Pondering prayer

On Sunday night we talked about prayer in church with other people. It was wonderful and strange to be to be physically present with people again. It was good to take a look back at what prayer has meant in my life. I’m not sure I have any kind of coherent narrative to offer about prayer. Prayer is possibly one of those things that can’t be packaged neatly, won’t be put in a box or managed by our efforts. At most basic I think it’s the word that reflects our interaction with our Maker, the Divine, God in all their three personed wonder. As such it can’t be easily contained into words and ideas. It is too broad for that.  So I wrote down what first sprung to mind when I thought about prayer.

Here you go:

Prayer

Eternal frustration.
The nearness of breath.
The gasp of delight
at the abundance of Yew trees
on the path ahead.

Talking, crying, looking in.
Awe struck on mountain top.
Bleak empty silence down
on the valley floor.

Desperate cries in the night
All my need, desire, aching want
held out to

You

Surprising, breaking in, bringing hope,
The light shaft through the clouds
The thread holding me here
The warm blanket on a cold night
The washing waves
at sunrise
on a deserted shore.

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What happens when our ideas of God become our god?

Welcome to a meandering conversation between me and my Maker from one of my recent daily walks.

I started with a question:

What happens when our ideas of you become their own god?

And an observation:

We seem to want a system. A neat ordered space full of our rights and wrongs. Full of insiders and outsiders. We do not want complex wonder. We do not want mystery or tension or people showing up being good and kind when they hold different views to us.

We want the bits of you we agree with. We all do it. All of us pick and choose and formulate world views around the bits that seem obvious to us. The rest our brain skims over and around.

I guess if we had a god we agreed with on every point they might well be an idol we made.

Then a remembrance of a verse from Hosea 14:

“We will never again say ‘Our gods’ to what our own hands have made, for in you the fatherless find compassion.”

The challenge:

No longer, says the one who formed the winds. No longer say ‘my god’ to what your hands have made, your prestige, your power, your systems, your ways. No more. No more.

The imagined response:

Sail out into the big wide sea. See me. From all angles. Find the treasure that sparkles for you. Find the rough jagged edges which smart and confuse. Go out into the sea and swim around in me. Find enough to give you hope. To lead you in love. To be your anchor in the dark nights, and then:

Don’t be afraid of the complex, the contractions, the not knowing, the misty murk.

Don’t be afraid of the dark my love.

Sail on.
Do the best with what you’ve got.
I have given you enough to be loved and to love.

If you must make up systems
Don’t be blind to love, mercy, justice and grace.
Don’t be blind to anger and rage and holy nights.
Don’t be blind to the bits you leave to one side.

Sail on.
Do the best with what you’ve got.
I have given you enough to love and be loved.

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Book’s I’ve read July-August 2020

Ok. Here we go. Another round up of books from me. I’ve made it about half way through my birthday stash and read a few quick reads on my kindle in the last couple of months. In no particular order here are the books I’ve read over July and August. 

We need to talk about Race- Ben Lindsay 

A must read for anyone in church leadership/with any kind of involvement in church. Written reflecting on the UK church scene this is a brilliant exploration of race in the church.  Ben looks at  the need to reflect deeply on how we treat each other and how we can act to challenge the structures of racism all around us. It also has really helpful application questions at the end of each chapter for white church leaders, white people and people of colour. A book which challenged my hidden assumptions and one I need to read again a few times over to fully absorb and act on the lessons learnt. 

100 essays I don’t have time to write- Sarah Ruhl

Written by a playwright this contains a fascinating collection of her thoughts on the theatre. I loved it because she’s a mother of small ones and that context shapes her writing and reflections. It’s the kind of book I want to write at some point (or possibly is written already across this blog…) 

A Beautifully Foolish Endeavour- Hank Green 

The follow up to ‘An Absolutely Remarkable Thing’ didn’t disappoint. I loved his insightful commentary on our times, the reflections on fame and social media. I loved the story and pace of this novel and the philosophical ponderings along the way. His writing feels as close to Douglas Coupland as we have got recently as he weaves a warning parable urging us to live better because soon we may not have the chance to. 

Little Disasters- Sarah Vaughan

Little Friends- Jane Shemilt 

In my head these are fairly similar family thriller by numbers/gas lighting men/awkward family relationships kind of books. Little Disasters centres around an antenatal group and grappling with whether a baby has been abused or not. Little Friends is a fairly predictable three families intermingle with grim results. Good for insomniac moments in the middle of the night. 

The Book of Queer Prophets – Ed by Ruth Hunt 

A beautiful collection of essays/stories from LGBTQI people and their faith journeys. Most made me cry at the pain caused and the hope held out as so many of these stories talked of deep profound connection with the divine. Well worth your time listening to these lovely people.

Half a World Away/The Hope Family Calendar- Mike Gayle

I quite liked both of these, novels about family life interweaving tragedy with hope. Possibly all was a little too neat and tidy in the journeys the characters made but they were pretty engaging easy reads. 

Three Hours- Rosamund Lupton

A super tense book about a school shooter in Somerset. Interesting weaving of commentary on refugees into a non traditional school environment within a fairly traditional small town community. 

The Power of Ritual- Casper Ter Kile 

I am still not sure what to make of this book. In it Casper argues for the importance of Sabbath, nature, sacred reading, eating together in community and finding transcendence in life. All things I am passionate about. My confusion lay in the absence of God throughout the book. I get what he is doing, taking the ancient rituals and routines of religion and saying they have deep value in our lives whether we are people of faith or not. I wonder if you carried out these rituals whether you might find faith. Through it all though I missed hearing more of the God I find in all these rituals. I missed the source and the maker. I missed the heartbeat which brings those rituals alive for me. I would be very interested to talk to others who have read this. It’s a brilliant book but, for me, it made me ache for more. 

Come Again- Robert Webb 

I really enjoyed his memoir, ‘How not to be a Boy’ and similarly enjoyed this, his first novel. An enjoyable meander through the changes we go through as we grow up, the impact being with another person has on our lives, being at uni in the 90s and a dose of time travel thrown into the mix. 

Losing Eden – Lucy Jones 

A wonderful book on the benefits being immersed the natural world can have on our mental health, the need for us all to get outside more and the urgency to change our ways and care more for the environment we live in. Really beautifully written and extremely good for the soul. 

Firefly Lane- Kirsten Hannah 

A page turner of a novel about how a friendship evolves and changes throughout the years. Not as good as The Great Alone which I loved last year but well written and engaging. 

The Electricity of Every Living Thing- Katherine May

I really enjoyed this memoir charting Katherine’s discovery of her autism as she walked various parts of the South West Coast Path and parts of the Kent countryside near where she lived. She writes beautifully and I really liked that this wasn’t a book fixated on completing a footpath but that her journey allowed for not finishing. I felt like her inner journey whilst undergoing these walks was far more important than whether she walked every inch of the coast path. 

Return to Roar- Jenny McLachlan

At least one of the boys books had to make it onto this list. I’ve lost count of the amount of books I’ve read to son2 over the last few weeks and months. Most mornings start with long protracted negotiations about how many chapters I am going to read before I go for my morning walk. I didn’t need to be convinced to read this one though. We loved ‘The Land of Roar’ earlier on in lockdown. It was a lovely treat to get this one from our local children’s book shop and go back to Roar with Arthur and Rose and have some more adventures with them. A very satisfying sequel and we are looking forward to the final instalment (and I am looking forward to son2 finally learning to read…) 

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The…12 weekly roundup? Or the post I always seem to write when I return to writing again…

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From one of our beautiful camping trips last week #vanlife…

I’m baby sitting at a friends tonight and happened to glance over my dusty old blog and realised it’s about 3 months since I last posted about life around here. I’ve posted about books and our outdoor 30dayswild adventures but have avoided any kind of dear diary type posts. I think life got to be the same thing week in and week out, we slogged away.  I got exhausted and like most people the waves of tiredness kept on coming and knocking me sideways each week. Husbandface’s health has wonderfully been improving steadily, but that then led to my body finally being able to give up for a bit. And, as you know, it turns out it’s fairly tiring living in an uncertain, pandemic laden, world.

Early July I disappeared to my parents on my own for a couple of nights total rest from everything. It helped enormously. Then around mid July I took about 3 weeks off work and a couple of weeks away from zoom and social media. We camped in various locations, we hung out with family and friends, we did some day trips out from home and we lived our fairly simple lockdown routine lots of the time. I’ve read a load of books and been outdoors lots. It has helped. I even occasionally feel refreshed in this post holiday world. I think I’m back to regular life with small children in the summer holidays tiredness. Even so it doesn’t feel as bad as last year because we are used to being around each other all the time.  We’ve figured out this world and our routine works for the most part (except on stupid heatwave days which are as bad as stupid rain all day days).

Looking forward there are three weeks until school supposedly starts, I have no idea if I am looking forward to this upheaval in our lives. I’m vastly looking forward to getting two days off again a week (well 6 hours off in each of those days), getting out for longer walks and having some margins in the week. I’m looking forward to me and husbandface getting our Fridays back together and I’m looking forward to being able to be a bit more intentional in my work and less in survival mode in my thinking.

I’m not so looking forward to helping the boys navigate their HUGE emotions about the return, the difficulties they have in transitioning from one routine to another from week to weekend or the game of guess what went wrong at school today to cause you to blow up quite so spectacularly.

I am going to look out for whether the spark in their eyes remains through the return to school. If it fades too fast or disappears again we are going to have to seriously rethink our lives and I’m not quite ready for that yet. I have loved seeing son1’s eyes grow wide and joyful at so many things in these last 5 months of hanging out with him. I have loved seeing son2’s wonderful imagination and vocabulary explode this year. To be honest though, I’m ready for a break from their insanities. I so want to see them continue to flourish in their lives at school. I think it’s possible and I am praying that they would settle back well and enjoy hanging out with friends again.

They are in the same mixed emotion bag that I’m in and it’s going to take all of my restraint to not talk about school much in these last few weeks but to lean into enjoying their unique crazy natures before we head to our separate places in the week once more. All this assumes they will be back for a while, who knows whether we’ll be on lockdown once more once winter comes, a couple of weeks off before that happens would be nice.

So there we are, I have officially started writing again it seems. More book review posts, love of nature and the outdoors posts and maybe even some reflective faith posts to come at some point.

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30 Days of Wild: Days 16-21

I’m not sure I managed to record every day over the last week. I know we went out everyday but I think I got tired of taking photos of the same thing. Anyway. Looking back we seem to have spent most of our time in trees or under trees or walking through woods. So here we go. Tree week.

Day 16

We enjoyed pottering around Petworth with the grandparents. SO many trees to scramble on and marvel at.

Day 17-18

I remember very little of these days apart from painting. But we made it out to local woods to sit in trees, read books on picnic blankets, run around with friends in the rain and I walked lots early in the morning noticing pretty flowers I hadn’t seen before.

Day 19

We made it out to Stanmer woods and found more trees. I went for a socially distant Spiritual Direction session and found it very helpful wandering through the woods with my Spiritual Director and pondering God whilst listening to loud bird song and feeling the ground beneath my feet. The day ended with lovely friends coming over for a firepit. A beautiful way to enter the solstice.

Day 20

I was gifted a day off. I walked for a couple of hours through woods and fields full of butterflies and sky larks. I sat outside on my bench for most of the rest of the day reading books and listening to birds sing. I enjoyed the wild grass meadow that is our front lawn and breathed deep.

Day 21

I took the boys over to Woods Mill, one of our local Wildlife Trust woods. Annoyingly it was fairly packed with people but it was lovely to potter around, see a beautiful swan family, and get hissed at by the protective mother.

 

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30 Days wild: Day 6-14

A few to fit in here, but it’s good to remember that we have been actively enjoying nature and the beauty of the world we live in over the last week or so.

Day 6

We went to the Knepp Estate which is a wonderful rewilding project near us, lots of trails, wildlife and apparently the first White Storks to nest in the UK in 600 years.

Day 7

A local day of spotting bees, new flowers in the woods near us (son2 learnt they were called foxgloves and we had fun imagining foxes wearing gloves..) and some forest bathing before church.

Day 8

A lovely walk in some woods with a friend and her dog. Obviously we had to climb a tree. I also saw a beautiful rose in our garden and finished my assignment for my Spiritual Direction course which had enabled me to read loads of books about nature.

 

Day 9 

Each day we walk and read books. On day 9 we went to the ‘Picnic Tree’, which as the name suggests is a tree you can easily have a picnic in.

Day 10

I think it rained lots on day 10. Despite that I went for a lovely socially distant walk with a friend first thing and we found the snake of rocks outside the boys school.

Day 11

We had a lovely morning playing in the woods for a couple of hours before the rain came. I always think the woods are more atmospheric in the rain. 

Day 12 

I saw uber amounts of pretty on my morning walk, I think it was more of an angry stomp at the state of the world but there was much beauty around to make up for my black cloud…

Day 13

We did our usual cycle from Brighton Marina to Rottingdean. We found loads of dead crabs all over the beach but no live ones. I also had much fun paddling around with son2.

Day 14

Today we went over to Bramber Castle and walked around the river plains near it. Lovely to do a walk we’d done last year with significantly

less moaning this time. The boys are growing and able to walk further. I am so grateful.

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Books that I’ve read March-May 2020

Right, I’ve finally managed to write down which books I’ve read over the last 3 or so months in lockdown. My brain is fairly made of mush at the moment so I haven’t written comprehensive reviews, but here’s a flavour…

The Next Five People You Meet in Heaven- Mitch Albom

I really like the concept behind this book and the first one he wrote. You follow someone who has died through their encounter with five significant people in their life when they get to heaven. I found it really interesting thinking through encounters we don’t realise the significance of. An easy read but with depth.

Where the Forest Meets the Stars- Glendy Vanderah

This is such a good novel, lots to love about it. A story of someone encountering a child whilst doing some nature based research at a remote cabin in the woods. A lovely story of encounter and love on a whole load of different levels.

Sunny Side Up, A Story of Kindness and Joy- Susan Calman

I love Susan Calman and this is a journey through her finding joy after being involved in Strictly Come Dancing. Although she comes across as a bit simplistic at times this is good reading from how someone with depression comes to find joy and then encourages us all to be kind to each other. Lots here that resonated with me but I was left with a bit of wishing that she’d found a better hope than just the joy of dancing. I know dancing is a brilliant joy but I guess I always want to follow the breadcrumbs back to the source of the joy which outlasts and deepens the joy… that’s just me though…

3 Things About Elsie- Joanna Cannon

An intriguing novel about someone from the past turning up at Elsie’s old people’s home. Lots to love here in this gentle novel about time, the past and ageing.

An Alter in the World- Barbara Brown Taylor

Such a good read, I like books that make hanging out with God about the normal everyday experiences of life and the natural world around us. Beautiful, wise and super easy to read. A win.

Little White Lies- Philippa East

One of those thriller by numbers books. A fairly engaging story about a girl who had gone missing turning up again and trying to get reconnected to her family. A few twists and turns later and this book was one that helped me get back into the reading groove again in lockdown life.

The Land of Roar- Jenny Maclachlan

Son1 made me read this, it was a book recommended by our excellent local childrens book shop The Book Nook. It’s a tale of imagination, transition and good old fashioned adventure. I read it, he’s read it many times and we spent a couple of days reading it to Son2. Very good indeed.

The Other Half of Augusta Hope- Joanna Glen

SUCH a good book. I loved this so much and it was a complete surprise as I’d put it on my kindle fairly randomly. It’s follows the story of twins growing up and someone growing up in Burundi. How these lives weave together in Spain makes a beautiful story. It was also really easy to read and super engaging. Perfect for lockdown brain.

The Other Wife- Claire McGowan

Such a bad thriller by numbers. Two hideous gaslighting men. Two women vaguely ok as characters. One pretty bad plot. Oh dear.

Bridge to Terebithia- Katherine Paterson

I hadn’t read this classic story of a boy, his friend, an imaginary world and some tragedy. A beautiful book, not quite one for son1 yet, his brain can only cope with imaginary trauma involving magical characters.

The Way Under Our Feet (A spirituality of walking) – Graham B Usher.

Walking is good for our souls. Walking is a whole lot of help for our brains, bodies and life with God. This is a really lovely broad exploration of how wonderful walking is and the impact it can have on a whole wide spectrum of life. For the last month or so I’ve walked for an hour every morning. It’s definitely doing something good to my soul and awareness of God. Read this book if you aren’t convinced. He says things like this: “As we walk into a landscape we leave our mark on it and it leaves it’s mark on us; as we explore the outside so we explore our inner selves”.

Restoring the Woven Cord- Michael Mitton

I had to read this for an assignment I did for my Spiritual Direction course on Celtic Spirituality. It was a fairly broad overview of some themes. Some helpful stuff and some pretty dated 90s views on women in one of the chapters which was fairly cringeworthy to read…

The Celtic Way of Prayer- Ester De Waal

I really enjoyed reading this for the assignment. Probably because she’s a woman and I’m biased. But it was a really helpful deeper exploration into themes that make up Celtic Spirituality and gave a wonderful sense of encountering God beyond and deeper than our tribal boundaries which seem to entrench us so horribly at the moment.

The Naked Hermit- Nick Mayhew-Smith

Man goes and explores some Celtic Prayer rituals. Does it in an interesting and fascinating way. Reports back with some insights into mission and what it means to encounter God in the natural world. Kind of made me want to stand up to my neck in sea water and shout Psalms to God. Kind of.

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30 Days Wild 2020 Day 1-5

Each year for the last few years we have loved taking part in the 30 Days Wild challenge set up by the excellent Wildlife Trust. I might get back into tweeting each day about our wild adventures and my noticing of the wonderful amazing world we live in. For now though here are some highlights from days 1-5.

Day 1

We went to visit my parents for the first time since lockdown. We had a brilliant socially distant time in their garden and at a lovely park a few minutes down the road from their house. Leaving aside the emotion meltdowns we all had the next day at something that should have felt normal not feeling normal at all, this was a great start to our 30 days of wild. There were loads of streams to investigate and trees to climb, I think they could have spent most of the day there.

 

Day 2

I walked through a field of sky larks. Insanely wonderful.

Day 3. 

I go for a walk each morning to mutter to my Maker, be in the wonderful natural world and set myself up for the day with peace and an awareness of my connection to the earth we stand on. I love Stanmer Woods and these tall trees which seem so strong and stable in the midst of uncertain changing times. Recently I’ve been enjoying the eternal everlasting images we are given of God, especially as I’ve been noticing the fast change of the many flowers which flourish and fade so quickly. We get to be like flowers, God a bit more like these slow unchanging trees.

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Day 4:

We met up with friends for our first outdoor social distant fun. It was fairly wonderful hanging out in the woods watching the kids transform them into their imaginary world of play.  There are 4 kids in the woodland below. Promise. I also loved son2’s squeal of delight at finding new flowers in a place we visit most days. (Foxgloves?).

Day 5:

Today I found a new path on my walk around our local area, I found a field of poppies splashing a red square on the sky and I found some random pine trees. When I googled why on earth there were pine trees in a patch of wild at the back of Patcham I found out a Scottish builder had planted them years ago when the estate extending the village was first built. I also found a Yew tree and had a moment of praying a circling prayer as I stood in the circle of it’s branches. Later I took the boys to the woods and we climbed trees, revisited the site where we used to have Forest Church a couple of years ago and I spent lots of time wondering how we can get a patch of land on which to give Forest Church a new lease of life. It’s been a pretty good start to our 30 days. More to come either here or on my Twitter stream @faithinavan.

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Life in Lockdown week 9…

The Friday round up is back, that old familiar blog post style from when things were super bad in our world and I needed to record the moments of our days and my thoughts about life. It’s funny how things like that get forgotten in the good times and yet in the bad times there is a need to dig deeper, to find the gold thread in life, to document the reasons for hope so that you can trace the breadcrumbs back home. That’s what blogging does for me anyway, I trace the breadcrumbs back to my source and reason in this world (for me that’s my Maker in case you are wondering…) and I like that some of you come along for the ride.

It appears that we seem to have a great week followed by a really crappy week. This week was the crappy variety, my back was super sore again, husbandface is increasingly pale and twitchy (PTSD, anxiety and depression making a full on assault on his wonderful body again) in a way we haven’t seen for a long time, I hit some kind of crazy wall of tiredness and on Wednesday cried into my pillow for a long time. It’s hard this world, it’s hard in so many ways for all of us, and it’s ok to say that, to acknowledge the pain and grimness of this landscape. It’s ok to look to the future in fear and not know how to deal with that. It’s ok to mainline sugar. It’s ok to cry big fat tears. It’s ok to feel all the feelings.

And yet in the midst of all that, throughout this exhausting week, it has been good to notice the golden threads, the shining light against the dark backdrop.

Here are some:

Friends:

Now we are allowed outside with one other person I’ve made the most of some good quality social distancing walks with friends. I hate not being able to hug people but there is a huge dopamine hit from walking on the downs, sitting in the sun and drinking cups of tea 2 meters apart with lovely friends. I’ve appreciated all the people I’ve hung out with this week and am very grateful for such good friends.

Reading:

I’ve read a book. I’m slowly starting to read novels again and ‘The Other Half of Augusta Hope’ was a brilliant read. Full of great writing, other worlds to escape to and a wealth of interesting characters. Also easy enough to read which helps as my concentration levels are not what I would like.

Stopping:

I stopped. I don’t have any responsibilities this Sunday, apart from hosting the wonderful after church zoom chaos chat and after my weeping of Wednesday night I chose to try and keep myself sane and stopped working in all the little pockets of time I have when the boys are otherwise engaged with screens or audio books. I wasn’t sure what the use of taking time off was in lockdown but it’s helping me not have to think about anything else and enjoy the boys when they are with me and be able to read books in the downtime. Wonderful husbandface is sacrificing some health points by playing with them this morning so I can write and sit and drink tea. Slowly we will find our equilibrium again.

Music:

Music has always kept me sane. This week I’ve been enjoying again The Lost Words Spell Songs album, especially the utterly wonderful Little Astronaut song about Larks and feeling sad.

I’ve also gone back to Iain Archers song Everest, three years ago in the super bad period of husbandfaces health, we played this song over and over again. We first came across it on a One Church weekend away,  and nothing soothes my soul and makes me cry hope filled tears like the refrain, “Some other day, when my morning comes, I’ll be the one who waited all night” coupled with a bit of Psalm 130 and waiting as the watchmen wait for the morning. Out of the depths I cry and I am heard. We wait and we watch, I would love to see better health for my favourite and best but also I know there will be a better morning to come, the dawn will arrive and our hearts will weep glorious (to steal a line from a Stuart Henderson poem). We hold on watching for the dawn.

Frozen 2:

Not as good as Moana but it’s been our film of the week. Probably slightly better than the first one but a bit random and with a plot I still don’t quite understand (I either fall asleep in the important bits or it really is as bonkers as it seems). It does contain words that have kept me sane this week. One of the trolls says, in a surprisingly profound way (I actually wrote the words down when he said them) “When one cannot see the future, all one can do is the next right thing”. I love the simplicity of those words, the massive truth they contain and the relevance to our lives at the moment, all I can do is the next right thing. I have NO idea about the future but I can do the next right thing in front of me. Who knew there could be such wisdom in a film with a dubious plot about a river that holds memories, a talking snowman and a 5th spirit to go with earth, wind, fire and water…

Walking:

I’ve been slower this week due to the back issues but it’s still been really helpful to get outside each morning, listen to the Lectio365 app and notice the world around me.  I talk to God more and listen more. I breathe deep and return with more incentive to love and reach out to the small ones. There is so much beauty out there, it’s great to get out in it, I’m available for socially distant walks at 7am in the morning if anyone wants to join me.

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The one, the only, Jo Tilley…

It’s another significant birthday in our family life. This time in our wider extended Godfamily, as our boys call them. The amazing Jo Tilley is 50 today and as I love a list and a birthday blog post here are several very good reasons I and my family love Jo.

We’ve hung out with her and her lovely family a whole load over the last 12 years since I joined the same church that they and husbandface were part of. She was one of the first people we grabbed after church one evening to tell her that we’d got together. We became godparents to their youngest, the lovely Sam, who only finally thought husbandface might have been a grown up when he got married to me, before that he was just his big funny friend, who definitely didn’t get listed when we asked who the grown ups in the room were. We planned our wedding on their sofa whilst baby sitting for them. They prayed for us when we got married (and to set the record straight Sam did start eating his tie first before Husbandface joined in while they were praying, although you can see how you might think it was the other way round…).

Jo is the kind of friend you really want to have around. Time after time I have sat in her house drinking cups of tea and praying together, going through the ups and downs of church and family life together, analysing life together and being grateful for God’s constant love and care for us together.

She was part of a lovely group of women from our last church who prayed together each week and helped keep me sane in the early years of having children, reassuring me that all I was feeling was normal.

She is a brilliant Godmum, taking son1 and son2 when we needed a break, hosting son1’s birthday party when son2 had just been born and I was half crazy with sleep deprivation, constantly being generous with her time and space, inviting us over for lunch more Sundays than I can count so we could let our kids go crazy and fall asleep on her sofa.

She took son1 one Tuesday a month so I could attend a course in Spiritual Direction and find my way back to myself after the shock of having a child. She took him again the night son2 was born, being wonderful in swooping in at 3am to take away the confused small one slightly worried at the funny noises Mummy was making. She gave me a morning off a week from son1 in the first year of son2s life so I could rest. Her sacrificial friendship is an insane gift and one massive reason of how I survived those early child years.

She loves our boys and before school got in the way we would be over at hers once or twice a week, or more, loving the safe space away from our house. It’s lovely seeing her delight in them and they in her. They love her SO much and are always happy and themselves whenever we land up on her sofa once again. 

She and her family are the reason we ended up at our lovely church when our last church ended. After a few months of confusion about where we would end up she kept on telling me that this new place was so ‘us’. We gave it a try and the first week we went Son1 told us we would stay at this place because Jo was there. For him it was simple, we would go where Jo and her family were. They were home for him so why wouldn’t we stay? We stayed.

She’s super wise, if you ever get the chance to have a cuppa and a chat with her you’ll find someone who cares, who has deep wisdom to offer and a profound servant heart. (Oh and someone who is brilliant to laugh with).

I love her sacrificial way of life, I honour her and the choices she has made for the best for her family, I see her and all she pours out. I am deeply glad to know Jo and so grateful for her friendship over the years. I really don’t know how I would have made it through them without her and her family and their constant love. Especially their non minding of us coming over whenever, our boys piling cushions on her son and husbandface falling asleep in various locations in her house. She and her family have always been a safe harbour, a place of refuge in the storms of life, a solid provision of grace and generosity.

A blog post is really too small a way to celebrate this wonderful woman. But it’s a start. Jo I love you. Thank you for everything.

(We’ll be over for some socially distant cake later 🙂

Son1 says: “I love Jo because she lets me play in her house, and she lets me bounce on her trampoline, she comes to National Trust with me, she makes me feel happy, and there are too many more things to say, the list would be too long…”

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