A quiet start to Advent

the_sounds_of_silence_by_skierscottI want to write of Advent again, of Christmas, of the taste of the wonder of the season in front of us. I find my mind blank of content, feeling like I’ve said it all before. Maybe I have, maybe this blog is too full of thoughts of Advent and coming again. Year after year I mark this season, I express my love of it and year after year we wait. We wait and we hope and we wait some more. The first coming assures the second coming and yet in this in-between space there is silence.

The silence feels very loud this year. The world a broken bleeding place. Having children has ripped my heart out. Things on the news that I could ignore before suddenly seem incredibly real and close to home for some reason. Everyone out there is someone’s son, daughter, mother, father, child. Everyone is a person, unique, with unique thoughts, profound and profane. The world is full of people like you and me trying to get through our days, experiencing a vast, vast, difference in what those days look like. I cannot even begin to comprehend what life is like for most people in this world and sometimes I do not want to.

The silence is loud and the darkness is dark. This Advent I am feeling that silence more than ever. On Wednesday night in our small group we sat in silence for 15 minutes. Silence to mark the absence before we start to taste the presence of the One who stepped into this broken world to bring healing. It felt right to stop our talking, stop our busy, stop our noise and taste the silence that we long to be shattered with the clear bright call of joy.

It’s Advent and this year I think I’m going to wait a little while longer to put the decorations up, I think I’m going to sit here with this silence a little longer than usual and hope to be met in it with the silent presence of Immanuel. Silent but not absent.

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Thoughts from a train…

It seems almost too good an opportunity to miss. I’m sitting on a train on my own, the coffee has been drunk and not to write would seem like a betrayal to my soul. Ahem. Maybe not quite so over dramatic but you get my drift

This blog has been a little quiet of late. My thoughts about life have ranged from the non existent to the bleak and gloomy to the what’s the point of stupid blogs anyway. Meh. Writing considering who is reading is very hard for a people pleaser such as myself. I wonder what people think far too much, whether friends who don’t buy into the God narrative that spins throughout all I do will think I’m bonkers, to wondering what friends from the fulltimepaidchristian ministry part of my life might think about some of my more heretical thoughts these days. And then there’s the worry about any parenting thoughts making people feel judged or alienated. Sigh. It’s a minefield. 

I think it’s good to think a little about how my words might affect people. There are blog posts I will never post because they need conversation to understand the nuance etc. But. I don’t want to live in fear of disagreement. I want to know how to disagree without it tearing my internal thought life apart. I worry so much about what people think that I forget it’s ok to have my opinions and reflect on how I’m living my life. 

And as my first reader is me, with the hope that passers by will be helped by knowing they aren’t alone, I want to get over myself and write. 

(I know. I write a blog post about this dilemma once every 6 months or so but I am slow and forget and need to remind myself.) 

So I’m on a train. The boys are back at home having a day of adventure with the excellent husbandface and I’m enjoying the mid November gloom out of the window. It seems an appropriate kind of day considering the news from Paris. One of the things that the news this year is making me realise is what a rare thing it is to live in safety in this world. I enjoy the strange privilege of living in a house, with food on the table, clothes to wear, luxury of wondering what gifts to give people at Christmas, no fear at night, no wondering how to get my boys to safety, no wondering how to shelter them from the horrors of war. I can run the streets at night after dark in the early evening and know I am relatively safe. It’s insane and weird and I don’t know how to live with it. The clamours of I wants in my heart seem very hollow today. I look at my boys and wonder how to help them live with such privilege and wonder. I wonder how much longer it will last. 

This world is so broken and lost and all I can cry is come, come Lord Jesus. Come and bring an end to this groaning aching place. Come and bring your presence to all in fear today. Come and whisper peace into tired and worn out ears. Come and quiet the nightmares of children sleeping in the open. Come and help us use our privilege well. Come and change my selfish heart. Come and show me how I can care and love and make a difference. 

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The ups and downs of parenting. Part.345

There are moments when I gaze at the beautiful boys in front of me and wonder at how I could want to do anything different with my life. Moments when they are delightful because they are them. Full of questions, full of wonder, full of smiles and cheek and dancing foolish. There are moments when I love every question uttered and moments when I can’t believe my luck in getting to raise such incredible people. 

And then there are moments when I snap and rage, when the cries of, ‘it’s mine’ wear so thin that I want to lock away all the toys from their grasping hands. There are moments where I lose all sense of perspective. Where I try and get inside the mind of a three year old and find we are both as confused as each other as to why he has done what he did. There are moments that I think I will never be able to explain why it is we are kind to each other, why we don’t hit our brothers when we are bored and how we manage the hideous emotion that surfaces when we can’t have what we want right now. There are times I am convinced I’m raising a sociopath who will never learn how to live well in this world. 

There are moments in each day, within minutes or even seconds of each other when I experience such extremes. There are times when I think I actually might be good at this parenting thing and times when I am terrified of the next step, terrified of getting it wrong and hurting my boys forever. 

It’s so strange going through such extremes each and everyday, so strange not to be able to share it all with someone else. The people we see in a day only glimpse a snap shot of the insane rollercoaster of emotions that we go through. Maybe it’s the same for everyone no matter what life situation we are one? What do you reckon? 

Raising children is ridiculously intense, wonderful and weird. That’s my conclusion after a day back in the solo saddle after half term. No news there then. 

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Jesus loves the little children…

Jesus loves the little children. Because someone has to, right? Last Sunday I led the group son1 goes to at church. It’s a small group involving him and another one or two children. It’s fun, we tell a story, sing a bit, play a game, do craft and generally learn some simple thing about Jesus. Last week we were learning that Jesus loves children. There’s a part of one of the accounts of Jesus’ life where his mates stop children coming to him. Presumably because they were disruptive, not a culture that were all that into kids etc. Jesus tells his friends off, says let them come to me and, what I can only imagine as, an epic bundle happened as children clambered all over Jesus. They probably didn’t form an orderly queue for a quiet blessing on their heads as some might imagine. You’ve met children. Children are pretty disruptive, run to their own weird timetable and do the thing you really don’t want them to at the right moment to cause the most embarrassment. If Jesus had welcomed my 3 year old that day they would have probably talked about poo. That’s all son1 wants to say right now. Let’s face it Jesus would probably found it hilarious. He did have a hand in inventing it after all.

It was good for me to teach this crazy truth last week because by the end of our time together I thought that Jesus could blooming well have the little children. I did not want them anymore. Son1, because I was leading, decided that listening and joining in (which I know he does for everyone else) was not going to happen and I got frustrated and increasingly annoyed and worried that the other grown up in the room would think I was a rubbish parent and hopeless Sunday school leader. But again and again I had to repeat the point. Jesus loves the little children. Jesus loves you. (And yes in all my frustration he loves me too.)

It occurs to me that Jesus can’t have worried too much about appearance or timekeeping or order or structure if he welcomed children. Children aren’t predictable or easy to keep to order. They are messy and loud and say the wrong things at the wrong time for all to hear. Maybe there is something to be learned here from Jesus hanging out with the kids. Maybe I need to breathe more, worry less about what people think and enjoy the wonder that Jesus loves being with children. As they are. Before they clean up their act, pay attention or sit still for 3 minutes. That’s a Good Thing because he might just love me like that too.

I phoned my mum up to ask how she had dealt with me being her Sunday school class when I was small. She laughed a knowing laugh and told me I’d had to be moved to a different group because I was so disruptive. There you go. I’m going to attempt to take it as a compliment that he feels so at ease with me he’s able to be himself. Hmmm. Maybe.

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On being homesick.

I find I am weary again. I find I am homesick again. This world, to quote the Bright Eyes song I’m listening to at the moment … ‘has got me dizzy again’. I am weary of the darkness in my heart, I am weary of the cycles of shame and doubt and depression that will not leave no matter what I do or don’t do. I am weary of my self protective ways, of my lack of kindness, patience or compassion. I am weary of my desire to be noticed, loved, adored and my jealousy of others who are. I am weary of my inability to see the best, to rejoice in others successes. I am weary of the dark.

I am tired of having an exterior life that seems like I have all the elements that would make me win the stupid ‘Game of Life’ but an interior life that is full of gunk and dirt. I am tired of living a life of privilege with an ungrateful heart. I am weary of not knowing how to live with all this comfort and ease and the shame that goes along with it. I am tired of hurting the ones I love the most. I am tired of it all.

I am tired of how easy it is to forget the truth of the unseen. I am weary of my lack of prayer, my disbelief in the One who made me and this beautiful world. I am tired of my head down lack of paying attention to the wonder all around me. I am fed up of it being so hard to believe. I am tired of my tendency to see the negative and the way the same old cycles circle and entrap me. I am tired of friends being hurt by people who should love and accept them. I am tired of wanting more than this, of never being satisfied.

I am tired. I am weary.

Please don’t be tempted to make it better.

We’re meant to groan and ache and lament.

Have you seen this world?

Sure, lots of my weary groaning might be self pity or inverted pride or self absorption. But if it is then I’m sick of that too.

It’s ok to feel like this.

I know it’s not all the picture, that I am an amazing mother, a loving wife, a great friend and that I have a life full of good wonderful things. The good stuff is so so flipping good.

But it doesn’t take away the grime, the fears, the dark, the pain. Nothing in this world can ever.

I imagine you want to put a sticking plaster on this. That you want to cheer me up. Please don’t.

I am sure that you have your list of weary things in this life as well, your pains, your hurts, your fears and your shame. We can pretend they aren’t there. But they are.

Why am I smiling?

It’s a wry smile, a smile that is relieved at having remembered this wonderful wonderful thing all over again. I don’t have to pretend about the darkness, I don’t have to be overcome by the hideous self absorption and self pity of my heart. I don’t have to be overcome by my failures again and again and again. I smile through the tears. I smile through the ache because there is a deeper deeper better reason to smile.

I met someone a long long time ago who came into this world to do something about this darkness. Who walked this life as one of us. Who wept and ate and drank and confused everyone he met. I met someone who saw beyond my darkness and wanted to eat and drink with me. I met someone who faced my darkness for me and dealt with my unkindness, my lack of patience my self centred ways. I met someone who knew I needed something more than a good clean up, that I needed relationship with the Maker of this crazy world. Who could really make me clean all the way through and shine light in the darkest corners of my heart. I met someone who died for me. I met someone who rose from the dead confirming for all creation to see that there really is more than this world. That there will one day be a day when all our tears are wiped away, when God and his beautiful humans will dwell together and be at peace.

I know there is a cross and a grave that have changed everything in this world.

Convinced? Maybe not. But don’t tell me I’m better than I am. I’m really not. But maybe that’s not the point after all.

This world is so full of beauty and brokenness. I see more of the brokenness, but through the broken shards around me glimmers of light flicker strong. Through the layers of despair and darkness there is a bedrock of wonder and joy because this world is not it. There is more. There is more. Through the mess of my humanity is one who came into it, took on the darkness and won.

I am homesick once more, but in that homesickness there is wintery joy at the reality that I have a home to be homesick for.

Your correspondent, once more returning to the classic roots of her blogging mojo. Maybe it was a morning alone that resurrected the themes of aching, groaning and general melancholy tempered with the reality that there is more than this… 

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This one’s for the smallest

IMG_5737Dear Mr Smiley.

I’m sitting here on the eve of your birthday pondering the last year, the last year of you in our lives, the crazy year of moving, new jobs, no sleep and you, wonderful you. I had no idea you would enter our lives so smoothly, the comparisons begin right here I’m afraid my lovely son. Your brother’s entrance into the world was so stilted and strange and yours, well yours was the opposite.

It was night, dark and tender, a flat full of soft soft light, me barely believing what my body was capable of, tripped out on gas and air, in my own world in a land beyond the pain. Midwives flapped about trying to get settled, no time for stillness or cups of tea for them. Daddy ensured your brother made it to the arrival of the lovely Jo to whisk him away with little upset, and you and me laboured away. You turned and swam down (clearly Finding Nemo made it through the womb walls..) I groaned and walked and contracted and finally pushed, scared out of my mind that you would get stuck. And then, the unlikely happened. Your head came out and all was still. All was still until the last final effort of my body squeezed out your body. You cried. You were there. You were covered in goo but you were mine. You pooed all over me as your little tiny mouth found it’s food and comfort, naked we cuddled and cuddled until you fell asleep. Peace written all over your unblemished smooth gorgeous perfect face.

It was a labour about you and me, you my gorgeous second born, you my squiggy son and our cuddles over the next few days cemented in our love.

It hasn’t been an easy year after that joyous crazy night of wonder. You didn’t really like being a tiny baby, the boob provided fuel but little else, again entirely the reverse of your brother. You were hungry all night and fed every hour or so, you pooed constantly and cried lots. I spent much time trying to persuade you to sleep in the sling and then put you down, never something you’ve been all that convinced of. A dummy provided some relief as it seemed to soothe you in a way nothing else could and I love cuddling you to sleep.

Then the smiles started and I don’t think you’ve looked back. As soon as you could interact with this crazy world you were plummeted into, you’ve grown in happiness and delight. Smiles make everything better in your book. I love seeing you stare and point at people until they notice and you reward them with a stunner. I love the way you speed crawl into my lap and lay your head in it grinning up at me. I love the gooey smiles you used to give me from the boob when it finally worked in the way you wanted (instant food. now. or I shall cry). (I really thought about giving it up at some points, like when you’d get into a frenzy when milk didn’t appear fast enough and need to sleep again to reset and try again. Like when you stopped for a week when ill and I worried constantly about you. I love that you love food now, I love being less anxious about your feeds.)

Darling boy, you are wonderful, I want you to always know that. Always know that you are loved and valued. However much your brother might lash out at you when he’s frustrated, he loves you dearly. However much I swear at you when you need to sleep on my face to be settled I love you more than I can say. However much Daddy has to leave each morning he loves you to the moon and back and so much more again.

We are so glad you’ve joined our family. For you didn’t turn our world upsidedown, your brother assured that three years ago. You joined a world familiar with sleep deprivation and small people. You got a Mummy who wasn’t achingly confused for the first year of your life but one who was able to enjoy you and delight in the wonder rather than cry at the madness.

I pray so much your delight in people would last and grow strong, that your dogged determination would channel into powerful love for others and commitment in this life. I pray that you would come to know your Maker as your friend and more. I pray that you would be wholehearted in this life, full of compassion and love. I pray that you would draw the outsider in and I pray that you would always, whatever, truly know that you are loved and would be strong and secure in that love. I pray for your protection in this world of ours, so beautiful and so broken and that the struggles you face in this life would not shake you or destroy you but our wonderful Maker would use them to bring good to you and those around you.

Oh my beautiful boy, I can’t wait to see what kind of toddler, preschooler, small boy, teenager and man you will become.

All my love

PS This would be much easier if you didn’t keep interrupting for cuddles to help you sleep. Could you sort it out please?

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IMG_5643And sometimes it’s the simple Saturdays spent at home.

The early Autumn sunshine, spiders gleaming webs, early morning banana pancakes. It’s the being together, the blueberry stained faces and clamours for more. It’s the cups of tea, more tea, more tea until the bleary headache of a disturbed night is banished.

It’s bundling out of the house to go swimming, it’s delighted giggles and splashes and laughter. It’s a boy tightly clinging to my neck as new experiences overwhelm. It’s the grace of friends in helping put up blinds, the taste of fresh bread for lunch. It’s the discovery of hallway shoe storage, the potential of bookshelves, the bringing of beauty and order to the chaos of life. It’s sleeping beauties in the back of the car.

It’s muddy boots, wellingtons and rambling through woods, conkers in hand. It’s laughter and coaxing the small boy into enjoyment of the afternoon. It’s wide open fields and loud long echo’s, it’s shouting and laughing and running and falling and running again. It’s tree climbing, stick holding wonder. It’s amazement at holes in the ground, it’s the promise of ice cream to take just one more step. It’s tea and cake and flapping arms for more.

It’s pottering with lego, dinner in the oven, burgers and chips tasting sweet in our mouths, it’s laughter and manic giggles as the boys play together at the end of the day. It’s kisses and baths and it’s warm sleepy bodies tucked into bed.

It’s heading out running over the downs, music playing loud in my ears. It’s finding the rhythm and singing along. It’s enjoying the grace of this place we now live, the pink glowing downs and aching legs. It’s coming home to beauty in blinds, a husband who loves and a glass full of wine. It’s sitting and remembering and loving and delighting in Saturday’s here.

At home.

Peace in my head.

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