Trudging on. 

Saturday lunchtime. The boys are watching their latest obsession. Tom and Jerry, which is bringing back all sorts of memories of Saturday afternoons/whenever on earth it used to be on TV back in the 80s. I’ve just got in from a very helpful morning at the women’s prayer breakfast at church. Pastries, good coffee, lovely chats with others and space to remember the invisible world I forget is still all around me.

I haven’t felt at all like writing anything here for these last two weeks. My head has been a trail of reductionist blergh. I’ve been moaning. Complaining. Weary. Frustrated. Resentful. Still coughing after 3 weeks. Shouty. Stressed. Wondering if I was a different person if I would be coping better. Wondering if our world will ever be normal again. My boys have suffered under my stress anger. I’ve found myself just as confused as them as to what is going on. 

Much of that is still there. This morning though I sat in a circle with some women and listened as we talked about what God is like, as we spoke truth about his tender care, his loving ways, his trustworthy heart. I sat and looked as a small baby wriggled in its mothers arms/sling and cried in frustration. I felt the frustration in me echoed in that tiny person. I sensed again the sling holding me to my divine parents chest. The arms that comfort me in the anger and pain of not getting what I want and being unable to express my need clearly. 

Somehow hope has crept in again. All I can see is the grim situation we are in and yet somehow I have been touched deep in my tender soul and can feel the tears welling as I have encountered again the safe and close love of God. It defies explanation but I am glad. Glad of a church to belong to that provides such spaces. Glad we are not alone. Glad the frustration is being soothed and glad I don’t have to just write a list of my moans to sum up the last two weeks. 

In other news we’ve enjoyed the sunshine. The annual membership to a local farm has proved its worth time and again as we’ve had a known space to escape to where the boys can enjoy lots of physical outdoor play and we can sit. I have loved running in the daylight and even an evening run last night gave me a glimpse that dark running is over soon for the year and I have made it through winter. We have made it through winter and spring growth is all around. We are still in a very small world. A forest glade with no view but lots of green invading the floor. 

We trudge on. Today slightly less wearily than recently. The fog of these few weeks has lifted a little and I’ll stop with the metaphors now. Lunch calls. 

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What I’m into. The February Edition.

It’s time for my monthly round up of books and other stuff I’ve been into over the last month. I really like recording lists and remembering what I’ve read. I’m not sure I have any great insights to offer about these things but I like the idea of a future me remembering them rather than forgetting. So. Eight days into March here’s what I’ve read/watched/listened to since the last of these posts:

Behind

Behind Closed Doors- BA Paris. 

Another of those Girl on the Train and Gone Girl style reads. Fairly predictable and not as good as those others but still tense and one to read if you want total escape from the rest of the world for a few hours. 

BrokenThe Broken Way – Ann Voskamp. 

Really helpful book reminding me that life doesn’t have to look sorted before I follow Jesus and that sacrifice is a Good Thing. Here are some of the quotes that hit home the most. A good one for this season of life we are in right now. 

“Never be afraid of broken things – because Christ can redeem anything. When I’m no longer afraid of brokenness, I don’t have control or possess anything- dreams or plans or people or their perceptions. I can live surrendered, cruciform, given. This feels like freedom.” 

“There is nothing to fear in the wilderness of suffering- it is the land where God woos. The crush of crisis is but a passage into communion with Christ.”

“The self is ultimately never really sacrificed in giving but our real self is ultimately found. In the sacrificial giving of ourselves we give ourselves back our real selves, the self we were made to be- blessed to bless, given to givenness, loved to love”

Sacrifice isn’t so much losing what you love but giving your love on to whom you love more. When you sacrifice for what you love you gain more of what you love. Love is a risk, that’s never a risk….

What matters is that in the act of loving we become more like the givenness of love himself. What matters most is not if our love makes other people change but that in loving we change. What matters is that in the sacrificing to love someone we become like Someone. Regardless of anything or anyone else changing, the success of loving is in how we change because we kept on loving… in sacrificing ourselves we are guaranteed to discover the depths of our best and realest selves”

reasonsReasons to Stay Alive- Matt Haig. 

Excellent journey through his depression, what helps, what doesn’t and some really good explanations of what he went through. It was really easy to read as well, which helps in times where getting out of bed seems a step too far. Reading it and Susan Calman’s book on depression last month has made me aware again that the experience is different for different people and we all have to find out what works for us and the people around us who are struggling. I’m thinking of maybe reading a book on depression a month. Any recommends for March? 

spectacleSpectacles- Sue Perkins

I really enjoyed this. Mainly for her descriptions of life with her family and tales of uni days that sparked off my own nostalgia fest. 

loveThe Course of Love- Alain de Botton

A kind of part novel, part philosophical meandering about what love is really all about. It was very fascinating and insightful as to the reality that love is a thing to be worked on and worked out, rather than a feeling that comes and goes. I think every person in a couple should read and discuss it. I’m not sure I agreed with all of it but it sparked off many thoughts and much truth was spoken. Most telling of all was the chapter on sulking which made me think he’d had a secret camera in our house. I like this quote: “We should add that it is a privilege to be the recipient of a sulk: it means the other person respects and trusts us enough to think we should understand their unspoken hurt. It is one of the odder gifts of love.”  Over all it was a book full of realistic, helpful, interesting stuff about the ordinary everyday life as a couple.  

faithfulFaithful- Alice Hoffman. 

Really can’t think of much to say about this. It was ok. Fairly readable story of a teenager growing up and figuring life out against the backdrop of having being involved in a car accident that left her best friend dead.

wonderWonder- RJ Palacio 

Oh I loved this so so much. A tale told from different perspectives of a boy with a severe facial disfigurement going to school for the first time. A beautiful book that made me cry. It was also brilliant to see good parent/teenager relationships portrayed where they engaged with and talked to each other. It gave me hope for the years ahead. 

museThe Muse- Jessie Burton 

Intriguing novel set in two time periods and two country’s dealing with art, identity, is something of intrinsic worth and value or do you need to be appreciated for your work?  Loved the way it made me think and be at peace with people not seeing what I do all the time. 

goats and sheepThe Trouble with Goats and Sheep- Joanna Cannon

A great book themed around whether we can really tell who the sheep and goats really are. Really well written, intriguing right up to the end and a lovely hot summer 70s vibe. One to challenge the assumptions we make about people.

We’ve also watched lots of films recently:

Bad Mums – Hilarious and much needed if you have children and mess up as much as I do. 

London has Fallen– possibly the worst film I’ve seen for a while. But we don’t care cos they blew up London and America saved the day and there were guns and explosions and swearing. So much swearing. Yeah. A no brainer with the saving point of being short. 

The Martian– simply brilliant sci fi joy. Matt Damon is left behind on Mars and has to somehow survive and get home. Of course we all know he makes it. He’s Matt Damon after all. But it holds great tension in all the right places and brought to life lots of sci fi books I read as a teenager. Lots of it looked just like the things I had imagined. I liked that. 

Sully – Tom Hanks rocking as the pilot who successfully landed a plane in the Hudson River saving all 155 people on board. I never knew the fight he had to prove it was the right and only decision and it was an interesting portrait of an expert flyer proving his judgement was sound and dealing with the decisions he made. 

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.- I know we are late to this one, I blame the small ones. Not much to say other than I loved revisiting the Harry Potter world from a different perspective. 

Passengers– Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence as the only two passengers awake on a space ship headed to set up a new colony. Watchable enough but not life changing.

As for music. I’d love to say I’ve discovered a whole load of new lovely music but I haven’t. Martyn Joseph’s Sanctuary Album still accompanies my weekend breakfast making routines. Ed Sheeran’s new one is on heavy rotate when the children aren’t moaning about their choice. Really, honestly, all we’ve listened to this month is an album friends gave to us for the boys. Awesome Cutlery.  A kind of less cheesy English version of Colin Buchanan it’s a whole load of God songs that are fun and annoyingly catchy. Son1 has learnt all the lyrics and both boys can recite the amusing sketches in between the songs. If you are in the line for some more music with brilliant God stuff in it I can recommend heartily.

This is our favourite song. Mainly for the rhymes. We like rhymes. All the time.

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In which we all get sick and then I preached. 

From the high of last week there was really only one place we could go. And oh did we go there. Down down down. Ah well. Before the crazy week I did have an amazing day out in London sitting in my friends flat, enjoying the excellent company of Anna and Sarah, consuming chocolate biscuits, smiling at an uber cute 4 month old, sharing my soul and hearing my friends souls and then crying out to God. It was good to laugh, to cry and to sit together.

I slept on the train home and woke up achy and exhausted in Brighton again. Fluey type achingness has been my companion this week, as has a hideous night cough as me and the boys descended into the world of ill. Sleep has been highly elusive.  I have not run this week. I have not pleased my Fitbit stats with many steps each day. I feel a bit odd because of that. 

Illness meant we tried to go slow this week. We spent a lot of time in front of the tv and lots of time reading many books. Husbandface had a pretty grim week health wise but was amazing in taking the boys to the farm on Wednesday afternoon whilst I slept. He was also a willing victim in hearing my sermon before today and was amazing in pushing through and dealing with the crazy ones at the beginning of church whilst I was sorting out practical stuff and praying with people before the service. He also deserves much kudos for putting up with pre sermon crazy Kath. He’s a good one. 

As I’ve just mentioned the week also involved the run up to preaching at our lovely new church. (When does it stop being new? 6 months in? Now? Next year? When we’ve been there 10 years?). That meant a week of the devils lies getting in my head and swirly self doubt setting in. It also meant a week of spare time taken up with sermon writing or worrying about sermon writing (urgh). I managed a few spurts in the week and some lovely time at 3am on Saturday morning feeling the message I was preaching and curling up in Gods arms knowing how dearly loved I was. It wasn’t all bad preparing for it. 

Prayers were answered and I managed to preach without a hideous coughing fit (which given the previous days was amazing) and I enjoyed getting preacher Kath out of the cupboard. I really love communicating to people they are loved by God and I got to do that lots this morning. It was great to chat to more people after and feel like we are making our home there more and more. Even if I did call our church by the name of our old church when I started this morning… 

And there we are. Life on the ranch carries on and here’s hoping for some full recovery in the week ahead. 

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This week. 

Friday:

Soft play in a garden centre. 

Sunny sunny day outside. 

Warm cheese scone and coffee in my belly.

Boys for the moment happy being Batman and Raa Raa. 

Quick. 

Highlights this week have been:

A theatre trip with our NCT group. A lovely no tension puppet show aimed perfectly at ages 2-6. No horrible moments or things to fear. Lots of cute puppets on adventures. I wish I could have captured son2s face as he gazed in awe and chuckled along. 

Bumbling along the seafront with the boys on a sunny warm afternoon. Throwing stones in the sea, ice cream and the craving of my body for spring. 

Walks around our estate looking at the shoots of flowers emerging. 

Park trips standing in the warmth remembering why parks are a Good Thing. 

Rediscovering our garden. 

The boys delight in a new cd given to us by friends. Love son1s commitment to learning all the lyrics. 

Son2 not crying when he was dropped off at nursery and singing songs from his morning there all afternoon. 

Moments where the husbandface has been able to be engaged with us, tramping through a windy day to a windy park and hearing the boys rejoice in Daddy with us time. 

Good friends coming, eating and praying with us. Balm for the soul. 

Drumming. A new drum. Sore hands. 

New shoots of interactions at church, women’s prayer breakfast, chats with others, community meal and sermon writing. Spring is on it’s way in more ways than one. 

Running in the start of storm Doris. Wind burnt face. Laughing for joy over hills of green. 

Darker moments have occurred. There was the Sunday afternoon of collapse and son2’s very sweet voice. ‘Mummy cry? Daddy, make sure Mummy alright? Yeah?’  

But over all it’s been a Good Week. 

Mostly because I read some amazing stuff in the Bible. I know. Who would have thought?! My prayer book has me walking with Jesus in Luke at the moment. I was stunned by a passage on Monday morning. It was one I really can’t ever remember reading. Jesus raises a widows son from the dead. But it’s not so much that he does it but the way he interacts with her. She is really upset, as you can imagine, and his heart goes out to her. His heart goes out to her. Such a small phrase but it had me in tears for a long time. His heart went out to her. Such tenderness and love. I love Jesus’ care for people, his tenderness and compassion. Mostly I find it very easy to believe that in relation to others but this week I’ve felt him speaking directly to me. To say his heart goes out to me. He is tender to me. He welcomes me. 

Mental. 

Each week my prayer book has a couple of verses to read everyday. This week it’s been some verses from Lamentations. The ones that say the Lord is good to those who hope in him and it is good to wait for him. The other verse has talked of the unfailing love of God. These have kept me going this week. God is good. Always. Unfailingly. Whatever. I am his dearly loved child. 

By the way. 

Come in close. 

Let me whisper in your ear. 

So are you. 

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Early or late, you decide… here’s the weekly reflection on life. 

Woah. It’s Thursday and my weekly round up is either almost a week late or a day early. I’m sure you’ll forgive the lapse.

We are just back from a lovely time in the safe and serene (if you try and ignore the two small cannonballs charging around the place) world of my parents house. We were extremely well looked after and I am so grateful for not having to cook for three days, a morning off the boys to potter in coffee shops, book shops and buy new shiny running shoes, fun times in pretty parks, uber amounts of cake, lots of coffee shop trips and another chance to weep copiously on my brilliant Mum. 

Don’t get me wrong we were still exhausted, husbandface was still very sick and the boys were their usual mix of delightful and odd. But it was good to share it, to sleep a bit more, to run around a flat place and to get away from social media for a few days. We laughed lots and watched some bad films. 

Our time away came off the back of a fairly exhausting week where I once found myself thin and far too quickly snapping at the boys. In the midst of that world good things happened, I went to the community meal at church and managed to start to get to know a few people, church on Sunday morning provided some helpful space away from the boys and although the afternoon faded into tears of exhaustion we watched Bad Mums in the evening which was highly cathartic. 

Saturday provided the highlight of the week and the reason for the exhausted tears on Sunday. I packed the boys into the car and on a freezing cold day drove them through the grey to the world of Leighton Buzzard. My lovely Brother and Sister in Law were to have their induction service in the afternoon and it was awesome to see them in their new world. I can’t explain the joy of knowing they are in a place where they can dig down roots and be somewhere long term after years of not knowing. We had lots of fun hanging out with the cousins, eating cake and catching up. The drive home through a a snowy night was a little hairy but the tiredness the next day was more than worth it (maybe the boys might have a different take on that…after Sunday afternoons fireworks). 

We are back home now, back in our land of ordinary. Back in the ups and downs of each day. Back with the same world to navigate. Back again wanting to know hope and meaning in this world of ache and longing. Back facing the call to live well, to love, to forgive, to love again and to know that we are loved with an everlasting love. 

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Weekend Liturgies. 

It’s the slow slow liturgies of the weekend that make the difference.

Saturday starts:

Stumbling out of bed. 

Hoody from the hooks on the back of the door. 

Hold my hand downstairs. Hold my hand clamours the smallest. 

Coffee from the top shelf. 
Grinding beans into powder. 
Water, filter, plug and the rich deep smell hits my soul. 

Eggs, milk, flour swirling  
Oven on, a warming pan
Bananas chopped, blueberries dropped in. 

Ladling mixture that turns to wonder. 

Music soothes me as I circle through the kitchen. A gentle backdrop to the noise of whisking cream, slicing strawberries and setting the table. 

I sip the first taste of coffee and begin to wake up. 

Huggle me. Huggle me. Huggle me the voice shouts louder. 

Small one on counter top munches blueberries. Eldest snuggles on the sofa waiting for breakfast. 

Saturday begins. 

Sunday starts:

Lacing running shoes. Escaping the house as three pairs of eyes stare goodbye. 

I run and run slowly through the dawn. Cows standing still against the sunrise sky. The downs rolling fields of green as I pant along the road. 

Returning he retreats back to bed and I, full of endorphins, dance deep in the kitchen. 

Eggs cracked, butter and mushrooms dropped into the pan with garlic and chilli for company. 

The same music swirls around soothing to all the dark within and I gulp coffee down deep. 

Avocados smashed into toast, salt pepper and hot runny eggs poured out. 

I sit and breathe and ignore voices as I taste the beauty of food in my mouth. 

I stop. 

I breathe. 

And then clear away, stack dishes, wipe surfaces and

We dance again 

Sing out loud. 

Sunday has begun. 

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Saturday and a what I was into in January post…

It’s Saturday night. Husbandface is reading Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to Son1 (how he’s not freaking out I don’t know but he seems to be coping, even if robbers do feature fairly highly in play at the moment…). Son2’s brain has gone mental and he has become a small limpet on me right now. Thus I’m sitting on his bed as he drifts off to the sound of his Daddy’s voice. I think our situation is upsetting his brain and clinging to me as his safe place is the only way he knows how to cope. That or he’s just being super annoying. I prefer the first explanation. However much I swear at him as his little hands seek out my face in the middle of the night. 

We’ve had a lovely day with Nana and Grandad at an awesome farm we got our annual pass for. I can’t wait to spend time there each week watching the boys love the soft play, tractors, sand and water fun, small animal joy and general time outdoors whilst I sit and watch. (I can but hope). I got a nap whilst the boys were entertained and we finished the day with a lot of pizza.

For a Saturday recently it was a Good Day. This week was pretty much the same as all the rest. Husbandface is still very ill. The boys are still very cute and very annoying. I am still finding life hard, wondrous, joyful, exhausting and relentless. I shout too much but I also have read all the books in the house to them many times and had lots of cuddles and fun. That’s all ok. This evening all of it is ok, the good and bad. There is a bigger picture. There is a bigger love. There are hands holding us. I am glad. This week has been as rollercoasterish as ever but tonight there is a brief moment of perspective and for that I breathe a sigh of relief. 

It therefore seems a good time to tell you about the books I’ve been reading in January and some of the music stuck in my head. Part of my self care strategy in this mess is to read more. To be taken into worlds that are not mine. This month I’ve read some beautiful amazing books that have helped and drawn me away from this house and books that have helped me be rooted deeper here. 

It’s been a good month for reading. So. Here we go. A whistle stop tour through the list. 

What falls from the sky- Esther Emery

estherThis is a beautiful memoir of a year away from the internet and the surprise of finding God beyond the world of social media.  It’s written wonderfully. It made me seriously want to up my writing game. It made me want to reach out in love to the people around me more and deeply long for a sequel in which Esther shares the story of how she manages the internet well now, after that year away. I think it’s always good to read books like this which challenge something that seems so integral to our lives and helps us question how to use it better. 

Bel Canto- Ann Patchett. 

bel-can

A beautiful novel based around opera and a hostage situation gone badly wrong. Into a tense claustrophobic atmosphere comes tales of love, of the beauty of music and the response of people learning to live in a static strange situation. Gorgeous from the start, I could not put it down.  

Ink- Alice Broadway

inkTipped to be the latest hot young adult fiction, Ink tells of a world where all your life, good and bad, is tattooed onto your body for all to see. At the end of your days your soul gets weighed to see if you are worthy of the afterlife, if so your skin gets made into a book for future generations of your family. In that world we follow a girl whose Dad’s soul weighing is no straightforward affair. It’s a book about doubt, faith, power and abuse of power and what happens when you start to question everything you have ever known. It’s beautiful throughout and I can’t wait for the next instalment. 

Hurrah for Gin- Katie 

hurrahI got this for Christmas and laughed my way through it for an evening. It’s a brilliantly hilarious take on modern parenting. She too has two boys under 7 and I identified with SO many of her stories and am especially glad that her boys also replace song lyrics with the word poo and fight over whose Mummy she is. I think her basic premise is we put too much guilt on ourselves as parents, we should love our kids and not worry too much about the rest (and alcohol helps). It’s a sweary fun book and I love it and the blog it comes from. 

State of Wonder- Ann Patchett

Another great novel revolving around a tribe in the Amazon. Really intriguing, not as beautiful as Bel Canto but still a good read. 

Bridget Jones’s Baby- Helen Fielding

bridgetA fairly thin sketchy book documenting the time between the second and third books. I enjoyed it because I loved Bridget Jones in my 20s and 30s and now she’s having a baby and it’s funny to see her in that context. I think this must have been thrown together from the film scripts but it doesn’t add much to the story. Fun to read a bit of her life again but not essential reading. My main memory of it is crying at the point where she has her baby.  After giving birth I can now never see or read anything to do with having them without weeping copiously (not complaining about that, just noticing). 

Soul Bare- Cara Sexton

soulI have loved reading these stories of redemption over the course of this month. I saved them up to read one a day and have been nourished beyond all expectation that God is a God who is at work in the bleakest of places. I valued so much the honesty and vulnerability of these people as they shared what God has been doing in the midst of the black. There were very few neat nice endings, very few stories of ‘and then God made everything nice and shiny’ for that I was glad. It felt very real and extremely helpful for the place we find ourselves in at the moment.

Cheer Up Love- Susan Calman

cheerI love Susan on Radio 4’s News Quiz and more. I really enjoyed reading this tour through her thoughts on depresssion and how she has dealt with it over her life. I’m not sure I agree with her on all aspects but she wasn’t asking for that. She was sharing her story so that more people would feel able to be open and honest about their depression. The more we keep talking about the realities of mental health issues and making talking about what goes on in our heads normal the better for all.

Present over Perfect – Shauna Niequist

presentI felt pretty conflicted reading this book. I couldn’t decide if I loved it or not. I didn’t really identify with the author on many levels. She was a busy person figuring out that life is best lived small and slowly. It was fascinating hearing stories of her crammed speaking schedule, her realisations that hanging out with her kids and husband were actually more important than the tours and books and really interesting hearing of her embracing different spiritualities than activist mainstream evangelicalism. It was a book that confirmed my thoughts on life and kind of made me feel slightly jealous that she even had the issues to begin with. As someone who is living a very small life right now I was glad that someone else thought that slow living was the way forward but I related to very little of her life. Having said all that I think it’s still worth a read as she’s an excellent writer and lots of this book made me love my life more.

The songs I have been unable to get out of my head this month have been:

I searched for you- Martyn Joseph
Song for Nye – Martyn Joseph
Castle on the Hill- Ed Sheeran
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang- Cast of said musical.
Fight Song- Rachel Patton
Shake it off- Taylor Swift
And still anything from the stupid Frozen soundtrack. Argh.

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