Monday, 20 April 2015

Be Still My Soul

This morning I read about the Israelites' first few months in their Promised Land.  

Joshua had led them courageously across the Jordan river, watching it part before their eyes so they could walk across on dry land.  He had been commissioned by the 'Commander of the Lord's armies' and promised help from the armies of heaven.  He had marched the Israelite army around Jericho obediently for a week until, on last day, they shouted and watched in triumph and the walls simply collapsed in front of them.  

And then the good feeling went.  

The Israelites lost a battle and everything suddenly seemed to be going wrong.

And, despite all the miracles he had witnessed, Joshua got on his face before God and cried:

"If only we had been content to stay on the other side of the Jordan!"

And as I read those words I realised that I say them too.  Even today.  Despite the absolutely miraculous provision of our last few weeks, when the owner of our new house told us he wants to wait yet another six weeks before we complete and can move in I have cried "Why couldn't we just have stayed where we are and not tried to do this Hope House thing?"

How often am I content to stay in my safe, secure comfort zone?

How often am I content to stay where I am instead of taking big risks which will lead to seeing the faithfulness, might and power of God?

How often does my fear of taking those risks cause me to pretend to myself that I am content?

Going across the Jordan in my own life is a risk and, like Joshua, sometimes the good feeling goes.  My battle is to find my contentment in the God I have chosen to follow and not in my surroundings and circumstances.  So, despite the situation, I can choose to be content because of the hope and the promises that are before me.

When I am content in Him, my soul becomes still and I can face crossing the Jordan, even if I can't see what is on the other side.

So, I take a deep breath and I make my choice.  


Friday, 10 April 2015

The Joys of Boys

Boys get so much bad press, but there are so many reasons to celebrate them.  

Here are the things I love about my boys:

1.  I love it that they can spend two hours making 'nettle sting potion' with doc leaves and water.

2.  I chuckle to myself when someone asks 'who's farted' and they proudly own up, enjoying being congratulated by the others.

3.  I love listening to them whispering secret plans to each other: "Get dressed and I'll meet you outside."

4.  I smile watching them spend almost a whole week creating 'defence systems' for their playhouse, complete with water bombs, stinging nettles and elaborate traps.

5.  I love watching them eat their food with wholehearted satisfaction and enjoyment.

6.  It makes my insides melt when they hug me at just the right time.

7.  I love the fact that they can be arguing and bickering and then the cat suddenly sees another cat in the garden and is frightened.  Suddenly, the boys square their shoulders, forget their petty differences and go outside to protect their cat together.

8.  Their surprised faces when I wear clothes that are different to my usual 'mum' attire and their comments of 'wow, Mum, you look really beautiful' give me a glimpse of the men they are going to become.  And it's a good glimpse.

9.  I love the way they fight courageously for justice. 

10.  Their laughter, fun and sharp sense of humour makes me laugh, even when I am trying desperately not to.

11. I love the fact that a kiss from me is the ultimate threat.


They are hard work and exhausting sometimes but I wouldn't have my family any other way.  What a privilege to be able to grow these young ones into the men they are supposed to become.


Friday, 3 April 2015

What's so good about Good Friday?

We live in an age where we have to be enough.

We strive to be better.  We have to have the perfectly tidy home, children who aren't picky eaters, a satisfying job, dinner parties where we can cook Jamie Oliver's extravagant dishes.  We are supposed to be a size 12, or even a 10, and we sweat out that evil fat by doing ridiculous challenges.  Our children are meant to be polite, all the time.  Young people have to achieve academically or they are deemed failures.  Careers are the be all and end all.

We are told that we are good enough, strong enough, courageous enough.  We read enlightening memes in social media that tell us we don't need anyone else because we have it all.  If we can just summon up all our good qualities from within ourselves, our lives will turn out to be amazing.

And yet, beneath our facade of having it all together we feel like we are crumbling. Mental health issues are on the rise - and I know firsthand what this feels like.  Young people suffer from depression, and self harm and eating disorders are increasing at an alarming rate.  Women who were told they could have a satisfying career, perfect home and family life are on the edge of sanity trying to hold it all together.  Men and women turn to alcohol to numb the truth that they aren't who they are supposed to be.  Marriages fail because they've been built on the foundation of believing the other person is enough.  Ambition drives us forward at menacing speed.  

We wonder why we can't be like Everyone Else who seem to have it all together.  And inside we question whether we are good enough.

Good Friday gives us the opportunity to breathe out and realise we are not, in fact, enough.

Good Friday tells us to stop trying, because we can never be enough.

The events of Good Friday point us to the truth that we don't have to do it all because Jesus has done it.  

He died so we can live.  Not just survive.  Live.

He died so we can know what it means to find our fulfillment in God.  

Good Friday is so outrageously good because we can stop wearing ourselves out by striving to find the strength from within ourselves when it simply isn't there.  

Good Friday is jump-up-and-down-and-dance-round-the-kitchen good because our freedom from guilt and judgement has been bought.

Good Friday is extravangantly good because we can stop.  And breathe.  And know we are loved so much that Jesus would die in our place.  

Good Friday is life-changingly good because our purpose for living changes from 'be it all' to 'you're my all.'

Good Friday is overwhelmingly good because we can be free.  

This isn't a platitude or a Facebook meme.  This kind of life is offered to us, freely, without any effort on our part.  Sound unfair?  Ridiculous?  That's because it is.  God loves us unfairly and ridiculously.  He offers us this way of living when we don't even deserve it.  

The question to ask ourselves this Easter is will we take it? 

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Being a planner when you don't know the plan.

In May 2014 we sat in huge auditorium listening to a man talking, with great humour, about Abraham and the conversation with his wife, Sarah, when God had told him to move his family.  Abraham had to explain to Sarah that they were moving, but had no idea where they were moving to.

I laughed and looked at my modern-day version of Abraham sat next to me.  I could relate to Sarah's horror at the prospect of packing up her home and her family and leaving without knowing which direction to take.  It was funny because I was married to a man who is also a dreamer and has huge faith.  It was funny because we were talking about someone else.

And then it happened to us.  

And suddenly I wished I had Sarah to talk with.

The year following on from our trip to India has been a whirlwind for us.  Hearts ruined, tears sobbed, questions asked and eventually lives laid down daily, we have wrestled with wasting our lives and finding purpose.  Last summer Jared was offered a job in Bangalore and we began to prepare our hearts, our boys and our family and friends for the prospect of our moving out there.  After finding a peace in my heart about taking our boys to such a huge unknown life change, the job offer was withdrawn and we were left confused and back to the start.

We had no idea what God was doing with us.  We clung to our trust in His plan and the promises He has given us.  Like Abraham, we knew there were changes ahead but we didn't know what they were.

Over Christmas we noticed a house for sale down the road with enough bedrooms for our family to live in but also for us to welcome other people into our family.  We weren't sure who this would be, but we knew we had dreamt about this.

Was this the next step?  It was beyond our price range.  But after viewing the house we decided to put our house on the market 'to see what would happen'.

Our house sold.  For above the asking price.  Within six days.

Perhaps this was the right direction, then.

We put in an offer on the big house, knowing we did not have the money to afford the mortgage.  Some may say we are crazy.  I would agree.  

It took six weeks for the owners of the house to accept our offer.  Six weeks of agonised waiting as our buyers were organising the purchase of our house.  It was more than frustrating but in that time of waiting, we were able to see more clearly what the house was going to be used for.  We began to see our dreams being realised at last.  Dreams that we had held for over 20 years.  In the waiting, we found purpose.  

This week we have had a meeting with people who may invest in our house, partnering with us to restore and love those broken by modern day slavery.  We continue to pray for God to provide.

And so we have found ourselves, like Sarah and Abraham, taking steps of faith without knowing what the next step will be.  We put our foot down tentatively, and then look for the next place to step.  We only know one step ahead.  When people ask us questions about it, we don't have all the answers.  Often we simply have to say 'I don't know'.  Because we truly don't.  

I don't know if Sarah was a planner but if she was she will have learnt, like I am learning, that sometimes the unknown is more exciting than any plan she could have made.  When fear of wasting my life silences the fear of the unknown, I can take those tiny steps of faith knowing that my God, the Master Planner, already has it all mapped out.

One day, when I meet Sarah, I will have a chuckle with her over our husbands.  I think we may have lots to discuss.






Saturday, 21 February 2015

Hot Chocolate Loving

We've had an intentional 'give the boys some one on one time' day today.  It's been such a busy month and they are so fab at going with the flow and putting up with the demands of our life, but we felt it was about time to give them something back.  

So, I found myself in a cafe drinking hot chocolate with my favourite ten year old.


Wanting to make the most of the moment, I quizzed him about what he felt his strengths were.  Giggling at the thought of talking himself up, he settled on his top strength.

Being different.

'I like being different,' he explained. 'Some people try to be like everyone else and they try to be cool but when you are just being yourself then you are cool anyway.'

I glowed inside with his wisdom.  I love the fact that he is different too.  

Then he surprised me.

'Come on then, Mum.  What are you good at?'

Oh, I wasn't there to talk about me.  I was there to give him a boost and chat about his world.  His question threw me.

'Well, I'm not sure.  I guess I'm good at cooking.' I answered, a bit feebly.

And then he looked at me, his hot chocolate moustaching around his mouth and his eyes twinkling as he interrupted my ramblings about cooking.  

'I think you're beautiful.  That's what's good about you.'

This boy who has caused me so many sleepless nights and given me so many reasons to cry, completely stumped me with his unintentional love.

And he carried on.

'And I love it that you don't stick to the rules.  You stick to the good ones, but not the bad ones.  And that makes you beautiful too.'

I was speechless.  I had no idea where this depth had come from in my little boy who is growing up to have such a big heart.

Oh yes, hot chocolate was a great idea today.  This boy who hates love and romance and valentines and girls and leaves the room when we kiss is developing into a young man who loves naturally and with all of his heart.

His heart, by the way, belongs to me at the moment.  One day I'll have to give it away but at the moment I'm making the most of cherishing it and watching it grow.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Fifty Shades of Terror

I have resisted as long as possible, but I cannot stand by silently whilst everyone else enjoys the 'harmless' fun of this film.

Fifty Shades.

This weekend the news will be full of it.  According to the BBC news website London Fire Brigade are even on standby because of concerns about people being trapped in handcuffs. 

And yet, every day around the world women and girls are exploited, abused, dominated and controlled by men such as Christian Grey.  Charming on the outside and terrifyingly evil behind closed doors, these men are warped and twisted by their passion for selfish and self-gratifying sex that knows no love or tenderness. 

Does the term 'mummy porn' make it more palatable?  Seriously?  Should 'mummies' be okay with this?  Would 'mummies' be happy if it was their daughter being exploited by such a man? 

Across the world every day paedophiles from our country (yep - England) are hiring the services of young girls in karaoke bars, brothels, massage parlours and even from street corners.  Have these girls chosen to work in such places?  Of course not.  Stolen from their homes and sometimes sold by their families, they are raped twenty or more times each night by the 'Christian Greys' of this world.  In the UK alone, one phone call every minute is made to the police (Stanko 2000) by women desperate for help because they are being abused by a 'Christian Grey'.  Domestic abuse is about power and control not about the bright lights and dazzling glamour of the alluring paedophile or rapist. It's simply unjust.

And porn fuels this injustice.  Without a doubt, porn (even so-called 'mummy porn') twists a person's view of sex.  It is the petrol behind the terrible, degrading, evil bomb of sexual violence.    And violence is what it is.  Not love.  Not cherishing.  Not 'fun'.  Try explaining to a 10 year old girl locked in a cage on the streets of Mumbai and only let out when there is a paedophile / customer waiting to rape her for 20p that this is 'fun'.  Or perhaps you could laugh along with the lady who is regularly beaten by the husband who plays mind control tricks on her like moving the food around in the cupboards or throwing away the bread when she was certain she'd bought some at the shops.

I don't care how glamorous Christian Grey is or how much of a fa├žade of riches and beauty is pasted over it, Fifty Shades of Grey is not only offensive towards women, but downright dangerous.  This is not harmless fun.  And yet women are the ones supporting it.

Come on Ladies, open your eyes to the truth behind the film. 

See the message that is barely hidden. 

Don't celebrate the abuser but stand for the women around the world who face these degrading battles every day and every night. 

Be their voice when they have nothing left but a silent whisper for help. 

Be women who uphold justice and mercy. 

This is black and white.  There are no grey areas here.


Wednesday, 4 February 2015

The Truth Behind the Facebook Posts

I love honesty.  I appreciate authentic friendships.  I'm not one for small talk or superficiality.  Sometimes this gets me into trouble (my mum always used to say 'think before you speak' and I can still hear her whispering it in my ear on the odd occasion!).  

But social media sites are full of people pretending to be something 'better'.  We all fall into the trap.

Take this photo, for example.  Posted by me this week, it has had lots of 'likes' and comments.  It must look like we are having a whale of a time preparing for judo.




But the reality behind the fake smiles ("come on boys, smile and show Dad your new yellow belts") was that half an hour before this was taken we were all crying.  A smashed glass full of water all over the kitchen floor, a cut and bleeding finger, fighting boys, a Dad away for the week and a quick 'turnaround teatime' before judo led to my exploding at the boys like a mentos mint in a coke bottle. It was, quite seriously, one of the worst evenings we have had for a very long time.  

I was shocked by the amount of 'likes'.  How could that happen when our eyes were sore and puffy from crying?  Wasn't it obvious?

And I realised that not only was it not obvious, but it was also possible to live out a totally different life and nobody would ever know.  This gave me the heebyjeebies.  

It also made me even more resolved to pursue genuine friendships with those close to me.  I value vulnerability and honesty in my friends.  I don't want to try and keep up with the Joneses or pretend to be something I'm not and I don't want my friends to feel they can't be real either.  I may not splash all my woes across Facebook (that gets a bit boring) but I so appreciate being able to send a quick text to my close friends when life gets tough.  I know they will stand with me, sometimes holding me up.  I need them and they need me.  And I love that we support and encourage each other.

So, next time I am tempted to post an all singing, all dancing version of my amazing family (and they ARE amazing and we DO sing and dance around the kitchen quite often) I am going to remember this photograph and how uneasy it made me feel.  And I will remember that being honest is more important than being fake.

Who wants a fake family anyway?  Not me.