#Those who wait…

thoseHere I am, sitting on my sofa after a long day with the boys. Wanting to write something deeply profound to join in the lovely Tanya Marlow’s synchroblog thing about waiting, in honour of her new book launching this week. 

Here I am. The wine is waiting for me to drink it. Husbandface is waiting for me to come upstairs with chocolate. I am waiting to watch some Big Bang Theory before our eyes shut and we give into sleep. I am waiting for son2 to wake up and crawl his way into our bed to spend the night on my face again. Waiting.

‘Those who wait’ is a brilliant book, you should buy a copy now and several for your friends. If we had slightly more disposable income this month that is what I would be doing instead of instructing you to. It’s a book about waiting but about so much more.  It has amazing retelling of Bible stories from the perspective of Sarah, Isaiah, John the Baptist and Mary. It has incredibly moving benedictions and prayers. It has creative exercises that you actually want to do instead of just reading and feeling vaguely guilty about moving on to the next part of the book (as with most ‘creative’ exercises in books I’ve read). It has group discussion questions that sound like you might want to use them. It has 24 chapters for the season of Advent. It even has detailed historical notes on the background behind the stories.  It’s a beautiful thing.

You should buy it because it speaks to the universal experience of waiting. There is no-one alive who has not had to wait for something. Waiting is a mixed bag, it can be hard and weird, joyous and crazy, full of anticipation or full of dread and fear. Waiting can feel like limbo floating or eager desiring joy, or both things at different points of the day.

We find ourselves in the mad limbo of waiting at the moment. Husbandface is still sick, there is no nice neat chronological timeline for his recovery. It sucks. Life feels on hold and yet time moves relentlessly forward, the boys grow, we have to get through each day, head down, moving forward.  But the bigger picture of what this life is all about seems to have got lost in the never ending question of when will this end? Will it ever end? What will happen about jobs? What will happen when the money runs out? What will happen if this never changes? We wait but we don’t really know what we are waiting for.

It’s not like the pregnancy waiting of expectation and fear of the unknown. It’s not like the short term waiting on a job interview result. It feels a bit like the waiting for son1 to sleep through the night, a mythical future we could only dream of until one day it happened, just like that. But even that felt more concrete than this waiting world we live in. It’s not a world devoid of joy, there are moments of wonder, moments to embrace, but it does feel like sitting around in a room deeply confused as to why the doors aren’t open, or where, indeed, the doors have gone.

It’s too easy to look at others and think that they are handling waiting so much better, to worry about the ways we are handling waiting, if only we could get the faith together to believe God was involved in all of this, maybe that would turn the magic key to make this all better. In some senses then it’s like the odd waiting that I did when I was single. I was waiting for a husband somewhere in my subconscious but I was deeply aware that this was not like waiting for a bus. This was waiting for a possible future, a potential future, a future that might not happen at all. It was a waiting and not waiting all at the same time. In some ways we wait for husbandface to get better and in some ways we are not waiting for that at all. In this bizarre waiting we must get on with life, we must still live and breathe and love and hope in the right now in front of our eyes. We have nothing else, no certainty to cling to.

Maybe we aren’t in a room at all, but rather walking along a fog drenched path. We see what is in front of our eyes. We walk on, step by step, we put one foot in front of the other and we desperately cling to each other and our boys. Maybe the sun will come again, maybe it won’t. But the path still takes us on, to fog drenched towns, and people and places to live in and love in. Sometimes the sun shines through and we can taste hope clear. Sometimes it doesn’t. We are waiting for a maybe. We are walking on in the waiting and trying to make the best. We are waiting for the ultimate sunny day because that one is f**king certain and this life is so utterly crap at times that we need to cling to the future that has hope and sure solid clear blue sky in it. That future which will usher in a new kind of life for us all. That future which works backwards here and says that the weird waiting is worth it.

Here I am. Stream of consciousness on waiting over with. Go read Tanya’s book. It made me cry on public transport because it was so freeing to read tender words from one who knows what it’s like to live in an uncertain waiting world.

The waiting for the wine is over.

One day that will finally be true.

The holidays might just begin sometime soon…

‘This is part of the synchroblog on waiting, to celebrate the release of Those Who Wait: Finding God in Disappointment, Doubt and Delay by Tanya Marlow – out now. See more here and link up to the synchroblog here.’


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Processing parenting once more…

IMG_1490We stared at each other. Stubborn incomprehension on both of our faces. He looked angry and frustrated. I would have given anything to get into his mind and make him see sense. I asked question after question, knowing somewhere deep down that I should stop the interrogation of my almost 5 year old but not having the sense to walk away and breathe. We stared at each other. He blew in my face and walked away. I frustratedly sighed and huffed for a while. Later we hugged goodnight and again stared with incomprehension at each other. He, probably wondering what the fuss was about, me just wondering how I would ever understand this boy and help him navigate the world.

Later that night I turned to friends on Facebook for comfort. I felt like a failure once more in this odd land of parenting and wanted help. People expressed their support and care, people reassured me that I am actually a good parent, most of the time. There are times I get it right. A friend then dropped the line that set my thoughts free. Of course I have failed, I have not parented perfectly everyday of my life. But. There is forgiveness. There is grace. There is One who parents me and who sets me free to be ok with my failures. There is One who tells me that I am not a complete failure, but who is also realistic about the times I have been harsh, angry, impatient or lazy. There is One who always, unfailingly, offers forgiveness and a chance for a new start.

To be honest this is sometimes one of the only reasons I can find to still call myself a Christian. This good, insane, crazy news that I am forgiven. An external source is offering me grace. I don’t have to try and be perfect, I don’t have to sit and despair over my failure to be perfect. I can run to the safety of the arms that say I am dearly loved, that I am enough and that I am forgiven for all the ugly selfish behaviour that still dominates my life at times. It’s the only way I know to deal with the reality that I sin, that I hurt people around me, that I fail to love. I am forgiven. From a source I trust and believe in. I am forgiven. Words from the one who faced the worst so I didn’t have to. I am forgiven.

It’s also the only way I can face the future, when again I will be faced with children who are not perfect, who will be ugly in their behaviour to others. I will be faced with my fear, my anger, my ability to hurt others. It’s the only way I can look to the future with hope, knowing that I am and will be forgiven. Jesus died for me. Once for all. Once for all. I don’t know how else to live. I know those words don’t always sit well, I know those words can bring all the wrong images in the minds of some read these words. But I have no other ones. These give me hope and life. A way forward in the mess. A way to live without fear. It bothers me greatly that these words have been used in ways that don’t bring life and hope.

For now I live in the tension that I am not as I wish I was, but I am loved and forgiven and can be good enough for my beautiful boys. I live needing the encouragement to know that my parenting is pretty good at times. I live needing the encouragement that when it isn’t, when it looks ugly and wrong that I am forgiven, that I have a place to run to for safety and refuge. I long for the wisdom to know when I need to say sorry and when I need to say ‘go’ to the dark negative thoughts that swirl around me and trap me in fear.

I am grateful friends on Facebook provided that full picture last night.

This weird world of parenting can be so full of guilt, it’s hard to figure out what I am responsible for and what I am not. We are growing small people who will become big people and responsible for their own choices and actions in the world. I imagine there will always be part of me who feels responsible, who thinks if only we had done things differently…. But I think that’s the part of me who wants to think she can control everything. I can’t.

That’s been my ultimate lesson from the moment son1 blew our world apart. I could not control how he slept, or ate, or developed, when he sat up, when he crawled, when he spoke words, when he finally learnt to sleep all night in his own bed. I cannot control when he learns to read, how he interacts with his friends, what he will do next week. Together with the lovely husbandface we can try and provide an environment for him and his weirdo brother to flourish in, to be loved in, to be cared for in, to be listened to in. We can try and be his safe place, his touchstone to run to when the world confuses him but we cannot control him or how he engages with this world.  I sigh in relief that I know a God who loves him more than I ever will, who holds onto us in this weird process of helping a boy grow into a man and who works for good in our lives. I am so glad of redemption, forgiveness and hope. I am glad we have the Spirit who helps us make wise, good choices, I am glad to belong to something bigger than me and whether I have got it right today or not. I am glad that it is never the end of the story.

Your correspondent, once more writing to remind herself of Good Things and maybe finding a few more reasons why she’s a Christian along the way.


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Just another weekly roundup…

It’s Friday again. We’ve just returned from our first full on rainy school (amble down the hill) run. Mostly we’ve learnt that it pays to be a bit late on such days as then we don’t have to hang around outside the classroom. I think we need to move the wellies into the house from the car boot and I need waterproof trousers. Erm. Anyway. Where was I?

Ah yes, it’s Friday. We have survived another week of life on this planet and I feel like I should write a blog post marking how we did that.

This week was the first week of actual normal routine. I am very happy about this. September has been a very odd month, with settling son1 into school, no return to work for the husbandface, dealing with life in one place, trying not to wish our lives away in dream lands and facing a mental health blip of my own. I’m glad it’s the last day of it tomorrow. I’m glad to have a routine to finally settle into. I’m glad Autumn is around the corner. I’m glad it’s Friday.

Routine really helps my brain, mainly because it means I can do all the things I need to do for survival in our rather odd world. This week I have run, I have read books and I have, on occasion, related to the Maker of all things and been reminded of reality. This helps.

I read a preview copy of a friends amazing book (more instructions to buy it and copies for all your friends will follow). Tanya Marlow has written an amazing book about waiting, a creative retelling of Bible stories to help us process the ups, downs and roundabouts of waiting and some amazing prayers and creative exercises along the way. It’s beautiful. It made me cry on public transport and it enabled hope to enter in through the back door and seep around the edges of our world. More on that later in the month.

Reading the book has reminded me again that there is One with us in this waiting world of ours, that our ordinary walking around life has immense value and it has helped me keep getting up each morning. Phew.

In other news:

Son2’s sleep has gone mental again and I can only guess at what developments are going on in his brain, he was singing the alphabet song in his sleep last night so that might give a clue… He is also adjusting to a world where his beloved brother isn’t around so much, I should maybe cut him some slack. Hard to do when the whining grates. We are, however, enjoying pottering around together and I’m loving the chance for more actual conversations around friend’s houses as he happily plays.

Son1 has seemed to settle well into school life. I’m grateful for the slow start for him. I’m intrigued as to how this long term world of school is going to work. So far so good though.

Husbandface has had a pretty grim week, probably not helped by it being 6 years since his Mum died. It’s been a hard week and horrible still seeing him struggle. We have no idea when light will come in the darkness. We wait. We try and hope and we watch bad netflix shows. Sometimes life just feels on hold but there is also living and loving to be done down here in the hole. If you pray please pray hard for healing, hope and reality to break through.

And there you have it. Some slightly disordered thoughts from our world. Happy Friday to you all.

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One of those weeks… in which the black dog makes an unwelcome appearance.

It’s been one of those weeks. One of those crippling weeks. One of those weeks where if you saw me, well. You’d think all was fine. And on one level all was fine. I was breathing. I was making sure my family made it to places on time. I ate and drank and even ran. If I talked to you it was a pleasant relief from the inner mashings of my head and I was grateful.

I’ve been trying to work out if I am lying if I reply to the questions of how are you with ‘fine thanks’ rather than, ‘actually I feel I’m being chased by all of hell’s demons who seem determined to make me believe the lie that I am crap, useless and have no friends or worth on this world’. I’m not sure if it’s all that helpful to say those kind of things out loud or not. I certainly never know in those black dark horrible times how to articulate the terrifying feelings within. I convince myself I am full of self pity and that no one wants to hear about my self pity.

I’m not sure how helpful chatting about it might be. In the black hole days I seem unable to reply with any level of positivity. Having a conversation with me in those moods is exhausting. Everything is met with a wall of black. Just ask the amazing husbandface. In the past he has tickled the grumps away and refused to indulge my insane responses by laughing at me. I’m not sure that option is open to many people.

It’s been one of those weeks.

I’ve lived and breathed but inside felt the crushing horrible weight of the black dog. With the weight lifting slightly today I can see reasons: change at home, the eldest starting school – starting the transition in my life and his, a conversation about precious potential future plans playing on my mind- hopes and fears and what if’s swirling around, the fall out of returning home from adventures and life looking pretty similar to before we left, the lack of a new start feeling at this time of year and the hideousness of feeling like the husbandface and I were trapped in our separate perspex boxes unable to reach each other.

It’s been one of those weeks.

The clouds have started to break today. Conversations are happening, I had a lovely cycle in the sun and a chat that didn’t involve small children this morning, the sun shines in the sky, we have acknowledged our perspex boxes and a hand hole or two has been carved out so we can reach each other. We survived the first week of vague school routine and I’ve loved the walks to and fro getting me out in the fresh air.

So if you’ve seen me about this week then I’m grateful for human contact beyond my weirdo head. I’m sorry I don’t know how to say, ‘life is crap but thanks for asking’, to you. One day I hope I’ll get better at that, but I’m glad I had opportunity to talk about something not in my head, it was a much needed distraction and a help on the road to feeling a bit better.

It’s just been one of those weeks.

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What I’ve read, the July and August Edition.

I’m hoping this list will kick start me into reading properly again after a week of not reading much but a deeply irritating trashy novel on my kindle that my internal completer finisher won’t let me leave to one side. (Must deal with that at some point).

For now, here we go:

Jesus, Safe, Tender, Extreme- Adrian Plass.

Adrian Plass is one of those authors that generally has me in tears by page 3 of his books. I seem to recall this was no exception. I’ve read this one before and it was lovely to meander back through it over a couple of weeks. It’s a tender gentle read, a book of hope, a book that called me back to remembering that God is real, likes me and is at work in my life. It’s a book is free from cynicism about God, which for some reason I always find surprising and then deeply refreshing. Adrian manages to steer a beautiful path of hope and expectancy in the midst of acknowledging that we find God baffling at best lots of the time. It is a book that is real about the pain of life, the struggles and the doubts. It is also a book that whispered the reality of God’s love into my ear and left me wanting more of God in my life. I highly recommend.

SevenEves- Neal Stephenson

I don’t highly recommend this one. Unless you like long technical explanations of how things in space work. Husbandface said I should read it and like the loving wife I am I sat down to see why. Hmm. I can see why he recommended it. It was an awesome concept. The moon has broken into 7 pieces, the world is about to end in 2 years time due to the pieces breaking up and falling to earth. Earth has to respond. It does, people are sent to space, some go under water and some go deep underground. We know 7 women and some fertile eggs survive in space. We don’t know about the rest. 5,000 years later we join up with the species to see who survived. Bits of this were great but so much was boring explanation of stuff in technical detail that I really didn’t care about. I flick read it because of my completer finisher thing and breathed a hearty sigh of relief when I was done. Sorry Neal.

A Kind Man- Susan Hill.

This was a gentle sad read. Short, beautifully written and fairly heartbreaking. That’s not a bad thing in my world. (I can’t remember much of the plot other than it was set in an industrial town post war? Maybe. Anyway, if you like gentle, sad, character driven books you’ll probably enjoy it)

Holding- Graham Norton

Small Irish Village, a body discovered, loads of different characters that are pretty interesting. Who does the body belong to and what secrets will be uncovered along the way type stuff. I liked it once I got Graham Norton’s voice out of my head reading it to me. (I love Graham but really). Worth it if you want a fairly light read amongst likeable characters.

15 Minutes to Wake the Dead- David Bracewell.

A collection of sermons from the vicar of the church I grew up in (St Saviours in Guildford). None of these were from the time I was there but they held similar patterns and themes. I was reminded of the reality of God all over again through them and that my faith goes deep back to the roots of who I am. I kept remembering moments with God at St Saviours when I was reading this. David was a passionate preacher, someone who was relational as he talked, not afraid to tackle big books of the Bible (I still remember him preaching through Revelation when I was in youth group and the big vision of God he gave us through it) but who also was deeply concerned that we would get it and know that God was at work in the day to day our lives. I loved being reminded of that and of some of the St Saviours people who still cropped up in his sermons. I think I owe much of my leading services style to him, he would always say at the beginning of each service that however we had come, whatever we were going through, whatever the day had held, God was here and was involved in our lives. I love that reminder. I love that acknowledgement of the crap of life and the one who is with us in the crap.

The House at the End of Hope Street- Menna Vaan Praag

I loved this novel. Set in Cambridge and following a student who has had her thesis stolen by her professor, she finds herself at a mysterious house at the end of Hope Street, a house that has given countless of influential women hope and a restart in life over the last 100 years or so. It’s a lovely read. The kind of book you find yourself going early to bed to get maximum reading time in.

I let you go- Clare McIntosh.

I know, I keep swearing off novels like this but I keep getting sucked in because they are so easy to read when exhausted. It wasn’t a great start with a 5 year old dying in a hit and run (I seem to remember holding much more tightly to son1’s hand for a couple of days after reading it…) but it was a fairly gripping read. I was genuinely surprised several times during the book and very annoyed by the ending but there you go…

Home- Jo Swinney.

A beautiful collection of essays on what home means. If you are or know any third culture kids I imagine they would absolutely love this book, it being written so well by one. It’s great for anyone though. I loved the mix of personal stories (especially as I think we are similar ages so the teenage ones felt pretty close to home, even if we did grow up in entirely different contexts) and reflections from David’s life on some of what home means in the Bible. It’s a very readable book, made me cry several times, gave me a much better metaphor for how husbandface makes me feel- like I’m home rather than just comparing the feeling I have always had around him to being like a comfortable pair of worn in shoes. Finding home in him feels like a much better way to explain it. I had to save it for the end of our motorhome adventure so I could start to want to return to our home here in Brighton. It really helped shape that returning feeling and made me grateful for our spot here on this earth.

Faithful Families- Traci Smith.

This is a brilliant book full of ideas of how to nurture faith and spirituality in family life. It helped us think through how we can encourage faith in the everyday, how we can help our boys and us be aware of the divine throughout the days, months and years. It’s made us think about how we can use the things we do each day as opportunities to be aware of God. There are so many ideas here for all different ages, times, seasons and senses. One we will be using over and over again.

My Family and Other Disasters- Lucy Managan

A collection of her newspaper column articles. I love her. A good gentle amusing read to dip in and out of.

Underground Airlines- Ben Winter.

The concept is: Slavery hasn’t been abolished in 4 of the US states, Lincoln was assassinated before he came President and the ripples of slavery not being abolished fully continue to the present day. It’s a fairly horrific and fascinating idea. The novel itself turns into a thriller set in this context, we follow a former slave and what his life looks like as he is involved with the underground movement to free slaves. I can’t tell you much more than that but it’s a book that is hard to put down and very hard hitting.

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The weekly roundup returns

It’s Friday.

It’s September.

We have been back from our tour of the UK for a week now.

At some point I want to blog about it all.

At some point.

It’s Friday.

We’ve been back a week.

This week we’ve been exploring, ever so slowly reestablishing, our routines of life. We’ve been working out how we live well back in a house, with easy access to tv and other distractions. We’ve been trying to work out what stays from vanlife and what might be ok to just admit was unique to life in a small box with not much stuff.

Sitting in this grey chair as the boys stare at the tv screen and I reflect on the week feels very familiar and routine like. Hoorah.

At times, this last week, I’ve felt like we were going backwards, returning to the sad exhausted days of life before we hit the road. Thankfully I’ve also felt happy and joyous at the beautiful world and city we live in. I’ve been a whole heap of emotions all expressed in an odd mix of jetlag and exhaustion.

The last month has very much felt like the summer teams I used to take to Poland and Bulgaria when I was a student worker. They were crazy intense times of spending time with 8 or so other people, all working towards the same goal and trying to love each other along the way. They were long times away from home which produced a strange kind of joy at only having one focus for those weeks. Internet and phones were hard to come by and so the people in the team became family for each other. There was something genius about the simplicity of those weeks. Something freeing about having such a clear focus of life.

The last month in the van has had that simplicity. It’s been intense but refreshing in so many ways because we’ve had just one focus, getting each other through the days. Nothing else has come into my head other than loving the people in front of me each day. I have no idea if it’s realistic to live like that back at home. I imagine life used to look more like that before fast transport and advances in technology made us far more aware of what everyone else in the world is doing. I’m not suggesting we go back in time I just wonder what our fast paced, ultra information world is doing to us.

I do think that the refreshment part of the trip was also due to it all being planned out. We had to make very few decisions about who to see and where to go.

I felt exhausted this week and maybe part of that was adjusting to life back in one place, aware of loads of different people and trying to work out where we fitted in, who to meet up with etc. I’m aware that my thoughts are full of wondering what people think of me, whether I made the right decisions about what to do and where to go.

I also seem to be more distracted from the boys at home. Maybe the closeness of everything in the van made me realise it was good to focus on the boys and having fun with them.

It is strange being back, part of me wants to run again but part of me is glad we have roots here. The more I run around our bowl of green, the more we munch on blackberries as we walk to the park, the more I see people I remember that we love our place, our spot on this earth. Being rooted is valuable.

Right now we are still in the world of working out what that rootedness looks like. It doesn’t need to look exactly like vanlife, but we can change some of the unhelpful patterns of life we managed to break in the van. (And as we come back we can change some of the unhelpful patterns we created in the van!) Returning has brought small changes to our life:

•We have exercised more and eaten better (something we found v hard in the van).

•We’ve slowly reintroduced tv but at a more sane level for all of us.

•My phone is now out of the bedroom at night and hopefully a bit less in my hand during the day.

•We’ve stuck with our aeropress for coffee as we use less coffee, it tastes better and creates hotter coffee than our filter machine.

•We’ve been getting outdoors loads and walking lots to help the boys keep up the walking legs they found on holiday.

•Quiet time from the van has occasionally found it’s way into our days, son1 loving nothing more than snuggling up in bed listening to Dr Seuss stories.

I hope we can continue with these changes as the weeks progress.

Husbandface is still sick. He has slightly more capacity for doing things, he cooks our meals now which is wonderful. But. He’s still sick. It’s been hard adjusting to not seeing him as constantly as we did in the van.

And there you go. A slightly disjointed beginning of lessons learned from 30 days on the road.

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Evening snapshot

We scuttled down to the beach after dinner. Son1 weaving from side to side on his scooter. Son2 singing as he ran barefoot along the road. I strolled behind sharing eye rolls and wry smiles with other parents, at the loons in front of me.

Across the bridge, past the car park and down to the river flowing into the beach. They splashed around, pouring out stones, up and down, up and down. I sat in the evening sun, blue sky above my face dotted with cotton wool trail clouds. The small ones shrieked with delight at crocs floating down the stream, stones poured down their backs and the feel of water on their feet.

I gazed at almost 5 and almost 3 and marvelled at their random play, their delight in the world around them, their growth over the last few years and the sense of progression in them. I looked at older children scattered around the beach near us, wondering what our boys will turn into, who they will be years from now, what they will make of their childhoods in the future.

As I sat I tasted something rare inside. I think it was contentment. A lack of sheer exhaustion from sleep deprivation. A knowledge that it is brilliant fun, sometimes, mooching around with my boys. An awareness that they are growing less all consuming in their need of interaction with me. A sense that we have made it through the early early years with them.

I can sit and watch them play and for a while they are happy, having fun, occasionally coming over to show me something cool or to give me huggles.

I sat in the golden sun and tasted the moment. Savouring a peaceful joy filled time with my beautiful boys.

(And it made up for the extremely grumpy hour we had on the beach earlier in the day when I was less content 🙂

Your correspondent. Thinking that maybe going home might not be so bad after all…

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