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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Here we are again…

Oddly it is Friday once more. Again I find myself processing the week just gone. I’ve found myself questioning whether to carry on doing this now that life is getting pretty tough. As if drawing attention to that is somehow a self seeking thing. I’ve been really appreciative of the many texts and messages I’ve had recently of support and love but I can feel my pride and English cultural hat beginning to kick in. Surely I’m just being attention seeking by writing this down? Don’t I know there are worse off people in the world. Etc etc.

All the over analysis is fairly pointless. I write to remember. I process things better when I write them down. I know that putting it in a public space makes me try and articulate things well. I know that my writing helps some people know they aren’t alone. It helps me know I’m not alone. It’s a good thing. I’m going to carry on. 

Sigh. My brain needs to justify itself lots of the time. Bear with me. 

The lesser adventures of how we are dealing with life right now continue. Please do share stories of how you are right back at me. I love hearing from other worlds and how we are all dealing with this crazy mental life. 
It’s been an interesting week. Husbandface hasn’t got miraculously better. He’s pretty much in the same state. It’s heartbreaking, concerning and scary not to know what timescales we are dealing with or when he will be back at work. There is no neat liner curve of progression upwards. There is just the same bog to squelch through. The sun seems to sparkle in the distance as we ponder how life could be different when he is well again but the daily reality is not so fun.

My coping mechanisms seem to work best when the sun shines. Tuesday was a brilliant day when all was sparkly and I was all full of faith that God would be at work in this mess and had something for us. It seemed like a good road to be on for the outcomes at the end of it. Wednesday and Thursday the sky was foggy and gloomy and so was my soul. Exhaustion and worry were wrapped around me.

There has been light in the fog though. Many people have been getting in touch and sending love and care. I had the best Saturday catching up with a friend from years ago and delighting in being able to talk non stop all day (when we weren’t reading to the boys). I saw Martyn Joseph and we have been singing his songs all week. The boys haven’t objected so far so I think their musical education is going well. A friend turned up randomly on the doorstep with chocolate brownies (mmmmmmm).

A friends book was released in its shiny glory (you should all buy Ink by Alice Broadway now). We caught up with our lovely American family and felt again awesome parental love oozing out of FaceTime. We cried at their love, support and care. Lots. Ann Voskamp and her book The Broken Way is giving me fresh awareness that abundant enough life comes through the way of sacrifice. I long to trust in the reality that all love is sacrifice and that is the way to real joyous living. 

When I remember, I am clinging to the words of anyone who met Jesus and asked him for help. I am asking lots at the moment. It kind of breaks my heart that I can, and that he listens and cares. It’s kind of frustrating that I can’t find the magic words to make everything ok. Maybe there is more at work than ok. Maybe. But it really sucks to see someone you love in so much pain. As anyone whose ever done that will know. 

Life is all sacrifice but that doesn’t mean that self care isn’t possible in the midst of the sacrifice. This week kind family offerings have meant we can put son2 in nursery for a morning a week so I can have a morning to breathe on my own. We had our first settling in session today and it seemed to go well. Here’s hoping he loves it when I’m not there. I sense this would be a real release point in the week and I could catch up on sleep and maybe even write. 

I think we are in this condition for the long term and I want to live as well as possible in this new land we find ourselves in. My emotions range from acceptance, anticipation, anger, frustration, fear, joy and more. I surf them strong and occasionally wipe out big. We pick ourselves up and apologise and keep on walking. 

We keep on walking.

Not knowing what tonight or tomorrow will bring. 

We keep on walking. 

Into another week. 

How’s your week been? 

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A night with Martyn Joseph 

An ice cold clear night. Stars sparkle up above as we drive through twisty black roads. An old friend. Conversations swimming deep as the years are recalled. Pain, sorrow, hope and joys retold. As if no time has passed at all. And yet here we are. Side by side in the dark night.

We journey to hear the man who has sung us many songs across our lifetime. Whose music always brings joy and wonder and has accompanied us through so much. Martyn Joseph has been the soundtrack to so much of my life and soul searching moments over the last 20 years. A line of silver thread through heartache, certainty, doubt, confusion, wonder, pain, friendships, marriage, children and more. 

He comes on stage and we stop the chat mid flow, taken off guard by the reason we are here. The guitar launches into action and the call is clear. ‘Sing to my soul’. Yes please. To our souls that have seen too much to really explain these past few years. Sing to our souls in such turmoil at the circumstances in our lives. Sing to our souls on this day of big news and uncertain change in the world around us. Sing to my soul. Sing to this dark. 

‘I’m here tonight to tell you that somehow, somehow it will be alright’. The mood is somber tonight. The backdrop of news from another land is burning across the set list. Like a love call to a nation we are given a night of songs that need to be sung to stir hope in the midst of fear. We are reminded to look for the good in this crazy world. We are given a night to whisper in that the glass is so heartbreakingly beautiful, that we may not have the luxury of despair. We can keep going through the dark. 

This is the theme of the evening and he sings it loud and strong. A call to not give in, to cherish kindness and courage. A call to keep on loving. A call to be brave and strong. A call to mother love that goes on and on and on and on. A call to remind us loudly that the ‘purpose of power is to give it away’. Deep in the heart of Sussex, miles from our day to day worlds, music does what it does best. Our souls are soothed. We are stirred with light and truth. We are reminded of hope and we are deeply glad we have someone who sings beautiful wonder to us as we sit in the dark. 

We drive home in the ice cold clear night. Somehow I sense there is a way to keep on walking in this dark. 

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Weekly round up. Survival essentials. 

It’s Friday. We’ve made it through another week. There have been good times. There have been shouty times. There have been cake times and lots of episodes of Bones.

As I look back I can see the stuff that really really helps in this mental world right now. I have realised there are several immovable things in my week which make this land possible. 

I have to run. 

I have to talk to God in some form or other. 

I have to read. 

These three things give me much needed alone time. And thus I have:

Time to reflect. 

Time to get endorphins flowing around my body. 

Time to be restored by eternal perspective and love. (Psalm 19 reminded me this week that God’s way of doing things brings refreshment to the soul. Refreshment to the soul. Sounds good eh.) 

Time to be in worlds that are not my own (reading is particularly helpful for that both fictional and non fictional.).

In this world of intense non stop small boy interaction the space these three things provides is wonderful. Without these I think I would be in a much more exhausted state. 

Other things of note:

Once more the lovely Jo took the boys for a bit on Thursday morning enabling me to take the husbandface for a rare trip out of the house and into the sunshine. It was a strange kind of date, a 10 min walk followed by take out cake and coffee drunk in separate rooms. But it was a moment of connection nonetheless. 

Money from my mother in laws estate has provided us with a workshop for husbandface to get creative in and have a space to hang out that’s not our bedroom. It arrived yesterday. It’s a beast. But I think we’ll get used to it slightly destroying the view from our dining table…

Today an old friend from years back is coming to play. We are off to see the excellent Martyn Joseph tonight and I can’t wait for an evening out and to have the deepest parts of my soul soothed, which he always seems to be able to do. I haven’t seen him live since son1 was 4 weeks old and I pretty much sobbed through every comforting familiar song helping me make sense of the confusing world I found myself in. Tonight may have a similar effect. We will wait and see. 

Having friends come play also helps weekends feel like weekends, which is really important right now. Weekends are the hardest as it’s then that it’s most obvious how little husbandface can manage and I feel the most odd with no routine to cling to. It will be good to do Saturday things and enjoy the break from routine rather than fear it. 

And there we are. 

As you were. 

Happy Friday 

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Weekly update… a little late…


Friday evening.
So we are here again. The end of another week. It’s a good job I’ve started writing this after seeing my spiritual director. It would have been a more gloomy affair had I written at lunchtime. Some sitting in quiet, some noticing of the view around me has enabled me to get a more peaceful perspective on the week. 

We were back into full on routine. Nursery for two and a half days, toddler groups and music class for the youngest and some inventive ways to try and spend long afternoons indoors. The boys have been generally hilarious this week. Their imaginative play is beautiful and weird and I love hanging out with them. Getting them to do anything is slightly more problematic as I have no patience right now. I’m not so enamoured with myself this week. I’ve been far too close to the edge of anger and frustration which has spilled out in ways that I am not proud of. 

Tuesday morning 

I was sure I would have time and energy to finish the above post sooner than this but there we go. The last sentence is still true in this new week. I have a long way to go to discover the art of gentle calm parenting. 

On Friday evening my spiritual director asked me how I was in the midst of the slightly odd world that is ours at the moment. 

I am ok. In some ways better than for a while and in some ways very close to the edge of stress and anger. I can see myself tidying and cleaning more than usual and being so much less tolerant of the boys mess and squabbles over toys. I want to control something in this land I feel so out of control in. I can’t make my beautiful man better and I don’t know how long this will last. Anger rises too quickly. Frustration at the situation we are in spills out on the small ones. I am sad this has too often been the case this week. 

I return again to the reality of grace, the needing forgiveness hourly and to knowing that I too am a child with a very patient and calm parent. I am held. I am loved. Words that I long to believe and live within. I am loved. I am a child in Good Hands. I am loved. I too often jump to a picture of a disapproving parent when it comes to thinking about God as one. I long to replace that sour image with the actual one of delight, compassion, patience and kindness that the Bible tells me my divine parent is full of. 

In Tuesday group today we read of a God whose laws and ways bring refreshment to our souls. Oh to really believe that with all the core of my being. To not just know the theory, but to love and embrace the utter wonder that God’s ways bring refreshment to my soul. We talked about enjoying God, hanging out in the wonderful world he made together. 

As I sit here in the car with the sun shinning strong and son2 asleep behind me I can feel the stirring of hope and the strength found in being a beloved child. The strength to love, to keep on walking and not be destroyed by the circumstances around us. 

I breathe. 

I gaze at the blue skies and green hills around me. 

There is hope. 

I am loved. 

We are held. 

I breathe. 

I am grateful for the people who have made our week and weekend easier. For reading many books to our boys, coming and sharing in garden centre joy, for providing safe houses to sit in on rainy afternoons and for holding us in their thoughts and prayers. Husbandface has been signed off work for the next 4 weeks and we have no way of knowing how long this tunnel is. 

We walk slowly on. Shuffling through the dark. Aware of a hand holding onto us. Aware of others coming and going to encourage and shine some light. 

We walk on. There is grace enough for this day. There is a refresher of souls with us. 

(Remind me of that next time you see me around eh? Writing this down reminds me but I so easily forget)

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