It’s finally Advent. Light in the deepest darkness. 


This round up of the week is so late it might count as an early one for this week. Actually, I can’t remember much of last week. I know we got through it. I know none of us melted down too much along the way. I know we headed to my brothers house for family fun and I know I slightly underestimated how exhausting it would be to navigate family fun with two small ones overwhelmed by all the fun and slightly confused as to why the road trip didn’t involve the much loved Daddy.

He was at home resting and I was discovering that it’s very hard to drive without the extra person to deal with small child demands. Driving tired plus whining from the back is a skill I didn’t want to master but master it I did this weekend. (If getting us all home in one piece counts as mastering it) Aside from small child exhaustion and my own exhaustion leading me to cry randomly throughout the day on Saturday (glad Mum was around to hug lots) it was a lovely weekend to catch up with the excellent brother and sister in law, hear the latest on the exciting new job and enjoy our nephews and niece having fun with their cousins.

I got home to a tired husbandface who after 2 hours of contact again needed to lie down. It’s a bit bleak around here these days. I’m hopeful of some change as meds have been upped after a trip to the doctors today and he is in conversations with work to see what he can stop doing. But still. It’s a long hard road and I’m not all that good at accepting that.

This morning I got to do what I love to do this time of year and lead a session on Advent at Tuesday group. We stopped and were silent. We were still, trusting that sensing the absence of God leads to longing for his presence. We were silent because we live in a dark world and we need to take time to long for the light. There is much going on at the moment that makes me long deeply for the light in our lives, for Jesus to step into the situations of grief and pain.

We are all facing situations of darkness and pain. We are not the only ones facing incomprehensible sorrow daily. We are not the only ones walking wearily down the road. Together we plough onwards and occasionally turn our faces towards the sky longing for answers, for relief, for a new reality, for someone to come and take the pain away. Surely someone can come and take the pain away? We long for Jesus to come, to bring an end to sadness and we long for Jesus to be present in the midst of this darkness in our life and our friends lives.

This morning we listened to Come Thou Long Expected Jesus. It says this:

“Come to earth to taste our sadness,
he whose glories knew no end,
by his life he brings us gladness,
our Redeemer, Shepherd, Friend.
Leaving riches without number,
born within a cattle stall,
this the everlasting wonder,
Christ was born the Lord of all.”

We have a God who tasted our sadness. Who knows what it is like to walk this planet and who knows the ache and sorrow that seems to be close to all of us.

I long for him to show up this Advent time. In the midst of that longing I also long to know the value of small. Although I want to write endless series of posts on Advent, although I want to invite neighbours round for drinks, although I want to get my Christmas on in a big way and fill our diary with people and events, I can’t. This time is a time of small. We have limited stores of energy. My energy must be used in loving my boys and man well. Our life this Christmas will look small and slow and fairly unpopulated. I want to embrace that way of living. I want to know my enough is found in Jesus and not in what I do or how many friends I have. I want to lean into the silence, the small, the dark and find hope in the baby who came into the dark in a very ordinary way.

I want to find him in the midst of the sorrow and exhaustion this year. I want to love my boys as he would want me to and I want to stop long enough on the weary road to hear the angels sing.

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Pre-Advent musings. Light for November gloom. 

About this time of year I always sit down and proclaim we need some light in the gloom. Late November is a hard season to plough on through. The mornings are dark and the light is fading. It’s still too early for Christmas lights to bring cheer and the sun seems to have disappeared for a week or so. The charms of autumn have worn off. The crunchy leaves turning mulchy and slimy underfoot.

I am desperate for Advent to begin on Sunday. I long to put up the sticker calendars we have bought. I’m looking forward to putting the puzzle pieces in their hanging pockets ready for us to put the Christmas story together over December. I must get out and buy an advent candle to help the boys over dinner time imagine light that darkness cannot conquer. I need this season of waiting and longing to come. It’s fairly ironic to be waiting for a season of waiting but here I am. 

In the midst of the gloom I’m feeling pretty hopeful this week. We think we’ve found a church to settle in for the time being. A place where we can start to slowly unfold and get to know people. Our excellent Godfamily already go there and son1 decided we should the first Sunday we tentatively tried it out. It’s in Brighton. It looks like it might speak to where our souls are right now. It seems to bring connection with God. It feels strange stepping into the unknown, into another community but we are ready to get started again. We are ready to start sharing life with others. We are ready to see where God will take us, break us, use us to help others and restore us. It means the world to know we can do this together with friends who know and love us already. 

This Sunday the sermon was on Sabbath. A helpful reminder of the value and necessity of stopping in the midst of life and remembering who we belong to. It was the end prayer that brought the tears. ‘Imagine Jesus is sitting next to you. He’s your brother. He’s here. What is he saying?’. Tears fell down my cheeks as I embraced the intimacy of that moment. The love. The longing. To be sitting with Jesus. I found that he loved me. Wasn’t ashamed to be sitting with me. Knew me. There is much I don’t know. There are many things we are struggling with right now. But I long for more of these times of sitting with Jesus. Times of soaking up his love and delight in me. Words that seem so hard to believe and yet have brought me so much life this week. 

“Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.”

‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭2:11‬ ‭

Jesus is not ashamed of us. Not ashamed to be in our family. Not ashamed of you. Not ashamed to be identified with us. Numbered amongst us. That’s the wonder of Christmas and God in human form coming to be with us. That’s the only hope of our lives. That’s why I am glad with all my heart to belong to him. He is not ashamed of me.

Preadvent thought over. As you were. 

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Is it Advent yet? 

These weekly reviews seem to say the same thing at the moment. I think it’s still a good discipline but will understand if you want to skip to the end or just go and make yourself another cup of tea. It’s Saturday, I’ve escaped from the small people to queue up and get a haircut and it looks like it’s going to be a long wait. Ah town a few weeks before Christmas.

It’s been another one of those up and down weeks, we had a shouty day early on in the week. Son1’s anger seemed to go through the roof and I wondered what on earth was going on. Stuff at nursery? Weirdly emotionally exhausted parents? The trials of being 4? Thankfully a chat to his nursery teachers gave some clues. Apparently there had been ‘feisty’ (I can only imagine what was behind that overly charming word) behaviour and shifts in friendship groups. Son1 had been fine at nursery but clearly unsettled by what was going on and pouring it out at home. I’m grateful for whatever help they gave him on Wednesday morning after I chatted. He was a different boy for the rest of the week. Phew.

I love understanding my eldest weirdo, advocating for him and seeing change. Like me he’s quiet and compliant in social situations and then it all comes out in his safe place. I’m glad the nursery teachers understand him too and weren’t surprised when I chatted to them, could see why he was affected and were lovely in reassuring me.

The second half of the week was pretty delightful. Lots of stories, interaction, seeing friends and charming conversations. Oh and the return of poo into song lyrics. I have to admire the comic timing and genius when he sang ‘if you’re happy and you know it’ loudly on the bus, replacing clap your hands with clap your poo. So funny. So wrong.

Around that we’ve had a pretty grim head down through the dark kind of a week. It’s November. It’s gloomy. It feels like there are a whole load of question marks in our life at the moment and we feel a little lost. I sat and splurged my swirling thoughts to my Spiritual Director last night and came to the conclusion that I really need advent to start already.

In my book of Bible and prayer I’m going through the church year. Each day I look at the calendar at the top and see if I can head to the page marked Christ the King, the beginning of the Advent season. Each day I am stuck in ordinary time. Oh so true. I took a sneak peak this morning and tomorrow I get to launch into the preface to Advent. I need daily reminders that Emmanuel has come. I need the daily echo of my ache that he should come again. More than ever this year I yearn inside for this broken world to be made new. There feels like too much at stake now. I know so much has improved in our world over the last 100 years but it doesn’t seem like we are getting anywhere in greater love, in recognising our Maker and walking in his ways. I want an end to hurt, to pain, to suffering. I want him to come back so my son can see him and not have to wonder anymore why we can’t see God (a question I’m so with right now).

And there we are. Ploughing on. Seeking hope and reality and getting through the next 5 minutes at a time.

EDIT.

I totally forgot to include the best news ever. Urgh. I am a silly. This week a church has finally seen sense and employed the excellent brother and sister-in-law as a Discipleship Pastor. Leighton Buzzard you are a lucky lucky town (if slightly challenged in the name department). I am obviously extremely delighted and also glad of the bonus joy of them being an hour closer to us.  Thought a happy end to the story was worth a mention here after my ranty rant back in February.

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Do you have any safe spaces to test out heretical thoughts? 

Recently we’ve been mainlining the new series of Black Mirror on Netflix. It’s a delightfully disturbing dystopian view of the future. Or now. The genius of it lies in storylines which offer a take on where we are now as a society and follow that to a natural dark conclusion. Anyway. Watch it and report back.

The first story was a little too close to where we are now. Describing a world where people interact and then instantly offer a score on their phone, rating the interaction. It’s a simple enough premise with a dark undertone. Your score in life gets you certain places, if you have a low score you can’t access many services and people don’t want to be with you. If you have a high score the world appears to be your oyster. As the story unfolds we realise that there is no real connection, no honesty in conversation, what takes place is only what will boost ratings. The best scene is the last one when two people shout at each other, insult one another and are deeply joyful because at last they are able to say whatever they like, free from the demand for ratings.

Aside from it’s similarity to Max Lucado’s You’re Special story (a must read) it was a fascinating take on where we are heading as a society. 

Watching it I felt relieved that we aren’t there yet but as the days went on after seeing it I began to wonder. I had an excellent chat with an old friend on Skype where we both voiced opinions and asked questions that we couldn’t have online. We said things that would have got us shot down from all sides in a second on Twitter or Facebook. We asked some of the big faith questions of the moment. We proffered different opinions from accepted lines of thinking and were able to safely ask and ponder answers. These are things I just don’t want to write about online. I fear the overreaction of many, I fear nuance and relationship being lost along the way and I think I’m right to reserve talking about some things for the world of face to face, flesh and blood, interactions. 

But I wonder if we are ever asking big questions of each other? I wonder if we ever have space to say the stuff we are really thinking? I wonder if we are giving each other the gift of listening in the midst of that? I wonder if we are far too used to silencing part of our thoughts so we won’t cause offence or go against the norms and values of our tribe? I think this plays out in so many areas, faith, parenting, politics and more.

I wonder where are the safe places to consider opinions different to our own? Where can we say things that are different to the accepted norms of those around us and still know we are loved and valued? I wonder where the safe places are to have nuanced conversations where we try out different positions and don’t have our entire selves judged on what position we might hold on certain issues?

That’s a whole lot of wondering. Can anyone help me out? Do you self censor yourself? Do you feel a different person online to the one you are when you chat face to face? Are you talking about the areas you don’t always agree with your tribe on? (And if so how and where?) how do we disagree well? 

I would love some thoughts on this. 

Yours expectantly. 

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Here we go again. Searching to make sense of the week. 

Friday night. It’s time for the roundup of the week. It’s been an odd one and a reassuringly normal one all rolled in together. We headed back into blessedroutine. Son1 slowly got better from all the sickness and I remembered once more that sickness=grumpy sad children. No sickness=happy and delightful children (for some of the time at least). We enjoyed life together this week. The boys were mostly charmingly good company. We did all our normal things and we were glad. 

Intertwined with that lovely return to normality was the rest of the week. 

Husbandface’s health took a turn for the worse with him ending the week with a day off work. Depression is such a killer. There isn’t a nice neat cure, there is no way of really knowing how much to push through and how much to listen to your body not breathing properly and crashing each night. Hmm. Put like that it sounds simple. Listen to your body and stop. Put that thought in the mind of someone with crippling depression it’s suddenly not simple at all. Depression isn’t easily explained, it doesn’t look obvious like a plaster cast. It deceives the person suffering and the people around. The black dog is a suffocating menace and I wish it would leave my amazing man alone. 

It’s in these times that I miss our old church family with an aching heart. I miss being able to go to small group and tell people how it is and know that they care. I miss the love they showed us and I miss the safety of their love for husbandface. I miss our safety net. Life feels very vulnerable right now. It’s shot through with normality and good times but every now and again I get scared that we aren’t known as well as we used to be. It’s unsettling and strange. Not insurmountable. But I am noticing the weirdness. 

And then there is the world around. 2016 is a year that I will be highly glad to see the back of. Waking up at 5am to another unbelievable news story is not my idea of fun. The excellent Counselling Anywhere site wrote this piece on how to survive the world right now. It’s very helpful. http://counsellinganywhere.com/articles/2016/7-ways-to-survive-in-a-post-trump-post-brexit-world 

Leonard Cohens death today was another blow in an already pretty odd week. He was the most beautiful poet. Go read some of his lyrics and marvel at how he managed to encapsulate life, depression and cynicism so well. There are so many good lyrics but it is always the ones from ‘Anthem’ that I come back to. ‘Ring the bells that just won’t ring, forget your perfect offering, there is a crack, a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in’. 

Tonight very good friends will arrive in our house and I hope for good times sharing life and the madness of small people together. It’s been a weird old week. We could do with some fun. 

I almost forgot. Christmas joy has started. The boys and I loved our first visit to Christmas fun at one of the many local garden centres around here. It’s the perfect thing for cold wet afternoons. Lots of space to run around, books and toys to play with, a free light show with the Christmas lights, a moving snowman and even some animals to look at. If things get worse around here I think I’ll just dedicate these weekly roundups to a review of garden centre Christmas displays. I think there would be take up for that. 

Oh and one more thing. Watch Black Mirror. Now. It’s genius. Unsettling and profound. I think Charlie Brooker might just be a prophet. There is so much I want to write about it but time is too short. Blog post a brewing though so watch this space. 

And that’s it. Enjoy your weekend. 

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Round up of the first week back. 

Bullet journal fun


I tried to sit down and write something yesterday but all I had in my head were grumps, moaning and anger. I thought it might not be such a helpful reflection on the week to write in that state. It was a funny week. Husbandface had the first day back off work, son1 had an inset day with nursery and it wasn’t really the plunge back into routine we had all craved. Tuesday and Wednesday morning went more in the normal vein of things and then son1 was very sick and life took an interesting turn. Thursday we managed an awesome quiet day with lots of screen time, Lego time, extended nap times all round and lots of opportunity to sort things in the house for me. Very helpful. 

A veil is best drawn over Friday. Hormones, anger, illness and overexcitement/concern about family arriving from son1 led to a whole heap of bad choices from us all, many tears, lots of Tractor Ted and many apologies all round. Last night I could still see nothing good in the world beyond the glass of wine and peanut butter sandwich comforts in my hand. 

Thankfully some sleep, some fun playing with the boys in the early hours of this morning, fresh air, seaside beauty and really good times with family have meant my brain has settled down a bit. Life no longer seems so laden with doom. It’s been great to hang out with the in laws and nephew today. Other people around being extra pairs of hands with the boys is most welcome in these intense times. Husbandface is on the edge of sanity lots at the moment and it’s good to share the load of life. 

The best thing about this week has been the start of my new bullet journal. Google it if you want an explanation clearer than mine. Fundamentally it’s a place to collate all planning for life, to do lists, monthly events, weekly tasks, creative thoughts, menu planning and whatever else I feel like putting in it. I only discovered it was a thing when husbandface started doing it earlier in the year. It revolutionised his work planning and involvement in home life. It now functions as his brain and I’ve been lured in. 

I love that it’s pen on paper, anything to get me away from the phone. I love that it’s totally customisable. I love that even though the internet is full of totally beautiful ones I am very happy with my scraggy lists and crossed out mumblings. I’ve wanted some way to organise my life for a while and this helps me do it in a way that apps on the phone simply can’t manage. Also it’s bright pink, shiny and has numbered pages for ease of finding things with a contents page. All in all very satisfying. 

Oh and we laminated leaves. Seriously. So much fun, very quick and with awesomely beautiful results. I thought the leaves had lost their shiny colours from when we collected them last weekend but they just needed sunlight streaming through them again to light them up. Genius. Leaves are really the only craft thing I can bring myself to get excited by. I love autumn and it’s good to get into the beauty of this time of year with the small ones. 

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Half term. It was the best of times… it was the not so best of times…

Half term has come and gone. In some ways it seems like month ago that son1 finally had his party and we headed into a week out of routine. It was a tale of two weeks.

In the first tale we were both exhausted, the boys were tired and ill with coughs for much of the week. We were both desperate for space and I didn’t realise until the end of the week how low husbandface had become again. A full on half term plus a few other past memories led to him crashing but both of us too tired to understand how bad he was feeling until the end of the week. Once I worked it out and reined in the resentment things got a bit better over this last weekend. We had some family times with husbandface able to lie down and crash for a few hours in between the fun.

For lots of the week I was resentful and wiped out. I tried to remember that in this world of full on parenting that a change is really as good as a rest. However much last week didn’t look like a rest or feel like a rest it has enabled me to appreciate our normal weeks. Doing different things is good and in the midst of extreme tiredness we had some good times with each other and friends. 

The second tale is that we did have a lot of fun in the week. We enjoyed the vast amount of Lego son1 got for his birthday and the spare room in our house is now the inventing room. All of us love modelling together, a good way to wile away tired afternoons. We managed a day away from the boys visiting one of my best friends and her new tiny baby. It was great to be able to be a blessing in the madness of new baby land. 

Son1 had a brilliant birthday party thanks to husbandface’s child’s entertainer skills and at least two of us enjoyed going up the i360 on his actual birthday. He declared it a bit too high… I can’t believe we have a 4 year old and a 2 year old now. Crazy. We had a lovely weekend this last weekend with the last of the birthday parties for a while, some national trust joy, Snowdog finding and hanging out with our lovely Godfamily.

All in all it’s been a mixed bag and with proper routine not starting until tomorrow due to an inset day at son1’s nursery I am more than a little desperate for normality. It’s a seven week run to Christmas and I want to enjoy it, not just survive it. I want to build rest into our everyday life so we have a more sustainable holiday time where husbandface can rest and we aren’t all exhausted. That may be a pie in the sky dream but I can but try. 

Running tonight has reset my buttons a little and I’m hopeful that there is hope out there in the darkness of November. 

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