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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Weekly round up. Survival essentials. 

It’s Friday. We’ve made it through another week. There have been good times. There have been shouty times. There have been cake times and lots of episodes of Bones.

As I look back I can see the stuff that really really helps in this mental world right now. I have realised there are several immovable things in my week which make this land possible. 

I have to run. 

I have to talk to God in some form or other. 

I have to read. 

These three things give me much needed alone time. And thus I have:

Time to reflect. 

Time to get endorphins flowing around my body. 

Time to be restored by eternal perspective and love. (Psalm 19 reminded me this week that God’s way of doing things brings refreshment to the soul. Refreshment to the soul. Sounds good eh.) 

Time to be in worlds that are not my own (reading is particularly helpful for that both fictional and non fictional.).

In this world of intense non stop small boy interaction the space these three things provides is wonderful. Without these I think I would be in a much more exhausted state. 

Other things of note:

Once more the lovely Jo took the boys for a bit on Thursday morning enabling me to take the husbandface for a rare trip out of the house and into the sunshine. It was a strange kind of date, a 10 min walk followed by take out cake and coffee drunk in separate rooms. But it was a moment of connection nonetheless. 

Money from my mother in laws estate has provided us with a workshop for husbandface to get creative in and have a space to hang out that’s not our bedroom. It arrived yesterday. It’s a beast. But I think we’ll get used to it slightly destroying the view from our dining table…

Today an old friend from years back is coming to play. We are off to see the excellent Martyn Joseph tonight and I can’t wait for an evening out and to have the deepest parts of my soul soothed, which he always seems to be able to do. I haven’t seen him live since son1 was 4 weeks old and I pretty much sobbed through every comforting familiar song helping me make sense of the confusing world I found myself in. Tonight may have a similar effect. We will wait and see. 

Having friends come play also helps weekends feel like weekends, which is really important right now. Weekends are the hardest as it’s then that it’s most obvious how little husbandface can manage and I feel the most odd with no routine to cling to. It will be good to do Saturday things and enjoy the break from routine rather than fear it. 

And there we are. 

As you were. 

Happy Friday 

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Weekly update… a little late…

Friday evening.
So we are here again. The end of another week. It’s a good job I’ve started writing this after seeing my spiritual director. It would have been a more gloomy affair had I written at lunchtime. Some sitting in quiet, some noticing of the view around me has enabled me to get a more peaceful perspective on the week. 

We were back into full on routine. Nursery for two and a half days, toddler groups and music class for the youngest and some inventive ways to try and spend long afternoons indoors. The boys have been generally hilarious this week. Their imaginative play is beautiful and weird and I love hanging out with them. Getting them to do anything is slightly more problematic as I have no patience right now. I’m not so enamoured with myself this week. I’ve been far too close to the edge of anger and frustration which has spilled out in ways that I am not proud of. 

Tuesday morning 

I was sure I would have time and energy to finish the above post sooner than this but there we go. The last sentence is still true in this new week. I have a long way to go to discover the art of gentle calm parenting. 

On Friday evening my spiritual director asked me how I was in the midst of the slightly odd world that is ours at the moment. 

I am ok. In some ways better than for a while and in some ways very close to the edge of stress and anger. I can see myself tidying and cleaning more than usual and being so much less tolerant of the boys mess and squabbles over toys. I want to control something in this land I feel so out of control in. I can’t make my beautiful man better and I don’t know how long this will last. Anger rises too quickly. Frustration at the situation we are in spills out on the small ones. I am sad this has too often been the case this week. 

I return again to the reality of grace, the needing forgiveness hourly and to knowing that I too am a child with a very patient and calm parent. I am held. I am loved. Words that I long to believe and live within. I am loved. I am a child in Good Hands. I am loved. I too often jump to a picture of a disapproving parent when it comes to thinking about God as one. I long to replace that sour image with the actual one of delight, compassion, patience and kindness that the Bible tells me my divine parent is full of. 

In Tuesday group today we read of a God whose laws and ways bring refreshment to our souls. Oh to really believe that with all the core of my being. To not just know the theory, but to love and embrace the utter wonder that God’s ways bring refreshment to my soul. We talked about enjoying God, hanging out in the wonderful world he made together. 

As I sit here in the car with the sun shinning strong and son2 asleep behind me I can feel the stirring of hope and the strength found in being a beloved child. The strength to love, to keep on walking and not be destroyed by the circumstances around us. 

I breathe. 

I gaze at the blue skies and green hills around me. 

There is hope. 

I am loved. 

We are held. 

I breathe. 

I am grateful for the people who have made our week and weekend easier. For reading many books to our boys, coming and sharing in garden centre joy, for providing safe houses to sit in on rainy afternoons and for holding us in their thoughts and prayers. Husbandface has been signed off work for the next 4 weeks and we have no way of knowing how long this tunnel is. 

We walk slowly on. Shuffling through the dark. Aware of a hand holding onto us. Aware of others coming and going to encourage and shine some light. 

We walk on. There is grace enough for this day. There is a refresher of souls with us. 

(Remind me of that next time you see me around eh? Writing this down reminds me but I so easily forget)

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X marks the spot… A treasure hunting we go…

A couple of years ago I started noticing, in the world of social media, that people were talking about their word for the year. Maybe it was just the different people I was paying attention to or maybe this was some new thing that has started. I still don’t know where it began, neither can I really be bothered to research where it came from (apologies for my laziness). Anyway, it has intrigued me for a while and this new year I pondered what my word for the year would be, were I to participate in such a thing.

Survive sounded a little to bleak even for me. Thankful kind of summed it up but I wanted a more intriguing word. In the services at church over Christmas the reality of Mary treasuring stuff in her heart grabbed me again. Mainly because I had always kind of assumed she treasured what the angel said. I hadn’t really registered that she treasures and ponders things in her heart after the shepherds have been. 

It makes sense, that was when things calmed down and the reality of looking after a baby hit. If there was ever a time for treasuring and pondering this was it. So much had happened, the shepherds confirm and add to what the Angel had said before she conceived Jesus. This was no ordinary child and no ordinary life. But still he’s a child that needs feeding and burping and cuddling. Treasuring up in her heart seems like a good thing to do with all that incredible truth about who he would turn out to be. 

So there it is. My word for the year. Treasure. I long to treasure the reality of God’s work in this world. I long to find the treasure he has in store for me each day. I want to store up treasure for the long days when it’s me and the boys and I need to remember the good in this world, and the One who made that good. 

The boys are obsessed with treasure boxes, which helps my thinking about this. They store away their treasures and enjoy the thrill of boxes of stuff. My amazing husbandface made me a treasure box of my own for Christmas (not knowing these thoughts in my head) in it he wrote cards for the days and moments I would need treasure from him. Treasure seems to be on our minds at the moment. 

The Bible has much to say about treasure and our hearts. I want to explore that more. I want this year to be about exploring the treasure on offer, listening to where my treasure lies, to the pull of my heart. I want to treasure up the moments of joy and wonder in this broken bleak world and be thankful. I want to squirrel away the good things for the nights when it all seems a bit too dark. 
How I do that I don’t know. Whether I blog once a month about treasure to refresh myself I’m not sure. It sounds like it would be good to add treasure to my box as the year goes on, maybe a physical storing up of the moments of God in our life. 

For now, I am enjoying my heart wrapping around the word treasure and seeing where it takes me. I am enjoying the hunt and the various metaphors involved with the idea of treasure. 

I’m sure I will return to this theme sooner or later but for now it is good to draw together my rambling thoughts and place a marker in the sand. This year is the year for treasure. I’m off to find a map. 

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The week that was…

It’s Friday. It’s the first week back into some kind of routine and thus my inner clock is compelling me to shut out the sounds of Raa Raa the annoying little Lion in the background and type away reflecting on the past week.

First up: it’s January and so far (all of 6 days in) I don’t feel like a frozen tree frog. For the first time in I don’t know how long. 

I’m keeping half an eye on this and don’t want to get too excited but it seems that maybe the SAD lamp, reduced sugar, boys sleeping more, regular running and who knows what have made this January feel approachable. We are still hibernating each evening with bed and Greys Anatomy winning once the small ones are asleep, but there is a lightness in my head that feels new for this time of year.

I say all this with a pinch of salt as that could all change tomorrow. For now though I notice and I’m glad. 

We’ve had a pretty good week, all things considered. Life is now lived against the backdrop of the lovely husbandface’s illness. He’s able to focus and interact for about 20 min out of every 4 hours. Adjusting to that has made up most of our week. I am so sad my favourite and best is so struck down like this. I long for his mind to be free and to heal well. I pray this time out will bring change and hope. If you pray please join with me. I’m not going to go into much detail here as it’s his life and not mine to share publicly. But please do message me if you want to know how to pray. 

Thankfully there are things he can do. He has sat with the boys during lunchtime watching, so I have got out for a run in the day a couple of times. He can also sit with them at bedtime so I can escape to run then as well. (Or just slump on the sofa and not be touched by a small person for a bit). 

I’m still running and still connecting with God. This means the week is manageable. Endorphins and awareness of being loved massively are keeping me sane right now. Me and the boys have enjoyed bumbling around in parks, going to a farm, meeting up with friends and doing many puzzles together. I am really enjoying their increasing love for each other and imaginative play. They are uber funny (and irritating) and I’m genuinely loving hanging out with them at the moment. 

The wonderful Jo (one of son1’s Godmum’s) took them both on Thursday morning and I managed a beautiful stomp on the sunny ice cold downs. I felt like skipping over the hills, as light as a feather without small boys in tow. It was beautiful and another gift to get me through the week. 

I’ve got another blog post brewing about my word for the year (yeah it’s a thing…) which I’ll leave for another time. For now though I’m grateful for getting to the end of this week. I’m grateful that Mum and Dad coming tomorrow will make Saturday feel like a Saturday and not just another day of me with the boys. I’m grateful for all the friends who’ve loved us so well this week and I’m grateful that my brain is able to ask God what he has for us in the midst of this and isn’t just slumping into it’s usual despair. 

And there we go. 

This week. Mostly brought to you with the backdrop of two small boys shouting the words to Let it Go constantly. 

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The one with the epic song list… A last nod to 2016

Each year I compile a CD for my mates Anna and Sarah. In the past it’s been made up of new music I’ve discovered, or music that has been important to me over the year. More recently it’s had far too much child friendly music on it due to the clamouring voices in the back of the car for the approved small boy song list. (Which right now just seems to include the Frozen soundtrack leading to long arguments between me and son1 as to whether she sings ‘the cold never bothered me anyway’ or the ‘cloak never bothered me anyway’. Clearly it’s cold but try proving that to a small boy who can’t read… argh)

This year I think I listened to two bands that were new to me. This year I could barely count the songs I had discovered. Thus I gave up on the theme to the CD and curated a CD purely reflecting the year we have had. 2016 was a pretty crap year, all things considered. It was dominated by husbandface’s depression, throw in the large amount of people who died, Brexit and Trump and things start to look more than a little grim.

These songs walked with me through the year. They help me express the darkness and bring hope to that darkness. So here goes, my tour of 2016 in the medium of song:

  1. Hard to Get- Rich Mullins.

I can’t fault this song. He rages at God, he berates him for being hard to get, his raw, painful honesty and lyrical expression of his emotions make this one of the best songs to play when life is unbearably, unexplainably hard. Worth it all for the lines- “And I know you bore our sorrows, and I know you feel our pain, and I know that it would not hurt any less even if it could be explained, and I know that I am only lashing out at the one who loves me most, but after I have figured this, what I really need to know is if you who live in eternity hear the prayers of those of us who live in time, we can’t see what’s ahead and we cannot get free from what we’ve left behind. I’m reeling from these voices that keep screaming in my ears, all these words of shame and doubt, blame and regret, I can’t see how you’re leading me, unless you’ve led me here, to where I’m lost enough to let myself be led. And so you’ve been here all along I guess, and it’s just your ways and you are just plain hard to get.”

2. Hallelujah- Jeff Buckley

Leonard Cohen was a song writing genius and this is the best version of Hallelujah. It’s haunting, broken and beautiful. Leonard Cohen’s death was one that hit hard.

3. Alone- Trampled by Turtles.

My one new band of the year. A band full of beautiful sounds and this song was a pretty good reflection of parts of our year.

4. Feels like this – Martyn Joseph

Still one of the best descriptions of depression I’ve listened to. Worth it for the lines at the end of the song, “this house is dark so let’s find a window”. Yes please.

5. Anthem  – Perla Batella & Julie Christensen.

I’ve never heard of these singers but once again they do more than justice to a seminal Leonard Cohen song. Stunning beauty and the lines, “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.” Quite.

6. Beautiful Things- Gungor.

There is hope. There is a God at work in the pain and grimness. This song has reminded me of that countless times this year.

7. My Lighthouse- Rend Collective

One of our choices that the small ones will tolerate, when they aren’t arguing about whose Lighthouse it is. “In my wrestling, in my doubts, in the darkness, you won’t walk out.” I always need Rend Collectives shouty loud declarations that life is hard and painful but there is someone doing stuff in the midst of that. Music that is good to shout out loud. (as son1 did at the Christingle service at church this year)

8- Fight Song- Rachel Patten

I like it. It’s loud, shouty and the kind of song you can run fast to. It makes me want to get up off the mat and keep on walking.

9. Shake it Off- Taylor Swift.

Similar kind of vibe. Let’s get going and kick 2016 where it hurts.

10. Love yourself- Justin Beiber

There is no defence for the inclusion of this song. We discovered it because we were googling songs Ed Sheeran had written. It’s funny. It makes us laugh. It’s ridiculous but a whole lot of fun.

11. Sky full of Stars- Coldplay.

A song from the Radio 2 playlist had to make it on here. I like it’s optimistic feel and cheery vibe. I think we all need that from time to time.

12. Hold back the River- James Bay

Another Radio 2 staple and a good romp of a song.

13. Brand New Day- Joshua Radin

Another one for the optimistic, life isn’t so bad section of the CD.

14. If I should fall behind- Bruce Springsteen.

All I want to say to my favourite and best. (oh and the above video is a treat)

15. Heroes- David Bowie

Another musical legend to die this year. This song always makes me want to stand tall on mountain tops and sing loudly for all to hear. We could be heroes. For some of this year we have been.

16. History- One Direction

What are road trips without singing loudly to the One Direction playlist on my phone? This snapshots some of my favourite moments from our epic road trip to Ireland this summer. Love singing with husbandface in the car. I’m a really bad singer and I love that I am so uninhibited with my favourite and best that I sing as loudly as if no-one was in the car. There is something about the ease love brings in that…

17. Joy- Rend Collective

See previous Rend Collective song.

18. Hold me Jesus- Rich Mullins.

Another beautiful one. “Sometimes my life just don’t make sense at all, when the mountains seem so big and my faith just seems so small. So hold me Jesus, I’m shaking like a leaf, you have been my King of Glory, won’t you be my Prince of Peace?”


19. Welcome to the World- Music for Aardvarks.

(sadly I couldn’t find a video for this…)

There had to be one small boy song on the CD. This one never fails to make me well up when we reach the lullaby section of the music class me and son2 go to on a Monday morning. It’s primary for the lovely Joseph Dimbleby who joined the world this year, my friend Sarah’s new boy. It’s a mental world but a beautiful one as well. I hope I don’t ever forget that.

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