October

Every year and it’s still worth it. Autumn Beauty. Enjoy.

October
And the trees are stripped bare
Of all they wear
What do I care
October
And kingdoms rise
And kingdoms fall
But you go on…and on..

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Dallas for Dummies

9780310275961r1There was an American writer on spirituality called Dallas Willard. He, from the brief snippets I’ve actually read from him, was a profound man who wrote many deep utterances about life with God. My excellent brother has quoted from him and has urged me to read his books many times. I confess I haven’t. They require a level of concentration that I haven’t been able to achieve. One day I hope to. 

Until then I am grateful that John Ortberg sets himself up as a self confessed ‘Dallas for Dummies’. He distills stuff Dallas has said and makes it accessible for the sleep deprived and those in need of shorter sentences.  He recalls small quotes that he’s heard over the years that are anything but soundbites. The one that most sticks in my mind is the quote ‘ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life’ as an answer to the question of how to stay spiritually healthy. The only answer he gave.  Sounds like a pithy statement but is one of those ones that goes deep. John Ortberg in another book goes on to see what that might look like – choosing the longest supermarket queue is one of the examples he gives. Mental. But there may just be something in it.

Anyway that’s what John does. He makes Dallas a bit more accessible. Thus in the last week I’ve been able to read through his latest book Soul Keeping. A birthday present I received this year from the excellent Americans. 

It’s really a tribute to Dallas and the impact of his life on those around him whilst reflecting on the what taking care of the soul is all about. It’s a good read. Mainly because it reminded me that I have a soul, that it functions best and is at peace when it is centred on God and there are many things to watch out for that cause my soul to be fractured. I’ve loved the reminders that what matters is that I rest in the reality that I am God’s child before anything else. My character matters before any of the stuff I do and there is nothing more important than good soul care as our souls are eternal. It made me look again at some of my actions that in effect were ripping apart my soul and gave me cause for hope in my soul’s maker to carry on working in me and giving me all the satisfaction I need in this life.

A pretty good read. Thanks to the lovely Deb and Keith for the present and to John Ortberg writing in such an accessible yet profound way to help this sleep deprived pregnant lady find some good reminders of reality in this waiting time.  

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Eviction notice…

baby3I think these pictures might say it all this week. Yes we wait. Blah blah blah. Expectant joy. Blah blah. Living one day at a time. Blah blah. Enjoying all the precious moments before the baby gets out, thankful for those that are helping out, glad of each other in these weird last few days. You get the picture. It’s been another week of waiting, pretending not to wait and all the rest of it inbetween.

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Another Saturday night.

IMG_3523I sit again at the end of another week. Wanting to write of other things apart from waiting. But waiting is all we have. Good waiting filled with joy and expectant hope. Tough waiting full of groaning and longing and, let’s face it, a whole lot of moaning. Despairing waiting thinking this will never happen and wondrous waiting at the mystery of it all.

It’s been another week in the life of us. I’ve got bigger, I’m sure. The boy has been back to being delightful after his grumpy teething week. I’ve felt all the emotions of being a Mum at home, wonder, delight, frustration, loneliness, fun, gratitude, despair, impatience, patience and a whole lot more. Once more I was granted a day in bed and once more we made it to Saturday for another day together as the three of us wondering how much longer that will last.

Today felt like the calm before the storm. We lazed around in a local country park enjoying the boy running up and down hills, picking up sticks, walking in tree tunnels and to my delight collecting conkers.

pocketEven though it’s been crazy hot recently the signs of my favourite season are upon us. The leaves are turning and falling to the ground, the nights are getting darker and there are conkers to be found. Big fat shiny conkers. Beautiful signs that autumn is almost here. I’m glad we got to collect them and we all enjoyed the conker tea the boy gave us when we got home.

We live in a city and I think that’s ok but I love the countryside as well and want our boys to delight in it too. Our first one is always a bit unsure about different things (can’t think where he gets that from…) but after refusing to go under a tree and asking for the iPad he soon got into the enjoyment of life outdoors, demanded to go in the wood and loved finding conkers and putting them in Daddy’s pocket. There is hope for us yet.

conker tea

 

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Another week gone…

waitingAnother week has passed. Another week in which too often I have given into grumpiness and complaining about this last stage of the pregnant world. A week in which there have been wonderful gifts of time and space and sleep. A week in which there have been people to hear the moans and groans, friends who have sympathised and cared and given me soothing cups of tea. A week where I have lost my patience with a grumpy teething boy too much. A week where I have seen how delightful and beautiful it is to get to hang out with him each day. A week where I have seen my Maker step in and provide release from the past and hope for the future. A week where I have started to own what will soon happen to my body and look forward to meeting our squirmy son.

It’s been another week of waiting, of frustration and of hope. The tangled mess of emotions that make up our days. Best of all was the day where I got to sleep, rest and be away from the boy for a few hours thanks to the lovely Jo, one of his Godmums. In that day I also got to make the most of the excellent ‘Birth Stories’ service that our hospital offers. We sat down with a lovely senior midwife and talked through the boy’s birth in detail, giving our recollections and seeing how much they matched the reality of what happened. We heard again the reasons for the interventions made and got a clearer picture of what was going on. I found out lots of positive things that my body was already doing, it knows how to do this labour business, even with a silly back to back baby. I discovered that it really might be better this time around given all those positive things and I wept as I laid to rest some of the ghosts of those traumatic intense 25 hours of labour. I left the boy’s birth in that room, with his notes, with my notes. The labour ahead of me is a different one, it will take a different shape and I am intrigued and hopeful of what my body can accomplish. I left the room feeling like a massive burden had been lifted and I need not fear what lies ahead.

The Bible talks a lot about the groanings of childbirth, the very world we live in is described as groaning in frustration as it waits for liberation. That’s a mighty long labour. But it is one that has hope at the core, hope of a glorious future, a world where sin and sorrow no longer dwell and a world where everything will be made new. My labour is a small foretaste of that, a beautiful image of a world longing for the sad to be made untrue and a new world to come. There is real hope at the heart of childbirth. There is real hope at the heart of this aching and broken world longing to be set free from the darkness and struggle.

And so we wait.

Life carries on as normal with the knowledge on it’s edges that everything will soon be tipped upside down again as our second son arrives to mess with our heads and take over our hearts.

Into another week we plunge, waiting, hoping, wondering.

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Friday night

IMG_3484-0.JPGIt’s Friday night. I’m sitting in our boy’s room waiting for him to fall asleep (currently just rolling around the bed), grateful that we have made it through the first week with husbandface back at work and me with an ever-increasing bump to navigate whilst looking after the small one. I was dreading this week- no groups to go to (they all start next week) and no structure to cling to. Despite all of that we have survived. I loved Monday- Wednesday, delighting in some quality time with the boy. I’ve realised that these are the last few weeks with just me and him and so I’m starting to treasure these moments.

We made play dough (surprisingly easy and a lot nicer on the hands than the shop stuff). We played with teapots and dice and did lots of ‘Maths’ (the boy’s latest obsession). We slept lots and saw a few people. Thursday was harder as my body started to give out and the boy was grumpier due to an upset stomach. I was very glad of the arrival of Nana and Gaga on the scene today as my patience was ebbing away and they were very helpful in entertaining the boy. Best of all I got to see my lovely friend Lou and her new baby this afternoon all by myself :) I had the bliss of 2 hours of chat without having to police a small one and I got cuddles with a newborn.

It did bring home the reality that in few weeks I too am going to have a little newborn and life will be very very different. I desperately want my body back (so much so that I am jealous of people who can walk freely and not need the loo every 5 seconds) and yet I’m not sure I want to do the whole labour thing to get it back. I am scared and eager all in one swirl of emotions and I am glad my boy is there to distract me from the impending arrival. One day at a time living is enough for me right now.

It’s Friday night. The boy strokes his cheeks and gets ready to sleep, the other boy wiggles around inside getting ready for who knows what. It is Friday night and I have no idea what tomorrow will bring so for now I rest my head upon the shoulders of the one who made me, who knit me together in my Mothers womb and I ask for strength, for peace and for trust as I walk through these days.

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Summer Reading

This summer I’ve managed to read some books, a shocking turn of events. Born by the realisation that soon I’ll be back in the land of sleep deprivation once more I’ve tried to take every opportunity I can to read. I haven’t read many but I have loved the ones I’ve managed to ingest. 

Here’s my short list of summer reading. I have plans to read more before this baby comes out but these will do for now. 

flightBarbara Kingsolver – Flight Behaviour

A pretty interesting read about small town America, Monarch butterflies and the impact of climate change. A really fascinating glimpse into the clash between people who have never left a town, those that wanted to and couldn’t and those who come in incredulous at the value placed on sporting success over any kind of academic ability. Lots to mull on and much beautiful writing as ever. 

Red TentAnita Diamant- The Red Tent 

I don’t think I would have loved this book 10 years ago but I really really loved reading it this summer. I think partly because of the midwife images going on, which have reminded me that birth can be a positive experience. I’ve also loved it because of the focus on women that seems to have been the unconscious theme for my reading this summer.  I felt an identifying with these women that I’ve rarely felt before. It’s helped me further on my journey of embracing my femininity which is a pretty big deal for me.  

danceSue Monk Kidd- Dance of the Dissident Daughter. 

I think this should be essential reading if you are a woman and a Christian or maybe if you are just a Christian regardless of your gender. Not because you’ll agree with it all (although you might) but because it will make you think deeply about the impact of patriarchy on our faith, it will make you ponder the feminine divine and hopefully cause you to rejoice and delight in our God who is imaged in both genders. I’m still processing lots of these thoughts but I’m holding tight to the delightful thought that I reflect something deep about God as a woman. The divine is not a man but a glorious trinity who needs two genders to reflect that reality. No one has ever told me how valuable it is that women reflect something of God that men can’t and vice versa. I am deeply valuable as a woman, not second best, not an afterthought, not the downfall of creation but an essential part of reflecting the image of God in this world. Wow. My head is still curling round how to talk about God either with no gender attached or as the author/originator of both genders but that will have to wait for another time. For now I sense an awakening inside, a daring in me to love and delight in being a woman rather than in rejecting the feminine within. I think it will take a long time to process but something is stirring inside. 

confessionsElouise Renich Fraser – Confessions of a Beginning Theologian 

Another book which has stirred these thoughts of having a place of value as a women is this one. A beautiful book describing her journey into the world of theology and finding her place as a woman in what seemed to be a mans world. I think the best chapter is on how to read books and be friends with the authors, accepting their flaws and remembering that they are people too.  In a world where we love heroes and villains it is good to stop and remember we read the ideas of flawed people. We will agree with some ideas and not others. It’s important to be gracious towards those we read, remembering they are human too and not vilify them for the things we disagree with. Even more so on the internet where instant reactions rule the day and we forget the faces behind the words we read. We forget the people made in the image of God and we abuse them all too easily. 

toddlerSarah Oakwell Smith – Toddlercalm. 

Both me and the husbanface really enjoyed this book, I think because it suits our personalities and our vague style of parenting. It provides a really helpful insight to understanding the toddler world, seeing things from their perspective and showing how you can maintain boundaries whilst showing empathy to your small weirdo. I found it really helpful in dealing with why I get angry with the small one and how to start to manage that. It’s also helpful in providing a bit of insight into what toddlers can and can’t deal with in terms of their brain development. I think it’s helped me be more understanding of his feelings and helping explain them to him. It is hard when you can’t do what you want to all the time and although that doesn’t mean we give our toddlers everything they want it does mean we can empathise and sympathise with them as we explain why they can’t have exactly what they want right now. It was the perfect read for the stage of craziness we are at right now with the boy. That doesn’t mean parenting him has become easy or that we are constantly patient with him now. But it’s a start. 

his booksChick-a-chick-a-boom-boom, A Good Day, Love Monster, Moo Baa Laa Laa Laa, The Going to Bed Nook, On the Night You Were Born. 

I think I can recite all of these off by heart now. Our son has repeatedly thrown these in my lap all summer. I love Love Monster for its bonkers tale of a sad rejected Monster (he lives in a world of cute fluffy thing and no one loves a slightly weird looking googly eyed monster in that world, poor monster) finding love. The small one can finish the end of all the sentences in Moo Baa Laa Laa Laa and delights in winding his Daddy up by saying the wrong bits for each animal and giggling about it. I still can’t read On The Night You Were Born without welling up. It’s a very sweet book about the wonderful, only ever you. (Nicked from psalm 139). A Good Day is fairly annoying, it doesn’t rhyme and it’s not funny but oddly he loves it. Chick-a-chick-a-boom-boom is a very weird book about the alphabet up the coconut tree but has given sonface the chance to learn some of the letters so that’s probably a good thing. The Going to Bed Book is another one by the genius that is Sandra Boynton. She rhymes, is funny and the boy loves to say the end of each line. We like. 

It turns out I only read five books this summer but I think that’s an achievement in this season of life…

To read

Books to read.

I still have some I want to get through before the small squirmy one arrives but we’ll see how that goes. For now I am glad reading is possible and I delight in books once more. 

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