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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One Saturday morning alone in the house…

IMG_4774There is too much to write about. There are too many thoughts spilling to the front of my mind in this rare morning away from the boys. I’m sitting in our new house, staring across the rooftops to the rolling downs behind them. The house and me have been getting acquainted, I’ve finally sat down and tasted silence here, tasted the wonder beyond the silence and found again the One who stills my soul, who sits me down and sings love to me, who I cry tears to as I find again that I love, I love, I love my shepherd who tends me daily and who I so rarely hang out with.

I’m finding as I write about God these days I struggle to find the words to capture what it means to have relationship with the invisible, the silence, the wonder, the shepherd, the maker, the Lord. Language is so emotive and it’s hard to voice something that seems so incomprehensible and yet so tangibly real to me. I don’t want to use the same old words that feel cliched and trapped in a particular subculture but I also don’t want to be afraid to use words that speak of the life I know is given to me by God and shown to me by Jesus and enabled in me by the Spirit. This Trinity that is so fundamental to my existence feels so hard to write about at the moment. Life with God feels a little intangible, a flickering candle in this land of all consuming life with small people. Everything feels on hold and yet the flame still carries on flickering, not going out, yet not consistent or strong. There seems little of much certainty to write about and yet there remains a loving Shepherd who lovingly tends me day and night and without whom I am not sure how I would make sense of anything.

(Well, I didn’t know that was where this blog post was going. I have a feeling there is a whole lot more to explore in the above paragraph but it’ll have to wait until some time in the summer holidays when I get to retreat for a day. It’s beginning to put into words something I didn’t really know how to put my finger on. Writing about God is hard. For a myriad of reasons. Mental note: Explore that when there is more space.)

There we go.

Writing about Peppa Pig is much much easier.

What else?

My last summing up post sounded a bit dreary, life is hard, blah blah blah. It is, but I’m starting to be bored of my internal moaning monologue. So here’s a list of Good Things that have happened recently.

s and cSarah and Christian got married. Wow. We got the privilege of praying for them (well done to the boys who managed not to grab the mic or say anything silly whilst we did so). We said things like this:

We are so delighted you have put these two lovely people together to share the rest of their lives with each other, help them grow closer each day, delight in each other, sacrifice for each other, forgive each other and know the wonder of this marriage pointing to the better eternal marriage we are all invited to. Fill them full of your spirit so they may reflect you and shine out your goodness in this messed up world.

We cried. I gasped at the insane swirl of joy, sorrow and wonder at a God who gives and takes away and who has held onto my sister through the storms and joys of the last 12 years.

caterpillarsWe are growing butterflies from caterpillars. They are in their pupa/chrysalid/cocoon (I have no idea what the correct word is) phase at the moment. In this phase they internally dissolve and reform into butterflies. I have no words to sum up the wonder of that. It’s insane. Almost as insane as one day being given a new body in a new world with no more crying, mourning or pain. Love this mentally designed world we live in.

The boys are beautiful. (and annoying and all the rest of it but mainly beautiful) Son1 is fully into the why phase which is so frustrating and delightful. I love getting to explain stuff to him. This week I marvelled at our bodies expelling food waste from our systems (why poo?) and the ability of our bodies to heal themselves as the graze became a scab, became picked off and new pink skin revealed. Wow. There’s a worship moment right there. (that’s my next book idea, alternative fuel for worship, lets contemplate our poo together). Son2 is almost exactly like a small puppy dog, tongue out he grins insanely at everyone who catches his eye, he crawls into my lap and lays his head on my knee, if he wants me he pads up to me and climbs up my legs. And, whisper it quietly now, he’s sleeping a bit better.

lionsTuesday group is awesome at the moment. It’s awesome anyway because it’s the one place in the week I get adult chat without boys crawling all over me (and yes if you’ve seen a mother lion with her cubs you’ve pretty much got the picture). We’re looking at Isaiah this term and bursting our brains with God’s love and bigness. This week we looked at celebration and delighted in the call to explode with songs because God is SO insanely wonderful. Genius.

Husbandface is full of sacrifice and tiredness and exhaustion, at his end as his new job starts and marking season swirls around.  We struggle to communicate and love without tiredness competitions. But still I look at him and marvel that we are married and have produced two boys. I didn’t seek him out, I didn’t expect him, he was deposited into my lap and 5 and a half years on I still can’t quite come to terms with the miracle of that.

I went to the pub with a friend this week. A pub. With a friend. Mmmm. We chatted. We talked about the incomprehensible love of God and living with that in the midst of actually just wanting to hit him because it’s all too hard. I like those chats.

We’ve gone back to getting a veg box once a week which means we eat more lovely vegetables and husbandface has potatoes at least once a week (Irish man, English woman who isn’t that fussed about potatoes and does more of the cooking, not such a good combo…).

I’m writing in my house without anyone else around. I’m listening to my choice of music. I have drunk two hot cups of tea this morning. Tra la la la la.

Also Rend Collective. How late to the party am I? Anyways. Mumford and Sons style band sing some honest songs about God in a happy dancey way. Not so shabby, unless you like your honest songs about God sung in deeply sad pretty ways (not one for you Bin).

That’s quite enough for now.

Turns out there is wonder and beauty in the midst of this mental life. Woop.

As you were.

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Because I must write… even if it is about Peppa Pig…

Peppa and George love jumping in muddy puddles, everyone loves jumping in muddy puddles...

Peppa and George love jumping in muddy puddles, everyone loves jumping in muddy puddles…

Today all I have are thoughts about Peppa Pig. Can you tell I want to write again but have nothing profound to say? Bear with me. It could take a while for my mojo to return.

But for now. Ah Peppa. I hated you to start with. Your family seemed to be all the wrong kind of things. You seemed to scorn Daddy Pig and his silly ways, laughing at him, expecting him to be useless. You are bossy beyond belief. Mummy Pig holds it all together (let’s all buy into that superwoman can have it all mentality eh) and George, George just says dinosaur because that’s all he can say.

I withheld you from son1 for a long time. And now, now you are the only thing he will watch on Netflix that hasn’t been proclaimed as scary. (and yes it has to be Netflix because I can’t ring up a new episode of Bing or Chuggington or whatever else I enjoy watching with him, when also getting son2 napped and me clean in the morning, Netflix will gloriously play episode after episode.) Bob the Builder, Fireman Sam and even the Tellytubbies have fallen by the wayside.

What is it about your vacuous charms Peppa? I think I’m coming to see that you aren’t all that bad after all. I’d like to see you all paying a bit more respect to Daddy Pig. But you know, he seems like he can take the teasing and is one of those blokes who isn’t good at DIY and loves cake. Fair enough. He doesn’t represent all men and I think secretly likes to be teased by you all. At the end of the day he loves you all very much and is brilliantly gentle with George when he is scared (most of the time). He’s not so bad. Mummy Pig is just trying to hold it together, she loves you all too and is also brilliant at gentle parenting and showing you she loves you all. I would want to avoid the times she gangs up against Daddy Pig with you but each to their own eh.

As for you Peppa. You are irritatingly bossy, want things your way, are mean to your brother and want to be the centre of the world. Sounds like my boy and every other toddler I’ve met. You are also lovely to your brother sometimes and listen to correction.

Maybe Peppa isn’t so bad after all. Or maybe it’s awful in some ways and brilliant in others. Much like life then. I’ll not worry about son1’s exposure to it too much.

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Just some processing thoughts

IMG_4556Every time I’ve sat down to write recently I’ve come up with nothing. There are a whole host of contributing factors, life with the tiny people, the slog of the summer term before long holidays (ah the joys of being married to a teacher and living the highs and lows with them), exhaustion each evening and more. I’ve been trying to figure out why I am so tired at the end of each day at the moment. It was only when I had time to stop and talk things over with my spiritual director the other day that I worked it out. Moving house is still affecting me. I don’t quite know why I thought it would all be ok after a couple of weeks.

It turns out moving house is infinitely exhausting beyond the actual stress of moving week and settling in. My brain has grown grooves in it’s thinking over the last 3 years of small children. I have spent lots of time building up routines and well worn paths in my brain then developed, down to the small details. How to get out of the flat with two small people, when to brush teeth, when to put on shoes, when to pack the changing bag, where I could go for calpol, where the nearest place for emergency snacks was, how long it would take to walk to the park, nip to the shops on the way back and get home in time to put the dinner on. All the decisions I kind of took for granted.

Now my brain has to walk new paths over these old ones. Every small decision has to be thought about again and again each day until it becomes second nature, until the paths are worn deep and my brain can run along them freely without conscious thought (oh how I wish I knew the science behind this). This process is exhausting. I still don’t know when to brush son1’s teeth in the morning – now we have stairs it’s no longer a simple step on the way out of the door, it requires thinking, can I leave son2 downstairs for that amount of time? What will he get up to that could cause damage? Do I risk it whilst son2 sleeps knowing the noise son1 is likely to make as the teeth brushing takes place? Do we do it as we leave? (Always the answer is no to that question, there are too many other things to think about..). And that’s just one of the many decisions to be made in the epic task of getting three people fed, rested, dressed and changed and out of the door each morning.

The afternoons are similar. No longer is it simple to do a shop run for an item I need (a excellent excuse for a trip out with the small ones). Some shops we just don’t have anymore and so I need to think more carefully about when and where we go. The new park is a similar distance away but seems further somehow. Everything is different and I’m still adjusting to it all. I miss bumping into people I know, the days seem longer up here and a bit more lonely. The boys still need to leave the house each morning or they get crazy grumpy. Being at home, either in the house or garden for a whole morning or afternoon is still not an option. Husbandface is home later, those crucial minutes at the end of the day until I can share the madness with someone else seem longer and longer.

In short, we’ve moved, it’s still affecting me, I’m tired and that’s ok. Life is pretty relentless right now, but it won’t be forever, this season of crazy will give way to a different season of crazy and I’ll have to process that as well.

Your correspondent, glad to have figured out the reason for the extreme exhaustion round here.

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2 Weeks later…

bedroom view

The view from our bedroom…

The last two weeks have passed in a bit of a haze. We’ve moved, painted, restored, moved again, unpacked some of our stuff and tried to work out where to put stuff in a place with a whole lot less storage than the last. We’ve had the help of amazing friends and family. The American family even came over to do some painting (I’m not sure that was the weekend we had planned with them but it was the weekend we got and it was lovely to see them).

And so we are here.

We are here in this land of suburban living. We are here in this land of birdsong as I go to sleep and wake up each morning. We are here in this vast sea of green as I gaze and gaze out of our bedroom window at the South Downs basking in all their glory in front of me. We are here in this place of three bedrooms, son2 is out of our room and sleeping mostly in his cot. We are here in this place of son1 asking, ‘when we get bunka beds?’. We are here with this kitchen not like our last and still trying to work out where to put things and manage until we can afford to replace it. We are here in this large living space, delighted that it holds 15 people for soup and bread and talking of reality. We are here with this garden, mowed lawn and small house for the tiny people to play in. We are here in this land of, we could just do that, or that or this. This land of, oh if we only had that it would be better. We are here in this land of endless tasks but limited funds. We are here in this slightly shabby but being redeemed slowly slowly slowly over time world. (and that’s us as well as the house…)

We are here.

Being me I’ve been in a dark place for the last few days as my head is wrapping itself around the change. The black dog always pounces at such times and so, despite the joys and gratitude of this new world I’ve been slow and weary and exhausted. Having to make new decisions about the details of our days, from where the nappies are kept to how we get to the park, tired me out. My body gave out on me and new aches, from moving and carrying the small but heavy ones, were found.

Today the sun is shinning, the boys are napping at the same time (gasp) and I feel slightly human again. Having small group from church over last night helped me grasp again the vision of increased hospitality that we have for this place and reminded me that hospitality doesn’t come out of perfection but out of what little or much we have offered in grace. Baking bread and making soup in our not so perfect kitchen helped restore me to the simplicity of giving others grace in this house rather than showing off sleek new shiny stuff.

Son1 is more than a little like me and also finds change hard, his boundary fighting ways have returned and I’m trying to find ways of helping him enjoy the new space. We need to sort out the boy’s play corner in our living space so they can make the most of their toys again. Son1’s bedroom feels very similar and we’ve been spending lots of time in there as he tries to figure out this new world. As both of us navigate a week of total routine, doing all our normal things but in a different way we are slowly returning to enjoying life again. Son2, well, he just smiles at things and loves the extra crawling space.

A few years ago when we moved to our flat we did lovely little new address cards, time has moved on and I have no idea who I would send them to now. Who even has an address book anymore? Anyway. If you do and would like our address just email me/facebook/some other verb of our time me.

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Moving thoughts

fireplaceWe are moving house in the next week and I have all the feelings. I mean ALL the FEELINGS. We’re moving from our lovely flat near everything in this beautiful city of ours back up to the suburbs, to a house with stairs, another bedroom, a garden and views of the downs. I think it’s a fair exchange, I think it’s the right thing to be doing. I think the extra space for the crazy boys will be good for them and us and I think it makes sense. My heart is having a harder time catching up with my head.

This is the flat we established life together in, we bought it at the end of our first year of marriage. That first year was awesome in many ways but, looking back, the most insecure year of our life together.  We were working out how to relate to each other, how to live with stressful jobs and how to deal with big stuff in each others lives. We were trying to figure out communication and how to intertwine our lives together. It wasn’t an easy time.

Moving to our new flat was one of the first big decisions we made, a beautiful gift from God who provided us (through lovely friends and relations) the means to buy it. Here we would learn to walk together, we would experience more of love for each other, live through our stormiest days and bring two crazy boys into the world to pour out love upon.

It was a pretty weird flat when we first looked around it, husbandface took a lot of convincing that it wasn’t just a cat filled dump. Leaving aside the cat litter and damp laundry smells it was a fairly good shell and once we got in and did some painting it rapidly became ours. It was redeemed from it’s former state and we have placed our stamp firmly on it over the years.

I love this flat, I love the large living room that has housed so many good conversations with each other, with friends and with our small group from church. I love the balcony that has turned from a place to sit and read and drink wine into outdoor space to chuck children out into and breathe peace into their storms with the magic elixir of fresh air. I love our kitchen with it’s room for a table to sit at whilst we cook, with it’s chalk board proclaiming the week’s meals and it’s view of squirrels and seagulls scurrying outside. I love our massive bedroom and the many nights of lovely sleep our bed provided before the small people came along. I love our spare room, transformed into a beautiful study and then into a bedroom for son1. I love our bathroom, redone a few summers ago. I love the middle of our flat, a spacious hallway, home to a table for friends to sit and eat good food around and then transformed into a study space and buggy park.

I love that I brought son1 home to this place of safety, crying over the soft furnishings and books after 6 days in the bleakness of a hospital ward. I love that I gave birth to son2 here surrounded by fairy lights and familiarity.

I love that this flat is surrounded by trees in the middle of a city, I love that it’s a few minutes walk to the park, the local shops, the arts cinema, good pubs and more.

It’s been an amazing place to live for the last 4 and a half years. We’ve loved seeing God do stuff in our lives here and in the lives of friends that have come and hung out in this space with us. We know it has been a brilliant gift. It’s not perfect, there are many things I’m glad we don’t have to sort out now we are moving and the little niggly annoying things that need work no longer matter.

Weirdly we find ourselves facing another gift as we move to our new house. We are under no illusion, this is another gift from God to use for blessing others. I am looking forward to seeing what God will do in the new house, how he will encourage us and our friends, how we can provide a safe place of sanctuary for those who need peace on the road and how we can extend hospitality to those around us. I’m excited to see what will become of us, however daunted I feel about leaving the comfort of what we have at the moment. I am looking forward to watching my boys learn about gardens, navigate stairs, fill the space and grow.

The next few days are going to be a little crazy as we move to friends for a week and from Wednesday attempt to paint rooms and generally get the new house ready for me and two small boys to hang out in each day and not go crazy with desire to ditch the boys and sort the house out. If you fancy coming over with a paint brush we’d love to see you. If you fancy coming over just to hang out we’d also love to see you.  As I said to our church this morning, it’s not just our house, it’s been given to us to be a blessing to others and we long for refreshing joy to be found for all who come into it.

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The Thaw…

IMG_4395“This is no thaw. This is spring. What are we to do? Your winter has been destroyed, I tell you! This is Aslan’s doing.”

Way back in January I compared life to that of the Alaskan tree frog. I think you’ll all agree that it might have stretched the joys of having a metaphor for life a bit too far. That aside, the point was that I felt very frozen, dead even. I knew spring would come, and summer eventually, and life would happen again but I was living in a very real death. My whole immediate environment was the two small people I look after all day and night. There was no glimmer of light through the canopy of trees around me (yeah we’re back to the glade metaphor, keep up will you?). Life had hemmed me in. I felt frozen out of friendships and of using vast portions of my brain and gifts.

(Well, I was overusing the bits of my brain that look after children- anyone who says being a stay at home mum is brain numbing is doing us all a disservice. Bits of the brain are numb but the time juggling, creative, inventive, training parts of the brain are alive and well but just very child focused…)

It was a fairly bleak picture. The only thing keeping me sane was the knowledge that it wasn’t the end picture. It was just a season. Winters are always followed by spring. Even really long seemingly never ending winters are. Even this winter we live in now will end when the final spring dawns and the joyful morning chorus will burst from our lungs as our Maker makes everything new for the last time.

I digress. 

I think the thaw is happening. I think it’s more than a thaw, I think it’s finally Spring.

Oh so slowly I can feel my limbs tingling again. I can feel the warm sunshine penetrating to the dark corners of my soul and I can feel life again. 

It crept up on me at Word Alive. We had a beautiful weekend with reminders of our Gods big fat crazy love for us, we felt the Spirit speak to our hearts, we repented, we cried out to our God for help and he heard. Jesus showed up and drenched our souls in living refreshing water. We had space away from our kids, we had time with friends chatting over life and sharing what God was up to in us all. We drank wine and we occasionally slept.

When we got home I felt like I’d actually had a holiday for the first time since son2 was born. I felt refreshed. We had another beautiful day in the holidays without the boys, chatting to friends, delighting in God’s work in their lives and enjoying a long lazy fish filled lunch remembering how to have conversations without small people needing our attention.

These breaks have done me good.

This is the end of the first week back in term life and I have enjoyed my boys all week. Sure, I’ve shouted and got grumpy at times but I’ve apologised and we’ve moved on. My failure to love well hasn’t defined our days. It has brought me back to my need of forgiveness and the wonder of it freely given to me.

Son2 is 6 months old now and we can manage more time apart from each other. He’s started eating and, although he still doesn’t sleep much, he’s easier during the days. Son1 is delightful and frustrating in equal measure but I’m starting to get that his frustrating side comes out most when I am unsettled and distracted. It’s a fascinating process watching him play off my moods. Somehow we have to learn how to deal with that, but knowing about it is a good start. I love chatting to him and seeing how he makes sense of this world.

This week I also started back in my role at church of looking after our small groups (all two of them) and leaders. I remembered my love of encouraging people to pay attention to God and my love of seeing him at work. It was a treat to feel like this wasn’t a burden but something that gave me life.

Today I went back to the crèche attached to our local swimming pool with both of them. It was the first time in 6 months. I had another sense of bumping into ghosts from the past. There was the me with Son1 at 6 months, scared and unsure of what to do. Today it felt so much more straightforward to drop them off, I knew what I was doing and I was confident they’d be ok for an hour or so whilst I swam.

It was another step in spring appearing. I swam and swam and found my thoughts again. My little writer who has been languishing at the back of my brain burst to the forefront of my mind with excitement and started to scribble. My body loved the rhythm it has known since I was 11. I felt like me. Whole and alive.

I still feel like me sitting in my car with both boys snoring away as I write and write. Spring is here. There is more space to think. Obviously the trees still surround me, horizons remain limited but clearing has taken place, I can glimpse the view beyond them, I can see how I can bring others into this space and paths lead out of my glade, ready for exploring every now and again.

This week Husbandface got offered a promotion, after a gruelling few days of interview he is now going to be an assistant Head (one step below a deputy head) at his school. For a brief moment I got jealous of his professional achievements, before delighting in them. But then I looked at my life and realised I wouldn’t want it any other way.

The core of our lives isn’t made up in our jobs or lack of job, my core isn’t resting on being a stay at home mum. Our core being rests on our belonging to the Maker of the world and being loved by him. That frees us to excel in the places he’s put us. Husbandface at school and me largely at home and beyond.  I support him in his work and he supports me in the varied mix of life I’m involved in, the boys, ministry stuff I do and friendships that I have. I like this life we have. I like being of worth and value just because I’m me. I like being loved so much that I can spill it abundant on my boys and those who I encounter each day.

So there you have it. The thaw is on. Spring is here. Being a pessimist I would like to point out that this might all change after another annoying night with the small one but for now it’s pretty darn good around these parts.

(see told you the little writer had a lot to scribble about…)

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