Holiday diaries. (The one where we find going to a new church a little strange) 

It’s Day 14 of my recovery from the tonsillectomy. I feel way way better than this time last week but still far far from any kind of normal. Thankfully there are pages and pages of blogs on the internet given over to recovering from an adult tonsillectomy. It’s a universal hideous experience which reassures me somewhat.

Anyway. I’m sure I should be having some sort of spiritual epiphany about living slow and immediate and how my identity is rooted deep in something stronger and more lasting than my work, friends, life, ability to leave the house etc. But mainly I’m mainlining Gilmore Girls (almost 5 seasons in 2 weeks) and listening to Harry Potter (book 4 now) and trying not to worry about the impeding arrival of September and new routines and the no church community situation and many other things I don’t feel ready for.

So, I have a lack of epiphany but fear not, I wrote some holiday diaries from our jaunt around Ireland that I shall share here for your edification. All out of order just to confuse things. First up is from the day we went to church. I’ve never liked going to church on holiday but we were with family who had been invited by friends and it was a Good Thing to do. But it got me thinking. 

Holiday diaries pt 4 or 5 

Sunday again 

We’ve made it to the north. A long long day of driving yesterday through mountains, green lands and into the familiar world of flags and separation that sadly marrs the landscape. We’ve made it to our second holiday cottage, an improvement on the last, and to more country roads for me to run around in the morning sun. 

Today we went out for a standard ‘fry’ this morning followed by a walk on the seafront. We then experienced church with the family, invited by a friend of theirs. Going to new churches is so so hard. It makes you remember that you can’t judge a church by one service or even any service. Going to a service at a church you don’t know is weird. Nothing this morning was really explained that well, the people leading didn’t introduce themselves, there wasn’t anything to even vaguely engage the kids in the first half an hour before their group (if kids are there I think there should be something to help them interact and help it not just be a how quiet can my child be exercise) their group in the end consisted of bible quiz knowledge, sweets and no welcome for the new ones. Sigh. I imagine if you are part of the church and know what’s going on all that is maybe ok. (Or maybe not eh) But- the people were friendly and one couple met us again in the car park later and started chatting more. It wasn’t a bad church. It just wasn’t a great first time experience. 
So if you get new people in the doors this summer, or even if you’ve just got a bit slack at explaining things – here’s my helpful list of things to check on… 

1. If you are leading- introduce yourself. I want to know your name and whether you are the leader etc. 

2. Explain what’s going to happen. And when/if kids will go out. (If they aren’t going out help me out as a parent and don’t have a 45 min talk or tut when they act like 3 years olds cos they are and maybe provide a space with toys we can go to. Or provide hooks they can grasp onto) 

3. If you are the kids leader, welcome my kids into the group, invite them to sit with the others, check if I want to stay or not and assure me that you’ll take care of my kids if I choose to leave and they won’t just be in a corner forgotten about. Also be clear about the end of the group and what happens next. 

4. Explain any in-church jargon. We were told it was Cornerstone week- what that was I still have no idea… 

I’m sure there are more things we can be doing to help people feel at ease about stepping into the weird world of a church service. I’m pretty comfortable with churches and church jargon, I’ve been doing this for 38 years. I still find it hard. Now imagine I’ve never stepped into a church in my life. I’m not sure what I would make of it all. At best it seems to me like going to a club I’m not a member of. We need to get better at being really clear about what we are doing and why. Church services are weird. Maybe they need rethinking altogether. Maybe I can say things like that more easily in this odd inbetween churches world we find ourselves in right now. 

Today’s experience kind of put me off even wanting to start looking for a church back home. It’s so hard and alien to rock up somewhere new, or even familiar if you don’t know the routines and where stuff is and how things work. 

Urgh. Aside from the thorny issue of church we are enjoying catching up with my father and sister in law and our nephew. The boys seem to be getting on well at the moment and although we only see each other a few times a year it is good to do the familiar routines of holiday over here. I hope these weeks are highlights of our boys year and they grow strong awareness of their northern Irish heritage.  

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The world of summer pt1

It’s the 19th of August. I have no idea how that happened. The summer appears to be starting its final lap and I’m feeling a little discomforted. This summer is a different world to the ‘normal’ summer holidays we have around here. It’s been a summer full of one of us being exhausted or one of us having minor surgery followed by major recovery. Or, let’s face it, both of those things at once. 

I’m 10 days into recovery from my tonsillectomy.  I’m told it’s worth it. It had better be. Adult tonsillectomy’s get a bad rep for a reason – mr anaesthetist who tried to reassure me. Recovery sucks. The only benefit so far is felt by Husbandface who says I no longer snore. After 7 years that’s got to be a pretty good result. Anyway. It’s not been a fun 10 days. My fears from childhood came true as I bled and had to rush to A and E earlier this week. It led to an overnight stay in hospital feeling somewhat of a fraud as I was the only one who could walk on my ward. However, since then I’ve been able to eat more, sleep with one less pillow and for 2 hours at a time instead of 40 min. Woot. 

This morning my brain has started to stir.  I still can’t talk much and yet I need to process. It’s been an odd week. For the first time in 4 years I’ve been off duty. Not primary child carer, not the one sorting out stuff in the house. I’ve had a week off. (I mean I’ve been in hideous agony but my back isn’t and that hasn’t happened for about 2 years now…). I’ve been mentally out of it most of that time so it hasn’t been hard to hide away and let the excellent Husbandface take the reins (thanking God for the timing of this and his summer holidays etc). 

As my brain begins to stir I find I am missing ordering the chaos, I’ve got pretty good at it over the years. I’m missing hanging out with my insane boys, I’m almost missing getting frustrated with them. It’s odd watching Husbandface go through the rhythms of the day, the same ups and downs as I do, the getting dressed fight, the eat your breakfast exhuasting battle, the fun of imaginative play, the joys of chats and cuddles and Lego and hilarious fun. It’s reassuring seeing how hard it is. It reminds me that it isn’t easy and that mostly it’s not me, it’s them. 

After the exhaustion of this year, holding this ship together and the ugly ways I’ve taken out frustration and stress on the small ones it’s been lovely to not have to do the hard stuff. To not have shouted at them since I can’t remember. I’m glad that I could totally zone out, Husbandface is amazing with our boys. He does things differently from me, and that’s a good thing. I’m appreciating the balance our personalities bring to this Team. It’s been hard being a passenger for a bit but not that hard. 

As I wake up I sense it’s going to get harder. I still need to rest but I want to jump back in and pull ropes, steer a bit and swab the deck. I need to make myself hold back and not jump in before I’m ready. My overwhelming desire to control needs to be tamed. For now I’m still a passenger on this ship. But being a passenger makes me realise how much I love my actual job, how much I love my boys and how glad I am to have a co-captain who is pretty good at steering himself. 

When thinking about recovery time I had a silly list of things I wanted to do and achieve in this time. No prizes for guessing that it’s not really been the time to read 100 books or map out the book I want to write or anything like that. I’ve been unbelieveably sore, in and out of sleep, maxed out on painkillers and unable to eat. I have managed to watch 3 whole series of the Gilmore Girls which has been the perfect gentle thing to get me through the days. It hasn’t been what I expected and that’s ok. Life rolls along. There will be time enough to read and write. Right now I’m just grateful to be almost believing that I could eat without pain at some point soon. 

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Gazing at the view. 

I think I’ve lost the art of blog writing. Somewhere in the fog of surviving each day I’ve lost the art of processing my rambling thoughts. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I do like storing my thoughts here for future reference. We sit on a Sunday morning at the edge of the summer ‘holidays’ (nothing should really be called a holiday in the preschool years). It’s been a pretty difficult year so far. Husbandface has been depressed for the most part of it, drugs are helping but he’s been signed off work and is end of term exhausted times a million right now. As noted previously our church community which has been our safe place for 8 or so years has been scattered. 

Holding things together around here is hard work. I find myself very close to anger and frustration and sad at how often they spill out on my beautiful boys. I long for what I think will give me rest, for long days in bed and for time away from these circumstances. A friend gave me a morning off the boys the other week and it was blissful to lie in bed and cry at a trashy novel. The benefits that afternoon were clear, the boys had a Mum who was engaged with them and not just wiling the time away until bedtime.

It’s easy to crave more of such times, easy to think I can’t cope without them and resent the small ones for daring to exist. It’s easy to ignore the One who authors this life and stick my head in a sand of weariness. Frankly there doesn’t seem to be much noise from heaven around here anyway. A parched desert is a good description of faith right now.

Yesterday though a shaft of light came through. A cup of water was found in the sand. An umbrella of shade as I found myself, surprisingly, believing in the reality that my rest and strength don’t come from changes in circumstances (I know more sleep will help but in the meantime…).  Ultimately strength to carry on comes from the one who made me, loves me, breathes lion breath into my hard weary heart and whispers strength into my ears so I can carry on loving, being patient and putting one foot in front of the other. I don’t often believe in that. I often throw my toys around and give my Maker the silent treatment but this weekend I’ve somehow been given ability to believe and access the beauty of being held and loved.

I am glad. I am grateful. We head off on holiday on Friday to the wonderful world of Ireland, my soul will have access to all the things that make it sing. From the look of where we are going I may explode with wonder as I gaze around. Despite no sleep, exhausting days, crazy boys and weariness there will be rest for my soul. My Maker who watches over me, who does not slumber or sleep, who will protect me will be there. I am glad.

Rend Collective are good for my soul right now. There is something about the loud stampy music, the shouty: life is broken and hard but I’m going to flipping rejoice because there is hope underneath the crap. There is reality to cling to. There is more than I can see. There is a hope that won’t be crushed. There is a light that never goes out (oh wait. That’s another band right?…) But the message is clear. Life is stinky hard but there is One who stands with us. I don’t believe that much of the time but right now I do and I am glad of the clarity as fog lifts for a moment. 

These verses from Jeremiah and Isaiah keep ringing around my head.

“This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’”

‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭6:16‬ ‭NIV‬

“This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it. You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses.’ Therefore you will flee! You said, ‘We will ride off on swift horses.’ Therefore your pursuers will be swift!

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭30:15-16‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I long to embrace them, walk in them and enjoy what they offer this summer. I want to heed the warning that follows, the Israelites would have none of these things. I really want them. I am glad we have a deeper reality that holds us in these ways, I am glad we have a Spirit who guides us back and a Shepherd who seeks out his sheep.

Like Rend Collective I want to sing with gusto and joy the reality of faith. I need my cold hard heart warmed, I want to gaze at my lighthouse in the storms of this life and I want to find hope and refuge in the pain and sorrow. 

View noted. We walk on. We walk on. 

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Looking to the future…


The scattered members of CCB

I find myself once more at the computer screen attempting to make sense of the last few weeks. On Sunday our church will have it’s last service and the small community that we have been part of for 8 or so years will come to an end in it’s current form. Friendships will remain, no doubt they will change as we seek to become part of other churches, but they will remain in some form. Sadly though, as a family, a fellowship, we will be scattered across our city in other churches. Maybe some of us will end up together, maybe some of us won’t. I have no idea what will happen. It’s been a whirlwind few weeks, from finding out the results of the review of the church, to the request that our Minister step down and look for another role, to the heartbreaking meeting when we realised there was no way we could realistically carry on with the small core we have.

It turns out there is no way to end a church well. There is no book that has been written on the subject, as far as I’m aware, and there certainly is no way to end a church well in 3-4 weeks. It’s a hard, messy, painful process. There is a constant need to bear with each other, to submit to each other, to forgive and to accept that nothing will really happen as you want it to happen. Life is like that, this process of closing up a church that has been going for 11 years is like that. It’s flipping hard.

For the last few weeks my emotions have been all over the place, the boys have suffered under my stress poured out in anger at them. I sense that after Sunday we all may get ill or just collapse in exhaustion. This is not easy. This is not fun. But this is sadly part of life right now.  I want it to be pain free, but then if it was, I guess we’d not have been in deep community with each other.

I came to Christ Church off the back of working for UCCF, travelling around CU’s, showing up with the shiny side of me on view (well maybe not always) It was easy to love the role, to be the one doing ministry and hide the unkempt bits of me away at home (my housemates and team didn’t get off so lightly as my sin was always fairly hard to hide.) Anyway, the point was, I could flit in and out of students communities and liked the brief contact. Coming to Christ Church was a lesson in community I couldn’t escape from. I couldn’t avoid the tricky people at church, there was no-where to go, I couldn’t avoid hurting people, we were in such close contact. I had to learn to ask for forgiveness of others and accept it when given. I had to learn to bear with others, to not duck away from hard relationships. I had learn to live with the reality of my own sin. It was a beautiful church to be part of. Not perfect by any means, deeply irritating at times, frustrating in it’s own way but with a profound sense of what it means to be family together, to share each others lives together, to constantly eat together and value relationship highly.

The other night in our small group we listed all the people who had been in and out of Christ Church over the years and where they are now. It was a long long list. We couldn’t help thinking if most of them had stayed we’d be in a whole different place than we are now. It was, however, awesome to see the amount of people we had affected over the years, people who still feel part of the church even though they left 8 years ago and really were only with us for a few weeks. We have been family for each other and for all who have come through our doors.

Christ Church is the only church I have known as a wife and a mother. It is where I met the brilliant husbandface and realised that we fit together like a broken in shoe molds around your feet or a key fits a lock, it made no sense to spend the rest of our lives in any other way but together.  It feels so scary to step out of what has been a wonderfully safe place for our marriage and parenting, knowing we have done both in community with others. The stripping away of the formal places of that community is hard. The reality is that our safe places will remain. We know where we can run to in troubled times. We know that new safe places will be forged. We trust that someone bigger than us is holding us right now.

The time has come for our church family to be fully scattered, still bound by the experiences we had together but moving onto new things. It’s a time of grief, of thankfulness, of pain, of sorrow, of anticipation. I wonder where we will end up, I wonder what kind of Christian we are now and therefore what church we will end up in. I wonder how our eldest will cope with the transition, he doesn’t want our church to stop, he wants to go where everyone else goes, he likes what we have. The unknown is scary. I have to remind myself to tell my own heart what I tell him, that God doesn’t change, that he has us in his hands, that there is a future for us and that not all change is bad.

Right now there is an insanely beautiful sunset over the downs out of my window. A sunset which calls me to trust in a reality I cannot see or taste or touch. A reality of a Maker, a cup, a cross, a grave and a sunrise one morning with an empty tomb and fish on the beach. A sunset which reminds me that there is more than this. That our lives are in the hands of someone much bigger than mine, who calls us onwards on this journey. The sea is so big and our boat is so small but we are held. We are held. I do not know the future but I know the one who does and in the midst of the pain, the not understanding, the seeming silence, the unbelief I cling onto hope in the one who has taken hold of me and from whom I cannot hide. The One who has searched me and known me, the One who knit me together in my mothers womb, the One who has poured out unimaginable love and mercy on me. The One who sees me and the One who has said he will come back to make all the sad things come untrue. Until then we wait and wonder and take faltering steps in the ancient paths again.

Sunday morning we will commit our lives into God’s safe hands for the future, we will be thankful, we will be sad and we will eat lots of good good food because we have a God of feasting and joy who loves a good banquet. Then we will watch tennis and try not to think too hard about what has just happened.

We’re praying this prayer at the end of the meeting tomorrow. To commit our lives into God’s hands, to ask for his help, to rest in His strength to get us home.

“Father, we thank you that we are your dearly loved children, your workmanship.

We stand, at the end of Christ Church and at the beginning of something new.

We don’t know what the future holds but we thank you that you know the future and we can know you.

Today we make no grand promises of our faithfulness, we are aware of our weakness, but we look to your grace, your strength, your promise to keep us until the end.

Please send us out from here to walk in the good ways you have prepared for us to do.

Please provide for us as we take the next steps into the unknown and help us find strength in you to serve you all our days.

Finally we ask that the you, the God of peace, would equip us with everything good for doing your will, and would work in us what is pleasing to you, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”


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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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