Tuesday morning…

Blue skies.
Sunshine.

A day, no scratch that.
A few hours for me.

Running up and down the downs.
Running through the 5k barrier in my head.
Running to sweat and feel alive again.

Autumn has snuck in,
Cold swirls around my legs in the shade
September sun blazing it’s last warmth on my back.

The world turns, the seasons change.
Decay and death blaze their beauty
Not all dying is death.
Words linger in my mind from Sunday’s evening space.

“The birch leaves are falling, Lord,
yellow diamonds on the green grass,
released in the autumn wind.
But I, Lord,
I still clutch tight the leaves of my old life,
useless, withered and dry.

Teach me to let go of the old-
old hurts and animosities, old troubles and grief.
Teach me to release them into the wind of your Spirit.
to be whisked away,
that like the tree I may rest a while,
at peace within,
then grow again in the spring.”

Not all dying is death,
some things die to give us rest.

Not all dying is death,
some things die to give us rest.

The seed gets buried deep in the ground, and I wait,
The seed has gone and still I wait,

Maybe there will be life again.
Spring warmth, flourishing life we claim as ours
Efforts to grow, summer joy

but now.

we twist and turn to the ground,
buried in leaves
resting
covered
waiting for spring again.

Not all dying is death.
Some things die to give us rest.

I stand on the edge of autumn
I turn my gaze to the horizon
I search for hope, for life
I wait
I rest

I rest my head on the shoulder of the watcher
and I watch
and I am watched.

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Friday roundup

Oh and this week also we found snails 🙂

Friday afternoon.

Ah yes.

Weekly roundup time.

It’s back baby.

It’s Friday. I’m sitting at the end of a pretty normal week in our lives, the boys are watching Blaze and I have a few swirly thoughts to write down.

I think we are two full weeks into our new routine.

Yes we have a new routine, it took me by surprise too. Son2 is at nursery 4 days a week now. Woah. For the first time in his life I have more time away from him than with him in a normal week (let’s ignore the long nights he still likes to spend stuck to my face) For 6 hours a day, 4 days a week he’s in a happy world of joy with his mates and beloved nursery teachers. I kind of want to hang there too. It’s an amazing place.

I was not expecting the emotional fall out I’ve experienced through the last two weeks. I almost wanted another baby again (which if you’ve heard me moan about pregnancy and the insanity of the first year of life with a baby will again surprise you). I was not ready for this feeling that the baby years are over. What. Over?

I’ve spent the last 6 years learning how to cope with being a mum, dealing with small people constantly, learning how to structure our weeks to give us all some of what we need, learning how to breastfeed confidently in public, learning how to get small beings to sleep (long way still to go there), coming to terms with my shortcomings, being overwhelmed with love, being overwhelmed with my anger and frustration at uncontrollable worlds. And there is more. So much more. The last 6 years have been defined by looking after two fairly needy small boys. And now it’s all changing again.

I’ve been pretty mad that it’s changing again, wondering what the point of those years was. Obviously the point was to look after the boys. Result. I win. But what was the point of carefully created routines if I have to change them all again? Hmm. I think the point was that those routines were helpful at the time. I can celebrate the times they worked and be glad that I don’t have to struggle with them anymore. Life moves on and adjusting to change is part of it. There are new challenges in this world and that’s ok.

I also kind of forgot that those things I learnt weren’t wasted. Some things I don’t need, some skills are only for a season, but some of those life character lessons I’ll take on into this next phase of motherhood and life. The change is actually good change and I think I like it. It’s just odd that it’s here after so long.

I’m hoping this processing going on right now will make the transition to both being in school slightly easier next year, we’ll see eh. Sometimes I have been known to remember lessons I’ve learnt.

Anyway. Life is looking different. I’m coming to terms with that. Obviously I’m still a mum and my boys are still pretty needy and cute. Not everything has changed. It’s just good to remember to grieve the stuff lost and be ok and excited about a new phase of life.

I’ve worked lots in the last couple of weeks. I’ve enjoyed more time to give to work and have space around the edges of the working days to run and read. I’ve enjoyed getting back into the groove of life with the community of One Church people after a long and fairly exhausting summer with boys. I’m enjoying doing what I’m good at and the joy of a job that fits. Thanks to the extra day to fit life and work into I’ve hung out at the office more and felt more connected with the rest of the staff team. This rhythm of life feels pretty good. I was made for this stuff of calling attention to God in the midst of the ordinary splendour of life. To slightly misquote Eric Liddell. God made me to drink tea and honestly chat with people about life and the divine, and when I do, I feel his pleasure.

It’s fair to say the lovely husbandface still isn’t doing all that well (ah the classic English understatement), but he has an Uber supportive work place, a great counsellor and some growing friendships at church. It’s a fairly bleak place at times but there are chunks of light occasionally shining through.

I’m back to running consistently again which is as ever good for my mental health. I’ve been in a pretty black dog place much of this month. Exhaustion and change being my nemesis. Some good chats with a mentor and showing up to do stuff even when my head is dark have been good for me. One day soon I may even stop glaring at God in the middle distance and sit down and say hi again.

On that note I kind of want to blog about faith and the twisty turns the journey takes us on but that will have to be for another time. The boys already have had too much tv and I need to put dinner on. Suffice to say I’m slowly being convinced again of the simplicity of the call of God on our lives. We sat down in our small group on Wednesday night, drank chocolate baileys and talked about bits of the Bible we loved. I felt distant from lots of my old go to verses and was all ready to feel sad about that until I remembered my all time go to verse. Ephesians 5:1-2 is amazing – we are dearly loved children called to live a life of love. That’s it. That’s the bedrock of life and faith. That’s what I signed up to and still want to explore with those around me. That’s the hope I come back to in the dark and the only reality that keeps me going in this life of faith. I am dearly loved. Nothing will change that. I am called to love. That’s a lifetime call in many places and various ways. This stuff trumps it all. These verses enable me to walk on, through the change in rhythms, through the changes in faith I feel at times, through the change in routine, through the change in seasons as we head into autumn, through the ups and downs of my head and through the day to day slog.

And there you go.

Friday roundups are back. Somethings don’t change after all.

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What are you good at?

Today, at work, we were asked to list our skills and passions.

What am I good at?

I sat. Rabbit in a headlight. Battling the gloom of my thoughts at the moment.

I sat and fought through the blanket of dark in my head and wondered.

What am I good at? What are my skills? Where is my place in this world?

10 years ago I could have answered with some ministry type words. Teaching, leading, seminar facilitating, taking groups abroad, strategic planning, mentoring, bible study writing and more.

Now. 4 years in part time roles, 6 years as a mum.

What am I good at?

Huggles all night long of small kicking people.
Train track building.
Duplo house creating.
Reading 16 library books in one sitting.
Ordering and structuring our days.
Making meals whilst being shouted at.

Getting up each day to do it all over again.

Not throwing small people out of the window when they stare blankly at me after I’ve asked them to put on shoes for the 100th time.
Talking a small person through their angst at the end of a day.
Learning the names of the Paw Patrol only to find I don’t need to know them anymore.
Memorising all the words to Frozen and The Greatest Showman sound track.
Knowing where everything is in the house.
Cups of tea with friends.
Keeping a conversation going despite endless interruptions and requests for stuff from small people.

Getting up each day and doing it all over again.

Repetitive tasks.
Multi tasking
Confrontation management.
Diplomacy skills.
Endurance.
Perseverance.
Ability to research.
Good in a team.
Motivational speaker.

Getting up each day and doing all over again.

What am I good at?

I don’t know anymore.

But maybe.

More than I realise.
More than my brain will let me know.

I was asked what I was good at today.

What I said with my words was honesty. Helping people find God in the everyday ordinary. Calling attention to reality.

And my passion?

Something to do with walking with others through this journey with God we seem to be on. Helping people know they are not alone.

I don’t have a coherent narrative of my life. I don’t have a nice neat list of skills and passions which fit together in an orderly way.

I do have a heartbeat that won’t go away for honest sharing of life. For awareness of the divine. An ache for me and others to know we are not alone, that we are loved and God is here. Right here in this mess with us.

I was asked what I was good at today.

Maybe there is more.

Writing.
Finding the meaning.
Drinking tea.
Walking on.

I was asked what I was good at today…

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The end of the summer.

I’m sitting in a sun drenched living room, son2 fully absorbed in the ponderous world of ‘Tractor Ted’. I’ve been storing up thoughts for this blog post for a while, time to sit and reflect has been in short supply here over these last few weeks.

Today is the last day of the summer ‘holiday’. Son1 made it back to school yesterday and tomorrow son2 has his first taste of nursery again before the weekend hits. It’s an odd week but good to have a slow gentle ease into some kind of routine.

We’ve done it. Our first long summer holiday without the lovely husbandface off with us.

As I begin to write about our summer I’m aware that in telling my story I run the risk of comparisons, some might be thinking they would love such time with the kids all summer. Some might be thinking, finally she knows what it’s like. Some might be thinking, this is what it’s like all the time. But the truth is that all our stories are different, the loads we bear, our capacity for what life throws at us is different. Comparisons don’t really achieve much. Some of our stories echo in each other’s hearts and we are glad and some grate and we feel pain.

The challenge seems to be to tell our stories authentically and then to listen to others stories without envy or pride in comparing ourselves less favourably or more favourably. Which sounds good when I write it down, but is much harder to achieve in reality. It’s hard to not compare because we tell our stories, in part, to know we are not alone. Maybe we feel more alone if a story doesn’t create resonance within us. Maybe. Anyway. I worry about these things. How can we truly hear each other’s stories without the negative comparison voices? Any clues?

Anyway… back to the story…

We have survived the summer. The boys struggled for the first two weeks, we managed to have fun in the van for the middle two weeks and found some kind of happy groove in the last two weeks. We’ve bumbled around on seashores, at parks, in libraries and seeing friends at pretty National Trust places. I’ve been frustrated by my shouting, the boys fighting and the lack of head space. I’ve lived a head down get on with it all existence. I’ve enjoyed the wonder of my boys and their unconditional love for their messed up Mummy. We’ve read books, we’ve camped with family, we’ve all learnt all the words to the Greatest Showman soundtrack and we’ve lived out of normal routine for so long that we got into another routine.

I’ve read several books, which one day I’ll actually sum up in a blog post, that have given me much joy in the times the boys are staring at the tv. I’ve had thoughts but been unable to express them anywhere and I’ve struggled with the longing for space and the constant call to make the most of this space right now with the ones who one day won’t want to fold themselves into my lap for huggles.

Husbandface has been pretty sick still. We bumble on through the long days and nights. We try and hope for healing. We try and live well in the dark not knowing if change will come.

It’s been an odd few weeks. Full of brilliant moments and full of great pain and sorrow. Full of wanting to enjoy and embrace and wanting to run and hide. Full of not wanting to complain and full of finding it hard and long. Full of finding the end of myself and then experiencing that the morning always comes, the sun never stops rising and the darkness is followed by a new day. Coffee always comes in the morning. (That’s in the Bible right? Mourning may last for a night but coffee comes in the morning? Er..)

Today the sun is shining bright and hope feels accessible. I’ve enjoyed a stomp on the downs with an excellent friend, her dog and my smallest. He only needed a couple of encouragement hugs to get around the walk and once more I can feel us stepping into new phases of life. My smallest doesn’t feel so small this side of the summer. He is unbelievably proud that he’s worked out pants are better than nappies. (I kind of knew he’d figure it out one day…). He is taller and more articulate than ever. The preschool years are slowly coming to an end. One more year and our landscape will be different again.

Yesterday Son1 walked his friend confidently into their year one classroom and when I picked him up 6 hours later actually told me some stuff about his day before collapsing in his room with a story cd. I know the storms will come but I’m glad he had a good start. My heart aches at another new place and person to trust with my boy. I know there are good reasons to trust and excellent ways to build that trust but the transition from knowing his teacher ‘got’ him last year to an unknown is hard. I guess this leaving will always be strange in some ways. I have to fight my instinct to put him in a cupboard and work hard on providing his safe place he can always return to in the storms of this life. He flourished so much last year and I ache for more of the same this year. But I can not control his world. I cannot make everyone adore and appreciate him. He will face hard stuff and I cannot stop it. I can, however, help him through it, chop vegetables with him for our dinner and listen to his meandering thoughts. I can huggle and huggle and huggle again. I can drink deep from the wells of grace our Maker has so I can pour it out on him. I can desperately trust that he is known and loved by The One who knit him deep in me 6 years ago. That the One who held us then, holds us now and will never ever let go.

And so on those waters of hope we set sail into the term ahead. I have work to do, I have rest to take, I have small people to love when they return from their ventures into this crazy world and pour out the crazy into the safety of home. I have One I want to pour out my crazy on as we journey on.

The skies are blue. The grass is green. The sun shines high. It’s a good day for sailing on. See you out there…

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What’s the deal with this camping thing anyway?

As still a relative newcomer to the world of camping and life in a small camper van I thought I’d put together my random thoughts of things to remember and watch out for when planning for and experiencing this slightly odd world of life on a campsite.

It should be noted that all this involves camping with kids. That’s our life right now. If you are camping without kids- go crazy, enjoy those blissful sounding sites that say no children allowed, oh and get a pitch far far away from the play park if you don’t…

Booking a site.

It seems to be best to book ahead, I’m sure some people just rock up but our island is small and camping is popular so why risk it? Look at the site online, check the facilities, does it have toilets, how ok are you with no showers/lovely shower blocks? Why are you going and what do you want? We love back to basics for a weekend, no showers and campfires allowed are brilliant when you know a shower is coming v soon. Longer trips, and we love a site with good showers and toilets close. We also love a site with a play park. We have boys who are 5 and 3. They fare better with a park and when we did our trip last year struggled more on sites without a park as a default to run off to. So research well, get advice from others and read reviews. If you don’t want to drive lots get a site within walking distance from pretty places/civilisation/a beach. Some of our best sites last year were across the road from the sea so there was always somewhere fun to hang out with the boys at whatever time of day or early morning. Equally if it’s a weekend escape get a site totally away from everything which has some woodland to build dens in and enjoy not leaving it for 48 hours.

Pack carefully.

Clothes:

Think through every weather and bring at least one thing to keep you dry/warm/cool. You’ll probably experience all temperatures in one trip so it’s good to be prepared (one or two things for each scenario is fine. Pack light, bring washing powder/tablets for emergencies (so annoyed that I forgot ours this trip…).

Kids stuff

An activity box is your friend – paper, pens, craft, Lego, whatever will fit into a small box. Maybe get them to pack it the night before leaving.

Outdoor toys.

Balls, frisbee, kite etc.

Food

A good small storecupboard will help- especially when you can’t be bothered to cook much and pasta, beans and pesto win the day. We do have friends who plan every meal and bring the exact amount of spices and herbs needed which sounds v wise. (we just bought the jars along- that’s on advantage to vans over tents- way more storage). Buy local and don’t worry if you are buying food every couple of days. That’s presumably how they did it in the old days before fridges. Cool boxes are good, I’ve heard some campers bring electric fridge boxes along but I reckon you can get away with a cool box for milk and bits on a short trip (and I have no idea what people do on longer trips. That’s why we have a van with a fridge…)

Oh and bring snacks. Lots of snacks. Healthy ones if you can get away with it, but lots of them. We are all far more hungry when camping. The outdoors and much more physical work make for good appetites.

Fun for you.

A book/wine/cards/gin/whatever cheers you up when the kids are finally in bed.

Furniture.

A table and chairs will make you all fairly happy but good old picnic blankets work for small trips. If you have no awning then a tarp is a good investment to sort out some shade/shelter outdoors in the rain.

Sleeping.

Really bring whatever makes you happy. If you need a roof box to fit in duvets and pillows then do it. There is nothing more miserable than bad sleep camping. Sleep makes it all possible. That’s why we have a van. I’ve heard sleep can be possible in tents, just don’t try and rough it if you don’t sleep in rough.

Getting settled on site.

We are still getting used to figuring out which bit of land is allotted to us at the mysterious ‘pitch’. Sometimes it is clear, sometimes it isn’t. It’s ok to spend a bit of time figuring it all out and making sure you aren’t encroaching on others space. We then make sure we are level, plug in, put on the gas and boil the kettle for tea. Then we slowly start to unpack and sort out awnings etc (and encourage the boys to find out where the play park is). We find this all takes so much longer than we think. Which leads me to my next point.

This camping lark is slow.

There is no getting around it. Everything takes longer and is slower. It’s one of the reasons I love it. But it’s also one of the reasons it takes time to adjust to this way of doing things. Getting water, boiling a kettle, setting up camp, cooking, washing up all take much longer than normal. Take off your watch, leave the phone in the car and enjoy it. The tyranny of time is lovely to escape once in a while.

Washing up.

Lots of sites have washing up facilities. Bring a collapsible bowl, marigolds, sponge and liquid and you are sorted. Sometimes our boys even find it fun to help out :).

We like not bringing screens.

There, I’ve said it. We like not even having the option so there are no fights over when and where screens happen. We know that even if we just brought one for the journeys that the boys would argue us into it at other times. Cold turkey works for us. And I’m constantly reminding myself that we survived car journeys before screens were invented (and yes. When they were 3 and 1 we used a screen to get us over to Ireland. Now they are older we can cold turkey it more… and right now we are watching The Greatest Showman on the ferry crossing. We are ok with screens when available 🙂 I love us all disconnecting for a bit and have to remind myself to leave the phone in the van more. It helps us get into slow life more. You are different. Your kids are too. Do what works but don’t be afraid to try without screens being along for the ride. It’s lovely watching kids dig into their imaginations and face boredom (except when it isn’t and you want to kill them, but that too passes)

Be ok with some routines going out the window but keep the ones that help you stay sane.

We know the boys won’t go to sleep if they’ve had a late nap on a long car journey. So they go to bed when we go to bed (which we religiously avoid at home cos we know we need our 2 hours of space in the evening). We keep all their routines of bedtime though. Stories etc so they feel comfortable and whatever else works at bedtime. They have little concept of time right now so waiting until they seem a bit sleepy/overhyped works for us.

But when they have had a normal day we put them to bed at a vaguely sensible hour and have some grown up eating sugar and playing cards time.

Enjoy yourselves. Be yourselves.

Don’t worry about everyone else (although do walk around the campsite getting cool ideas and comparing tents and vans. It’s super fun to be nosey) but don’t be intimidated, probably no one else can tell you are a newbie and most people are pretty friendly on campsites. I love the random chats over washing up and wry smiles with other parents over melting down kids. It’s a weird kind of community but I like it.

Lastly.

Go with a growth mindset.

It’s all a learning experience. You will never have the perfect time, sometimes it will go wrong. Sometimes everything will fit wonderfully (but you and the kids will still have a grumpy moment or two). It’s all good experience for next time. That’s the beauty of camping. It’s cheap enough to be ok to quit if the rain doesn’t stop and you have to leave a night early. It’s ok if you have a crap time once in a while. You can change things up and try again. We stayed at a less than ideal site the first few days this trip. It was more built for motorhomes and caravans. But we learnt. We’ll book differently next time. We still had fun but it was harder than it could have been. We stayed at a very easy site last night. Lots of places for the boys to play and only a short walk to toilets/washing up etc unlike the previous one. We’ll see what next week brings. It might make sense to go back to sites you know work. I imagine as the years go on that’s what we’ll do, whilst not being afraid to try new things. It’s all a learning experience.

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First time away in a VW Campervan

Last year we had our first time away in a Motorhome, we did a 4 week tour of the UK, seeing friends and family along the way. It was a beautiful time of clarity and joy in an otherwise dark year. The mental health benefits of being on the road, bringing our beds with us and enjoying life outdoors were brilliant. It wasn’t all amazing wonder. We had grumps and tension as you would in any 4 weeks of life. But it was a pretty amazing adventure.

This year lots has changed, we are no longer in a Motorhome, we went crazy and bought our own little VW Trident, who is 20 years old but still a little beauty. We aren’t on a 4 week tour but a 2 week jaunt up to the Lakes, across to Northern Ireland, back to the Lakes and home again. The shorter timescale is doing odd things to my head. I keep thinking it should be a perfect holiday experience and not just normal life in a different context, doing the things we know are good for us- outdoor fun, no screens, lots of husbandface time but with a bed for him to retreat to.

The reality is that it’s hard work to take two small boys away in a van. But then again it’s hard work to manage two small boys anywhere. Especially when I have very little reserves left in the energy tank. It’s not a ‘holiday’ in any sense of that word but it is time away from the normal, which must be a good thing, right?

Anyway, as you can probably tell I’m struggling to love this trip. I’m struggling not to gaze at couples sitting drinking wine outside their vans in envy. And yes I know if I was them I’d be wanting children for some insane biological reason, and life wasn’t perfect wonder before two slightly annoying boys came into it.

Right now I just wish I wasn’t so frustrated with them. I wish I had limitless patience and understanding to love them well. I wish I had the energy to care more and not just grumpily snap at them.

Anyway. Moaning aside. I thought I’d list what we are learning this trip and how smaller van life differs from Motorhome life.

1) Smaller is better for the tiny roads in this country and especially for finding parking spaces in towns. I am a whole lot less scared about driving our Gracie compared to the 7m long Motorhome.

2) Smaller is not always better. There is more work to be done internally in the van. We have to make up the beds when we want to sleep and when husbandface has his downtime. That isn’t always a bad thing but it does require more effort and more patience from the boys whilst we do that.

3) Smaller is harder in rain, there isn’t much internal space to hang out in the van. That’s ok if we are on a campsite with the drive-away awning out but less fun if we are trying to picnic in the rain.

4) Smaller actually means bigger when it comes to our drive-away awning which gives us a massive space to eat in, hang out in when it’s raining and have room to breathe.

5) Smaller means no toilet on board at the moment, not much of an issue except at this first campsite we are staying at which is much more set up for caravans and Motorhomes and the toilets are a few minutes walk away. We do have a Porta potty at home but I still think it’s not all that useful as most of the places we’ll stay will have toilets. The boys aren’t really old enough for wildish camping to be safe in the UK – we’d be happy rocking up to a lay-by as a couple but it feels a bit too crazy with the boys. Right now campsites with easy access to play parks and fun woods for them to explore feels much safer. It’s great helping them explore for themselves and grow in independence.

All in all the van experience is just very different from the Motorhome experience. I don’t think I quite realised that and it’s taking a few days to learn the art of van life. We are new to working out our awning, new to the sleep thing, new to how to navigate each other in a tiny space. That’s all ok but it’s harder than I thought.

So why aren’t we going home? (aside from ferry tickets and family awaiting us in Norn Iron). It is hard but it’s also a whole heap of fun.

We are outdoors all day. We are closer to the joys of camping but with more comfy beds and facilities. We are learning. We are enjoying our pretty world. We are loving seeing the boys engage with nature. They already love scrambling over rocks, making logs into pirate ships and the sense of achievement a good walk with a map can bring. We have a place for husbandface to sleep in during the day when we are out and about. We have the ability to make tea and coffee where ever we go and we never have the ‘have I packed that?’ feeling because we are carrying around all we need.

I think it’s good every now and again to do things that help us look at life in a different way. We walk to get water, we walk to toilets, we take longer to do everything. We are slow. It’s no bad thing to have to take the slow road. I’m reading Matt Haig’s Notes from a Nervous planet at the moment and it echoes much of why we are doing this trip. Slowing down is good for our mental health. Slowing down and disconnecting from the stuff that crowds our world is good for us. And even though I’m tired and weary I still would rather be learning how to adventure this way than anything else right now.

Right, I’m off to play some cards and reassure the husbandface that I’m not about to do a runner into the woods. I quite like this adventure after all.

Coming up later in the week… I’m thinking of writing a beginners guide to campsites and useful stuff to bring camping either in a tent or van. Mainly so I’ll remember myself.

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The day before we depart…

There is always something in me which wants to write a blog post just before we go on holiday. A kind of line in the sand moment if you like. A marking of time and maybe it’s the same thing that is driving me to clean and sort our house out. I want to leave with no loose ends, no untidy strands to worry away at my mind whilst I’m away. I want to drive up the A23 with peace in my heart on Friday morning knowing I am clear of most of my churning thoughts for 2 weeks at least. Obviously I can’t escape all my thoughts with two small boys in a van but I can make my mind as clear of worry as possible, so I can be free to forget about life for a bit and concentrate solely on the three people I will be hanging out with each day.

It’s a good plan but it is making this week before we go away slightly frantic in my head, my mind whirls around to do lists and emails I need to send before I can hit the road with some sense of a clear mind.

We’re almost at the end of the second week of this odd school holiday time. It’s the first one I’ve known in our married life without the lovely husbandface at home. I think we are both finding the adjustment odd. It’s son1s first long summer from school and yep, the routine loving boy has been all over the place, slowly he’s returning to some solid point of being ok but it’s taken a while. Son2 as well. They and I are adjusting to constant time together again. That hasn’t happened, for an extended time, since this time last year and that was very different as we were off in the Motorhome with the beloved daddy.

So far though we have survived. Some days have been better than others, some we barely survived and some we have really loved hanging out and I’ve had a greater insight into their worlds. Some days I’ve wondered why we had kids and some days I’ve marvelled at their beautiful faces all day long. It’s been a bumpy road but we are riding it out.

Friday morning we head off on our challenge adventure with small people (holiday is a silly word for it) and I think I’m looking forward to it. The van is slowly filling with our stuff and I’m gradually ticking things off the to do list.

We go to The Lake District via some lovely friends, then to Northern Ireland and then back to the lakes for time in my favourite place. If we manage to sleep ok I think it will be a great time. Husbandface isn’t doing at all well right now but we at least know that taking your house with you always provides a safe space to retreat too. I think it will be ok. I hope it will be ok.

Right now I’m having to choose hope each day. I have no sense of the future, of whether we will be ok. All we have is this day and moment before us. I want to choose hope in the immediate world I have right now today. It’s hard to drag my head back from the past or away from fears of the future. We don’t know what the next moment will hold and to cope with it all we need to hope.

I hope in a God who is at work here, who will give strength for this day, who dwells in this moment with us. I hope in a God who pours out love on us. Who has abundant mercy, grace and love. So often I think we lack in this space we inhabit at the moment. I focus on the negative spirals of fear and all the things we don’t have. Honestly it feels like we have a world of scarcity rather than abundance. And in some ways that is true. I don’t want to skate over the bad stuff, it’s pretty bad around here at times. But we still have a world of abundance. Grace, mercy and love are not dependant on circumstances. In the midst of the dark we have grace, love and mercy, bent out and made tangible by friends and family around us.

And so we go. We head off into the unknown. Hoping a change will once more bring rest. Hoping for connection. Hoping for grace, mercy and love to live with us as we go.

Good thing our van is called Gracie. A reminder of the grace which holds us together as family in this weird world.

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