Nothing comes from nothing?

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What do we do with a God who answers prayers?

Maria Von Trapp dealt with him by rejecting grace and claiming that ‘nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could’, she reasoned that ‘somewhere in her youth or childhood she must have done something good’ to get such a catch as the Captain and be as happy as she was. I think we all have a bit of this thinking in our lives. That we need to deserve the good things that come our way. As a pessimist I can all too easily fall into this trap and if good stuff happens I’m immediately looking for what is going to go wrong rather than resting in the grace of being grateful. 

I think I would find it easier to deal with a God who never answers prayer in the way we want. And in day to day life I probably do think like that. I can deal with the silence, the working through God being mysterious, far off and distant, the explaining of times he doesn’t do what I want as his ways not being ours, his desire for my character over comfort.  That may well be true but it’s not the whole picture.  

What about when he does answer prayers in exactly the way I want and expect? Is that because I’m finally praying in line with his will? Is that because actually it’s all just coincidence and God is still working on my character and life has just worked out well? Is God in charge of all the stuff going on in this world? Can he change it? Is God able to answer real physical prayers rather than just the internal stuff?

I think the internal stuff matters more in some ways – praying for godliness when we don’t get the parking space we want might be more important than us getting the parking space. But can God provide the parking space? And what does it mean for all the stuff going wrong in the world if he can and does move the physical world? Why doesn’t he do more to change things? 

Anyway let’s move this away from the hypothetical parking space. This time I’m talking about labour. 

I wrestled with God all last week, I didn’t want my booked induction on Friday, I wanted so much to give birth at home with my boy placed wriggling and squirming and naked and gooey on my chest straight away. I wanted a better experience than last time. I wanted to go into labour without drugs and I wanted my toddler to be safely away, not confused more than necessary. I didn’t want to ask for all this because I knew it wasn’t my right, that others don’t get this so why should I ask for it?  It didn’t happen last time and things were ok (ish) I know God isn’t a slot machine and so I didn’t want to ask.

I wrestled. And then I asked. I knew he could do it and I prayed he would, all the time trying not to get my hopes up. Others had more faith and prayed confidently. I threw my toys around in anger and fear like my own toddler and raged against a God I don’t get. 

And then all our prayers were answered. Physically answered. This wasn’t a lesson in trust, in learning to be out of control or patient endurance, lessons I know so well and think are my default. This was wham bam here you go. Labour, a straightforward one, a boy who woke at the right time and was whisked away by his godmum and family for fun safe times. My flat full of fairy lights and familiarity. My bed.  My body doing crazy things it was made to do and at the end a beautiful gooey boy placed on my naked chest, feeding off me and then lying blissed out asleep. I keep thinking something should go wrong to make up for all these good things. 

I don’t know what to do with a God who actually sometimes gives us what we want. Others seem more deserving. Why doesn’t he do more? Why this world? Why not end all the pain? Questions I’ll never have the answer to. For now I think I’ll have to come to terms with a God who sometimes says yes. Here you go. Have this simple good thing. Mental. 

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Alternatives to children’s songs…

Seeing as this boy doesn’t want to arrive anytime soon you can all assume that my week has been like the ones described before. There is nothing new around here. 

So instead, lets have some fun thinking of alternatives to traditional children’s songs. I find nursery rhymes some of the most tedious songs ever and think it’s high time we upped our game when it comes to kids songs. If I have to sing ‘The wheels on the bus’, ‘Wind the stupid bobbin up’ or ‘Sleeping bunnies’ one more time I may go mad. And don’t get husbandface started on the actions to ‘Twinkle twinkle little star’. Apparently we need a better action for the word diamond that isn’t making the shape of a rhombus. But that’s his bug bear not mine. 

To save us from these songs we love going to an Aardvark music class each Monday. Imported from America it’s a collection of songs that reflect life as a child growing up in the city. We get out shakers, sticks, instruments and do actions to them. They have proper tunes, melody and wouldn’t sound out of place on radio 6 at times. Obviously we are sick of these songs too as with anything played over and over again throughout the day. But at least they are fun, varied and interesting. 

For those without such a class near them, here are some quality tunes to replace some of the old nursery rhymes. It may just save your sanity… 

‘Aint’ got no (I’ve got life)’ by Nina Simone and Groove finder instead of ‘Heads, shoulders, knees and toes.’

This song is even more educational – teaching children where their liver, chin, blood, hair and brains are has got to be a winner right? (although maybe lets replace the sex and boobies part for a later time in their lives…)

‘Nice weather for ducks’ by Lemon Jelly instead of ‘5 little ducks.’

Let’s face it ‘5 little ducks’ is a bit of a scary song encouraging small children to run away from home. We all know it’s an illusion that they all came swimming back 5 days after the first one left. I presume they were all eaten by a fox. (Well if it was a Grimm fairy tale that’s what would have happened.) All the ducks are swimming in the water is a much more merry experience all round.  

‘I go driving in my car’ by Madness instead of ‘The wheels on the bus.’ 

It’s transport themed and doesn’t gender stereotype Mummies into nattering and Daddies into reading the paper.

‘What does the fox say?’ by Ylvis by instead of ‘Old Macdonald had a farm.’

It sticks with the animal noise theme and is nicely trippy at the same time. After all surely we all need to know what the fox says?

‘Happy’- Pharrell Williams instead of If you’re Happy and you Know it.

Surely this is just a 21st century version of the classic, ‘clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth’… it’s really just ‘if you’re happy and you know it clap your hands’ with a better beat.  

‘It’s oh so quiet’ by Bjork instead of ‘Sleeping bunnies’.

OK so the themes are different but the loud/quiet/loud thing that is ‘Sleeping bunnies’ only saving grace is genius. I can imagine lots of cute shhhing and then lots of crazy spinning dancing moves. And a much much better melody.

And now over to you. Can you think of replacements for ‘Twinkle twinkle little star’, ‘Wind the bobbin up’, ‘The grand old Duke of York’ or ‘Baa baa black sheep’? 

Also, does anyone want to come to my new music class? We could finish each week with a rendition of ‘Filthy Gorgeous’ by the Scissor Sisters as that seems to nicely sum up life with small people.

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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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