2 Weeks later…

bedroom view

The view from our bedroom…

The last two weeks have passed in a bit of a haze. We’ve moved, painted, restored, moved again, unpacked some of our stuff and tried to work out where to put stuff in a place with a whole lot less storage than the last. We’ve had the help of amazing friends and family. The American family even came over to do some painting (I’m not sure that was the weekend we had planned with them but it was the weekend we got and it was lovely to see them).

And so we are here.

We are here in this land of suburban living. We are here in this land of birdsong as I go to sleep and wake up each morning. We are here in this vast sea of green as I gaze and gaze out of our bedroom window at the South Downs basking in all their glory in front of me. We are here in this place of three bedrooms, son2 is out of our room and sleeping mostly in his cot. We are here in this place of son1 asking, ‘when we get bunka beds?’. We are here with this kitchen not like our last and still trying to work out where to put things and manage until we can afford to replace it. We are here in this large living space, delighted that it holds 15 people for soup and bread and talking of reality. We are here with this garden, mowed lawn and small house for the tiny people to play in. We are here in this land of, we could just do that, or that or this. This land of, oh if we only had that it would be better. We are here in this land of endless tasks but limited funds. We are here in this slightly shabby but being redeemed slowly slowly slowly over time world. (and that’s us as well as the house…)

We are here.

Being me I’ve been in a dark place for the last few days as my head is wrapping itself around the change. The black dog always pounces at such times and so, despite the joys and gratitude of this new world I’ve been slow and weary and exhausted. Having to make new decisions about the details of our days, from where the nappies are kept to how we get to the park, tired me out. My body gave out on me and new aches, from moving and carrying the small but heavy ones, were found.

Today the sun is shinning, the boys are napping at the same time (gasp) and I feel slightly human again. Having small group from church over last night helped me grasp again the vision of increased hospitality that we have for this place and reminded me that hospitality doesn’t come out of perfection but out of what little or much we have offered in grace. Baking bread and making soup in our not so perfect kitchen helped restore me to the simplicity of giving others grace in this house rather than showing off sleek new shiny stuff.

Son1 is more than a little like me and also finds change hard, his boundary fighting ways have returned and I’m trying to find ways of helping him enjoy the new space. We need to sort out the boy’s play corner in our living space so they can make the most of their toys again. Son1’s bedroom feels very similar and we’ve been spending lots of time in there as he tries to figure out this new world. As both of us navigate a week of total routine, doing all our normal things but in a different way we are slowly returning to enjoying life again. Son2, well, he just smiles at things and loves the extra crawling space.

A few years ago when we moved to our flat we did lovely little new address cards, time has moved on and I have no idea who I would send them to now. Who even has an address book anymore? Anyway. If you do and would like our address just email me/facebook/some other verb of our time me.

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Moving thoughts

fireplaceWe are moving house in the next week and I have all the feelings. I mean ALL the FEELINGS. We’re moving from our lovely flat near everything in this beautiful city of ours back up to the suburbs, to a house with stairs, another bedroom, a garden and views of the downs. I think it’s a fair exchange, I think it’s the right thing to be doing. I think the extra space for the crazy boys will be good for them and us and I think it makes sense. My heart is having a harder time catching up with my head.

This is the flat we established life together in, we bought it at the end of our first year of marriage. That first year was awesome in many ways but, looking back, the most insecure year of our life together.  We were working out how to relate to each other, how to live with stressful jobs and how to deal with big stuff in each others lives. We were trying to figure out communication and how to intertwine our lives together. It wasn’t an easy time.

Moving to our new flat was one of the first big decisions we made, a beautiful gift from God who provided us (through lovely friends and relations) the means to buy it. Here we would learn to walk together, we would experience more of love for each other, live through our stormiest days and bring two crazy boys into the world to pour out love upon.

It was a pretty weird flat when we first looked around it, husbandface took a lot of convincing that it wasn’t just a cat filled dump. Leaving aside the cat litter and damp laundry smells it was a fairly good shell and once we got in and did some painting it rapidly became ours. It was redeemed from it’s former state and we have placed our stamp firmly on it over the years.

I love this flat, I love the large living room that has housed so many good conversations with each other, with friends and with our small group from church. I love the balcony that has turned from a place to sit and read and drink wine into outdoor space to chuck children out into and breathe peace into their storms with the magic elixir of fresh air. I love our kitchen with it’s room for a table to sit at whilst we cook, with it’s chalk board proclaiming the week’s meals and it’s view of squirrels and seagulls scurrying outside. I love our massive bedroom and the many nights of lovely sleep our bed provided before the small people came along. I love our spare room, transformed into a beautiful study and then into a bedroom for son1. I love our bathroom, redone a few summers ago. I love the middle of our flat, a spacious hallway, home to a table for friends to sit and eat good food around and then transformed into a study space and buggy park.

I love that I brought son1 home to this place of safety, crying over the soft furnishings and books after 6 days in the bleakness of a hospital ward. I love that I gave birth to son2 here surrounded by fairy lights and familiarity.

I love that this flat is surrounded by trees in the middle of a city, I love that it’s a few minutes walk to the park, the local shops, the arts cinema, good pubs and more.

It’s been an amazing place to live for the last 4 and a half years. We’ve loved seeing God do stuff in our lives here and in the lives of friends that have come and hung out in this space with us. We know it has been a brilliant gift. It’s not perfect, there are many things I’m glad we don’t have to sort out now we are moving and the little niggly annoying things that need work no longer matter.

Weirdly we find ourselves facing another gift as we move to our new house. We are under no illusion, this is another gift from God to use for blessing others. I am looking forward to seeing what God will do in the new house, how he will encourage us and our friends, how we can provide a safe place of sanctuary for those who need peace on the road and how we can extend hospitality to those around us. I’m excited to see what will become of us, however daunted I feel about leaving the comfort of what we have at the moment. I am looking forward to watching my boys learn about gardens, navigate stairs, fill the space and grow.

The next few days are going to be a little crazy as we move to friends for a week and from Wednesday attempt to paint rooms and generally get the new house ready for me and two small boys to hang out in each day and not go crazy with desire to ditch the boys and sort the house out. If you fancy coming over with a paint brush we’d love to see you. If you fancy coming over just to hang out we’d also love to see you.  As I said to our church this morning, it’s not just our house, it’s been given to us to be a blessing to others and we long for refreshing joy to be found for all who come into it.

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The Thaw…

IMG_4395“This is no thaw. This is spring. What are we to do? Your winter has been destroyed, I tell you! This is Aslan’s doing.”

Way back in January I compared life to that of the Alaskan tree frog. I think you’ll all agree that it might have stretched the joys of having a metaphor for life a bit too far. That aside, the point was that I felt very frozen, dead even. I knew spring would come, and summer eventually, and life would happen again but I was living in a very real death. My whole immediate environment was the two small people I look after all day and night. There was no glimmer of light through the canopy of trees around me (yeah we’re back to the glade metaphor, keep up will you?). Life had hemmed me in. I felt frozen out of friendships and of using vast portions of my brain and gifts.

(Well, I was overusing the bits of my brain that look after children- anyone who says being a stay at home mum is brain numbing is doing us all a disservice. Bits of the brain are numb but the time juggling, creative, inventive, training parts of the brain are alive and well but just very child focused…)

It was a fairly bleak picture. The only thing keeping me sane was the knowledge that it wasn’t the end picture. It was just a season. Winters are always followed by spring. Even really long seemingly never ending winters are. Even this winter we live in now will end when the final spring dawns and the joyful morning chorus will burst from our lungs as our Maker makes everything new for the last time.

I digress. 

I think the thaw is happening. I think it’s more than a thaw, I think it’s finally Spring.

Oh so slowly I can feel my limbs tingling again. I can feel the warm sunshine penetrating to the dark corners of my soul and I can feel life again. 

It crept up on me at Word Alive. We had a beautiful weekend with reminders of our Gods big fat crazy love for us, we felt the Spirit speak to our hearts, we repented, we cried out to our God for help and he heard. Jesus showed up and drenched our souls in living refreshing water. We had space away from our kids, we had time with friends chatting over life and sharing what God was up to in us all. We drank wine and we occasionally slept.

When we got home I felt like I’d actually had a holiday for the first time since son2 was born. I felt refreshed. We had another beautiful day in the holidays without the boys, chatting to friends, delighting in God’s work in their lives and enjoying a long lazy fish filled lunch remembering how to have conversations without small people needing our attention.

These breaks have done me good.

This is the end of the first week back in term life and I have enjoyed my boys all week. Sure, I’ve shouted and got grumpy at times but I’ve apologised and we’ve moved on. My failure to love well hasn’t defined our days. It has brought me back to my need of forgiveness and the wonder of it freely given to me.

Son2 is 6 months old now and we can manage more time apart from each other. He’s started eating and, although he still doesn’t sleep much, he’s easier during the days. Son1 is delightful and frustrating in equal measure but I’m starting to get that his frustrating side comes out most when I am unsettled and distracted. It’s a fascinating process watching him play off my moods. Somehow we have to learn how to deal with that, but knowing about it is a good start. I love chatting to him and seeing how he makes sense of this world.

This week I also started back in my role at church of looking after our small groups (all two of them) and leaders. I remembered my love of encouraging people to pay attention to God and my love of seeing him at work. It was a treat to feel like this wasn’t a burden but something that gave me life.

Today I went back to the crèche attached to our local swimming pool with both of them. It was the first time in 6 months. I had another sense of bumping into ghosts from the past. There was the me with Son1 at 6 months, scared and unsure of what to do. Today it felt so much more straightforward to drop them off, I knew what I was doing and I was confident they’d be ok for an hour or so whilst I swam.

It was another step in spring appearing. I swam and swam and found my thoughts again. My little writer who has been languishing at the back of my brain burst to the forefront of my mind with excitement and started to scribble. My body loved the rhythm it has known since I was 11. I felt like me. Whole and alive.

I still feel like me sitting in my car with both boys snoring away as I write and write. Spring is here. There is more space to think. Obviously the trees still surround me, horizons remain limited but clearing has taken place, I can glimpse the view beyond them, I can see how I can bring others into this space and paths lead out of my glade, ready for exploring every now and again.

This week Husbandface got offered a promotion, after a gruelling few days of interview he is now going to be an assistant Head (one step below a deputy head) at his school. For a brief moment I got jealous of his professional achievements, before delighting in them. But then I looked at my life and realised I wouldn’t want it any other way.

The core of our lives isn’t made up in our jobs or lack of job, my core isn’t resting on being a stay at home mum. Our core being rests on our belonging to the Maker of the world and being loved by him. That frees us to excel in the places he’s put us. Husbandface at school and me largely at home and beyond.  I support him in his work and he supports me in the varied mix of life I’m involved in, the boys, ministry stuff I do and friendships that I have. I like this life we have. I like being of worth and value just because I’m me. I like being loved so much that I can spill it abundant on my boys and those who I encounter each day.

So there you have it. The thaw is on. Spring is here. Being a pessimist I would like to point out that this might all change after another annoying night with the small one but for now it’s pretty darn good around these parts.

(see told you the little writer had a lot to scribble about…)

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Paying attention 49

Long drive meaning chances to talk to the husbandface and do less lugging the small ones around. Son2 not doing much crying. Lovely arrival at our friends house and feeling very at ease :) 

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Paying attention 48

Son1’s delight at the farm. Little lambs shivering in the wind. The beautifully warm sausage roll for lunch. Laughing with son1 all around Asda. 

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Paying attention 47

Sunny morning. Husbandface around. Friends laughing and chatting in the flat. Getting out in the evening for the first time since son2 was born. Eating burgers and drinking wine. 

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Life with the tiny people. 

Life with a baby and a toddler is a bit mental. That’s an understatement and an overstatement. It’s wonderful and so deeply awful in so many ways that it’s easy to get the whole thing out of perspective.

I’ve been reading a couple of blogs recently that make the whole newborn thing seem so wonderful and appealing. Good writing can do that. I can stumble my way through some prose that touches on beautiful moments in the middle of the night where it’s just me and him and some soft small baby fingers wrapped about mine, where he rests in the crook of my arms and breathes deep and satisfied having fed in the grey darkness of the night.

See, what lovely scenes. And there is more. I can write of the wonder of waking next to big fat grins, to tiny feet padding around our flat, to voices asking for porridge and puzzles and just one more book. I can write of dancing in kitchens with small eyes joyful, of giant cuddles, of voices calling out for mummy.  I can write of the closeness of these times, the limited horizons, the beauty of being so focused on one thing in one place. I can write of the smell of my boys as they snuggle in close, as growing little bodies wrap themselves around mine, as we run through parks, as we laugh and giggle and tickle and bounce on beds. There is such beauty in this life together.

I could write of patient explaining again and again why we don’t hit, pull things off shelves or throw large objects across the room. Of sitting with the toddler in his big emotions and holding his body wracked with sobs as he figures out the crazy horrible reality that you can’t always get what you want. I could write of explaining, of wiping away tears, of quiet chats outside and moments when he seems to understand and calm and be at peace again.

(Scratching record noise)

But there is the flip side. Writing like that is not the whole story. Yes these things are here and this life is beautiful. But I could write another story to our nights and days. The endless feeding. The endless fucking feeding. The nights of weary despair wondering if the stupid baby will ever sleep alone, the desire to chuck it across the room because I have been touched too many times today. The frustration of finally getting him to sleep and then hearing a massive poo unleashed. The calculations as to how long until morning? Will he notice the poo? Will it wake him up in 30 min time just as I have got back to sleep?Shall I risk leaving him? Am I a bad person for leaving my baby in poo

I could write of the endless demands of the toddler, the constant ‘shall we watch TV?’, the worries about him turning into a sociopath as he wacks his brother around the head for the hundredth time that morning. I could write of the whining voice demanding porridge, tractor ted, hot chocolate and more. I could write of the fears that he’ll never eat more than pasta, the lack of patience as he pulls books from the shelves again and again. Hot anger spills from me too often in this season of life as time and again I am out of control. I cannot make them sleep or eat or do anything and I run too often to the banks of frustration, despair and anger.

I could write of my hatred of these small enclosed times, the fear of never having a friend again, the deep loneliness of a day with the children and no one else. The fear of being left behind, of not being able to hold a conversation again, the haze of sleep deprivation that makes me unable to listen to what’s going on around me. I could write about my desire for space, for time to write and envy of anyone who seems to be able to deal with tiny people and do more than just collapse at the end of the day.

Either story is true and not true at any point in the day or night. I flip regularly from one to the other, usually in the space of a few hours or minutes. I guess that’s the reality of life. It can be explained either way but there is more than just the wonder and there is more than just the hard despair. Both need expressing and noticing. Life with small children is both deeply awesome and deeply sucky at the same time and that’s ok.

Your correspondent, once more writing things that really only she needs to hear…

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