Summer round up

IMG_3380So, the husbandface is currently in the throws of starting a new blog about being a Dad to two boys. This has spurred me into remembering that I too have a blog and quite like this writing thing. So maybe it’s time for one or two of those summer round up posts before we plunge into new sparkly September land. 

The end of August always reminds me that it really isn’t the middle month of the year.  It’s 7.30pm and already I’ve turned on the lights in our living room, darkness is just around the corner and the air has just a hint of something cold in it.  September always nicely confuses things by giving Indian summers but this brief colder spell reminds me that the year is on the turn. 

Things are a changing and as we are on the edge of epic change once more it’s good to have that reflected in the turning of the earth. 

We’ve had a good summer.

I remain very thankful to the husbandface for being a teacher and having lots of holiday with which to send me to bed each day and entertain the smallest member of our team (not sure mcsquirmy counts yet…). My body has given in to aches and pains and I want this to be over soon. I am bored of the pain of pregnancy and groan for the day when it will be over. (Talk to me in a few weeks time to see how that’s working out…)

Friends and family have come and gone. We survived that mysterious thing called ‘camp’, which involves hanging out in a posh boarding school with teenagers watching God get up to stuff in their lives.  We attempted some actual camping and realised my body can’t cope with it anymore. This last weekend I enjoyed camping in the day and returning to my bed at night, much the best way right now. We enjoyed a day without the small one to potter around Guildford whilst Nana and Gaga had fun with him and we’ve enjoyed some fun times out as a family in Brighton and Sussex. It’s been good if slow and steady. 

Our small one has changed massively over these last 6 weeks. He is full on into imaginative play, loving making us cups of tea with his teapot and making sure Charley Bear’s nappy is regularly changed. He’s also into the stage of knowing what he wants but not being able to deal with the emotions of not being able to have it all the time. (The rest of us have just got better at hiding those emotions I reckon). Our days are a mix of delight, tears, deep breaths from us parents and the need for endless patience. Naaa and a shake of the head with a cheeky grin meets many of our requests. 

He is aware the times are changing too. He hugs me tight, kisses the bump and asks after baby. He knows the cot is where baby will sleep but I’m not sure where he imagines this baby is or knows the storm about to come into his life. He knows mummy is fragile right now and tenderly strokes me when I burst into tears. Something is impinging on his world but he doesn’t really get what.  

We are slowly preparing for the change, we have nappies and a cot set up. Small sleepsuits sit in draws waiting to be used. We have a while to wait but mentally we are getting our brains wrapped around the arrival of the second grenade to hit our world. 

The summer holidays are over. Routine is about to hit once again and then who knows what life will be like come the end of the month. I am glad that we set sail into the term knowing we are not alone, knowing that there is One who holds us through whatever is to come and has held us thus far. I am glad we can cry out to him for help and know that we have a sure foundation for our times. I’m praying we can hold onto these verses from Isaah 33 in the coming months. 

The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high;
    he will fill Zion with his justice and righteousness.
He will be the sure foundation for your times,
    a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge;
    the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.

The nights are drawing in. Summer is slowly drawing to an end. The light fades and we wait, embracing life within that waiting. Bring it on.  

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Thoughts from a tent…

fieldIt’s my Birthday. Another year to hang on the line and all that jazz. Read last years post for my thoughts on Birthdays. Here instead are some random thoughts from 5am in a tent last weekend. 

It’s times like these that I realise again that I have to write, that coming away with no pencil and paper is almost a crime to my soul. My brain cries out for the joy of processing, of ordering my thoughts and putting down things that swirl around my head.

Here is the space to do that. In these canvas walls before anyone else is awake or out of the tent, here in this surreal light of dawn outside with the birds singing and the sheep making that guttural noise that clearly sounds nothing like the small baa sound we encourage our children to make. 

Here is the space to write and write and write some more. Finally away from the screens, the immediate stuff that fills my gaze each day. With a head fuzzy from disturbed sleep. With my lungs aching from too much campfire smoke and with cockerels in the background I come to this most sacred of tasks. Writing. Expressing thoughts. None of them particularly inspired or new, thoughts that many have had and yet I can and I love writing them down. It seems almost too much to call this a gift but here it is. A gift to whoever. A gift to whoever feels this aching need to know we are not alone. That others have passed this way. If no-one wrote anything down imagine how greater our loneliness would be.

I hear my son making the initial noises of waking. Murmuring instead of crying, indicating he might have had more sleep than I in this strange night under the cloudy sky. I feel the ache of my back as I sit up after a night on the floor, albeit a fairly comfortable sleeping mat filled floor. I sense the strange swirling of my other son inside me and wonder what life will be like in 3 months time. I remember the other children around the site last night, the parents with their endless wheelbarrows of stuff carted to tents and wonder what life in these next few years will hold. 

I remember the young couples arriving last night, the few on their own, escaping for rest, nights away from routine, peace and then try and put down my jealousy for another day, reaching instead for some kind of contentment in this ‘all consuming tempting to think there is no space for me’ kind of life. All to easy to box people up and long for the greener life of different circumstances. I breathe. I have this life. I both love and fear this life. I adore the insanity of being a mother and I can’t believe the gifts given to me. I fear the sacrifice of this life. I laugh again at my wariness at owning such a title. I am a mother, mummy, a mum. I fear of others thinking less of me now I have this new state of being. I fear alienating others. The single years still seem so much to define me and this skin still feels new.  I listen too long to the voices that whisper that I should have written more, that I should be known, that a quiet and unseen life is to be scorned. The deep all penetrating truth that I am loved and need no accolades from this world to prove that is hard to hear at times and yet will not ever leave. 

I’ve heard that voice recently. Despite exhaustion, despite 4 weeks of marking season and slogging head down through. I’ve heard the beautiful voice that tells me I am loved. The voice that tells me there is a place where my selfish greed and my pride can be washed away. The voice that tells me there are new compassions for me this morning. The voice that speaks of a cross, a cup and an empty grave that I cannot ignore, no matter how much I try. 

I cough in this quiet and my son cries out, knowing I am close, only two canvas walls away. I sense this quiet will soon end and the day will clatter into being. I am thankful. Thankful that although times away are not measured anymore in perfect moments, quiet ordered thinking time or good nights sleep that there are good chaotic things to be learnt in this mess, this tumbling through the day with a small person in tow and this particular style of insane sacrifice. 

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The end…and maybe a beginning…

poppiesThe Spiritual Direction course I’ve been doing this year came to an end today. It was a day of endings and ponderings for the future. Part of the day was sharing letters we’d written to God about what might happen in the future and thanks for all we’ve experienced on the course. For what it’s worth, here’s mine.

Dear God, it’s been an interesting year eh? Thank you so much for it, for providing the exact space I needed to remember true and important things like I was more than a milk machine to my son, that my brain hasn’t been turned off entirely in the haze of sleep depravation. Thank you for giving me this year to remember that I have a future life that involves more than my children and thank you for showing me just how much you love me through my son and his crazy joy in this world. Thank you for showing me the worth and value of life right now and that you hold the future in your hands. 

Thank you for meeting me, for reminding me that your love isn’t dependent on how much or little I pray. Thank you for providing for me and for teaching me more of the wideness of you through hanging out with other people on such different journeys but with the same God who loves and delights in us.

I’m not sure what the future will hold exactly, I have plans, husbandface has plans, we think we might know the direction life will take but whatever it looks like I know for sure that I want to help people in this journey towards you. Thank you for making people feel comfortable enough in my presence to want to open up about how life is with God in a real and honest way. Thank you that I can share their tears, their joys, their frustrations and know that I don’t have to provide the answers. I really think there is nothing I’d rather be doing than listening to people as they discover and notice the reality of you in this beautiful world you have made. 

I want to keep doing that, through the daze of new motherhood as I share life with other new Mum’s and as we work out what on earth life looks like in this new strange world. I want to keep listening for your voice in the midst of the mess and exhaustion and I long to help others find your voice in this place as well. I would love to keep on sharing and hearing peoples stories of their life with you as I journey onwards, through whatever changes may come in these next few years. Please use me as you see fit, help me know I am loved and so be able to bring others to your love. Help me be at peace with what you have given me each day to do and help me love and encourage my boys with the reality and presence of you.  

Thanks for all you have been up to this year. Help me look for your voice through the craziness of two boys to look after and nurture in this world. Thank you for your mother love which has shown me how to love and the depths of your love for me. 

Always yours. 

Kath 

I have been very grateful for the space this year to participate in the course and to the excellent Jo for looking after sonface and generally being extremely helpful and lovely. Love our church family.

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Ode to camping pt1

Setting up camp...

Setting up camp…

It’s time to blow the cobwebs off this space and see about some blogging again. I sense there are only a few weeks left before another bomb goes off in our lives and whilst the sun shines, marking season is over and I have some sane thoughts again I’m back in the writing zone. 

This weekend we went camping, early mornings on my own in my little sleeping pod (husbandface and sonface shared their own pod so this pregnant lady stood chance of a little more sleep) gave me the space and inspiration to write again. Phew. Some sense of normality might be on the way to be restored. (even if I have spent this last nap time once again watching too much of The OC) 

So, here’s the first ode to camping, second instalment of my thoughts from a tent to come later in the week…

We were never a camping family when I grew up. Self catering cottages were the cheap option of holidays back in the 80s and 90s and we spent a week each year in different ones in the beautiful lands of the Lake District, Devon, Northumberland, Dorset and Cornwall. Camping wasn’t an option. Too uncomfortable and strange and for proper hardcore people. 

When we got married I found myself in a new world. A world of instant internet, a world that needed more active choice in switching off from. Self catering cottages now seem to be on the more expensive end of holiday budgets and all come with wifi and instant connection to the world you’ve left behind. Nothing wrong with that, but husbandface and I sense the need for more intentional switching off, both of us being fairly wedded to the world of the smart phone and all the lovely things we can do with them.  Camping seemed to be a good option to escape the screen, to put down the streams of information about the world and the lives of others. We ran a few test nights away and enjoyed the respite from life back home.

Cooking dinner

Cooking dinner

We acquired a tent large enough to stand up in, my absolute requirement if this was going to be part of our family life, and then, I at least, put camping out of mind as we had our son and the thought of night feeding in a tent filled me with horror. Husbandface has kept the dream alive though and this summer we have at least 3 camping weekends planned (I still can’t comprehend a week away but I sense in a few years time it will happen…) he tried out our tent with the boy on a night away with other guys from church and a month or so on we found ourselves under canvas for 2 nights this weekend. 

I still have a love hate relationship with camping. It brings together the two extremes of my personality and they clash massively in the tent. I love the outdoors, I love nature. I love that almost all I could hear were birds and sheep. I love eating outside and I love being away from the city. 

Fun with Daddy and a ball.

Fun with Daddy and a ball.

However. I hate mess, I love order, I want things to be clean and tidy and to know where everything is. I’m not keen waking up with everything smelling of bonfire and I am not sure about the whole trying to think about eating and cooking with limited stuff. Fun camping requires a fair amount of planning and organisation and I haven’t felt like I’ve ever managed that satisfactorily.  Maybe it’s something that will come in time. Maybe I just have to live with the chaos and embrace it rather than getting stressed about all the things I’ve forgotten. Maybe one day we will have a car big enough to fit all the items that seem to be essential. I’m not sure if camping light can ever be done with more than one or two of you. It seems to involve packing up most of your life and that feels somewhat strange. Getting back to nature shouldn’t feel this full surely? 

But maybe that’s it, camping isn’t really about getting back to nature anymore (at least not for us) it’s about switching off from the barrage of information, about a mental simplicity more than a physical simplicity. Here electronic stuff runs out of battery, here everything takes longer and here our brains are taken up with smaller tasks. I’m sure there is a benefit to that kind of simplicity every once in a while. We seem to have acquired lots of camping ‘stuff’ over the last 4 years (although looking around the campsite not nearly as much as others have…) and although it seems bonkers to pack up the car with so much just for a couple of nights I think it’s worth the trade off. My mind feels more at ease, my soul feels good after days outdoors and our son has learnt the word, camping. (oh and fire. FIRE. FIRE is so much fun…).  

The fine print. 

Fun on the farm

Fun on the farm

We camped at Spring Barn Farm in Lewes, genius for onsite fun times on Saturday, not having to go anywhere was lovely. It also has a cafe which serves wonderful breakfasts, a bonus after a disturbed night and an early morning. Sonface did pretty good sleeping, all things considered, he just fought the sleep until about 9.30 each night. Even discovering that our little monkey had left the carlights on and we had a flat battery didn’t dampen our weekend as the nice recovery men came out within an hour and we were charged up and ready to go in the morning. We lucked out with the weather, arriving after the rain on the Friday and leaving in a gap in the rain on the Sunday morning. We got very sunburnt, remembering to smear oneself in suncream as well as the small one would have been a good plan. Sheep are very noisy. Tractors and doodledoos (Roosters) are very exciting. Bizarrely the sleeping mat we have was uber comfortable and I had my most cosy nights of camping ever (and at 29 weeks pregnant…). Everyone needs a husbandface to show grace when grumpy sore pregnant lady came out to play and to be uber patient in persuading the small one that sleep was a good option. Did I mention FIRE? Why we didn’t have more of it was a constant source of sadness for the boy. All in all a good for the soul weekend. I recommend. 

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Dear Daddy

E and KIt’s that time of year when the small son has a few things to say to us all. Bear with him, he’s only little.

Dear Daddy.

Lots has changed in a year, but I wanted to say thank you again for being my Daddy. Thank you for being funny and for coming home each day on your bike. I love bikes. I love riding your bike with you.

Thank you for making me smile and laugh. Thank you for teaching me things and loving me even when I throw my food all over the floor or hit you in the face. Thank you for being patient with me. I’m still figuring out this weird world you brought me into.

Thank you for helping me feel safe as I fall asleep, for singing to me and for not throwing me in the bin when I poke at your eyes. Eyes. I love saying that. Eyes. Let’s say it louder, EYES. Mmm that’s so satisfying. I love saying things now, Mymmy, daddie, gaga, na na, ball, shoes, sock, knee, foot, dog, nail (Mummy says the word is snail and only applies to actual snails and not all tiny crawling things. But what does she know?). Words are lots of fun.

Thank you for looking after Mummy, I think something is going on with her, she’s really tired and grumpy lots of the time and her belly seems to be getting very big. You might want to look into that. She says there is a baby in there but I think it might be all the cake she eats when you are at work.

Thank you for going to work so we can eat and have a roof over our heads. Me and Mummy really appreciate you lots and lots and lots.  I love you lots and ask where you are most of the day. I can’t believe you have to work so much. It must be very tiring. I think playing with my ball with me would be much more fun. Ball. Mmm, another satisfying word. Ball. I love my ball.

Oh and thank you for our car. Our car is the best of all cars. It goes brummmmm brummmm. I love trying to drive it. When will you let me?

Love you Daddy. Thanks for being the bestest Daddy there is in the world.

 

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It’s about how you use it…

facebookThis thought has been flickering at the back of my mind recently and as I appear to have at least 10 minutes free to write it down I shall try… It’s a largely incoherent thought about ‘social media’ that demon beast of our time, or wait, that really helpful thing that connects us all more, or wait, the worst thing that has happened to us and we must flee from. And therein lies the problem. We must come back to my old friend nuance.

Generally I hear two stories about facebook, twitter and the like. From some I hear about the perils, how everything is bad about this medium. How they encourage people to be self promoting, self absorbed, worried about everyone’s opinion, showing off perfect lives etc etc etc. From others I hear about the possibilities of this new world, the connections made, the encouraging chats happening, the campaigns fought and won, the friendships deepened.

Maybe, just maybe, neither camp has the whole picture. I am so tired of the blanket statements, the moral outrage for or against these new tools in our lives. Because that’s what they are, tools. There is nothing inherently bad or good about facebook and the rest. (although considering God made all things good and for enjoyment we might start with the positive rather than the negative..) There is a whole lot to be said about how we approach them, and here again nuance is key. We can’t assume blanket things about them. I’ve heard people write off facebook saying everyone is projecting perfect lives, the truth is we simply don’t know why people post a lot of the stuff they post. We can and do read into people’s posts. When we were desperate for a baby it was easy to read everyone’s baby posts as people projecting their perfect lives. In reality people were just posting stuff they were doing that day, if you have a baby, that’s pretty much what you do all day. I don’t think the majority of people were thinking, ah ha, I must talk about my baby now to annoy all those people that can’t have babies. Mwah ha ha. 

Some people I unfollowed because it hurt too much to see but that was my issue and not theirs. I would much rather someone just unfollowed my tales of life with a tiny human rather than feel I was in some way rubbing their face in my supposed perfect life. And yes I know some people do want to present a better view of what’s going on and if you can see that and it annoys you there is a choice. If you actually know them, talk to them. Ask what’s going on. Don’t just judge them and write them off. If you don’t really know them then simply unfollow them. Don’t let it get to you.

Again I know some who laugh at the concept that anything could be bad about facebook and twitter. But there are pitfalls, of course we can use it for self promotion, attention seeking and more. We have a responsibility to be aware of why we are posting stuff, that’s our responsibility, and the responsibility of our actual flesh and blood friends to keep us accountable in. It’s all too easy to judge others in this realm without looking first at our own motives. 

As for me, I have unfollowed many people on facebook simply because I can’t cope with all that information about people. However, I want people to have access to my blog if they want and so I keep a fairly wide pool of acquaintances. If I annoy you or you find the stuff I post annoying then please do unfollow or remove me as your friend. We all have choice about how we use these tools and it’s good to think wisely about how we are using them. I post stuff in the day about what’s going on because I don’t have friends I can hang out with in my house all day. I ward off the loneliness by connecting with people online because I don’t live in a village where me and my tiny human can simply hang out with others. I am sure we were not made to raise kids alone and facebook is my way of not feeling alone in the long days. I have flesh and blood friends who I see throughout the week but there are still long long stretches where it is just me and the boy. I relish the human contact.  I like being able to share this parenting/living life thing with others. I like the encouragements I get and give.

But not all my motives are pure, I want the likes, I crave the adoration, I want to be known and it seems a quick fix to get some red ticks by my statuses to do that. I’m working on that with my Maker and he’s pretty good at reminding me where my worth and value really do come from.

It’s a complicated picture this use of social media, so lets stop with the blanket condemnations, or accolades. Lets support each other and respect each other in our use or rejection of it depending on what is most helpful for us. Let’s not expect everyone to think the same as us. Nuance is once again a friend of mine. 

Rant over.

As you were. 

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Just some processing going on…

treesIt’s been a funny old month. For most of it I’ve felt fairly blank, just surviving the days, getting through and reaching the end of each day glad of a bed to sink into and the oblivion of sleep. That isn’t to say this month has been sad or depressing, there have been good times, this ship sails on, but my brain feels blank.

I have a feeling I expect too much from it, there have been few profound thoughts and even fewer profound conversations. I feel a lack of seeing people, which isn’t really rooted in reality, and that warns me that my brain might not be functioning right. I feel an insecurity in my friendships, do people really like me? What about those I haven’t seen for a while? Have I succumbed to a married with kids world that few can share with me or has life just got, well, full of tired days that can’t be filled with people. I feel torn between accepting my limits and enjoying the moment and a desperate craving to contact everyone in my phone to prove I have friends. 

And therein lies the problem. I can feel the temptation again to measure my worth by the amount of friends I have, the variety of friends I have and the experiences I have with them. Facebook leads me to guilt over the people I am not in regular contact with anymore and I am sad. Never mind that we have different lives now, never mind that we are finite people, never mind that they (whoever they are) have excellent support networks around them and our friendship can wait until we have all the time in the world. I feel the ache of not wanting to let people down, of wanting to have deep swimming the depths friendship with everyone I’ve ever known. 

Sigh. My head is silly. I know the reality that I have good friends here right now in this world who know me, who shake their heads with me at these tangled thoughts above. I know that my worth is set in something so much more than the number of ‘significant’ conversations I have had in my days and weeks. I know that it is good to sit and be content with the wonder, joy and struggles of the life I have and the One who has given it to me. I know that people come and go into our lives and we cannot cling to what must change. I know that I don’t have to be the most significant person in everyone else’s lives (well I’m starting to come to terms with that…).  

Life here, right now, is what I have and what I live. It might not be the most exciting and dynamic, who ever said being pregnant with a toddler was a good combination? It might be a life others want or would run from screaming, that really isn’t the point. I have this life to live and breathe in. I have a husband to love and a excessively adorable son to take care of. I have friends and family to try and love and care for who are part of our lives. I have limited time and energy and that is ok. No really, that is ok. I am not here to save the world or be number one in everyone’s life. I am here to love and to trust in the one who really is the number one. I am here to love those in front of me and rest content in the one who orders my days. 

It is ok to be blank for a while because my life rests in bigger hands than mine.

I am loved and of immense worth and value.

I can rest and be blank because nothing else is demanded of me.

I am beloved. 

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