Stepping over ghosts…

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This morning I’m stepping on ghosts of my former self. I’m in our once favourite independent coffee shop (there is a better one nearer now but I had stamps for free coffee here). Husbandface is at a Dads and toddlers group this morning with son1 and son2 and I have made an agreement. He’ll sleep in the buggy whilst I drink hot chocolate and write. We’ll see if he keeps his end of the bargain.

Where was I? Ah yes. Ghosts. There is the ghost of part time working me in the window seat, loving time off and writing joyfully. There is also the ghost that feels closest and that is maternity leave me. Back when son1 was born we had that extra bit of disposable income which meant coffee shops everyday were possible. I met up with friends here, I desperately walked my boy around and around the streets until finally he fell asleep and I could come and sit down for a few moments. Me and husbandface came on dates here with the sleeping one and chatted to the owner about the joys of sleepless nights.

It’s odd being back here, just me and son2. He’s in the same tractor suit. The same buggy. A pretty similar face stares out at me but everything has changed.

Just being out on my own feels like bliss. I’m not scared this time around. With son1 I worried every time he stirred. I was exhausted, probably still iron deficient and confused about who I was and what was going on.

Alright, so I’m still pretty knackered. These babies aren’t so keen on sleep. But (and it’s a good but..) I don’t feel overwhelmed this time. I’m not in total despair (I have my moments..) and I feel lighter. It’s all about the perspective I guess. Just having one son with me feels infinitely easier than the usual 2. If I was here with both of them I’d be more on edge, wondering how long the toddler will last, would his needing to leave coincide with the baby’s need to feed? etc.

I’m glad the baby thing is easier this time around. I’m grateful that my body is coping better. I’m grateful for the time to hang out in a coffee shop again and process some thoughts.
I’m glad that the moments of peace in my soul seem quicker to come this time around. Whilst I will never get my old life back (and I really wouldn’t want it back now) I’m enjoying seeing that maybe elements can be transferred into even this crazy helter skelter weird land of life with 2 tiny people. It’s just a matter of taking the opportunities when they come and not fretting about the times when I’m too tired to grab the moment, knowing that more moments will come.

Thanks son2. You did well.

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Frozen (no not the film…)

100_1411I’m not here. I mean, obviously I am here physically. Right here in this chair. Breathing in and out. But. 

I’m not here. Frozen in this icy glade. Surrounded by trees so thick I can’t see a way out. 

I’m not here. I stare at you and wonder what the right questions to ask are. When you leave I wonder if I even asked how you were. I’m sorry. For. 

I’m not here. I wish I was. I long for the spring melt. The heat of the sun that will warm my heart back into beating glorious life. 

I long for dancing through days. I long for barefoot joy. I long for long lazy languid sunsets across the sea. 

I long for deep swimming the depths chats, big glasses of wine, fireplace wonder, sleep filled nights, writing in cafes, reading books, sitting with my Maker up a mountain in the Lakes and reaching out to others in their frozen states. 

But here I sit. Absent in so many ways. Not really here. Suspended whilst I go through the motions. 

Here I hope for more but live in death. Death of relationship. Death of me, my wants, right now. Death which strangely will not be the end. 

I am not here. I am frozen. 

Like the Alaskan tree frog that gets frozen each year, all signs of life ended, here I sit. Waiting for the spring to come and warm and bring life once more. 

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But there is hope here in this waiting. 

Hope in the planting that I do every couple of hours as I feed my youngest. Hope in the glances of appreciation at husbandface as we battle through the fog to find each other and connect. Hope in the overspill of words and connections and tantrums and laughter from my beautiful eldest. We plant deep in their souls and long for the spring rains to raise this harvest. 

I am not here but so much is going on. One day I will dance again. One day the fruit of this planting will be made known. One day I shall thaw out because Lion breath will blow warm into my soul. Because he who promised is Faithful and will do it. Because our labour is not in vain. 

Our labour is not in vain. 

I am not here. But one day I will be again. I am not here but I sit frozen to the anchor of my soul. He will not give up. He will not depart. 

I am not here.

But it is not the end.

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Songs of 2014

Seeing as I wrote a blog post about this last year I feel that I’ve started an annual tradition. Yes, it’s the blog post about the Christmas CD I make for the lovely Anna, Sarah and the brother. Feel free to request one of your own if you fancy. In the past it’s been a list of new songs I’ve enjoyed throughout the year, last year it turned into a musical journey of songs that reflected our year and this year it’s a bit of a mishmash of the two. There are popular music songs on it (mainly because I haven’t discovered many new songs that aren’t played by Chris Evans on Radio 2 each morning, a limited range I’m sure you’ll agree…) and there are some from the small amount of new music I’ve got my hand on, and yes there is the newly acquired children’s section formed of songs our son loves and a particular favorite he insists on to get him back to sleep if he wakes up.

So here we go:

1.Ding Dong Merrily on High- The Rend Collective.

This is the best, most joyous Christmas album I’ve come across for a long long time. Best of all son1 loves it and asks for it most days. (such an improvement from the wheels on the stupid bus CD he also loves)

2.Out Among The Stars- Johnny Cash

You can’t fault a lyric like this:

Oh how many travellers get weary
Bearing both their burdens and their scars
Don’t you think they’d love to start all over
And fly like eagles out among the stars

Sounds about right for life now.

3. Happy- Pharrell Williams

Well it was played all the time on every radio station and it’s nicely unusual for me to enjoy such a, well, happy song..

4.All about that Bass- Meghan Trainor

Look, I enjoy a funky song as much as the next person. This was a favourite kickstart to the day song for many a bleary morning. Then I listened to the lyrics and loved it even more. Anything about loving your body whatever it looks like is mighty fine by me.

5. Budapest- George Ezra

I seriously thought this guy was about 40 when I first listened to him, but it turns out he’s about 21 and just has a weird deep world weary voice. We like him.

6. Earthquake Driver- Counting Crows

Turns out their new album is rather good and here’s a cheery number from it. That’s about all there is to say about that.

7. Gimme Something Good- Ryan Adams

He’ll never ever do anything as good as his first album but this new one is a whole lot better than some of the stuff he’s produced recently. Springsteen overtones a go go

8. From this Valley- Civil Wars

A band I discovered and loved this year. This is one of their more cheerier numbers and I love it’s longing to get out into the hills vibe.

9.Blame it on me- George Ezra

Overplayed on Radio 2 but that meant it was in my head for months, definitely part of the soundtrack of the year.   

10.New York City’s Killing me- Ray LaMontagne

Not new for the year but new to me, from a great album, bought for me along with the Johnny Cash album by Binface as she knows my love of gravelly male voices (and you know, reads my wishlist…)

11. I’ve got this friend- Civil Wars.

More heartbreaking beauty

12. My Favourite Faded Fantasy- Damien Rice

Such is my sad little life that I haven’t been able to sit and wallow in this lovely new album from the genius man himself. So here’s the first track, purely because I’ve been able to listen to it and I like it.

13. Clara – Martyn Joseph

A beautiful song about the healing power of songs and a whole lot more. Seems kind of appropriate. (oh and listen to the video to find out more about the story…)

14. Dear Lord and Father of Mankind- The Divine Comedy

And here we get into the childrens section. I’ve sung this countless times this year to son1 to get him to sleep, recently thanks to his ridiculous sleep regression we’ve had to get it out again and now most nights a little voice calls out, sing kindaman (his name for it). Still, there are worse songs to have to sing constantly, over and over again.

15. Let Mercy Lead- Rich Mullins

We had another son this year and this song is a brilliant prayer for both of our beautiful boys. “Let mercy lead, let love be the strength in your legs, and in every footprint that you leave, there’ll be a drop of grace.”

16. We wanna be like Jesus- Nick and Becky Drake

This is a song from ‘Grandma Deb’s CD’, bought for the boy from the lovely Deb Cantrell, it’s one of the only songs I’ve ever heard to have real situations where you might need to put into practice the need to pray- such as when you’ve been told to wash up and you don’t want to, when you don’t want to listen at school and when rubbish things are happening to you. ‘Now is the time to pray, help me be like Jesus’… Adults could do with a worship song like this, and it’s very very helpful to have as a constant refrain in your head when dealing with irritating sleep deprived toddlers having meltdowns and all you want to do is throw them in the bin… ‘Now is the time to pray’, very appropriate…

17. All Through History- Nick and Becky Drake

Son1’s favourite from the above CD (forgive the ultra cheesy action video- it was the only one I could find!)

18. Soar Like Eagles- Seeds Family Worship.

Once more Seeds Family Worship means we can’t read certain bits of the Bible without singing them, and when we read them with other people who also love Seeds songs we giggle and everyone else with us thinks we are mad. This one speaks into the exhaustion of life right now

19. Beep Beep Honk Honk. – Music for Aardvarks.

Once more Aardvark music has taken over the CD player in the car, we all love this one about New York city life. 

20. Big Brother- Music for Aardvarks

Reflects son1 and son2’s world kind of accurately right now. “Little bitty baby, all wrinkled and new, not much little bitty baby can do, but that’s ok, I’m gonna show you how, cos I’m your big brother now…”

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Happy Christmas!

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The Advent Calendar is complete, Happy Christmas to you all! (my yearly exception to exclamation marks is clearly Christmas Day!)

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Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—

The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation
    and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
    as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice
    when dividing the plunder.
For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
    you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
    the bar across their shoulders,
    the rod of their oppressor.
Every warrior’s boot used in battle
    and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
    will be fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.

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Happy Christmas Eve

Here’s Charlie Brown and Red Mountain music to tell you what it’s all about.

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A God who fell down, and cried, and was sad…

sad christmasAnd so we’ve made it, to the last Sunday in Advent, to the end of term and the start of the holidays. We’ve made it to this strange land of Christmas. To be honest I’m not feeling it this year. I’m too much in a haze, my brain exploding with thoughts of moving house (don’t get me started on how odd and surprising that feels right now) and the weirdness of not having slept for more than 2 hours in a row for 10 weeks. 

Christmas feels a far away event, something to be gazed at through frosted panes of glass. However, the myriad of fairy lights outside houses around our city reminds me that something is happening. Son1 points out to me the characters in the nativity daily: kingandkingandshepherdandmaryjosephanddonkeyandcamelandpresentandpresent
andbabyjesus. There is something going on, however remote it feels.

There is something going on which helps make sense of this strange walking through treacle land I find myself in, which helps me keep on plodding through the dark. 

It’s that old word again, Emmanuel. God with us. God with man is now residing. The Maker of all has stepped into the darkness and the darkness doesn’t know what to do. In the midst of aching hearts, weary bodies and confusing times we have a God who knows what it’s like to be in our shoes. 

John1:14 says it all:
The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
And the Word (Christ) became flesh (human, incarnate) and tabernacled (fixed His tent of flesh, lived awhile) among us
The Voice took on flesh and became human and chose to live alongside us.

Son1 has read his beginners bible book about the cross so many times (so much that I am sick of it…which feels wrong…) that every time he sees a cross shape he pronounces loudly that ‘Jesus died on the cross’. Interestingly he then recites his own little narrative of what happened next: ‘then fall down, then Jesus cry, then Jesus sad’. It’s the same narrative he recites when he has hurt himself. ‘E fall down, then E cry, then E sad.’ He’s teaching me something of what it means for Jesus to be human. Jesus knows everything my little weirdo toddler has been through and has been through it himself. He knows our pain and he came to ultimately do something about it and about our immediate problem which oddly is bigger than our pain. 

The trouble is I don’t think there is a problem bigger than my pain. I just want sleep, I want my mates not to go through what they are going through, I want a clear and certain future for my brother and his family. I want world flipping peace whilst we are at it. I’m with the Jews- give me a messiah who is going to sort my immediate situation out. What’s the use if he doesn’t?

What could be more important? 

And this is where the words get weak and frail and I can’t really believe them as I write. Apparently we do have a bigger problem. A rift between the Creator and Created that needs to be healed. A new creation that needs to be kick started. Life and death stuff that the birth, life and death of a baby 2000 years ago dealt with. 

There are reasons for rejoicing in the mess and uncertainty of this world but I think it’s a minor key kind of rejoicing. There is a Saviour. There is hope. There is a final day when all the sad will be made untrue but there is a whole lot of confusion and pain right now that doesn’t get sorted out. It’s a wintery joy. A pale sun shining through winter trees showing the hope of summer in the chill of winter. 

That’s all I’ve got right now, a whole load of confusion, mess and fear. Winter is around.

But the seasons change. I don’t understand many things but I cling to the hope of the tender mercy of our God. A God I do not understand and cannot feel right now, but a God who took on flesh, who fell down and cried and was sad. He’s here. Emmanuel. And so we rejoice in that minor key of weary hope. 

Emmanuel has come to us. 

Emmanuel is here.

And so we have Sufjan Stevens and his rather wintery singing of O Come O Come Emmanuel.

(Christmas points to whoever can tell me what the difference between Emmanuel and Immanuel is…<Mark?>)

(Rather entertainingly son1 also likes to wander around the house singing Rejoice, Rejoice, Samuel is here… that would bring a whole different meaning to Christmas eh…)

(surely that’s enough parenthesises for one blog post..?)

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