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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X marks the spot… A treasure hunting we go…

A couple of years ago I started noticing, in the world of social media, that people were talking about their word for the year. Maybe it was just the different people I was paying attention to or maybe this was some new thing that has started. I still don’t know where it began, neither can I really be bothered to research where it came from (apologies for my laziness). Anyway, it has intrigued me for a while and this new year I pondered what my word for the year would be, were I to participate in such a thing.

Survive sounded a little to bleak even for me. Thankful kind of summed it up but I wanted a more intriguing word. In the services at church over Christmas the reality of Mary treasuring stuff in her heart grabbed me again. Mainly because I had always kind of assumed she treasured what the angel said. I hadn’t really registered that she treasures and ponders things in her heart after the shepherds have been. 

It makes sense, that was when things calmed down and the reality of looking after a baby hit. If there was ever a time for treasuring and pondering this was it. So much had happened, the shepherds confirm and add to what the Angel had said before she conceived Jesus. This was no ordinary child and no ordinary life. But still he’s a child that needs feeding and burping and cuddling. Treasuring up in her heart seems like a good thing to do with all that incredible truth about who he would turn out to be. 

So there it is. My word for the year. Treasure. I long to treasure the reality of God’s work in this world. I long to find the treasure he has in store for me each day. I want to store up treasure for the long days when it’s me and the boys and I need to remember the good in this world, and the One who made that good. 

The boys are obsessed with treasure boxes, which helps my thinking about this. They store away their treasures and enjoy the thrill of boxes of stuff. My amazing husbandface made me a treasure box of my own for Christmas (not knowing these thoughts in my head) in it he wrote cards for the days and moments I would need treasure from him. Treasure seems to be on our minds at the moment. 

The Bible has much to say about treasure and our hearts. I want to explore that more. I want this year to be about exploring the treasure on offer, listening to where my treasure lies, to the pull of my heart. I want to treasure up the moments of joy and wonder in this broken bleak world and be thankful. I want to squirrel away the good things for the nights when it all seems a bit too dark. 
How I do that I don’t know. Whether I blog once a month about treasure to refresh myself I’m not sure. It sounds like it would be good to add treasure to my box as the year goes on, maybe a physical storing up of the moments of God in our life. 

For now, I am enjoying my heart wrapping around the word treasure and seeing where it takes me. I am enjoying the hunt and the various metaphors involved with the idea of treasure. 

I’m sure I will return to this theme sooner or later but for now it is good to draw together my rambling thoughts and place a marker in the sand. This year is the year for treasure. I’m off to find a map. 

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The week that was…

It’s Friday. It’s the first week back into some kind of routine and thus my inner clock is compelling me to shut out the sounds of Raa Raa the annoying little Lion in the background and type away reflecting on the past week.

First up: it’s January and so far (all of 6 days in) I don’t feel like a frozen tree frog. For the first time in I don’t know how long. 

I’m keeping half an eye on this and don’t want to get too excited but it seems that maybe the SAD lamp, reduced sugar, boys sleeping more, regular running and who knows what have made this January feel approachable. We are still hibernating each evening with bed and Greys Anatomy winning once the small ones are asleep, but there is a lightness in my head that feels new for this time of year.

I say all this with a pinch of salt as that could all change tomorrow. For now though I notice and I’m glad. 

We’ve had a pretty good week, all things considered. Life is now lived against the backdrop of the lovely husbandface’s illness. He’s able to focus and interact for about 20 min out of every 4 hours. Adjusting to that has made up most of our week. I am so sad my favourite and best is so struck down like this. I long for his mind to be free and to heal well. I pray this time out will bring change and hope. If you pray please join with me. I’m not going to go into much detail here as it’s his life and not mine to share publicly. But please do message me if you want to know how to pray. 

Thankfully there are things he can do. He has sat with the boys during lunchtime watching, so I have got out for a run in the day a couple of times. He can also sit with them at bedtime so I can escape to run then as well. (Or just slump on the sofa and not be touched by a small person for a bit). 

I’m still running and still connecting with God. This means the week is manageable. Endorphins and awareness of being loved massively are keeping me sane right now. Me and the boys have enjoyed bumbling around in parks, going to a farm, meeting up with friends and doing many puzzles together. I am really enjoying their increasing love for each other and imaginative play. They are uber funny (and irritating) and I’m genuinely loving hanging out with them at the moment. 

The wonderful Jo (one of son1’s Godmum’s) took them both on Thursday morning and I managed a beautiful stomp on the sunny ice cold downs. I felt like skipping over the hills, as light as a feather without small boys in tow. It was beautiful and another gift to get me through the week. 

I’ve got another blog post brewing about my word for the year (yeah it’s a thing…) which I’ll leave for another time. For now though I’m grateful for getting to the end of this week. I’m grateful that Mum and Dad coming tomorrow will make Saturday feel like a Saturday and not just another day of me with the boys. I’m grateful for all the friends who’ve loved us so well this week and I’m grateful that my brain is able to ask God what he has for us in the midst of this and isn’t just slumping into it’s usual despair. 

And there we go. 

This week. Mostly brought to you with the backdrop of two small boys shouting the words to Let it Go constantly. 

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The one with the epic song list… A last nod to 2016

Each year I compile a CD for my mates Anna and Sarah. In the past it’s been made up of new music I’ve discovered, or music that has been important to me over the year. More recently it’s had far too much child friendly music on it due to the clamouring voices in the back of the car for the approved small boy song list. (Which right now just seems to include the Frozen soundtrack leading to long arguments between me and son1 as to whether she sings ‘the cold never bothered me anyway’ or the ‘cloak never bothered me anyway’. Clearly it’s cold but try proving that to a small boy who can’t read… argh)

This year I think I listened to two bands that were new to me. This year I could barely count the songs I had discovered. Thus I gave up on the theme to the CD and curated a CD purely reflecting the year we have had. 2016 was a pretty crap year, all things considered. It was dominated by husbandface’s depression, throw in the large amount of people who died, Brexit and Trump and things start to look more than a little grim.

These songs walked with me through the year. They help me express the darkness and bring hope to that darkness. So here goes, my tour of 2016 in the medium of song:

  1. Hard to Get- Rich Mullins.

I can’t fault this song. He rages at God, he berates him for being hard to get, his raw, painful honesty and lyrical expression of his emotions make this one of the best songs to play when life is unbearably, unexplainably hard. Worth it all for the lines- “And I know you bore our sorrows, and I know you feel our pain, and I know that it would not hurt any less even if it could be explained, and I know that I am only lashing out at the one who loves me most, but after I have figured this, what I really need to know is if you who live in eternity hear the prayers of those of us who live in time, we can’t see what’s ahead and we cannot get free from what we’ve left behind. I’m reeling from these voices that keep screaming in my ears, all these words of shame and doubt, blame and regret, I can’t see how you’re leading me, unless you’ve led me here, to where I’m lost enough to let myself be led. And so you’ve been here all along I guess, and it’s just your ways and you are just plain hard to get.”

2. Hallelujah- Jeff Buckley



Leonard Cohen was a song writing genius and this is the best version of Hallelujah. It’s haunting, broken and beautiful. Leonard Cohen’s death was one that hit hard.

3. Alone- Trampled by Turtles.



My one new band of the year. A band full of beautiful sounds and this song was a pretty good reflection of parts of our year.

4. Feels like this – Martyn Joseph



Still one of the best descriptions of depression I’ve listened to. Worth it for the lines at the end of the song, “this house is dark so let’s find a window”. Yes please.

5. Anthem  – Perla Batella & Julie Christensen.



I’ve never heard of these singers but once again they do more than justice to a seminal Leonard Cohen song. Stunning beauty and the lines, “Ring the bells that just won’t ring, forget your perfect offering, there is a crack, a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” Quite.

6. Beautiful Things- Gungor.



There is hope. There is a God at work in the pain and grimness. This song has reminded me of that countless times this year.

7. My Lighthouse- Rend Collective



One of our choices that the small ones will tolerate, when they aren’t arguing about whose Lighthouse it is. “In my wrestling, in my doubts, in the darkness, you won’t walk out.” I always need Rend Collectives shouty loud declarations that life is hard and painful but there is someone doing stuff in the midst of that. Music that is good to shout out loud. (as son1 did at the Christingle service at church this year)

8- Fight Song- Rachel Patten



I like it. It’s loud, shouty and the kind of song you can run fast to. It makes me want to get up off the mat and keep on walking.

9. Shake it Off- Taylor Swift.



Similar kind of vibe. Let’s get going and kick 2016 where it hurts.

10. Love yourself- Justin Beiber



There is no defence for the inclusion of this song. We discovered it because we were googling songs Ed Sheeran had written. It’s funny. It makes us laugh. It’s ridiculous but a whole lot of fun.

11. Sky full of Stars- Coldplay.



A song from the Radio 2 playlist had to make it on here. I like it’s optimistic feel and cheery vibe. I think we all need that from time to time.

12. Hold back the River- James Bay



Another Radio 2 staple and a good romp of a song.

13. Brand New Day- Joshua Radin



Another one for the optimistic, life isn’t so bad section of the CD.

14. If I should fall behind- Bruce Springsteen.


All I want to say to my favourite and best. (oh and the above video is a treat)

15. Heroes- David Bowie



Another musical legend to die this year. This song always makes me want to stand tall on mountain tops and sing loudly for all to hear. We could be heroes. For some of this year we have been.

16. History- One Direction



What are road trips without singing loudly to the One Direction playlist on my phone? This snapshots some of my favourite moments from our epic road trip to Ireland this summer. Love singing with husbandface in the car. I’m a really bad singer and I love that I am so uninhibited with my favourite and best that I sing as loudly as if no-one was in the car. There is something about the ease love brings in that…

17. Joy- Rend Collective



See previous Rend Collective song.

18. Hold me Jesus- Rich Mullins.



Another beautiful one. “Sometimes my life just don’t make sense at all, when the mountains seem so big and my faith just seems so small. So hold me Jesus, I’m shaking like a leaf, you have been my King of Glory, won’t you be my Prince of Peace?”

Indeed.

19. Welcome to the World- Music for Aardvarks.

(sadly I couldn’t find a video for this…)

There had to be one small boy song on the CD. This one never fails to make me well up when we reach the lullaby section of the music class me and son2 go to on a Monday morning. It’s primary for the lovely Joseph Dimbleby who joined the world this year, my friend Sarah’s new boy. It’s a mental world but a beautiful one as well. I hope I don’t ever forget that.

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So long 2016…I won’t miss you…

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Burning 2016

I’m sitting here at the end of 2016. I’ve read some rounding up the year blogs and Facebook statuses. The evening is looking up as I’ve just remembered that there is wine in the cupboard, a new series of Grey’s Anatomy to mainline in January and the last of sugar for a while to be eaten. Before all that, I’m wondering how to sum up a year that has felt more like a dumpster fire than ever.

It’s been an odd year. The most rubbish thread of the year has been husbandface’s depression and anxiety kicking off, increasing and taking new shapes as the year progressed. Hideous demons from the past have tormented him and we’ve had to adjust to a very reduced world. We don’t finish the year on a nice happy note of optimism. He currently operates well for about an hour and a half each day. It’s horrible. It’s not hopeless, but it is rather like the fog we drove through this morning, no clarity as to what the next step or hour may bring.

As well as that our lovely church community disbanded and we had to find a new church. We’ve found one and there are elements that are really exciting about that. We have barely any capacity to get to know new people though, and it feels like our safety net is much further from us.

Lots of scary things happened in the word around us, Brexit, Trump, whatever your views are, there is massive uncertainty swirling around us and the future.

This evening we burnt the pile of paper I’d released from the filing box sort out of earlier in the day. Much more satisfying than shredding. We wrote the words of pain and sadness this year has brought and burnt them up as well. It felt good.

We still wake up tomorrow though, a change in year will not necessarily bring a change in circumstances. We and others will wake up tomorrow with very little different in a world that says everything should be shiny and new because we have turned the page.

We turn the page and find the same story, the same road to walk, the same fog around us.

But we also turn the page and find another story, the one that has stopped us going insane this year. We find the same One walking with us, we find the same guide leading us on. We find the same person in the boat, in the storm with us and we find that he has been doing good in our lives in the midst of the dark this year and we can trust him to carry on bringing beauty out of grim,.

I am thankful for our marriage in the midst of this weird ass year. We have had moments where I’ve thought we might actually be growing in our communication and love for each other. I have loved being together in the better and worse, sickness and health of this year. I love my amazingly brave man and I am still delighted to share the crap with him.

I am thankful for our beautiful crazy boys. They make me laugh and rage daily. They have grown in love and wonder this year. They have developed hugely and weirdly know all the words to the Frozen Soundtrack. I have loved being their Mum more than ever this year. I have loved hanging out in parks with them, playing lego, doing puzzles, running around the garden, licking cake bowls out, taking them on adventures to Ireland, having a two week break from them (whilst in hideous agony recovering from my tonsillectomy but I’ll take the two weeks in bed…). I love their insanity and (mostly) their constant delight in the word poo.

I am thankful for such a close church community that it hurt so bad when we were scattered. The fellowship feels broken but the friendships live on. We have moved to the Two Towers and life is about bleak trudging but we are still in touch, we still care and friendships last. Phew.

I am thankful for my lovely family, for my parents stepping in when needed this year. I am thankful for how much our boys adore their Nana and Grandad, Granda, Aunties, Uncle and cousins. I am glad we have seen a whole lot more of them this year and I am thankful for developing friendships between them.

I am thankful for friends, for those who walk with us in Brighton and those who pray desperately from far away. I am thankful that we are not alone.

I am thankful that my mother in law got her wishes finally, despite efforts to thwart them, and we have inherited money that has brought us a new kitchen, floors, shelves and other things to make our home cleaner, more homely and pretty. I am grateful for being able to end the year with no debt and with some treats to make this time more bearable.

I am thankful that I feel more connected to God at the end of this hideous year than the previous few. I am thankful that I am able to have time with him each day and so thankful to know the source of all the beauty and wonder in this world and the one who can redeem and make beauty out of the grim horribleness life seems to entail lots of the time.

I am thankful that we turn the page with the author and finisher. With the lover of our souls and with  hope at the bedrock of the crap.

I am thankful.

So long 2016, it’s been… erm… interesting. Lets see if 2017 can do any better eh.

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The Christmas ‘holidays’

img_1191I always knew the holidays were going to be tricky. The expectation vs reality hits hard at this time of year, without the added complications of husbandface’s depression and anxiety. We survived the first week well. Parental help, having some kind of routine each day (even if that did revolve around the ever present garden centre fun), lovely friends to share life with and me escaping to run each day helped us through.

We headed to my parents house on the Thursday and hung out with them, pottering around lakes, more garden centre joy and space for husbandface to read and sleep. Christmas weekend we decamped to my brother’s in Cheltenham for more family time, cousins laughing together, good food, the joy of resting from social media and screen watching for a few days and again space for the lovely husbandface to absent himself from the proceedings. I found it weirdly restful. I know that my rest isn’t found right now in long days in bed reading, (oh how I long for that) I could, however, rest from the stream of information Facebook gives me each day and the pressing concerns beyond what is immediately in front of me. It was good to get space from all but my boys and my family. I enjoyed the moments more, I felt the wonder of us together. The weekend felt long in the best way possible.

Returning home isn’t always a good thing. Back to life, reality and time on the M25.  We broke up the long drive with some National Trust joy, way better for the soul than service stations. Still, it was a long drive home. I came down with a cold and the last few days have been spent in a weary grump at still having to look after the boys whilst sick. Today was helped by hanging out with old friends and their children this afternoon. Husbandface also saw the doctor facing the sad reality of his body not coping with life right now.

We live moment to moment, sometimes enjoying our lego play, sometimes craving more stuff, sometimes living in the land of treats to make the days go by, always listening to the Frozen soundtrack, sometimes on the edge of lashing out at each other in the exhaustion. Life is odd and not as it should be.

Still though there is hope wending it’s way into my heart. I am making time to read. Already this month I have finished Bruce Springsteen’s excellent Born to Run, a book which made me wet pages and pages with my tears. One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp again brought many tears and the deep desire to be thankful in the midst of this weird world. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett was recommended to me by many friends this summer and was a joy to finally read. I’m also almost finished Esther Emery’s wonderful What Falls From the Sky about her year away from the internet. I don’t want it to end and it’s inspiring me to be a better writer and user of this virtual world.

I’m looking forward to dipping into my Christmas pile of books over the next few weeks. Maybe I’ll even post some longer reviews here.

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I’m currently typing on my best treat of all over the last few days, a shiny new MacBook. I can’t wait to casually put the little light thing into a bag and type away in a coffee shop one day (maybe this time next year when the smallest is at Nursery for 15 hours a week). I’m hoping it will be an excellent tool for my writing over the next few years and I’m loving a fast computer again. It was bought for me by the sale of my mother in law’s house recently. She bought me and husbandface my last laptop and iPad as she slowly died of cancer 5 years ago. A lover of gadgets herself, I know she’d have really enjoyed me having this, and the stuff husbandface has also treated himself with this week.

And so there we are, still walking on, slightly confused about what day it is in the land between Christmas and New Year and wondering what other celebrity will die before the year is out. 2016. A dumpster fire of a year with some good points. Maybe I’ll post about those good things before the year is out to remind me that it hasn’t all been bad… As for now, pass me the wine and chocolate, there are still a few more days before I reject major refined sugar again and treats feel like the way to survive this wintery fog right now.

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Seven Years. The one with the anniversary

We have once more reached that time of year when I get to remind us all that we used to look like this:

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And now we look like this:

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It’s been seven years since we laughed through the snow and made our vows of ever, always, only yours.

Seven years and we are still learning the dance of each other. We spin and turn and move our feet in time, out of time, stumbling, laughing, crying and the music plays on.

Seven years of weaving in and out of the patterns of each other. Riding through the storms. Panting for breath on the mountain tops gazing at the view. Trudging through swamps and meandering through sunny meadows.

Seven years of reading each other’s gaze. Holding hands. Knowing smiles. Feet touching on dark mornings as children lie between us.

Seven years ago I gazed through the door of the adventure we were about to embark on. Mountains and valleys lay ahead with paths unfamiliar. We didn’t know what lay ahead and still we grabbed each other’s hands and set off together.

This year has felt like wading through fog. I have no idea when it will lift. I don’t know when the black dog who has cast such a long dark shadow over this year will up and leave. I don’t know how long healing delayed will take. I can’t see much beyond our hands right now.

We are still holding hands.

We still have the bubble in front of our eyes of clarity. This moment. We are here. Together. Held on course by our shadowy guide who has said he’ll get us through this grimness into the sun again.

Seven years and I love more than ever waking next to my beautiful, brave, wonderful husbandface. He has had to face hideous demons this year and I would love more than anything to take the pain away. I ache for the day when we will stand free on the verge of the next great adventure and I am glad we have a guide in this one who walks through the valley of the shadow of death with us.

Raise your glasses to the amazing husbandface. My favourite and my best.

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