On breathing.

Grandad builds another tunnel...

Grandad builds another tunnel…

I sit at the end of another long day. I sit and I breathe. In and out. In and out. 

The sun slowly sinks in the sky. The world is glowing around me. In the background I hear the noises of my son being convinced that sleep at last might be a good thing. Hymns drift in from his room as husbandface soothes and settles him into a state where drifting off is peaceful and still.

I sit and breathe.

I read of a God whose mercy is new each morning, whose faithfulness is great. Who forgives my sin and offers me new clothes to wake up in tomorrow morning. Tonight though we are weary, husbandface’s back is playing up again, I am, well it’s time I faced up to it, I am pregnant again (15 weeks and counting) and exhausted from this growing a new life whilst taking care of our beautiful, crazy, inquisitive boy. All I want to do is curl up under the duvet and long for the oblivion of sleep.

I sit and breathe. 

There have been brilliant things about today. We went to a farm with the grandparents to enjoy my Dad’s birthday together. The boy delighted in trampolines, sandpits, small animals, people watching and more. We enjoyed his delight. We missed his nap window and so this afternoon turned into a marathon of getting through until the end of the day. He did well. Husbandface did amazingly. I dozed on the sofa as In the Night Garden worked some of it’s magic when the tears came out. 

I sit and breathe.

I find it hard to balance these days of such wonder and such tiredness. Such enjoyment of my boy with such weariness. I don’t want to moan or complain and yet I want to say it how it is. It feels hard. Already the voices begin loudly that I don’t know what hard is yet, I will never know until I have x number of children or am in x number of situations. That maybe true but for tonight I am weary. This is how I feel. We are meant to be going to a friends party tonight (we even had babysitters) but my bones ache, I feel sick and strange and I need to listen to my body. It is growing a baby I remind myself. Rest is needed.

I sit and breathe. In and out, in and out. 

As I washed my son in the bath, as I recounted our day to him, I told him of the God who sees the times we’ve messed up today, who knows our grumpy moods, the times we’ve not been kind, the times we’ve chosen to be distant instead of connected. I then told him of a God who forgives us, who doesn’t define us by what we do or don’t do, who has new mercy for us each morning. I told him and myself that we can go to sleep because he sustains us and I told him of the new clothes we get to wear tomorrow morning. (mainly the boy just giggled because I was tickling his back and he doesn’t really get much about this life yet but I think I needed to hear this particular talk rather than him…)

I sit and breathe. 

The mercies are new. There is grace enough for me and you. There is one who isn’t concerned about my perfect offerings today because he has already been that perfect offering. I am his child. I am loved and tomorrow I have new clothes to wear. 

I sit and breathe. 

I rest my weary soul in him and as I breathe I feel his breath on me, warming me, giving me strength deep within, reminding me that I am loved. 

I am loved. 

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Be kind to Kath week…

IMG_2757Flip it’s been a while. The last two months have been like a long black tunnel of survival, for reasons I’ll go into at some other point. Suffice to say that today, in this moment I feel ok. It might not last, the darkness might start swirling around again like those dementors in  Harry Potter (rereading them at the moment so every analogy is a Harry Potter one…). But for now I feel awake. Today is a good day.

Part of the darkness of my mind in such times involves me grabbing a large big stick and beating myself up with it. I get stuck in cycles of self hatred, self pity and more hatred for being such a self pitying weirdo. It’s not such a fun place to be or to inflict on others, so usually only the lovely husbandface gets the privilege of seeing me at my worst. It’s not a pretty sight. Everything I do makes me a ‘bad person’, everything I think confirms that I am ‘bad’.  I’m sure it’s a hangover from my childhood/teenage years where I very clearly categorised myself into the ‘bad’ person role, thinking of my brother as the contrasting ‘good’ person. Not helpful for either of us as I grew to realise that he was just a different kind of person but never really grew out of the thinking of myself in such negative terms.

Pop psychology aside, yesterday I went to my Spiritual Direction course feeling battered and bruised from a night of beating myself up. We were looking at the psychological side of Spiritual Direction and being aware of what might be going on with people on that level, not to step into the role of a counsellor but to know how these things affect our spirituality. The difference being if someone comes to a Spiritual Director with depression we need to make sure they are seeing someone for that specific depression but it’s good to talk about how that depression impacts their relationship with God. I think that’s the general gist anyway.

We thought a lot about our role as directors being to notice what is going on with someone, not to tell them what to do, or to solve problems but to gently be with them and help them be aware of what is going on in their worlds. This seems to get to the heart of what Spiritual Direction is all about, noticing what is going on, helping the other person really see and so be able to make choices and move forward with knowledge.

We also thought about Ignatius and his ‘particular examen’, taking a particular issue in our lives, eg pride, and noticing each day where we have struggled with it or been able to be humble etc. The guy leading the course used the phrase, ‘without attaching moral weight’ to those reflections. For me that was a completely radical concept, how could I reflect on the day and not attach moral weight to what I’ve done? I generally reflect on the day and always think I have fallen short, in my darkest moments I think I’m wholly bad because of actions I’ve done or failed to do. It seemed almost too radical to take off the labels of good and bad and just see my day as it was. I’m still not sure where reflecting on sin fits into this, as part of the examen is to ask for forgiveness but I think it’s probably about specific times where we have definitely sinned, rather than us ascribing the rather nebulous good and bad to all our actions.

I usually think my actions or non actions have made me a bad person therefore I am all bad. The reality is, I am a beloved child of God who messes up sometimes. That’s my status before God right now, I’m in his family. I am loved. I am his. I still get things wrong, I still hurt people, I am in a broken world and I am broken but I am not a bad person. I am not a bad person. I’m not really sure how much I can convey that this blows my tiny little mind. I am not a bad person.

We always chat through the day in threes at the end, taking it in turns to direct each other and observe. It gives us time to practise and to reflect on what God has been up to in our lives over the day itself.  Yesterday the lovely person directing me asked what my life would be like if I was kind to myself. If I didn’t assume the worst about myself, if I stopped beating myself up. What would life be like if I accepted that I need rest and so happily went to bed when my son naps rather than feeling guilty about it? What would life be like if I didn’t beat myself up if I haven’t achieved what I wanted to each day? What would life be like if I didn’t label myself as a bad person? I didn’t know so I’m going to give it a go.

This week/month/year/lifetime is going to be about being kind to Kath. I’m going to give life a go not beating myself up, and I think that maybe, just maybe life might become less about me as a result and I might end up bending some of that crazy love out to those around me. I’ll give it a shot anyway.

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Under the influence…

imagesI’ve been thinking about influences recently, I guess it’s a train of thought that comes up again and again when children come on the scene. As I look at sonface and wonder what he’ll turn into or become like, I find myself reflecting more and more on what has influenced me and whether those things were a conscious choice by my parents or just a natural overflow of who they were. As I belong to the overly self conscious, over analytical generation I want to get it right, I want to consciously put things in sonface’s path so he can’t help but fall over them and be infected by them.

I’m just not sure it works like that. I think we’re called to be who we are as parents and let him stumble across our values himself. Rather than placing them severely in his path for him to trip over I guess what I want is for our values and ideals to shape his steps and be the backdrop of his life in a unselfconscious way. Obviously there are some things we need to be more blatant about than others. But I think it’s less about us planning in ‘things that will influence him’ and more about living our lives. Which is a fairly terrifying thought as that might mean I actually need to live well as opposed to just having lots of nice theories for him to live by.

Anyway, these thoughts were kick started by the death of Pete Seeger. My parents had an old battered cassette tape of his Carnegie Hall concert in 1963 which I loved listening to around about the age of 11. He brought to me a world I barely knew existed in white middle class Guildford. A world of segregation, of the fight for civil rights and the sound of a man speaking up for those who had no voice. He was singing songs right on the cusp of all the change in the civil rights movement and the joy in his songs is palpable as he delights in the tide beginning, oh so slowly, to turn. You can hear the taste of freedom in the air as he sings. His songs opened up my mind to think it obvious that people were made to be equal, that to take away rights from those different from you is a blindingly stupid thing to do. And he was also lots of fun, encouraging singing along from the crowd and sorting out the out of time clappers. It’s worth a listen if you have a spotify account near you.

I am glad my parents loved him and so I had the opportunity to love him to and have my world enlarged. I am grateful they had literature from organisations such as Tear Fund lying around the house so I could realise there was a wider world out there, I am glad they sponsored a child in… (I can’t remember where) I am grateful they got involved in Traid Craft helping to raise awareness of fairtrade issues. I am grateful that they were concerned about more than their world in Guildford. I am grateful they loved ‘Cry Freedom’ and that I watched it and learnt more about the horrendous world of apartheid, so I appreciated the crazy wonder of watching Nelson Mandela walk free on the news.

I want my son to grow up with influences such as these but I think a change needs to take place, I wonder if I am concerned about this world? Do I keep up to date with news now there is no longer a 9 or 10 o’clock news slot in my life? Do I filter the news with what catches my eye from the BBC news website? How can I show him concern for this world? Do I have concern that he will pick up on? I’m pretty sure that it’s not as simple as me telling him to care about this world, I have to show him and I think it has to be natural. So again I ask myself where is my concern beyond my small life here in Brighton? I know I cannot change the world, I know that too much information is overwhelming but I am called to pray, to give, to care. Lord help me do that.

What do you reckon? What were your influences on you as you grew up? What do you owe to your parents take on the world? Have you ever listened to Pete Seeger? Give it a go… Here’s some awesome tracks from the Carnegie Hall concert:

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Some joyful thoughts…

prettyThe other morning I was reading a bit of Isaiah where it talks about God rejoicing over his people. A crazy wonderful kind of thought.

It’s slightly insane to think that the God who made the world isn’t a far off distant aloof kind of God, but the kind of God who looks at his people and rejoices in them. He’s a God who takes delight in you and me.

What kind of God would do that? Surely gods are meant to be all big and wrathful beings or beings that demand stuff from us, beings who want us to earn their attention?

Not this one. This one comes and is tender towards his people, loves restoring them and rejoices over them.

This sent me off on another thought.

I’ve always thought of the verses that talk about the joy of the Lord being our strength as verses to beat myself up with when I’m feeling weak and small because I can’t muster up any joy to be my strength.

The emphasis has changed now. It’s the joy of THE LORD that is my strength, his joy, his joy in his people, his delight in me gives me strength to get up and keep on loving each morning. His joy gives me the strength to walk on in his ways in this life.

Isaiah 62: 4-5

No longer will they call you Deserted,
or name your land Desolate.
But you will be called Hephzibah,
and your land Beulah;
for the Lord will take delight in you,
and your land will be married.
5 As a young man marries a young woman,
so will your Builder marry you;
as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride,
so will your God rejoice over you.

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It’s not fair?…

 This one’s a question for you all. Lets get some interaction going on this blog for a bit eh? I’d love to say, once a week lets just chat about something but you know how it goes, I’ll look at this post in a years time and think, what happened to that resolution…

Anyways my question of the day is… “Should life be fair?”

I find myself most grumpy when I think life hasn’t been fair to me, when I’ve changed 4 pooey nappies in one day and husbandface hasn’t had to change one. When I’ve been up 5 times a night and he’s been up once. I find myself feeling most awkward when I have had more rest than him, when I’ve had more quiet time to myself than him. When I have more cake than him. I struggle to enjoy these times if I don’t think they are fair, that I haven’t earnt them.

I struggled lots over the holiday because husbandface has had a bad back, his painkillers  knocked him out loads and I had to do more than I usually would in the holidays. I have been grumpy and complaining because of this.

I want to accept that life isn’t fair, that it’s ok for us each to be more sacrificial in different times in our marriage and in life. I want to rejoice because God never said things were going to be fair, he just asks us to love deeply and widely because he has loved us in ways beyond fairness. His love is not fair. It is not fair of him to keep on loving me despite the many ways I throw that love back in his face. But still the voice keeps nagging away. It’s not fair.

Anyone got any thoughts on the matter?

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Monday Morning

It’s the first Monday of term. The first Monday of the new year. Husbandface has just gone back to work and I’m getting ready for the day ahead.

Here’s some beauty to invade our Monday morning. I’ve been singing this to the boy to help him sleep all week and love the simple calm it brings. I’m not so convinced about making lots of resolutions to start the year with but I do know that I want to join in the job of bringing order to chaos and I want to know the peace of God in the midst of the crazy whirlwind life of term. This version of the hymn below is sung by Neil Hannon of the Divine Comedy and is a crazy pretty gentle way to lift the sails of our ship and head out into the sea. 

Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
Forgive our foolish ways!
Reclothe us in our rightful mind,
In purer lives thy service find,
In deeper reverence, praise.

In simple trust like theirs who heard,
Beside the Syrian sea,
The gracious calling of the Lord,
Let us, like them, without a word,
Rise up and follow thee.

O Sabbath rest by Galilee!
O calm of hills above,
Where Jesus knelt to share with thee
The silence of eternity
Interpreted by love!

Drop thy still dews of quietness
Till all our strivings cease:
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of thy peace.

Breathe through the heats of our desire
Thy coolness and thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm.

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Bringing order to the chaos…

IMG_2538It’s the first Saturday of the new year, the first Saturday of the month and I’m engaging in a new activity. A planning morning, a time of planning for the month ahead, drawing up food plans and thinking through what’s coming up in our weeks. I like planning, in fact, given half a chance I think I could be good at planning. I’m just hoping that this flurry of spreadsheets won’t be like the revision timetables I planned so eagerly many years ago. I have always struggled with the vast gap between good plans and the reality of how those aren’t always lived out.

I think I’m less in danger of that this month, mainly because these plans are put in place to help this ship run smoother through the waters, to enable me to not hit Sunday afternoon in a mega grump because we have to plan and shop for the week ahead (online shopping is wonderful but only when you know what you are cooking and being creative in the last dying moments of the weekend just isn’t possible). Having a monthly food plan means I will hopefully panic less and can think about what we are going to eat before my brain runs out of energy. We need to plan because we just don’t have the finances not to, if we don’t plan we very quickly spend far more money than we have. If we plan we know what our limits are and we stay vaguely within budget.

I also want to review my weeks with the boy and check our weeks work best for his naps, our sanity and energy levels all round. We have something to do each day in the morning at the moment which is brilliant, afternoons are then a bit more flexible for seeing people every now and again, park visits, any extra shopping, spontaneous joy and cooking. I have no idea how cooking works with the small one pottering around the kitchen but am hoping to maybe use his afternoon nap time for prep.

Our weeks are full, husbandface tutors twice a week between 5 and 6, we have our small group from church one evening a week and on Friday late afternoons we are planning on meeting up with some of the older kids from church for fun, bible stuff and more fun. We love having people over Friday or Saturday nights and for Sunday lunch. We long to be a hospitable safe base for people to come to and find harbour and rest (not sure we can be sailing in a ship and a safe harbour but stay with me…) All this means planning is essential if life is to work well and we are to function well as a family. I’ve loved the holidays because it’s been really easy to eat together at the same time but for about 4 evenings a week this just isn’t possible.

I’m aware that this all sounds a bit mental or boring. At least that’s what the voice in the back of my head is telling me. It tells me that I sound more and more like one of those housewives/homemaker people that spend all their time on pinterest and have perfect lives. I never signed up to be that kind of housewife but I have found myself in the position to be able to help our family sail through these waters well. Husbandface has an uber demanding job but, whilst he helps around the home and gets stuck into life with us and we know we are his first priority, the reality is I have more time in my head to get on with doing practical stuff, planning and making sure we don’t crash into the rocks.

(Can you tell I’ve found a new analogy for life? Love this whole sailing the boat thing together I’ve had going around my head in the last few days)

The thing is, life works better when there is intentionality to our living. Things go well when we aren’t just floating with the prevailing wind all the time but are sailing specifically in a certain direction. There are times for just going with the breeze and there are times when we up anchor and sail on. We are priviledged to have rhythms to our lives as we ride the waves of manic term time and relatively calm holiday times (ok even I think I might have overdone the analogy now).

God is a God who makes order out of chaos, one of our jobs on earth involves walking in his footsteps. Part of the good work he has called me to walk in is to help carry on making order from the chaos around. I long that as a family we would walk well in such ways, that we would live to the best of our ability.  I think that involves, every now and again, getting stuck into planning that makes spontaneous joy possible. We plan so we can be free not so we can be restricted. Wrap your head around that for a bit.

I’ve been helped to kickstart this by my excellent sister in law and her plans for January, I love sharing this life with others who are trying out this kind of intentional living thing.

Also I share the caveat that this is all a work in progress, I’m not trying to show off with my amazing plans for life, I will not be pinteresting my pretty cooking results, I will not be perfect. We will get it wrong, I will collapse in a heap many Sunday evenings and just feed us all pizza for dinner one week. Sack all comparisons. This is just me finding a way to cope with a busy life, to order things so we can be hospitable and functional as a family and and not to go insane in it all, these are not my ways to achieve perfection as a mother and wife. Alright?

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