In which we all get sick and then I preached. 

From the high of last week there was really only one place we could go. And oh did we go there. Down down down. Ah well. Before the crazy week I did have an amazing day out in London sitting in my friends flat, enjoying the excellent company of Anna and Sarah, consuming chocolate biscuits, smiling at an uber cute 4 month old, sharing my soul and hearing my friends souls and then crying out to God. It was good to laugh, to cry and to sit together.

I slept on the train home and woke up achy and exhausted in Brighton again. Fluey type achingness has been my companion this week, as has a hideous night cough as me and the boys descended into the world of ill. Sleep has been highly elusive.  I have not run this week. I have not pleased my Fitbit stats with many steps each day. I feel a bit odd because of that. 

Illness meant we tried to go slow this week. We spent a lot of time in front of the tv and lots of time reading many books. Husbandface had a pretty grim week health wise but was amazing in taking the boys to the farm on Wednesday afternoon whilst I slept. He was also a willing victim in hearing my sermon before today and was amazing in pushing through and dealing with the crazy ones at the beginning of church whilst I was sorting out practical stuff and praying with people before the service. He also deserves much kudos for putting up with pre sermon crazy Kath. He’s a good one. 

As I’ve just mentioned the week also involved the run up to preaching at our lovely new church. (When does it stop being new? 6 months in? Now? Next year? When we’ve been there 10 years?). That meant a week of the devils lies getting in my head and swirly self doubt setting in. It also meant a week of spare time taken up with sermon writing or worrying about sermon writing (urgh). I managed a few spurts in the week and some lovely time at 3am on Saturday morning feeling the message I was preaching and curling up in Gods arms knowing how dearly loved I was. It wasn’t all bad preparing for it. 

Prayers were answered and I managed to preach without a hideous coughing fit (which given the previous days was amazing) and I enjoyed getting preacher Kath out of the cupboard. I really love communicating to people they are loved by God and I got to do that lots this morning. It was great to chat to more people after and feel like we are making our home there more and more. Even if I did call our church by the name of our old church when I started this morning… 

And there we are. Life on the ranch carries on and here’s hoping for some full recovery in the week ahead. 

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This week. 

Friday:

Soft play in a garden centre. 

Sunny sunny day outside. 

Warm cheese scone and coffee in my belly.

Boys for the moment happy being Batman and Raa Raa. 

Quick. 

Highlights this week have been:

A theatre trip with our NCT group. A lovely no tension puppet show aimed perfectly at ages 2-6. No horrible moments or things to fear. Lots of cute puppets on adventures. I wish I could have captured son2s face as he gazed in awe and chuckled along. 

Bumbling along the seafront with the boys on a sunny warm afternoon. Throwing stones in the sea, ice cream and the craving of my body for spring. 

Walks around our estate looking at the shoots of flowers emerging. 

Park trips standing in the warmth remembering why parks are a Good Thing. 

Rediscovering our garden. 

The boys delight in a new cd given to us by friends. Love son1s commitment to learning all the lyrics. 

Son2 not crying when he was dropped off at nursery and singing songs from his morning there all afternoon. 

Moments where the husbandface has been able to be engaged with us, tramping through a windy day to a windy park and hearing the boys rejoice in Daddy with us time. 

Good friends coming, eating and praying with us. Balm for the soul. 

Drumming. A new drum. Sore hands. 

New shoots of interactions at church, women’s prayer breakfast, chats with others, community meal and sermon writing. Spring is on it’s way in more ways than one. 

Running in the start of storm Doris. Wind burnt face. Laughing for joy over hills of green. 

Darker moments have occurred. There was the Sunday afternoon of collapse and son2’s very sweet voice. ‘Mummy cry? Daddy, make sure Mummy alright? Yeah?’  

But over all it’s been a Good Week. 

Mostly because I read some amazing stuff in the Bible. I know. Who would have thought?! My prayer book has me walking with Jesus in Luke at the moment. I was stunned by a passage on Monday morning. It was one I really can’t ever remember reading. Jesus raises a widows son from the dead. But it’s not so much that he does it but the way he interacts with her. She is really upset, as you can imagine, and his heart goes out to her. His heart goes out to her. Such a small phrase but it had me in tears for a long time. His heart went out to her. Such tenderness and love. I love Jesus’ care for people, his tenderness and compassion. Mostly I find it very easy to believe that in relation to others but this week I’ve felt him speaking directly to me. To say his heart goes out to me. He is tender to me. He welcomes me. 

Mental. 

Each week my prayer book has a couple of verses to read everyday. This week it’s been some verses from Lamentations. The ones that say the Lord is good to those who hope in him and it is good to wait for him. The other verse has talked of the unfailing love of God. These have kept me going this week. God is good. Always. Unfailingly. Whatever. I am his dearly loved child. 

By the way. 

Come in close. 

Let me whisper in your ear. 

So are you. 

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Early or late, you decide… here’s the weekly reflection on life. 

Woah. It’s Thursday and my weekly round up is either almost a week late or a day early. I’m sure you’ll forgive the lapse.

We are just back from a lovely time in the safe and serene (if you try and ignore the two small cannonballs charging around the place) world of my parents house. We were extremely well looked after and I am so grateful for not having to cook for three days, a morning off the boys to potter in coffee shops, book shops and buy new shiny running shoes, fun times in pretty parks, uber amounts of cake, lots of coffee shop trips and another chance to weep copiously on my brilliant Mum. 

Don’t get me wrong we were still exhausted, husbandface was still very sick and the boys were their usual mix of delightful and odd. But it was good to share it, to sleep a bit more, to run around a flat place and to get away from social media for a few days. We laughed lots and watched some bad films. 

Our time away came off the back of a fairly exhausting week where I once found myself thin and far too quickly snapping at the boys. In the midst of that world good things happened, I went to the community meal at church and managed to start to get to know a few people, church on Sunday morning provided some helpful space away from the boys and although the afternoon faded into tears of exhaustion we watched Bad Mums in the evening which was highly cathartic. 

Saturday provided the highlight of the week and the reason for the exhausted tears on Sunday. I packed the boys into the car and on a freezing cold day drove them through the grey to the world of Leighton Buzzard. My lovely Brother and Sister in Law were to have their induction service in the afternoon and it was awesome to see them in their new world. I can’t explain the joy of knowing they are in a place where they can dig down roots and be somewhere long term after years of not knowing. We had lots of fun hanging out with the cousins, eating cake and catching up. The drive home through a a snowy night was a little hairy but the tiredness the next day was more than worth it (maybe the boys might have a different take on that…after Sunday afternoons fireworks). 

We are back home now, back in our land of ordinary. Back in the ups and downs of each day. Back with the same world to navigate. Back again wanting to know hope and meaning in this world of ache and longing. Back facing the call to live well, to love, to forgive, to love again and to know that we are loved with an everlasting love. 

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Weekend Liturgies. 

It’s the slow slow liturgies of the weekend that make the difference.

Saturday starts:

Stumbling out of bed. 

Hoody from the hooks on the back of the door. 

Hold my hand downstairs. Hold my hand clamours the smallest. 

Coffee from the top shelf. 
Grinding beans into powder. 
Water, filter, plug and the rich deep smell hits my soul. 

Eggs, milk, flour swirling  
Oven on, a warming pan
Bananas chopped, blueberries dropped in. 

Ladling mixture that turns to wonder. 

Music soothes me as I circle through the kitchen. A gentle backdrop to the noise of whisking cream, slicing strawberries and setting the table. 

I sip the first taste of coffee and begin to wake up. 

Huggle me. Huggle me. Huggle me the voice shouts louder. 

Small one on counter top munches blueberries. Eldest snuggles on the sofa waiting for breakfast. 

Saturday begins. 

Sunday starts:

Lacing running shoes. Escaping the house as three pairs of eyes stare goodbye. 

I run and run slowly through the dawn. Cows standing still against the sunrise sky. The downs rolling fields of green as I pant along the road. 

Returning he retreats back to bed and I, full of endorphins, dance deep in the kitchen. 

Eggs cracked, butter and mushrooms dropped into the pan with garlic and chilli for company. 

The same music swirls around soothing to all the dark within and I gulp coffee down deep. 

Avocados smashed into toast, salt pepper and hot runny eggs poured out. 

I sit and breathe and ignore voices as I taste the beauty of food in my mouth. 

I stop. 

I breathe. 

And then clear away, stack dishes, wipe surfaces and

We dance again 

Sing out loud. 

Sunday has begun. 

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Saturday and a what I was into in January post…

It’s Saturday night. Husbandface is reading Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to Son1 (how he’s not freaking out I don’t know but he seems to be coping, even if robbers do feature fairly highly in play at the moment…). Son2’s brain has gone mental and he has become a small limpet on me right now. Thus I’m sitting on his bed as he drifts off to the sound of his Daddy’s voice. I think our situation is upsetting his brain and clinging to me as his safe place is the only way he knows how to cope. That or he’s just being super annoying. I prefer the first explanation. However much I swear at him as his little hands seek out my face in the middle of the night. 

We’ve had a lovely day with Nana and Grandad at an awesome farm we got our annual pass for. I can’t wait to spend time there each week watching the boys love the soft play, tractors, sand and water fun, small animal joy and general time outdoors whilst I sit and watch. (I can but hope). I got a nap whilst the boys were entertained and we finished the day with a lot of pizza.

For a Saturday recently it was a Good Day. This week was pretty much the same as all the rest. Husbandface is still very ill. The boys are still very cute and very annoying. I am still finding life hard, wondrous, joyful, exhausting and relentless. I shout too much but I also have read all the books in the house to them many times and had lots of cuddles and fun. That’s all ok. This evening all of it is ok, the good and bad. There is a bigger picture. There is a bigger love. There are hands holding us. I am glad. This week has been as rollercoasterish as ever but tonight there is a brief moment of perspective and for that I breathe a sigh of relief. 

It therefore seems a good time to tell you about the books I’ve been reading in January and some of the music stuck in my head. Part of my self care strategy in this mess is to read more. To be taken into worlds that are not mine. This month I’ve read some beautiful amazing books that have helped and drawn me away from this house and books that have helped me be rooted deeper here. 

It’s been a good month for reading. So. Here we go. A whistle stop tour through the list. 

What falls from the sky- Esther Emery

estherThis is a beautiful memoir of a year away from the internet and the surprise of finding God beyond the world of social media.  It’s written wonderfully. It made me seriously want to up my writing game. It made me want to reach out in love to the people around me more and deeply long for a sequel in which Esther shares the story of how she manages the internet well now, after that year away. I think it’s always good to read books like this which challenge something that seems so integral to our lives and helps us question how to use it better. 

Bel Canto- Ann Patchett. 

bel-can

A beautiful novel based around opera and a hostage situation gone badly wrong. Into a tense claustrophobic atmosphere comes tales of love, of the beauty of music and the response of people learning to live in a static strange situation. Gorgeous from the start, I could not put it down.  

Ink- Alice Broadway

inkTipped to be the latest hot young adult fiction, Ink tells of a world where all your life, good and bad, is tattooed onto your body for all to see. At the end of your days your soul gets weighed to see if you are worthy of the afterlife, if so your skin gets made into a book for future generations of your family. In that world we follow a girl whose Dad’s soul weighing is no straightforward affair. It’s a book about doubt, faith, power and abuse of power and what happens when you start to question everything you have ever known. It’s beautiful throughout and I can’t wait for the next instalment. 

Hurrah for Gin- Katie 

hurrahI got this for Christmas and laughed my way through it for an evening. It’s a brilliantly hilarious take on modern parenting. She too has two boys under 7 and I identified with SO many of her stories and am especially glad that her boys also replace song lyrics with the word poo and fight over whose Mummy she is. I think her basic premise is we put too much guilt on ourselves as parents, we should love our kids and not worry too much about the rest (and alcohol helps). It’s a sweary fun book and I love it and the blog it comes from. 

State of Wonder- Ann Patchett

Another great novel revolving around a tribe in the Amazon. Really intriguing, not as beautiful as Bel Canto but still a good read. 

Bridget Jones’s Baby- Helen Fielding

bridgetA fairly thin sketchy book documenting the time between the second and third books. I enjoyed it because I loved Bridget Jones in my 20s and 30s and now she’s having a baby and it’s funny to see her in that context. I think this must have been thrown together from the film scripts but it doesn’t add much to the story. Fun to read a bit of her life again but not essential reading. My main memory of it is crying at the point where she has her baby.  After giving birth I can now never see or read anything to do with having them without weeping copiously (not complaining about that, just noticing). 

Soul Bare- Cara Sexton

soulI have loved reading these stories of redemption over the course of this month. I saved them up to read one a day and have been nourished beyond all expectation that God is a God who is at work in the bleakest of places. I valued so much the honesty and vulnerability of these people as they shared what God has been doing in the midst of the black. There were very few neat nice endings, very few stories of ‘and then God made everything nice and shiny’ for that I was glad. It felt very real and extremely helpful for the place we find ourselves in at the moment.

Cheer Up Love- Susan Calman

cheerI love Susan on Radio 4’s News Quiz and more. I really enjoyed reading this tour through her thoughts on depresssion and how she has dealt with it over her life. I’m not sure I agree with her on all aspects but she wasn’t asking for that. She was sharing her story so that more people would feel able to be open and honest about their depression. The more we keep talking about the realities of mental health issues and making talking about what goes on in our heads normal the better for all.

Present over Perfect – Shauna Niequist

presentI felt pretty conflicted reading this book. I couldn’t decide if I loved it or not. I didn’t really identify with the author on many levels. She was a busy person figuring out that life is best lived small and slowly. It was fascinating hearing stories of her crammed speaking schedule, her realisations that hanging out with her kids and husband were actually more important than the tours and books and really interesting hearing of her embracing different spiritualities than activist mainstream evangelicalism. It was a book that confirmed my thoughts on life and kind of made me feel slightly jealous that she even had the issues to begin with. As someone who is living a very small life right now I was glad that someone else thought that slow living was the way forward but I related to very little of her life. Having said all that I think it’s still worth a read as she’s an excellent writer and lots of this book made me love my life more.

The songs I have been unable to get out of my head this month have been:

I searched for you- Martyn Joseph
Song for Nye – Martyn Joseph
Castle on the Hill- Ed Sheeran
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang- Cast of said musical.
Fight Song- Rachel Patton
Shake it off- Taylor Swift
And still anything from the stupid Frozen soundtrack. Argh.

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Here we are again…

Oddly it is Friday once more. Again I find myself processing the week just gone. I’ve found myself questioning whether to carry on doing this now that life is getting pretty tough. As if drawing attention to that is somehow a self seeking thing. I’ve been really appreciative of the many texts and messages I’ve had recently of support and love but I can feel my pride and English cultural hat beginning to kick in. Surely I’m just being attention seeking by writing this down? Don’t I know there are worse off people in the world. Etc etc.

All the over analysis is fairly pointless. I write to remember. I process things better when I write them down. I know that putting it in a public space makes me try and articulate things well. I know that my writing helps some people know they aren’t alone. It helps me know I’m not alone. It’s a good thing. I’m going to carry on. 

Sigh. My brain needs to justify itself lots of the time. Bear with me. 

The lesser adventures of how we are dealing with life right now continue. Please do share stories of how you are right back at me. I love hearing from other worlds and how we are all dealing with this crazy mental life. 
It’s been an interesting week. Husbandface hasn’t got miraculously better. He’s pretty much in the same state. It’s heartbreaking, concerning and scary not to know what timescales we are dealing with or when he will be back at work. There is no neat liner curve of progression upwards. There is just the same bog to squelch through. The sun seems to sparkle in the distance as we ponder how life could be different when he is well again but the daily reality is not so fun.

My coping mechanisms seem to work best when the sun shines. Tuesday was a brilliant day when all was sparkly and I was all full of faith that God would be at work in this mess and had something for us. It seemed like a good road to be on for the outcomes at the end of it. Wednesday and Thursday the sky was foggy and gloomy and so was my soul. Exhaustion and worry were wrapped around me.

There has been light in the fog though. Many people have been getting in touch and sending love and care. I had the best Saturday catching up with a friend from years ago and delighting in being able to talk non stop all day (when we weren’t reading to the boys). I saw Martyn Joseph and we have been singing his songs all week. The boys haven’t objected so far so I think their musical education is going well. A friend turned up randomly on the doorstep with chocolate brownies (mmmmmmm).

A friends book was released in its shiny glory (you should all buy Ink by Alice Broadway now). We caught up with our lovely American family and felt again awesome parental love oozing out of FaceTime. We cried at their love, support and care. Lots. Ann Voskamp and her book The Broken Way is giving me fresh awareness that abundant enough life comes through the way of sacrifice. I long to trust in the reality that all love is sacrifice and that is the way to real joyous living. 

When I remember, I am clinging to the words of anyone who met Jesus and asked him for help. I am asking lots at the moment. It kind of breaks my heart that I can, and that he listens and cares. It’s kind of frustrating that I can’t find the magic words to make everything ok. Maybe there is more at work than ok. Maybe. But it really sucks to see someone you love in so much pain. As anyone whose ever done that will know. 

Life is all sacrifice but that doesn’t mean that self care isn’t possible in the midst of the sacrifice. This week kind family offerings have meant we can put son2 in nursery for a morning a week so I can have a morning to breathe on my own. We had our first settling in session today and it seemed to go well. Here’s hoping he loves it when I’m not there. I sense this would be a real release point in the week and I could catch up on sleep and maybe even write. 

I think we are in this condition for the long term and I want to live as well as possible in this new land we find ourselves in. My emotions range from acceptance, anticipation, anger, frustration, fear, joy and more. I surf them strong and occasionally wipe out big. We pick ourselves up and apologise and keep on walking. 

We keep on walking.

Not knowing what tonight or tomorrow will bring. 

We keep on walking. 

Into another week. 

How’s your week been? 

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A night with Martyn Joseph 

An ice cold clear night. Stars sparkle up above as we drive through twisty black roads. An old friend. Conversations swimming deep as the years are recalled. Pain, sorrow, hope and joys retold. As if no time has passed at all. And yet here we are. Side by side in the dark night.

We journey to hear the man who has sung us many songs across our lifetime. Whose music always brings joy and wonder and has accompanied us through so much. Martyn Joseph has been the soundtrack to so much of my life and soul searching moments over the last 20 years. A line of silver thread through heartache, certainty, doubt, confusion, wonder, pain, friendships, marriage, children and more. 

He comes on stage and we stop the chat mid flow, taken off guard by the reason we are here. The guitar launches into action and the call is clear. ‘Sing to my soul’. Yes please. To our souls that have seen too much to really explain these past few years. Sing to our souls in such turmoil at the circumstances in our lives. Sing to our souls on this day of big news and uncertain change in the world around us. Sing to my soul. Sing to this dark. 

‘I’m here tonight to tell you that somehow, somehow it will be alright’. The mood is somber tonight. The backdrop of news from another land is burning across the set list. Like a love call to a nation we are given a night of songs that need to be sung to stir hope in the midst of fear. We are reminded to look for the good in this crazy world. We are given a night to whisper in that the glass is so heartbreakingly beautiful, that we may not have the luxury of despair. We can keep going through the dark. 

This is the theme of the evening and he sings it loud and strong. A call to not give in, to cherish kindness and courage. A call to keep on loving. A call to be brave and strong. A call to mother love that goes on and on and on and on. A call to remind us loudly that the ‘purpose of power is to give it away’. Deep in the heart of Sussex, miles from our day to day worlds, music does what it does best. Our souls are soothed. We are stirred with light and truth. We are reminded of hope and we are deeply glad we have someone who sings beautiful wonder to us as we sit in the dark. 

We drive home in the ice cold clear night. Somehow I sense there is a way to keep on walking in this dark. 

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