On being excessively gentle with myself.

Yesterday I was reminded to be kind to myself. To take things slow. To be gentle to these parts of me that other parts of me find lacking and in want. I am my own worst critic. I absorb the voices that say you should do better, you must be more, do more, push through this pain to produce and be a force for change in this world.

It’s unrealistic to live at that kind of level. Well maybe some people whose personality is tuned to achieve and do more and more can, but I am me and I am not wired that way. I am wired for connection, for cups of tea, for mountain streams and jumping over rocks. I am wired for slow quiet and lengthily conversations late into the night. I am wired for reading, for walking, for gazing deep and for eating up the darkness as it swirls around. I am wired for slow plodding on. For relentless getting up off the mat again and again. I am wired for gasping in awe at the views and for cuddles on sofas with my small humans who hang out with me each day.

Life is a lot right now and I want to invite myself into the reality that it’s ok to go slow. It’s ok not to take the initiative and try and create community wider than the seven people I see most days. It’s ok to scramble over rocks and read books in the quiet moments. It’s ok to let them watch a million episodes of Horrible Histories and get lost in the world of Minecraft.

It’s ok to drink cup of tea after cup of tea and it’s ok to have an undefined amount of time before me in which I do not have a ‘job’. It’s ok to spend time on my course and with the two people I’m accompanying right now. It’s ok not to have a website yet, ok not to have figured out a newsletter or a space to write. It’s ok to not have made many new friends here yet. It’s ok to walk slow. It’s ok to be me. It is brilliant to be me.

Here I am. Aching to be gentle with myself, with my expectations and treat my soul with tenderness as we navigate this season of life.

And as I remember to be gentle with me I remember the One who is tender to my soul. Who made me and has danced on hills with me all my life. I am thankful as ever for the One who infuses this season, who longs for me with a love stronger than the love I have for the small humans in my care. I am thankful for the One who loves me, laughs with me and teaches me new steps in this dance in the dark we are embracing right now.

Posted in Life on the journey | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Books read in 2021

Not as many as I had hoped but 1 a week isn’t so bad for the year we’ve had… As ever the absolute recommends are in bold.

1. A Manual for Heartache- Cathy Rentzenbrink

2. The 10,000 doors of January- Alix E Harrow

3. Diary of a Young Naturalist- Dara McAnulty

4. Everything is Spiritual – Rob Bell

5. The Wild Silence – Raynor Winn

6. Ask Again Yes- Mary Beth Keane

7. Utopia Avenue- David Mitchell 

8. Dear Reader- Cathy Rentzenbrink

9. Lectio Divina- Christine Valters Painter

10. Once Upon a River- Diane Setterfield

11. Rumblestar- Abi Elpinstone

12. Queenie- Candice Carty-Williams 

13. Beartown – Fredrick Backman

14. Night Music- JoJo Moyes

15. Faith after Doubt- Brian McClaren. 

16. How the Bible Actually Works- Pete Enns. 

17. The Trick To Time- Kit de Waal. 

18. The Switch – Beth O’Leary

19. Mum and Dad- Joanna Trollope. 

20. All the Lonely People- Mike Gayle. 

21. The Colour of Water- James McBride. 

22. The Woman Who Stole My Life- Marian Keyes

23. The Frequency of Us- Keith Stuart

24. Lullaby Beach- Stella Duffy

25. The Children of Castle Rock- Natasha Farrant

26. Jungledrop- Abi Elphinstone

27. Gift from the Sea- Anne Morrow Lindbergh

28. The Forgiveness Project- Marina Cantacuzino

29. Grown Ups- Marian Keyes

30. How to Train a Dragon- Cressida Cowell

31. The Vanishing Half- Brit Bennett

32. The Three of us- Ruth Jones

33. On Looking- Alexandra Horowitz 

34.Wild- Kristin Hannah

35. The Preaching Life- Barbara Brown Taylor

36. Days of Wonder- Keith Stuart

37. The Anthropocene Reviewed – John Green (If I could put this in bold twice I would, absolute book of the year)

38. Home Stretch- Graham Norton

39. Nothing But Blue Sky – Kathleen MacMahon

40. The Truants- Kate Weinberg

41. Thin Places- Kerri ni Dochartaigh

42. Let Your Life Speak- Parker Palmer

43. The Dutch House- Ann Patchett

44. Ordinary Grace- William Kent Kruger

45. Clock of Stars- Francesca Gibbons

46. God is not a white man- Chine McDonald

47. Boy made of Blocks -Keith Stuart 

48. Phosphorescence- Julia Baird

49. Anxious People- Fredrik Backman 

50. Us against you- Fredrik Backman

51. The Last Resort- Jan Carson

52. Can you see me? – Libby Scott and Rebecca Westcott

53. The Family Experience of PDA- Eliza Fricker

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Round up of books read October- December 2021

Moving, exhaustion and more have curtailed my reading a bit over the last couple of months. I feel like I ended the year on a bit of a whimper when it came to books. Thankfully I am starting to find my reading mojo again, and, whilst I have way less time these days, books are creeping back into my hands more than my phone. Hoorah. Anyway, here’s the final round up of the books of last year. Full list in next post…

Ordinary Grace- William Kent Kruger

Such a beautiful novel, a coming of age story, a boy who discovers the darker sides of the world one summer. It’s so well written, contains so much beautiful grace that I would happily read this one again. Really worth a read. 

Clock of Stars- Francesca Gibbons

Son1 made me read this as it was one of his favourites of the year.  A fun exploration into a magical world, some fairly tense scenes so not for the faint hearted 9 year old but lots of gripping adventure and super short chapters, which I seem to like in a book… 

God is not a white man- Chine McDonald

Heartbreaking, wonderful, challenging, insightful, eye opening, brilliant and one to go back to. I don’t think there are any more superlatives to add. Suffice to say it’s a book which explores our views of who we think God is, blows preconceptions to the wind and is achingly challenging to everyone and any white majority church. Read it. Mourn with Chine and become part of living better in this world with a bigger view of God and their love.  

Boy made of Blocks -Keith Stuart 

The story of a man who grows in connection to his autistic son through the world of Minecraft. It almost, almost, made me try and learn how to play Minecraft, and maybe one day this year I will. It’s a good read, so much I could identify with and it helped me want to enter more into the worlds of my sons. 

Phosphorescence- Julia Baird

Such a beautiful book taking the reader on a tour of things that sustain you when the world goes dark. There wasn’t much new if you are familiar with nature memoirs or the idea that we need wonder and awe in our worlds.  However, Julia Baird writes beautifully and puts things in fresh and delightful ways. I loved also that she has a faith perspective and brought that in without it feeling clunky or a gear shift. Really helpful stuff and SO well written.  A treat of a book. 

Anxious People- Fredrik Backman 

I really like Fredrik Backman, he is funny and writes so well. He also has such droplets of wisdom for parenting which litter his books if you are looking in the right place. This novel takes us though the lives of several characters who get mixed up in a bank robbery gone wrong. It’s a brilliant take on the anxiety of our age and the particular struggles of the modern world. And it’s funny. Very much worth a read. He says things like this: “This story is about a lot of things, but mostly about idiots. So it needs saying from the outset that it’s always very easy to declare that other people are idiots, but only if you forget how idiotically difficult being human is.” I could quote way more than that but really, just read the book.

Us against you- Fredrik Backman

The follow up to Beartown. Life in a small town obsessed with the Ice Hockey team. Not as traumatic as the first one and full, as usual, of characters trying to make sense of life and make it through the days. 

The Last Resort- Jan Carson

Set in a caravan park in the north of Northern Ireland this is a wonderful collection of short stories, all interlinked with each other, each one painting a picture of what modern Northern Irish life is like.  I loved these snapshots and the recognition I found in them now we are living over here. Well worth getting hold of if you want more knowledge of life in the northern part of this island we are starting to call home. 

Can you see me? – Libby Scott and Rebecca Westcott

A brilliant book about a family where the youngest child is autistic with PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance – a trait of autism). It’s told from her perspective and how she makes sense of the world, through diaries and following her story. Libby Scott provided the diary entries so it has an utter ring of authenticity about it. It’s also achingly familiar to our lives right now. We suspect our youngest shows signs of PDA and this book provided some relief in knowing we are not alone in how our family life plays out. It’s a great book and we are reading it to the boys chatting through what they recognise and what might match up with our experiences. 

The Family Experience of PDA- Eliza Fricker

A illustrated guide, really helpful overview of what PDA is and what it looks like in family life. Also perfectly short, super helpful in being able to read before the boys woke up one morning. 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Goodbye to 2021…

So. It’s New Year’s Eve. A time when we like to lean on the gate of the year and look back and then forward to what might lie ahead. I’m in the process of sorting out my photos from the last year.

As I’ve done so I’ve been reminded of the goodness that seeped through every crack of the year that was 2021. I feel overwhelmed with gratitude for our friends, the fun we had, the amazing world we saw, the camping trips, the fun with family and friends, the beauty all around and the good mental health for both of us to step out on an adventure, however hard some of that adventure feels right now.

As I looked through the photos it was also good to be reminded that our youngest struggled this year massively. That his struggles here might be magnified by the move but this year has been underpinned by us coming to terms with realising how much we need to help him and us and our eldest navigate whatever is going on in his head.

It’s a helpful reminder to gaze back through the year, to trace the reasons we came out, to be reminded that they are still strong and true reasons and, in the midst of grief, to look up with hope to the possibilities of the year ahead. We have been loved so well this year and hopefully have loved others well. Whatever 2022 holds I venture forth knowing that this next year is not about carving out the perfectly balanced life but about the mess and pain of love, the keeping on getting up and loving over and over again kind of love.

Thankfully this is the kind of love I am loved with by the Maker of all this beauty I see before me each day, the kind of love which battles on through the night.

Don’t get me wrong, I would love an ordered boundaried life where I get loads of space to read and walk and reflect and write. One day it might happen.

For now I snatch moments in the slow times, the screen times, the interludes in the mix of messy imperfect days.

For now I sit on my sofa. I am glad and grateful. I am tender with my hopes and dreams which feel out of reach right now. I sit and I am glad I am here. Looking forward to New Year’s Eve feasting with my lovely extended family. Looking forward with possibility into 2022 knowing that there is One who walks with me into it. Who holds, knows, sees and loves.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Christmas Eve around here…

Christmas Eve. 

I sit, as the sky struggles to get lighter

The darkness fighting hard in this northern winter

A house quiet in this strange new rhythm we find ourselves in

No-one but me awake before 8

This hour of quiet helping me 

Brace for the day. 

I sit and listen

The birds outside are confident the light will come

I tune into their song

Hopeful, relentless against the gloom

Hardy poems fill my head, little cause for carolling? 

I breathe deep, sigh, lean my head against the dark

and ask again, what have you for me today? 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The one with the anniversary…

Yes, it’s that traditional time of year where I get to remind you that we used to look like this:

And now we look like this:

Advent blogging has been sparse this year. We are deep in the winter dark of getting through the days, adjusting to new places and spaces and the seeking to be gentle as we all try and figure out who we are in this new world.

I can be found knitting wool chains together for Christmas decorations that may be ready by Christmas Day. Or rewatching Miranda to make me belly laugh at the end of long days. Or being surprised that we all seem to sleep past 7 these days. Or drinking many cups of tea around our kitchen table with my lovely sister in law. Or watching all our boys figure out how to play together.

In the midst of all of that I encounter the man I’m doing all this with, we walk past each other, smile wryly, roll eyes, catch a laugh, swear with exasperation at whatever is causing angst in the house once more, stare exhaustedly, kiss deeply, read out lines from articles that might help explain our youngest’s behaviour and have the occasional snippet of conversation.

He works in his cupboard, warmer than the shed but less cut off from the storms which sometimes rage in the house. He comes out from work, takes the boys out, cooks food, learns more stuff on the sly and brings laughter to us all.

12 years we’ve walked down paths together. You could read about those years in the blog posts I’ve written at the end of each one. Each year unfolding in strange and unexpected ways and yet consistent in the delight and gladness I feel about being married to this man. He is relentlessly optimistic in the face of my loud despair. He sees our glass as overflowing whilst I drain the dregs and wonder how we will walk on. This man is deeply good for me.

This year he’s launched further out into freelancing, sweeping up his teaching and training gifts and applying them to the world of coding and development. He continues to astound me in his drive and passion for learning and embodying that line from Hamilton ‘I’m looking for a mind at work, work’. He’s settled more into who he is as a person and his health has been steady for most of the year. It’s been a treat, as ever, to live life with him.

This year we decided that, both being in a fairly good place, we would rock the boat of our world and see what happened when you change all the externals of life, living back in his home country, seeing what it felt like to write a new book of life together.

I’ve written about that before. We don’t need to go over the details again. Suffice to say that it’s his energy and passion that enabled a wine infused conversation one evening in June to turn into a new adventure in Northern Ireland by late autumn.

And so we walk on, side by side up the mountain. This photo was taken in the hills that we can see from our bedroom window. We walked in them a few months before getting married, all those years ago, on a trip back here with friends. Today we will hopefully walk on their slopes again whilst our boys have fun with their Aunty, cousin and Granda.

These young people know nothing of what will lie ahead, I kind of like remembering that, we set out on adventure together, not knowing, but not needing to because we travelled together…

We walk on. Held in a bigger love, because of a bigger love and here I find myself running out of superlatives to express how much I love this man and the life we are living together, as we dance, give each other space, cheer each other on, get irritated with each other, poke fun at each other, are familiar with each other’s long term weird ways, enjoy each other and keep on slowly, steadily holding on. Seeing. Knowing. Not going anywhere.

Posted in Life on the journey | Leave a comment

On navigating the desolations and consolations of this life…

We have been here just a little longer than a month. 

A month which has felt like it has flown past on some levels and at others feels like a whole year has been lived. Each week that has gone past has left with differing undulations, joys, sorrows, pain, grief and wonder. 

Right now it’s Friday afternoon, the boys are working away at some Minecraft adventure and I am sat trying to process in the cupboard that makes up mine and husbandface’s work space in our house. 

I’m sat here trying to unfurl and process, typing away to try and make sense of our existence here. Trying to find what I need to keep on walking well through this land. 

I can feel a sense of peace today, an acceptance of the place we find ourselves in, but that may not last, it may dissipate into despair and frustration in the next couple of hours. 

Such is our world right now. 

I sit here wanting to write about this tension, this strange place I find myself in, this narrative of consolations and desolations, this search for the path through the ups and downs, the storms and the swirls of life. 

There is a way I could write about the last few weeks, the romance of adventure, the wonderful places we have visited, the incredible natural world we see all around, the new start, the easing into routines, the sunrises each morning, the love of our family, the constant seeing of those we were distant from for so long, the joy of being a safe place, the forages into local community, the knitting with the local village craft group, the traybakes we have eaten and loved, the sand dunes we have run down again and again, the birds I have seen on my morning walks, the journey out into the wilderness from all we have known and loved to discover what it is we know and love. 

I could write of my amazing sister in law, her ways of love, her generosity and grace poured out on us, the delight we all have in her when she comes in the door, I could write of being able to get to know our nephew properly, not just dipping in and out of his life for a week in a year, already we have seen him more than we have ever done in his life. I could write of being able to be in their lives, the joys and wonder of everyday constant cup of tea relationship. 

There is a nature memoir in me I am sure, there is a journey from city England to rural Northern Ireland, a journey into difference, a journey in learning how to be a stranger and how to come home. There is much to evoke in the telling and there is a way of writing which would elevate all these things. 

And it wouldn’t be a lie, it would just be half the tale. It would be a tale worth telling a few years from now as we look back to the past and our adventure over here for.. who knows how long. It would be the tale we would tell as we reminisced on what we had done. 

But right now we are also in the other side of the tale. The trenches of change and grief at what we have left behind. We are in the part where we have to work out how to put oil in our heating tank (hooray for family on hand to explain and help), work out why the local tescos doesn’t stock the same food we are used to, work out why cash is used so much, work out what people are saying to me and slow down to enable people to understand me. 

We are in the inbetween friends stage, the not knowing where our wider community will be and if it will come in time. We are in the pain of watching our boys struggle and act out and we are in the pain of knowing there is no easy fix. We are in the exhaustion of full on parenting, not getting as much time off as we used to, we are in the strange world of change. 

There is much to be said for being patient in the waiting as we journey through this new land, much to be said for accepting the exhaustion and going gentle with ourselves. We would love to connect with other people who express faith in similar ways to us, we would love to find friends, we would love to find a steady rhythm for our boys who have had their worlds turned upside-down. Meanwhile we wait. 

I was deliberately glad we arrived in the dark of November. I like the journey from dark to light but each morning as dawn comes later and later I ache again for the light, for warmth, for ease of days. I wait for the morning though, I wait for the dawn, and I see that it will come again, I write about this waiting again and again because I need it to seep deep in my bones. Light will come. The long days of summer will be here again. 

For now we hunker down. We go slow. We get up again and again each morning. I concentrate less on what our perfectly ordered life was meant to look like over here and accept that my youngest needs me more right now. I lean into peace, I long to take the snatches of time here and there to write, to finish my spiritual direction course well, to sleep and rest, to walk and wait and breathe in the beauty all around me. 

I hold the tensions in my desolations and consolations, in my best of times and worst of times and all the times in-between. I gather myself again after each despairing day and look for the light. Advent helps. Emmanuel helps. I am not alone. I am seen, known and loved through it all. Onwards we go.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

On Possibility…

The word which is floating around in my mind right now is possibility. There is so much to that word and this world we find ourselves in. So much possibility in deepening family relationships, in finding people to journey through faith with, in exploring this beautiful world, in helping our boys adjust to change and finding new friends to hang out with. 

Possibility is a word which helps the perfectionist part of my brain, there is nothing perfectionist about it, it’s not a word about anything definite or concrete, it allows for failure, for things not to work out and yet it calls me into hope and a way of being which seems to let the light in on the overwhelming days when nothing seems right. It seems to be word that can open me up when I shut down in fear or overwhelm.

It’s the first Sunday of Advent tomorrow and this morning was the first morning I have felt that maybe the month isn’t August and we aren’t just over for the holidays. We are here, about to hit one of my favourite times of the year. This word ‘possibility’ might just spill me over into the hope of Advent, the call to wait within that darkness tinged with light. 

This northern land is particularly dark each morning, sunrise is almost an hour later than the southern places we’ve come from. Waiting for the sky to lighten enough for me to head out on my morning walk takes patience and hope. Waiting for the dawn leads me to many places. 

Waiting for the dawn requires some belief in possibility. 

Waiting for the dawn changes my posture, my preparations, my desires and my actions. 

Waiting for the dawn enables me to act in hope. 

Waiting for the dawn wraps me in a bigger reality, a deeper context which enables me to journey through these huge waves of transition, grief, alienation, fears for my boys and more. 

Waiting for the dawn enables me to hold my places of desolation because there is consolation there too. The two are held in tension, not cancelling each other out but creating a beautiful messy wonderland to explore. 

 As I travel into advent I want to taste the possibilities all around me in this new world. As I look for the dawn, I am reminded of the possibility of babies in wombs who would change the world. As I am reminded of the Immanuel, the God who wants to be close to us, I am in awe again at the One who came to be with us in all the mess and brokenness, the One who welcomes all, invites all and who comes with a bigger deeper love and light for us all to find hope in. 

I imagine I’ll be advent blogging again this year, I’m not sure I know how not to. But I think it might be on themes of possibility. This word which is grounding me, holding me in the tension of all my desolations and consolations. This word which is making me smile. 

Hello to advent.

Hello to waiting for the dawn. 

Hello to possibility. 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Rest for your soul?

Yesterday I sat curled up on the sofa, embracing the quiet of the afternoon, the stillness of our house as the boys listened to audio books and watched films. I sat and watched the service from our church back in Brighton. I can’t work out if it’s our old church, the church we used to go to, a current church or what. We have only just landed in this new world and are in transition, I have no idea what to call anything anymore. Anyway, I sat and listened and felt far away and yet near all at the same time. 

Dave was talking (well maybe just throwing out a whole load of ideas to see where they landed) on rest and this pervasive sense of tiredness we all seem to be feeling at the moment. I say ‘all’, I’m sure there are some people out there who are full of life but at this point of the year, a whole 12 months on from when things went really bad in terms of winter lockdowns and coronavirus cases it feels like many of us might be facing the wall of tiredness again or just wading through its constant ache. 

I’ve been thinking about rest since yesterday, and wondering if rest needs to be tailored to the situation we are in. There are times we need rest from every form of activity, where we have hit the limits of all our body and mind. There are times when we need rest as a ceasing moment, where we stop working or doing things to take time away, time out, to change the rhythm of our lives, to catch ourselves again and find the things that give us energy and hope in this world. 

There are other times when rest will look active, alive, running through fields, walking for hours, swimming in the sea, sitting outside with our faces to the sunshine soaking up the vitality we need. There are times when rest will look like creativity, making, doing anything that brings that smile to our faces which says our souls are being satisfied. 

I wonder though in all these circumstances and life situations if there is something deeper going on with rest that takes us to places which sustain us in the dark long tiredness. There is much to be said for altering our life circumstances to cheer us, to leaning into the stuff that gives us life, there is much to be said for seeking the joy, the sustenance found in doing the things we love and being with people who bring us life and who we, in turn, bring life to. But what about the times we can’t change things or when the tiredness just won’t shift? 

I wonder about the reality that the Ones who made us also describe themselves as our rest. We are invited to walk in the ancient ways to find rest for our souls. We are invited to take on a yoke that is not a burden, to learn from Jesus to find rest for our souls. There is something about this way of God which is meant to bring rest to us. 

I wonder what that rest looks like? As I think about that, I wonder what I really need rest from? From trying to figure out life on my own? From trying to be in charge, in control? Maybe this rest on offer is a rest from worry, from fretting about the future, from fear of what people think of me, from the ways I try to protect myself and others from harm?

What is it we are seeking rest from? Tiredness comes from many levels. Tiredness in many forms can come from our bodies, the work we do, the illness we live with, others illnesses we live with meaning we are doing more than we would normally, from lack of sleep, exercise, lack of exercise etc.. Yet much of it comes from the mental loads we carry, the cares of this world, the worries, the fears, the load and weight of knowledge we carry around with us, the weight of the connections we have with people and the burdens we carry with others. 

Some of this tiredness is good to feel but I wonder how much we carry because of the culture around us, the messages we hear, the overwhelm in front of our eyes. I wonder what these ancient paths have to teach us about where rest for our souls comes from and what it looks like? 

Is it found in a simpler way of life, in trust for the things we can’t control? Is it found in the slow and steady pace of knowing we are small and finite creatures who are in the hands of someone bigger than us, more able to sustain us than our own strength? 

Is it found in the call of the One who says our times are in their hands in whose arms we can cast all our cares and burdens? 

Is finding rest for our souls an inner journey as much as an outer one? When thinking about rest are we just changing externals or are there inner thoughts and attitudes to pay attention to which are draining the life out of us?

What does it really mean to stand at the crossroads and ask for the ancient paths and find rest for our souls? 

Nope, no well structured thought out arguments here, just a whole load of questions about rest. 

As I write I’m working myself round to remembering that right now, most of all, I need rest from the desire in me to control outcomes. I am small. I am in the hands and arms of the One who loves me most. I seek strength from their gaze, I seek hope from not being on my own trying to figure this new world out. 

I’m tired from moving, I’m tired from new places and new situations but really my tiredness this morning comes from trying to control our lives and figure it all out on my own. I can’t. 

I ask for the ancient paths of love and grace to walk in and I seek to trust the One who has my times in their hands, and the times of my boys whom I want to make everything better for. I can’t. It is too tiring to try. I can take slow steps forward, love, reassure, name their emotions, hug them through the days and rest in the One who watches over us, keeps us and provides for us. 

I rest my weary soul in the One who loves me most, in the One who will not let us go and find hope in this tiredness. 

Where does your tiredness come from? Is your Maker inviting you to change externals or internals? What do you need rest from? What might give you rest today? 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Saying goodbye to One Church. The processing continues…

There is a blogpost stirring in my soul about our time at the lovely One Church Brighton. I’ve written on Facebook about my wonderful colleagues, I’ve been processing the last times with friends and places but there is this need in me to quantify what I have loved about our church over the last few years.

Wind the clock back 5 years. We’ve just come out of the end of our previous church. We are battered and bruised from the loss of some very wonderful intentional community we’ve shared deeply with friends in the previous few years. We are hurting, wondering where we’ll land. Wondering what our faith looks like now we can choose the church we will go to next. Husbandface is on the edge of his breakdown, teetering on the edge of health, we are about to plunge into the darkest points of his ptsd. We have no idea what lies ahead. We have two small crew members who take all our sleep and we are tired.

We return to the church I used to go to when I first landed in Brighton. But I am not the same. My faith has shifted, I am not the same. My world blew apart when I had son1. My faith has been altered, my understanding of God stripped down and I am leaning into different ways of relating to the divine. I’ve spent a year learning about spiritual direction on a course with the diocese and I’ve enjoyed so many different ways of viewing God. I buckle at the weight of conservative evangelicalism and the frustrations with the talk of grace but so many people feeling burdened and constrained, unable to express who they are in safety. I cry at the end of services at the narrow confines of this house I want to leave. I do not belong here any more but I am scared to leave, scared of the voices that will condemn me to heresy and hell. I am scared to choose a freer path.

Our friends come around for dinner. We talk and they speak of the church they have landed in. Of the freedom offered, at how it sounds like the things I hold dear. We smile and wonder and ponder stepping into another space. Family come and stay for the weekend giving us the excuse to check it out. We go.

We hear talk from the front of this place being a place where they are trying to learn how to disagree with each other well, of how we don’t all have to think the same thing as the minister in charge, of how he welcomes diversity and difference. We hear a man who wants to give his power away. We are hooked.

Son1 talks to us when we get home. He saw his people there, his Godfamily, who held him the second day of his life and have loved him and us endlessly throughout the years. He says, that will be our Church now then? We smile and nod. Ok. We put aside the voices of warning and step outside to enjoy the view.

We go back again and again. I stare at the ceiling marvelling at the God who appears in this space as well, in the spaces we were warned about. And yet this Christ who plays in 10,000 places is playing here. In our lives. I spend a good few weeks in tears marvelling at a place we can be us. We chat to the minister in our house. Husbandface does what he needs to do less these days, announces I preach and my history. I am grateful.

I am asked if I want to preach. I am slightly taken aback by how easy this seems. There is an open invite, a generosity which I love. It doesn’t matter that I’m a woman. For the first time it doesn’t matter that I’m a woman. I feel free.

Time goes on. Husbandface sometimes comes, sometimes we leave him in bed with his exhausted shaky body. We journey on. I lead a women’s retreat, I talk on parenting at a weekend away, we plod through the storm and still find our God holding us, reminding us of the hope for the ones who wait for the morning. I get a job with this beautiful place and spend the next few years loving hanging out with my colleagues, learning how to work in a place which holds space for people on the edge of faith, either about to head out the back door or experiencing shifting ground beneath their feet.

I have the privilege of sitting with people again and again as they find they can breathe. I hear stories of people disconnected from so many parts of themselves because of messages they’ve been told from churches. I watch as tears fall in relief of knowing that God is out here in this expansive space, holding out love and holding out life.

I love this church. Not because it’s perfect, there are many frustrations and hurts along the way of our journey here. Nothing is ever simple in a world of messy hurting people. But I have deeply loved the freedom I have found here. I’ve loved the willingness of Dave, our minister, to take a punt on someone random preaching and to have consistently encouraged and desired me to grow in confidence in what is in me. I have loved journeying with people in faith shifts, in holding out the bedrock of a God who loves and loves and loves again and who calls us to full life in all its messy wondrous glory.

I have loved the safe space for us to heal from many hurts, I have loved finding God in the cracks, I have loved the chance to serve this messy hard to define community.

We go aware of deep gratitude for such a lovely holding space in the darkest times of life. I am so grateful to the people of our church who were so good at loving us in the darkness, at noticing how husbandface was doing and checking in, at providing meals when we needed it. I am so glad of a space where I could use and grow in my gifts, in space to be me when so much of my life was about holding our family together. Church and work provided such a helpful space of purpose beyond the immediate pressures.

It’s been such a lovely chapter of our lives so far, of healing, being put back together and flourishing in our faith journeys. Whatever the future holds, whether we come back into the fold or stay away I will be forever glad of this holding space of hope.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment