook of the last few weeks tells a story of fun times with friends, visiting amazing gardens, embracing new experiences such as going to the cinema (toddler time rocks at our local cinema), visiting delightful places on holiday and enjoying the family and friends we are hugely blessed with.

At the end of the holiday I feel like I’ve had a holiday, rest has come upon my body, sleep has been increased and my soul has had time to remember it’s Maker. I’ve been musing all holiday on the answer to the question, ‘what do I do?’. My conclusion is: a lot. I live a multi stranded life that is full of boys, friends, writing, directing our small groups at church and more.

Most of my life right now is taken up with loving and caring for the small ones entrusted to my care. It won’t always be this way. Change is slowly afoot as I delve deeper into the world of life with two preschoolers. The short baby year is coming to an end. Son2 is desperate to communicate, follow his older brother everywhere and express all his feelings. A toddler is about to emerge.

Son1 is starting nursery this week, for an afternoon and morning a week he’ll be with people I don’t know that well, having experiences I can’t control or help him through at the time. It’s a scary prospect but it’s also a wonderful prospect. He will encounter other adults who will get to know him and care for him, he’ll carry on learning how to interact with people when I’m not around, hopefully he’ll make new friends and we’ll work through the ups and downs of the whole experience together. I shall start to learn how to advocate for my son when I am not sure what has been going on and grow a relationship with the people who work at the nursery. It’ll be an oh so slow start towards the world of school. I shall get some time with son2 on his own and enjoy some focused time with him.

We will all take up a new routine, enjoy hanging out together, take classes and see our friends. Life carries on with the boys.

I hope to have more mental space to write, to take an evening a week to focus on writing and doing it well. I will be steering this good ship towards half term, supporting the husbandface as he starts his new job in the school he’s been at for a while now. I shall attempt to love him well through the inevitable exhaustion and insane non stop world of term time. I also want to love my church family well, to enable our small groups to flourish and grow.

Most of all I want to be content.

This is a good life but my soul always yearns for more, for a ministry job I can explain and do, for fame and fortune. I don’t often want the ways of sacrifice for my boys, I want easy days, days where I don’t have to have limpets stuck to me or explain for the 100th time why we don’t throw things in the house. I want days where I don’t get cross or frustrated because my almost 3 year old and almost 1 year old act their ages.

This summer I sensed the Maker once more telling me to trust in the sacrifice, to know it is worth it as I seek to lavish love as it has been lavished on me. I long to deeply breathe that air of trust and enjoy this life. I long to taste and see that he is good and that my life is seen by the one who counts.

Your correspondent, launching out into the storms of the year ahead with hope and some growing trust.

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Celebrating the ordinary.

IMG_5318Recently I read this list in premier magazine. I probably shouldn’t have done. It annoyed me greatly, then made me angry, then made me reflect and think. It’s a list of 33 awesome people under the age of 33 who have done great things for God. It’s an impressive list. These people seem generally to have been used by God to do great things. But it’s hard not to think it’s just buying into celebrity culture, getting us to believe the lie that unless you have achieved x, y or z your life is pretty meaningless and failing to celebrate the ordinary lives that God infuses with meaning and presence.

I want to write an alternative list. My friends are awesome, some people I know of are awesome but live pretty ordinary lives, trying to embrace life with their Maker, getting it wrong, getting it right and generally bumbling through life with all it’s joys and sorrows with a deep conviction that there is more than this.

I love them.

I love my husband and the God who has held him through many twists and turns in life, I love that he was brought into my life and that God has joined us together. I love that he won’t be beaten by past mistakes, that God never let him go in the darkest of times. I love his approach to life, his optimism and grace, his desire to heal broken hearts, his tears when others are hurt, his compassion and love. I love his commitment to seek the good of his school and his desire that people are treated with honesty and integrity.  I love and honour him for that.

I love my friend who works hard in a job in London, deeply convinced God has given her a love of economics and she can use that to make a difference to society. I love that she kept on walking through the hideous death of her first husband and was determined to grieve deeply and well. I was deeply impressed with her battles for contentment, adjustment to life single again and then her bravery in seeking out and finding a new husband. I love and honour her for that.

I love my friend who has two children who she, like so many of us, perseveres in loving and supporting on a daily basis. I love her commitment to her friends finding out more about the wonder of our Maker and her prayers and love for her community around her. I love that she is still walking through the mental preschool years and I honour her for that.

I love my friends who still stay single despite the pressures around them because they believe that celibacy is better than compromise, who have to live with churches who value families more than single people and who haven’t given up on God despite the pain of that. I love their wrestling with God and his refusal to let go of them.  I love and honour them for that.

I love my brother and wife who cling desperately to believing that God has called them to the path they are walking and depend on him like no one else I know, I love that they are still hanging in there in the mess and pain that this life has brought to them. I love their commitment to helping their children navigate this life well. I love their creatively and passion for people getting the reality of God. I love and honour them for that.

I love my friend who has committed to her friend for life, who is working through what she believes with honesty and integrity and who has been battered too much by people who should have showered love and grace on her instead of creating fences too high to climb over. I love that God won’t let her go and I love that she is facing a new world with him rather than running away from him entirely. I love her honesty and her commitment to her job, I love her perseverance in training for it and following her deep desire for it. I love and honour her for that.

I love those I know who live with long term debilitating conditions that stupid people still claim are still in the mind, who still cling to the reality that God is at work in and through them through the 15 minutes a day they are able to focus on something without pain. I love that their voice is heard and that God is at work in their lives. I love and honour them for that.

I love my parents as they try and be faithful to their church and to reminding people of the reality of God, I love that my Mum is developing and changing and growing as a Spiritual Director, I love that Dad is finding his voice on his theology course, I love that they faithfully loved me and my brother over crazy years, I love that they introduced me to God and he hasn’t let go of them or me yet. I love their ordinary marriage so full of normal ups and downs and that they still hold hands when they walk down the street. I love and honour them for that

These are all people and there are so many more who are living ordinary lives. In remembering them I am reminded that there is no such thing, all are living lives infused by God, they don’t have to be doing 100 amazing things before breakfast or before they are 33 to do that. God is at work.

I’ll leave you with Os Guinness quoting Oswald Chambers being brilliant as ever. Oh that we would celebrate these ways more.

“Repeatedly he hammers home the point that ‘drudgery is the touchstone of character’. We look for the big things to do- Jesus took a towel and washed people’s feet. We presume the place to be is the mountaintop of vision – he sends us back to the valley. We like to speak and act out of the rare moments of inspiration- he requires our obedience in the routine, the unseen and the thankless. Our idea for ourselves is the grand moment and the hushed crowd- his is ordinary things when the footlights are switched off.  After all Chambers continued,

‘Walking on water is easy to impulsive pluck, but walking on dry land as a disciple of Jesus Christ is a different thing. Peter walked on the water to go to Jesus, but he followed Him afar off on the land. We do not need the grace of God to stand crises, human nature and pride are sufficient, we can face the strange magnificently; but it does require the supernatural grace of God to live twenty-four hours in every day as a saint, to go through drudgery as a disciple, to live an ordinary, unobserved, ignored existence as a disciple of Jesus. It is inbred in us that we have to do exceptional things for God; but we have not. We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things, to be holy in mean streets, among mean people, and this is not learned in 5 minutes.’

Your Correspondent, more and more convinced that the Sorting Hat might well have put Jesus in Hufflepuff.

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Musings from the land of Cornwall

IMG_5361This week we’ve been enjoying the lovely lands of South Cornwall, visiting lots of Amazing Gardens (as son1 calls The Eden Project, The Lost Gardens of Heligan and the lovely National Trust property of Lanhydrock), eating our weight in cream teas, soaking up the beautiful rugged coast line, sitting in traffic jams, trying not to wish all the other people cluttering up the small pretty towns would go somewhere else and remembering that Cornwall is much nicer and quieter in the winter.

We visited the Tate in St Ives on a rainy day, we weren’t all that impressed with the exhibitions this year as in previous years but one caught my breath and made me cry. It was a display of wishes from local people and people visiting the town. (Rivane Neuenschwander’s large-scale participatory work I Wish Your Wish) Wishes printed out on pretty ribbons for all to read. Wishes like: I wish I had a lot of friends. I wish for financial security. I wish I could get rid of the guilt. I wish I could live without anxiety. I wish I had a turtle and there were no wars. I wish to graduate. I wish for an easy death.

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It was overwhelming, a room full of many peoples deepest desires and longings. A room full of unmet hopes and dreams. A room full of painful daily realities. A room full of hollowness. Some dreams and desires will be fulfilled, but some will never be seen. It brought home to me the fragileness of life. The emptiness of our experience at times and how much pain we live with.

It was a room that made me long for more. For hope beyond the stuff of this world. For a love that goes deeper than our deepest pain. For a love that gives dignity, value and worth to all and for all to know the security and confidence found in that love, whatever life throws at them.

I felt the pain and ever so quietly I heard the pain and heartbreak of a Maker seeing children run from the open door, warm fire, hearty meal and large glass of wine waiting to give the weary rest.

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Ordering Chaos…

unnamedThis morning I am sat in Waterstones cafe thinking, praying, planning and pondering. Way back at the beginning of 2014 I started to think about living life intentionally, embracing my call to walk this path God has given me, delighting in bringing order to chaos in our family life and beyond and generally being content with not having a lovely label or answer to that horrible question, ‘what do you do?’  Getting pregnant, living through the first 10 months of son2’s life, being hideously sleep deprived all kind of got in the way of my joy and discontentment has set in once more. I’ve found myself envious of husbandface’s nice shiny label and new role, of his commitment to a job he enjoys, is fulfilled in and loves. Don’t get me wrong, I love that he is doing this job, that he gets to be a blessing to his school, that he is seeking to live out the wonder of God in his workplace and is seeking to be a transforming influence on those around him. But every now and again the voice whispers in the back of my head, ‘you don’t have a label, you don’t matter, you just look after two crazy boys badly’. It’s a voice I am trying to kill, not least because it speaks lies and rubbish.

I fall too many times for the lie that because I can’t neatly sum up what I do in a pithy title then I must have fallen through the cracks of society, become a bit worthless and left behind. No matter that my life is made up of beautiful strands of involvement in different things, no matter that I’m seeking to raise two beautiful boys well in this world, to hopefully, prayerfully become wonderful men. I seem to all too easily beat up on myself. That has to stop.

I’ve been given this life and I love it, I love using my gifts to bring order to our house, to our finances, to our eating. I love that I get to hang out with two very delightful weirdos everyday and get to be the main influence in their lives for these few crucial early years (and even on the shouty days I think that’s an awesome privilege). I love that I am now a Spiritual Director and developing what that will look like in the madness of our months. I love that I get to help our church shape and nurture it’s small groups. I love that I get to hang out with my mates who are also looking after tiny people and can share the madness with them. I love that I get to pray for husbandface’s school and support him in his new role. I love that life is varied and different and not at all like the offices I have worked in over the years.

I love it and yet I struggle to own that love and remember that love. I long to own contentment and peace, especially as September kicks in and we have new routines to live with it. Husbandface’s new job will begin, Son1 will start some sessions at Nursery for the first time and our week will have a different shape to it. I am looking forward to the changes and I long to experience and see God at work in the midst of the details of our days. He has good works for me to walk in and a life that he has called me, Kath, to live. I pray that I would be content with that, and free then to delight in the life that others have, rather than enviously or pridefully comparing with them. Romans 12 in The Message are still awesome words to live by as our boat sets sail into September and beyond.

12 1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognise what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

3 I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.

4-6 In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvellously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.

6-8 If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.

9-10 Love from the centre of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.

11-13 Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fuelled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.

14-16 Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.

17-19 Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”

20-21 Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.

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Evolution…?

IMG_4952These days, when I have time to wonder, I wonder what my relationship with God will look like when I have more space, more time, more of me. I wonder if there is a magical ‘getting back to what it was’ or if indeed there is no return to it’s former state. I wonder how I will relate to God when I have space to sit in silence and time to swim deeply in the words of life, truth and light that I know so well and yet are so far from my everyday experience right now.

I find myself turning over the pages of the Bible every now and again, remembering what it felt like to look long and deep at each word and phrase, remembering times of tears and wonder, remembering times of confusion, times of profound change and times where I gasped in awe at the One revealed in the pages. These days those experiences seem so far away, my interaction with the words of life so fleeting and brief. I miss wallowing around in them, miss being soaked, miss having my mind blown with news of what this world is really all about and where it’s heading.

When I talk of God now I feel like I’m reading by rote, sentences that I know I’ve said before roll off my tongue. Somehow I know they are real and true but it feels like saying a memory rather than a present reality. I pray prayers, I lead church services, I sit with people and talk of the love of God, and every time I do I feel the power in the words.  The Spirit behind the words is at work, but yet there is a distance from them that I find it hard to reach across so I can own them for myself every ordinary day.

I think it’s good to have that experience there to fall back on, to know the words and say the words and hope that one day the words will become real again throughout the moments of each day. I trust that I’m in the family, no matter what, that my place at the table is held whether I show up or not. I trust that the One who held me this far will carry on holding me. I trust that even if my faith looks very different at the end of these preschool years than the start that it will still be in the Maker of all, the Lover of all and the One who is at work bringing this world to a far better state than we can ever dream of.

What do you reckon? How is your faith evolving and changing as life twists and turns about you? Does anyone have any ways of living well with that change?

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10 Years of blogging…

IMG_5012Here we are.

Blank page.

Go.

It’s the first week of the holidays. The first week in a while that I do not have to do long days in care of two small people alone. I am in the ridiculously fortunate position of having married a teacher. 12 weeks a year I get to parent together and the small tiny ones get their beloved Daddy around for more than half an hour in the morning and an hour at night. This is a good thing. It makes up for never being able to really afford Centre Parks. (I’m not sure why I desire to go to Centre Parks, people talk of it as some kind of mecca for small people, it can’t be all that can it?).

And so I am sitting on a sofa in a cafe on my own. Laptop out and fingers typing away as I steal a few hours away from the male members of my family. I’ve finished my teenage dystopian fiction I brought out with me (the only thing my brain can read at the moment), I’ve recapped on some Spiritual Direction notes in preparation for a meeting or two next week. I’ve drunk a latte and moved onto iced water to try and kill the throbbing in my head.

I’m sitting in Emporium on Brighton’s London Road, it’s pretty cool, there are wooden tables, big sofas, there are no identical pieces of furniture to create a slick corporate image. It’s independent, rambling and a perfect place to spend my afternoon off. I’m surrounded by pairs of women having significant conversations, the occasional mother with a sleeping baby in a buggy, a few loners with laptops out and a group of women who I think might be family members out together. I’m sitting and trying to kick the writer at the back of my head out of her slumber.

I haven’t written for a month. A month. That’s stupid. My head needs to write. As I shake and shake the writer in me I can see words and phrases scribbled on pieces of paper around her feet but nothing has made it to the light of day in a while.

Excuses line up. It’s been a hard term, I’m tired, I’m weary, I’m…. Anyway. Excuses are no good anymore. We are here. The holidays, or the time where there is at least some more time in each day, the time where I am not so exhausted once the tiny people are finally asleep. Holiday isn’t really the word. This is the time of a change in pace. There are opportunities to not be so alone. There is time to sit and write.

And so I am.

There is a list of things in my head to write about.  The one fighting for space this afternoon is the strange thought that I’ve been blogging for 10 years. I had a whole plan as to how I was going to celebrate that, I was going to find all my favourite posts over the years and reblog them for your edification and wonder. I was going to go all crazy about it. But I was tired. Thinking about it, that display of narcissism might even have been too much for me. I’m kind of glad I didn’t go crazy after all.  I do think it’s worth a mention though. 10 years of random thoughts from my brain. That’s some kind of achievement. Here’s my first blog post. I think it stands up pretty well over time.

For about two years now, I have been tempted to blog. Somehow I’ve always been stopped by the thought of what I would post, whether my endless ramblings on life would be of interest to anyone, let alone to me. I’ve been stopped by the fear of it descending into internal rants, self pitying moaning or self indulgence. And really, who would want to read the thoughts of this mind? It’s an interesting thing to ponder. There is also the fear of exposing the inner working of my mind onto a page, where it can be misunderstood, and my thoughts open to criticism or opposition. But if they can’t take healthy debate and understanding, I guess they aren’t really worth articulating.

Being the first post I guess this should be something of a statement about what to expect here in this space. I want more than an online diary, I’m not sure recounting a day in the life of Kath will be worth it. My tales of eating porridge for breakfast aren’t that interesting to anyone. I’m concerned to start conversations in this life. Too often we accept the reality of the world with which we are presented (I’m sure someone else said that at some point…) and fail to recognise the affect the invisible has on all we do and are.

I am a Christian. But it’s an easy thing to say and label myself as. What that means has far reaching consequences on all I do and say. (hopefully) But I’m interested in exploring what that really means. I love God, but recognise the ease of applying my preconceptions to Him without discovering who He really is. I love the Bible. But I want to explore the affect it has in a world empty of truth. I want to call attention to reality both in my life and in the lives of those who live around me. I believe in questioning and searching and seeking until you find. I believe in truth as tangible as the gravity that holds me to this earth, and I believe in one man taking on all I deserved on a cross 2000 years ago. I struggle to comprehend what that really means for all who live around me, and struggle to believe. But I cannot walk away from Him.

I spend my life swinging from opinion to opinion in the hope of pleasing all I meet. It’s a problem of mine. But through the different styles, the different expressions, I’m learning to sense the weaving Spirit, the truth from the lies and the diversity and beauty of our maker.

I also love chilled out things as well, simple stuff, worth mentioning and focusing on. I’m very aware that this blog could disappear into the realm of pompous statements of seemly great importance. The simple stuff of life helps me avoid that. I love music, friends, long walks on the beach, sunsets, the lake district, cups of tea, long chats into the night, swimming, chocolate cake and hugs.

So there you go, if you like random thoughts of a slightly cynical or over idealistic nature, random musings on reality and cups of tea, stick around. Comment, continue the conversations and sense the invisible that moves and transforms the visible world in front of us.

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Dear Daddy

 The boys have taken over the blog again. 

Dear Daddy 

Last year I didn’t know how to say much except EYES and BALL. This year I want to tell you about Peppa Pig and Bunka beds and all my ‘portant things that I have on my bunka beds. This year I have become a bit bossy (according to Mummy, I’ve no idea what she’s talking about). I really love telling you what to do and where to play. I love hanging out with you, I love it when you spin me round faster faster faster. I love our book cuddles at night and our 11 cuddles. 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 …11!  I love fixing things and all your tools. Your screwdriver is one of my ‘portant things. Thank you for loving me and Mummy really well. 

Daddy, there is a new person here now. He’s small and smiley and I love him very much. Sometimes I hit him and make him cry and sad. I’m sorry. He’d like to say something to you too. 

Daddy. Daddy. Daddy. Daddy. I love you.  Daddy daddy daddy. Look at my tongue. Daddy. Cuddle. Daddy. Cuddle. Daddy. I love when you come home. I love crawling over to you with my big fat grin. I love smiling. Smiling is my favourite. Smiles. Daddy daddy daddy. I love you and I love smiling at everyone. Did you know that people are really funny. Really funny. So are you. 

We love you so much Daddy. Sorry for being annoying sometimes (Mummy told us to say that.) 

Thank you for making pancakes for us every Saturday, thank you for making us laugh, thank you for helping us sleep, thank you for not throwing us in the bin when we make bad choices, thank you for patiently explaining life to us. 

We think you are the bestest Daddy in the whole wide world. 

Xxxx

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