We live in a bowl of green…

IMG_5575We live in a bowl of green. Drive up the hill out of our beautiful, creative, messy city. Drive out past the Victorian terraces, past the massive houses on the hill until the road turns green. To your left lies the suburb we live in.

We live away over the hill, a place usually only known for it’s large green 24 hr supermarket. We live on the edge of the bowl with views of green all around. Everywhere I look out of the window I can see green hills, rolling downs, colourful gardens and houses spread out.

I run and run around the rim of the bowl, I run past gardens stuffed with bluebells, luminous tulips and trees bursting with cherry blossom all around. I run, smiling and laughing at the insane beauty of this world. I run with my soul open wide as I gaze and gaze in delight at the panorama before me.

Music sings in my ears, music from a long ago past brings me back to University days and heading out after dinner to play in the Botanic Gardens just up the road from our college, hopping over the fence we would claim them as our own and enjoy the green space, the golden sunsets and the wonder of a world to claim as our own. May evenings, exam revision put aside, the sheer life force of spring.

Memory is a powerful thing, pulled back into the past by similar smells, sights and music. I smile wryly and my feet pound on. Glad of being here, now, in this place, with these loves, with joy at this life right here. Glad of places I’ve been but more glad to wind my way to the now of home. Glad of living in our bowl of green.

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Waking up..

Life feels very different this side of Easter. The thaw of winter feels complete. As I noticed last year the Spring has brought peace and the ability to tune back into my Shepherds care of me. I’m starting to believe in his love again. I’m starting to enjoy being defined by him and not what I do or how many friends I have. Spring is here in so many ways. The below is just some of that noticing.

It’s Saturday.

Home with a chicken pox boy. Doped up on piriton and woozy from nights of restless sleep. We wave off the other half of our team on their way to a wedding in London. With a tinge of regret and a tinge of relief at not having to wrestle two kids at a wedding, we drive home.

It’s Saturday.

We bumble around the house. I sort and tidy and my shadow follows me, happy as long as he can see me. We go and feed our friend’s cats and then drive until he falls asleep. At home he sleeps in his buggy and I breathe in and out in a quiet house. Tea and toast and tv. He wakes and then curls up in my lap eyes closing over again. I watch a film.

It’s Saturday.

I have my smallest on my lap breathing loud and warm. I write and watch and smile at the rain pouring outside. I shift and find more comfortable ways to sit. He stirs and wakes and smiles in my face. We eat lunch and play Lego and his hands find my face when distracted to pull me back into his world. He cuddles me close and covers me in slobbery kisses.

It’s Saturday.

We wander around shops in the afternoon and eventually head out to pick the others up from the station. I smile as the rain turns to radiant sun. A day that would have undone me a few years ago has been enjoyed and embraced. I have felt my Shepherds care. I have loved the stillness of not rushing to fill all the time with people and things and events.

It’s Monday.

Blue sky and brilliant sunshine have cleared away my beginning of the week grumps. It is April. The cherry blossom adorns trees wherever I look. The sun warms me deep and my mind refuses to embrace the darkness. I feel light. I feel alive. I look to a relatively empty week and I am not scared. The dark of winter has been banished. I don’t feel the ache of needing to fill each moment with people to escape the bleakness within. I am more at ease with me.

It is Monday.

We are sitting in a cafe in Hove, the upstairs turned into a playroom with tables and a stair-gate on the only exit. The boys play with toys and munch croissants. I sit and write and drink coffee. The fear of being on my own has gone. I feel free. The need to prove myself has melted away. I feel free. It is Spring in so many ways. I feel free.

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What’s on your mind? 

  So I’ve been thinking. Facebook keeps asking me what’s on my mind. No longer, how I am or what I am doing, but what’s on my mind. Forgive me if I get a little social media ranty at this point. I like Facebook. I like the connection with friends and family it gives me. I’m not so keen on the lure to say everything on my mind that it invites me to.

I don’t think I should share my random thoughts with many people. Getting married was a revelation to me, I had space to share and say some of the thoughts I had previously never shared with anyone. Unsurprisingly not all these thoughts were fluffy cloud lovely thoughts about everyone we knew. Some were judgemental thoughts that given no air time would have probably drifted away. Given an outlet they showed me more of the inside of my heart and it wasn’t always pretty. What’s on my mind doesn’t deserve an unfiltered air time. It needs thought and care. 
For example. Today all I can think about it how easy it is to look after one child. Let’s say I Facebook that. Immediately I can see the problem – friends who are finding one child unbelievably hard right now aren’t going to be built up by my smug joy at not having to bundle two children everywhere. I know I found one child on my own when that was normality very hard indeed. It’s a relative experience. It requires nuance to understand and explain, which can’t be easily done in a status update. Much better that I text someone in a similar situation and share the joy that way. Or is it just enough to enjoy the thought myself? 

When did we get so obsessed with sharing our every thoughts? 

What’s on my mind? Lots but not all of it is thoughtful, helpful, informative, truly funny, necessary or kind to say. I want to be someone who thinks before I say stuff, who doesn’t just splurge every though from my messy little head. I know we can overthink people’s reactions to our thoughts (I am the queen of that), I know that little people contact in the day makes me want to over share like a crazy but some thought before I post stuff can’t hurt. 

Your correspondent, can’t help but think she made up a whole blogpost just to share the news that having one child for a day instead of two is proving most restful. 

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5am thoughts

It came to me in the middle of the night. Well at about 5am in the morning to be precise. It was the end of two hours of being up with a poorly sick boy, who wriggled all over me, who wouldn’t settle, who cried and cried in frustration and who, even Iggle Piggle in all his magnificence couldn’t soothe. I’d brought him downstairs to give him porridge in the hope that warm food in his little belly would work wonders and help him get back to the sleep he so desperately needed. As his eyes flickered and his eyeballs rolled back in his sockets I knew the fight was drawing to an end. Soon sleep would have it’s victory. I picked him up, cuddled him close, swayed back and forth and sang again the hymns that seem to help us all in these battles.  ‘Come thou fount of every blessing’ is a winner in such times, as is the brilliant ‘It is well with my soul’. It’s hard to sing hymns and swear at your child in the same breath. My frustration and anger at being kept awake for yet another night melted slowly away as I sang of grace and a love that will not let us go.

It was then that I realised it all over again. I wasn’t promised an easy life.  I battle so much with accepting sleep deprivation, exhaustion, lack of time to call mine, lack of space, lack of a bed without small people invading it. I battle so much with not everything working out how I want it to in my life and my friends lives. The world around seems to promise us so much, the message is we can have it all, and if we don’t have it all then we must be lacking in some way. I believe the lies that say I am in charge, life shouldn’t involve sacrifice, I must get the comfort I deserve, I must get my way, I must get my peace and quiet.

But life just isn’t like that. It’s not like that for so many people. We live with long term illnesses that don’t go away, that require sacrifice to deal with on a daily, monthly and yearly basis. We live with pain and heartache and struggle. We live with children facing illness that we wish we could take away in a flash of a magic wand. We live with elderly relatives who need our time and energy to give them dignity in a fading world. We live with not getting the job we want, or the life we want. We live with the reality we are presented with each day.

(I’m not advocating a stoic refusal to embrace the good things of life, or saying we shouldn’t have nice holidays or time off or have easy times in this life. I think I’m just starting to accept that I am not entitled to them, nor are they the only things to be aiming for in life.)

Life is about sacrificial love. Compassion for each other and ourselves. Realising we are not at the centre. Trusting that someone else has the plan worked out and is enough for us. Trusting that the Lord is our Shepherd and so we shall lack nothing. Even if we feel like we lack everything.

As I sung out ‘It is well with my soul’ I heard again the voice who calls me beyond what I think I need to a life of deep love and sacrifice. I heard the voice of the one who is enough for me, who knows that life isn’t about my collection of experiences or friends. Who calls me to follow his example of being a fragrant sacrifice of love poured out. Oh how I long to rest content in that life and not seek after the shiny stuff that fades in my grasp.

Your correspondent, intrigued by the revelations that come at 5am in the morning…

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Pondering Word Alive 

  I’m sitting in our chalet at the end of Word Alive, the boys are asleep and I have some time before heading to a friends for wine and chat to reflect on the week. Word Alive is a conference where people come to hear teaching from the Bible, have fun and generally try and remember the reality of who God is. It’s a conference from one tribe of Christianity. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea but it has been a place of remembrance for me throughout my life with God. 

We came here as a family when I was an angst ridden teenager. I came as a student and then as a adult and then as a student worker (different breed of adult clearly) and now as an adult with a family, two tiny people in tow. It’s one of my thin places. One of those places where I breathe a sigh of relief that God is real and loves me very much. 

It’s a place that reminds me of the things I am certain of. The love of the Maker of this world. The wonder of God becoming human in Jesus. The crazy death on a cross to bring me back into relationship with God. The rising again meaning new life is certain, death has no sting and there is hope in this world. There is so so much beyond those truths that I am uncertain about, so much diversity of opinions, so much confusion about the mess and pain in this life. I naturally dwell more in the confusion. I dwell more in the lands of fog and tiredness. It is good to remember there is more. 

Word Alive has lifted me once more up above the fog. I’ve been reminded of the love of a shepherd who will not let his sheep go. I’ve been reminded that he is committed to me, that he is big and amazing and yet full of tender compassion for me. I’ve been reminded that he’s got our family in his hands, he is in charge of the universe and knows what he is doing. 

It has been lovely to get away from normal routines, to not have daily jobs in my head, to enjoy the friendship emerging between the boys, to delight in them having more Daddy time than usual. It has been great hanging out with friends and seeing old friends again. Most of all though it has been insanely refreshing to hear God speak again and enjoy his crazy never stopping, never giving up love for you and me. 

Phew. I hope to head back to normality tomorrow holding on tight to the One who holds onto me and will never let go. 

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It’s the women who get me every time. 

 It’s the women who get me every

The women who for the first time have know equality with a man, who have been considered worthy of being taught of being listened to and who have loved with tender care this very different man amongst them. It’s the women who have been included in a world where that just didn’t happen. 

It’s the women who get me every time. 

The women who stay at his side when all the rest have scattered. The women who were there when he died, at his darkest hour, who remained in love.

It’s the women who get me every time. 

The ones who take spices to the tomb, who stand wondering at the open grave. Who run and run and tell, who aren’t heard but who know what they saw. They know what they saw. It’s the woman who stands in the garden and who hears the voice calling her name like no one else has ever done. Stirring with hope and joy and wonder and who longs to hug and touch and see. 

It’s the women who get me every time. 

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Apparently it’s Easter…

cutebunnyDon’t ask me how. Don’t ask me how it’s the last day of term tomorrow. A term that can be consigned to the rubbish bin of rubbish terms. Don’t ask me how we still all have colds and illness and weary tired bodies. Son1’s regular complaint this week, apart from ‘I want my Daddy’, is ‘I’m tired Mummy.’ I know how he feels. On both counts.

Weariness aside, it is apparently Easter. Tomorrow evening we will welcome people into our home to remind ourselves of the upper room all those years ago when Jesus came and washed his friends feet, ate bread, drank wine and prepared to face the most hideous death of all time. Cut off from life. Cut off from his Father and from the Spirit for the first time ever. 

Friday we will walk up to the top of the Downs with friends and remind ourselves of the hill Jesus died on. We will stop and be still and try and explain from the oldest to the smallest why on this day it is ok to be sad happy. Why it is good to remember darkness, a cup and a curtain torn in two.

Saturday will be a day like any other, with the background awareness of that bleak, dark, empty Saturday 2000 years ago as creation held it’s breath waiting for the impossible. On Saturday we will taste the sadness of all our Easter Saturday’s, the suffering world we live in, the weary days we wonder if hope will come, the pain of this sad, broken, hurting world.

On Sunday we will rise early and rejoice. We will breathe in and out and eat amazing food and stuff chocolate eggs into our mouths with hearts bursting with news of hope, joy and the impossible coming true. The tomb is empty. Death is defeated. We can live forever with our King. We can be raised. This world will be raised. New life has come and nothing can defeat the empty grave, the folded clothes, the man who came and ate breakfast and invites us to come and do the same.

I’ve always loved Easter more than Christmas. And I really love Christmas. Easter though, doesn’t have the same trappings, there is no fuel for my greed and dissatisfaction with my lot in life. There is only wonder at a man dying so I can live. A man dying so death could end, so this world could be free, so our lives could be lived with hope. A man dying so I can forgive and be forgiven. A man dying so my bad choices, the ways I hurt others and the ways they hurt me, could be dealt with. A man dying so I can walk with head held high despite it all. There is wonder at the impossible coming true. A risen man. A risen historical man that we can’t explain away. There is wonder at all the implications of that risen man. There is delight in the simplicity of his call to come and eat breakfast with him.

As a child and teenager I loved the depths of Easter, the solemnity of Good Friday and the joy of Easter Sunday. I loved the idea of meditating for three hours at the cross. I loved the crazy Easter praise party our evening service would be and our Vicar’s insanely joyful organ solo’s in the middle of Thine Be the Glory. (full band and an organ is still clearly the best way to sing that song…).

As a grown up I find myself seeking that depth again. I long for my boys to know more and more of the wonder of Easter each year. This year we are opening eggs each day telling more of the story of the cross. Each day we face difficult conversations about the sadness and pain Jesus endured. Each day I read through our beautiful Easter book ‘The Garden, The Curtain and the Cross’ and son1 notices more and more of the story. Each day I am reminded of how much I need the cross as my patience fails, as our tired weary big emotions clash and we demand apologies from each other. As I pull son1 close in for a sorry cuddle once again I see our desperate need for forgiveness and grace that the cross brings.

Apparently it is Easter. Through the tired haze of life I long to remember all that Easter is and has brought. I long to sit and recall the wonder of it all. Fancy joining me?

My song is love unknown,
My Savior’s love to me;
Love to the loveless shown,
That they might lovely be.
O who am I,
That for my sake
My Lord should take
Frail flesh, and die?

He came from His blest throne
Salvation to bestow;
But men made strange, and none
The longed-for Christ would know:
But oh, my Friend,
My Friend indeed,
Who at my need
His life did spend.

Sometimes they strew His way,
And His sweet praises sing;
Resounding all the day
Hosannas to their King:
Then “Crucify!”
Is all their breath,
And for His death
They thirst and cry.

They rise and needs will have
My dear Lord made away;
A murderer they save,
The Prince of life they slay.
Yet cheerful He
To suffering goes,
That He His foes
From thence might free.

In life, no house, no home
My Lord on earth might have;
In death, no friendly tomb,
But what a stranger gave.
What may I say?
Heav’n was His home;
But mine the tomb
Wherein He lay.

Here might I stay and sing,
no story so divine:
never was love, dear King,
never was grief like thine.
This is my friend,
in whose sweet praise
I all my days
could gladly spend.

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