Well, that's it, I'm off!

Friday, 22 November 2013

Before I start, I want you to know that I'm not blogging about this to brag. I'm blogging to let you know the truth about how I am. I am worried about people thinking I'm some sort of spiritual superwoman when a lot of the time I am the extreme opposite. So please don't read this thinking I'm bragging about how awesomely Godly I am and how obedient I'm being. Because really, I am the opposite of that. I also didn't like the idea of getting messages on Facebook and not replying to them for a month with no explanation ... anyway, to the post.

Right now my baby girl is smiling and talking to a toy zebra. I'm watching old episodes of the IT Crowd and munching on walnuts. It's not even five o'clock and it's dark. The heating is on and the boiler is humming in the background. I have a bug bite on my shoulder. Where on earth has it come from? I don't know but it's itching like mad.

Why do I need to share that with you?

I don't need to. But I have shared it anyway.

I have just finished a Bible study on Gideon. It's been wonderful. The teaching has been so in-depth, and yet so easy to understand. It has taught me so much about Gideon's time, specifically the idols they worshipped and the tribes that they were a part of. It's taught me a lot about myself. And most importantly, it's taught me about God's endless patience.

In the last week, we were asked to list healthy things that have turned into unhealthy habits. Things that are not necessarily within themselves bad, but have become bad because they have taken precedence in our lives. I listed a whole bunch of things, but it only just hit me that one particular vice I have is *whispers* The Internet.

Not just Facebook, or Twitter, or Pinterest, or blogging. Even just surfing the internet. It's become a massive part of my life. I spend every spare moment - stood in the kitchen waiting for the kettle to boil, or dinner to cook, cuddling my baby back to sleep at 2.30am - I will fill that time, and therefore my brain, with stuff. Random things. Things I read on forums, things I read on websites. The problem is five minutes turns to ten minutes turns to an hour ... and so on. And the more I think about it, the more I realise how much my attention span is suffering as a result. I can't just sit and watch a film or a TV show anymore. I have to have something else to occupy me. It's started to encroach upon time with my loved ones and quite frankly, I am not happy with that.

I'm not happy with it encroaching upon my time with God, either.

This morning I sat with my gorgeous girl in a circle of amazing women. All in different stages of their lives. All wonderful, wise, God-fearing girls. As we talked about what we took from the study, what bits we particularly enjoyed, I realised how good my God is. Each of these women are different and each has an amazing story to tell about His goodness. There were a lot of wise words spoken and I felt so moved to have my baby girl there in the midst of it all.

However. Words kept being spoken. Words that cut right through me and left me with a feeling of impending doom. As the session went on, I felt as though I was being hit over the head with the same truth again and again. In fact, when Baby B fell asleep and I had a hand free to write, I scribbled down word for word what some of these ladies were saying. 'First we make our habits, then our habits make us.' 'Who are we pleasing with our actions? When we fill our spare time, are we filling it wisely?' I had a brief and mad flash of clarity - imagining that God there with me in a physical, big-bearded-sandalled-man sort of way, watching me quietly while I stand in the kitchen and flick through Facebook. Who is benefitting from that? Me? My family? Him?

Why do I feel the need to fill up the quiet bits of my life with stuff? Nonsense? Noise? Why can't I be comfortable with nothing? Post after post I have written about Living In the Moment. Being fully present and engaged in every circumstance, whether it's washing bottles or holding my baby girl while she sleeps or having a conversation with my Mum on the phone. Post after post of it. But am I doing it? Am I living it?

Of course not. I'm papering up the cracks of empty space in my life with fluff. I'm distracted even in the joyful moments - my brain won't settle on one thing at a time. I cannot switch off and enjoy the pure moments. Which means, if I'm being harsh (which I need to be) I don't really have the right to bang on about it anymore. I remember a while back, contemplating what I had come to know (I can't remember where I heard of it now - a book maybe?) as the God Gap - i.e., spaces in your life where God can fit. And I realise now that I literally don't have any gaps for Him.

And do you know what's weird? (True confession time peeps - which is ironic given what I'm about to tell you). As I sat there with all this slowly dawning on me (probably with an interesting look of mild terror on my face) my brain responded with all sorts of reasons why I couldn't possibly give up the Internet. These reasons included:

  1. I'll be lonely without social networking. Well, if that happens, then I guess I need to get out more.
  2. I want to read what everybody else is doing over Christmas. I'm obviously too nosy for my own good.
  3. I need to write my blog because people like reading it (woah there. I don't need to do anything - if God wanted me to speak to a certain person at a certain time, He'd make the circumstances happen for that. I don't work for Him - He works through me, sometimes, which is an amazing act of grace on His part and nothing to do with how I choose to do things).
  4. I wanted to share Baby B's first Christmas with everyone.
The last one got me the most worried. Because, why? Does our first Christmas with our baby girl not 'count' because I can't post adorable photos of her playing with wrapping paper? Can I not enjoy my life without cataloguing and displaying it at all times? Are these moments with her less significant because they are only between the three of us?

No. If anything, Baby B's first Christmas will be more special because it won't be shared with everybody. And why on earth do I feel the need to share all this stuff about my life? Does it come from a place of security and self confidence, this need to show everyone how well everything is going? I don't think it does.

Now, before you think I'm being a pious religious moron, let me tell you something. I don't think the internet is inherently bad. I don't think Facebook or Pinterest or Twitter are bad things. In fact, it annoys me when people tut and sigh and roll their eyes about The Evils of Social Networking. Because I actually think that it's an amazing tool to connect people together and to stay involved with people even when they move halfway across the world. I don't think all Christians should see these things as bad. Social networking and the internet in general are just a huge part of our culture now - and I don't think there's anything more righteous about avoiding it as a rule.

Also, you should know I really don't think any differently of people who are on Facebook over Christmas, posting amazing photos of Christmas trees and yummy food (and yummy babies). In fact, I'm quite jealous of you ;) This really is a heart thing, for me to do.

And I'm not even sure anything will happen because of it. I'm hoping of course that by creating space and silence, I will hear more from God - but I'm not doing it because of that, in a 'I'm giving up this so you owe me x amount of time' sort of way. I'm doing it because I feel like He's calling into question what really rules my life - Him, or something else.

So no internet. The last straw I clutched at was the idea that giving it up might be nice to do in December as a sort of advent thing. I was quite pleased with this idea until a quiet but firm voice said 'No - this begins now.'

So from now until 2014. No Facebook. No Twitter. No blogging. No Pinterest. No forums. No pottering around on Cracked.com. Nothing.

For transparency reasons, I'll tell you I'm allowing myself to use internet-based services (i.e. Netflix, 4oD) and I am allowed to check my emails because I've ordered a ton of Christmas presents and I need to know when to stay in for the parcels. I'm also allowing myself to nip online to get recipes for things I have cooked before and haven't got round to printing off yet (but I'm not allowing myself hours online browsing Pinterest for new recipes).

If you're reading this, you know me in Real Life - so ask for my number and give me a text. We'll meet up. Have a coffee. And studiously ignore the messiness of my house. ;)

I will be back in January blogging again. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and New Year.

Lots of love and God bless xx

Grab the season before it goes

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

I dislike the term 'yolo'.

Although it's quite fun to shout out in a stupid way. YOLO! But anyway, I don't like it, because I've seen it used to justify some spectacularly stupid decisions. I get the principle behind it though - seize the day. Hakuna Matata! Etc.

I feel a bit like that today.

I finally got round to getting pictures and videos from Chris's phone backed up, and I found myself having a little emotional moment about how fast Baby B is growing. She was so small! And grumpy looking! She made helpless little squeaks like a hamster and she spent most of her time with her lips pursed in a permanent 'oooooooooooh'.

Now she's all rolls of fat and gummy smiles. She can be pulled up from laying down by her hands (and she loves it!) she is developing a preference for songs (she particularly likes 'a sailor went to sea sea sea'). She can reach out and bat her toys in her baby gym (though it takes all her concentration) and if I lean over her she tries to bat my hair with her little fists. She squeezes her teddy-blanket-thing, Frank, and chews on him with delight. She laughs when we copy her noises. She looks at me and bursts into tears when having cuddles with people she doesn't know very well, even if I'm sat right next to her. When did she become this little person? Full of vibrant personality with likes and dislikes?

I guess a lot of my posts have a similar theme going on at the moment. It's all about gratitude and thankfulness and such. But wow, it's so important. Just to take a moment to soak it all in. I stare at her and I somehow try to cement the memory in my brain, to carve it in my heart so I'll remember it forever. And part of me is scared I won't remember, so I take photo after photo and film after film. But at the end of the day, I realise there's nothing I can do. She's growing and changing and it's bittersweet. With every tiny baby quirk that is gone, a great big leap of personality arrives to take its place.

I was walking to Sainsbury's the other day and I realised that autumn is nearly over. My favourite season, almost gone for another year. The leaves were falling constantly like red and gold confetti. I made a vow that, on the next day with no rain, I'd get my wellies on and take Baby B to the park.

So the next day I grabbed a break between the rain and legged it out there. Baby B didn't really get it - I took her out and showed her the trees, and she quickly squirmed and cried and so I had to strap her back in the pram and push her until she fell asleep - but I was glad I went. Just to enjoy a moment, just for myself. A moment of peace.

I guess this is what it feels like to catch moments and keep them. Some of them I might forget, but some I might remember, and surely it's worth entering into every moment 100%, being fully present wherever I am, my mind firmly on what's happening rather than other silly stuff ... just in case.

Two more things I am thankful for today:

Birdy bum.

Cup that keeps my tea warm until I can drink it (which is often long after I make it), that doesn't make said tea taste like metal. Excellent!

God bless everyone xx

gratitude and poo-splosions

Saturday, 16 November 2013

My daughter doesn't poo very much.

Is that a wrong thing to talk about online? I guess I'm risking a very angry teenager later on in life. In my defence, my mother happily talks about our childhood poo habits even now, with no abandon whatsoever, so maybe I just don't find it that embarrassing any more.

Anyway, Baby B stores it up. No idea why. For warmth?* She might not 'go' for a few days at a time, and by the end of it, she's curling up in pain, crying, refusing to sleep in the day but wanting constant cuddles, and not sleeping as much at night. All this makes for a very tired Mummy.

Then finally this morning, she did what we affectionately term a 'poo-splosion'. She goes all quiet and still, almost serene, as though she has entered some sort of zen state. A few grunts and red faces later, there is a spectacular noise and a rush for the changing mat and hugely excessive amounts of praise all round.

That's right - praise and excitement in the event of a poo. That's how it goes down in the Bidmead house. I used to feel quite smug at the fact that Baby B doesn't go very much. I'd smile at the mothers that are constantly changing nappies and think 'yay for me!' Now I look at mothers whose babies happily poo left right and centre with envy. They check their babies' nappies and exclaim, 'Oh, you've pooed AGAIN!' and they tut and sigh (in a secretly smug sort of way, I imagine) and moan about how inconvenient it is whilst getting out wetwipes and such, and I want to take them by the shoulders, shake them, and say 'YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW LUCKY YOU ARE.'

Poos are a joy here. You will find me and Chris shrieking 'WELL DONE! GOOD GIRL!' and beaming with pride whilst cleaning up something incredibly disgusting. That's how rare these moments are.

Because poo nappies take five-ten minutes out of your life to clean up (and sometimes extra loads of washing depending on severity/direction of poo-splosion). Constipation = hours of sleeplessness. And sleeplessness = hours and hours and hours of tiredness.

Tiredness exacerbates everything. Every small disappointment (no Bible study today due to grumpy constipated child) seems like a huge let down. A small comment, completely innocent, might be taken completely the wrong way by me. The chores seem even more chore-ish than before. When I'm tired, I look around at my house and my heart sinks at the knowledge that, no matter what, I'll never be able to get on top of it.

I guess there are parts of life like that. Never ending, I mean. Like being on a hamster wheel constantly rotating but never going anywhere. If you've ever had a job you didn't like, then you probably know what I'm talking about. Every day - back on the hamster wheel. Being at home with a house full of kids and work to go to, every morning you wake up to your rapidly untidying house, and it's back on the hamster wheel. You mow the lawn, two days later, it's looking awful again. Hamster wheel. For some people, obviously, these things aren't too much of an issue. Some people really like cleaning and find it relaxing. A lot of people (including me, I should point out!) like their jobs and don't find it so much of a grind. But I'd say that everybody has stuff that they find necessary but totally not enjoyable.

You have to have balance, of course. Or at least, I try to. If I have the option of playing with Baby B or sorting out that big pile of paperwork, I'll usually choose to play with her instead. I don't want my child to constantly be seeing the back of me as I plonk her on the floor and walk away from her to do something more important. But there are some things that you just can't avoid and quickly become a pain in the bum. On my list I would probably include:

Washing bottles ...

And sterilising them.


laundry ...

And yet more laundry.

We've been doing a study on Gideon recently, and one of the days' teaching was about seeing God's blessing in the mundane. I had to write down five mundane, everyday chores that I found most tedious. Then I had to write down next to them how these chores show God's blessings for me. For example, washing bottles = beautiful baby to feed. Wiping kitchen tops down = nice house with food to make mess with. Etc, etc. It felt simplistic at first, but I started to realise that actually, an attitude of thankfulness and gratitude is not just cultivated through tough times and how I deal with those. It's actually a lot to do with how I deal with every day stuff.

It's not just empty thankfulness (again, we're back to that whole 'my gun jammed!' thing). It's real thankfulness that comes from a place of respect and humility. It's not easy. And it's not something that I can boast about (because believe me, prayers of thanks are not on my mind when I look at my overflowing washing basket). It's a heart thing, and I believe only God can change my heart, but it starts with a decision on my part. A decision to be made every day. To be thankful even if I've had about five hours sleep. And it doesn't mean I have to enjoy the boring stuff, leaping around like a leprechaun whilst brandishing a bottle brush - it just means I have to respect them and what they represent.

So I will thank God for my life, and when I thank Him, I will thank Him for all of it - including the washing, the exhaustion, and the poo-splosions!

* I realise babies don't store poo for warmth. Just in case anyone was thinking about intervening. ;)

aint nobody got time for that

Friday, 8 November 2013

There are many things that I try not to allow time for. Bitterness. Bitchiness. Self-doubt. Anger. Obviously I'm not superwoman and I frequently forget/purposefully allow myself to dwell on things that I shouldn't.

However, now I've got a baby, there are even more things I just don't have time for (hoovering, for example. Or mopping. In fact, just don't ever look at our floor) and one of those things is excessive Mummy guilt and 'competitive parenting'.

I couldn't continue breastfeeding Baby B. Basically because it was too painful and it became a huge emotional deal for me. Throughout pregnancy, I was determined to breastfeed - determined. Ignoring the fact that family members had tried and failed, I did all the research I could. I knew about the equipment, I knew about letdown, I knew about the latch - oh, the latch, the solution to every painful breastfeeding issue, apparently. The only reason (so I thought) people around me found it so painful is that they didn't have the right support to get the latching on right. Breastfeeding according to official sources 'shouldn't be painful if the baby is latched on correctly.'

I found out from a friend with a baby older than B that actually, the first few feeds can be hellish, and the first few sucks are always a bit toe-curling. I felt not daunted, but even more prepared for how it was going to be. Chris and I had many discussions about the benefits of breastmilk and how natural and beautiful it was. I would ask for help from the midwives. It would be fine.

I didn't feel the first feed, but I was merrily sucking on gas and air at the time, so I didn't really feel much of anything except stunned and overwhelmed. But by the end of my stay in the hospital I'd called five different midwives to come and check us while we fed.

'Can you just check she's latching on properly?' I asked in desperation, Baby B crying and wriggling, every movement on me becoming more and more painful.

They'd check. By the end, I had her latched on properly every single time. 'See?' they'd say. 'Look how wide open her mouth is and how her cheeks are rounded. You're doing really well.'

'But it really really hurts.'

'It's only the first few sucks. It'll calm down in a minute.'

One midwife stayed for a bit longer to look at my charts, check medication, etc. After a few minutes she said chirpily 'Is that better now?'

I think she may have been startled to see me crying and writhing in pain. Toe-curling? Body-curling is more appropriate. When I told her that no, it wasn't better, in fact it was now hurting more, she looked a bit puzzled, shrugged and said 'Well ... she's latched on right.'

I went home and struggled for days, sobbing every time I fed her, dreading when she woke up. I couldn't enjoy her, smell her, snuggle her, kiss her, while she fed. I held her head in a vice grip and stuffed my fist in my mouth to stop myself from screaming at every single feed. I dropped tears on her little head. It wasn't getting better. It was getting worse and worse.

It actually got to the point where B was hungry and I couldn't do it any more. Chris took control and made her the first bottle. We had visitors, so I couldn't cry, but I wanted to. As soon as they left I burst into tears. What had I done? Rather than feeling happy that my baby girl was enjoying an uninterrupted feed (probably the most peaceful feed of her life so far) I became numb with failure. I'd let her down. I was letting her down with every formula feed she had.

All I can say is, if I'd not had the support of a wonderful husband and a very reassuring midwife, I could see how the guilt could have pushed me into postnatal depression. I truly wasn't enjoying my precious baby daughter. As well as recovering from labour and being a little overwhelmed by the influx of visitors, I had to deal with the fact that my baby was now outside of me and no longer being nourished by me. I had to deal with the constant guilt that by not exclusively breastfeeding, I was leaving her vulnerable to all sorts of illnesses and allergies. The worst part was feeling I was missing out on bonding with her. Because wasn't it proven that breastfed babies bonded better with their mothers?

I had to talk myself out of it. I literally did not have time to feel it any more. I got on with expressing milk to the point of not being able to make any more, and she got more and more formula, and gradually, as I was encouraged by my health visitor and I watched B get plumper and plumper, I started to relax. I finally feel now that I'm doing the right thing.

But why was it so hard for me? I don't know. Partly me putting pressure on myself. Partly because of the sheer amount of information on breastfeeding and the lack of information about bottle feeding - I had nothing, in all of my copious amounts of pregnancy paperwork, about bottle feeding, beyond the basic facts of sterilising and making up feeds. How did I know which formula to try? Which kind? How did I deal with the emotions of failing to breastfeed? Where could I get support? The NHS were keeping quiet about that. Which didn't help my feeling that I was failing as a mother.

The other thing I guess that compounded this was that everywhere I went people wanted to know about feeding. I think nearly every person that met Baby B asked that question during the peak of my guilt and worry about it. 'How is she feeding?' 'How's feeding doing?' and the worst 'Are you feeding her yourself?' (I always felt like saying 'Er, no - I let her use the kettle and pour out her own formula'). I really hate that phrase. I am feeding my baby - just in a different way. I know that it's probably a way of getting around the embarrassing use of the word 'breast' but I actually found it pretty insulting during a time when I felt guilty that my body was unable to nourish my child.

I've calmed down now. I've realised that most comments are innocuous. I've gotten over the feeling when I take out a bottle in public that people are staring at me and condemning. I bite my tongue when people tell me that formula fed babies are more colicky and constipated and don't sleep as well and don't you find washing up the bottles to be a pain? Because I realise people really don't mean it that way. Most people are genuinely interested in how we are doing.

I also know that the whole no breastfeeding = no bonding thing is rubbish. I am so in love with my daughter that sometimes I want to bite her a little bit (I won't). She calms down with me in a way she doesn't with other people. Next time I will know that I can say no to other people feeding her if I want to and that's okay. And I also know that, having worked with babies, I honestly can't tell the difference between bottle and breastfed in terms of weight OR general health. The bottle fed babies are no more sickly than the breastfed ones. Similarly, breastfed babies didn't sleep any worse than formula fed ones and weren't any more difficult to settle in. And I know that by the time I get to her first birthday the early emotions will be a distant memory and I will have a whole new heap of things to worry about.

That's the thing. The worry. The guilt. The competitiveness. Whilst doing emergency 3am 'why can't I get breastfeeding right' Google searches, I accidentally uncovered the world of competitive mummyhood. The labels for things are mind boggling. Natural parenting? Attachment parenting? Baby-led weaning? Co-sleeping? My brain hurt looking it all up. I came across mothers that truly believe that if you don't breasfeed/co-sleep/do 'babywearing'/baby-led weaning, then you have failed as a mother. Some people actually consider formula to be poison and according to them, if you can't breastfeed, you just didn't try hard enough.

I'm not going to be a Mummy Martyr. I would die for my daughter in a heartbeat, in a literal throw myself in front of a bullet sort of way. Of course I would. But why should I persevere with something that makes me miserable every single day instead of enjoying my beautiful baby?

Because now, we're peaceful. We're happy. Today we spent the morning playing, talking and reading stories. She is now spread across me asleep, and I know I could put her down, but I don't really want to. I can enjoy staring at her, every eyelash, every hair on her head, knowing I'm doing my best for her.

And that's what all mothers should do. No mothers should have to put up with comments like:

  • You're not breastfeeding? Oh, what a shame, is it too late to try again? (I've had this one said to me a good few times! And yes, it is definitely too late to try again.)
  • You're still breastfeeding? Doesn't he need formula by now? Doesn't your husband/partner feel left out?
  • You don't co-sleep? What about the bonding?
  • You co-sleep? What about SIDS?!
  • You push your baby in a buggy instead of holding them in a sling? Don't you care about their attachment to you?
  • You wear your baby in a sling? Don't you get tired of it?
  • You let your child watch television? Don't you care about their brain development?
  • You don't let your child watch TV? Are you mad?
Etc, etc, etc. It's all a great huge steaming pile of nonsense. I'm sorry, but it is. If you're reading this and you're about to become a parent for the first time, or you're a new parent still struggling with everything - forget everything anyone says about how you should do things. Do what you've got to do for the good of your whole family. Look at the Proverbs 31 woman. She makes decisions for the wellbeing of all of her family. Her children call her blessed. She speaks with wisdom. That can be me - that IS me - the details don't matter.

It all comes down to women tearing each other down in order to overcome their own insecurities. And honestly? It's not good enough. (Especially for Christian women. Competitive parenting in Christian circles is not. good. enough.) Surely we live in an age now where women can just get over this competitive stuff? How much time and headspace would we save if we didn't compare our children? Our parenting methods? Women should NOT be defined by our cutting remarks and judgy attitudes. We should be defined by our caring natures, the way we nurture, the way we connect, the way we provide. 

If I spent less time worrying about what so-and-so chooses to do with their child, what could I be thinking about or praying for instead? Could I be praying for that child to be safe and well? Could I be mentoring them? If I let my guard down and stopped letting my insecurity run rampant, how many people could I connect to, how many mothers could I meet that might just need a new friend?

Whether you are natural parenting, attachment parenting, sit-your-child-in-front-of-the-telly-so-you-can-have-a-cup-of-tea-and-go-for-a-wee-in-peace parenting, or flying by the seat of your pants parenting (I'm the last one!) - you're doing a good job. Mothers - you are doing a good job.

Wow. Thank you for letting me release all that. I hope you got through the waffle. I'm going to go eat toast. :)

little things

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Short, rambly post of nonsense today.

It's been a crazy week. Baby B had her first lots of vaccinations, which is a horrendous moment for any new parent, and she pretty much spent the whole day afterwards crying in outrage. That combined with getting her hips scanned (all fine!) and pushing her up an extremely steep hill in her buggy to get to said scan, her general crankiness and clinginess and her infected fingernail, a missed flu jab appointment (for me!) and exhaustion on mine and Chris's part, it's been a blur.

So, a moment to pause, and some things to be thankful for ...

Autumn/winter and the snuggly clothes that come with it.

A baby that watches her Daddy with fascination from the comfort of her bouncy chair ... even when he's just unloading the dishwasher.

New hair, and a brand new laptop to take stupid photos with! I can't tell you how blessed we've been with this laptop - a gift from some very lovely people.

Not much to say really, other than I'm exhausted. I caught myself at the start of the week feeling kind of annoyed. Annoyed that I can't afford to learn to drive, and therefore have to struggle with buses or pay a fortune in taxi fairs to get anywhere, and I can't just 'nip' to the shops in the car for medicine for my child, and it's not fair on my husband who has to drive us everywhere when he's not driving for a living at work. I found myself crying at six in the morning after being awake for three hours with my crying child, who can't seem to sleep for more than an hour at a time, and how come some babies sleep all the way through from day one? And also, how come some women (In fact, a lot of women) aren't left immobilised by horrendous stomach cramps every month? And how on earth do I cope with going dizzy and sick whilst looking after a tiny baby?

But obviously, I am being a bit of a brat. Later in the week, we received the quite frankly amazing gift of the new laptop, which is extremely swish (and SO SHINY!) Then Baby B surprised us by sleeping for five and a half hours in a row which is a new record for her.

Finally, last night, feeling in pain and jiggling baby around the living room to try to get her to settle down, it hit me that I am actually extremely blessed, and there's blessing in everything, especially in the crying baby (because how long will it be before she doesn't need us so much anymore, and how much will we miss her cuddles then?). And you know, I walked everywhere as a kid, and we managed. I'm still pretty good at walking now without getting too tired. There's even blessing in the stomach cramps, in a convoluted sort of way.

I don't need new laptops to be reminded of this (though it helps). I don't need to be disappointed when baby wakes up every hour instead of sleeping for six like I hoped for. Because these things don't really matter. Not in the long run. It's okay to be grumpy sometimes, because no one is as shiny and happy as Pollyanna, and I don't think I'd want to be that crazy person that grins vacantly when bad stuff happens ('Alright, my gun jammed!') but it's not okay to wallow in said grumpiness.

And also, how amazing is it to have a God that surprises me with blessings even when I'm not really deserving of it? Very amazing! :)

press in, let go

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Loving this song right now – please go and listen to it. It’s Oceans by Hillsong United. And it’s beautiful. And a little bit relevant to this post, so I’m sneaking in a few lyrics from it. The album, Zion, is awesome by the way. I can’t get enough of it!

Anyway, onto the post.

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine


Baby B suffers with trapped wind. Which sucks enough for an adult, but is much worse for a baby. She curls up, goes bright red, and shouts out in pain. It’s horrible to watch, but she gets some comfort out of being picked up and held, which is both exhausting (especially at two in the morning) and adorable. Recently, she has gotten into the habit of pushing herself up with her legs in order to smoosh up her face against mine. Which is totally heart melting. Even at two in the morning.

It melts my heart even more when I see her do this with Chris.

Looking at her like this, I understand how she must feel. In the midst of pain, she chooses to push herself forward, to move closer to him, to press in closer to her father. And what does she get as a reward for her efforts? She gets to feel his breath, the steady drum of his heartbeat. She gets to hear words of comfort and love, whispered just for her. And in that position – pressing in as close as she physically can – the pain seems to dim. I see that she feels it, by the way her body tenses up, but she lets out a little whimper or a sigh, and then relaxes. She is totally at rest in her Daddy’s arms. Completely secure. The pain doesn't go away. But it doesn't seem to matter as much anymore.

Recently I feel called to step out in faith. To do something that to the outside world probably doesn't make much sense. It requires me to let things go, things that give me comfort, that make me feel strong. But it’s false comfort, and false strength, that these things bring me. However … I still don’t feel great about letting go.

Feeling wobbly, I decided to go back and look at some of my old journals. I smiled as I read them. I realised how much I've changed. How far God has brought me. How much my confidence has improved. How much He has healed me. What an incredible journey it has been so far.

I went from a girl lonely and afraid, standing on a beach in the dark, screaming silently at the sea. Goosebumps on my arms and wind whipping through my hair. Heart pounding, partly in fear at being alone and vulnerable, partly through anger that had built up in me for months. I suffered a great hurt from someone I trusted far too much. I was very young, and very fragile. And I promise it’s not an empty saying – my heart felt broken. I felt ruined. I felt my innocence was lost.


Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You've never failed and You won't start now

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine


I didn’t know Him then. But He knew me. Carefully and slowly, amidst the terrible choices I made and the inevitable consequences that came, He drew me closer. Undeserving, I cried out for help. He answered.

Though I didn't know where I was going, I learnt that what I held onto was bad. I felt that the unknown I was walking into might just be good. But I was afraid. And it took a long time – many determined decisions, made and then unmade and then made again. Many tears in the night and (later) many desperate prayers, because I couldn't understand how I’d ever not hurt, how I’d ever lift my head out of the tangled mess I’d stepped into.

But He was there. Slowly and patiently, through people, through words of comfort, through song, through verse, through circumstances, through quiet whispers that almost went ignored – He coaxed me out of myself. He promised me something better. If only I would let go of what I held onto before.

If only I would press in a little closer.

If only I would reach out. Push a bit harder.

I’d hear His heart beat for me. I’d hear wonderful words spoken over me. I’d find strength to deal with the pain. It wouldn't hurt so much – if I could just press in ever closer.


Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior


Nine years on, here I am. Blessed beyond my wildest imaginations. Heart healed fully, and then some. I see the bright and shining thread that He has woven through my life and the moments that He has stepped into my decisions, my relationships. I have seen what happens when I choose to follow myself instead of Him, and vice versa.

And yet I still find it hard to let go of things that I don’t really need?

All I need to do is press closer once again.

I'm sorry if this is a little vague. One day I will be able to put into words the beginning of my journey of faith without putting myself or anyone else into a vulnerable position. Words matter, and written words can’t really be unwritten, not once they’re on the internet anyway.

You can ask me though, if you know me in real life. I want to share what He’s done, because it amazes me even now. If I ever doubt, I look back on it, the long journey on which I have come, and those doubts fade away fast. His love for me is evident in those pages.

Watching my daughter basking innocently in her Daddy’s love for her is enough of a reminder today.

Press in to Him. Let go of the rest.

oh baby

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Here I am again, and I have something to write about that won't surprise anyone.

I don't want every post to be about motherhood now, and I definitely didn't want to write my birth story, because if I wanted everyone to know everything I would have gone on One Born Every Minute or something. I had the idea pre-baby that this blog would be a place to come and talk about Other Such Things. But there aren't really other things, at least, not at the moment. Everything about my life involves Baby B in some way, especially my relationship with God, which I guess is the way it should be.

So ... I guess I'll write about it a little bit. Snapshots. Because the last five weeks have been an incredible haze of emotion and change that I'm not sure where the time went, and I am definitely sure that they don't tell you a lot of this stuff when you're pregnant and anticipating the future.

I remember labour was incredible. The hardest thing I ever had to do, and yet the easiest, because my body knew everything it had to do and took over without me. I remember blood and sweat and tears and muscle and pain like fire. I remember the warmth of her when they put her on my chest and how she looked at me and Chris, totally cross-eyed and stunned, and there was blood rushing in my ears and adrenaline making me shake, and I remember gathering her up in a blanket and whispering 'Shh, Mummy's here, it's okay.' And saying that million times since then.

I remember the tiredness I felt when the shock wore off. The bone-numbing tiredness, I could feel it right to my core, and every muscle in my body hurt, even my toes, and my eyes couldn't stay open and when I tried to feed her it felt like glass splintering, it hurt so much, and I sobbed so much through the night feeds that I felt empty, and I remember the gut-wrenching guilt I felt when I couldn't do it anymore, and the twin feeling of relief and sorrow when she happily took her first bottle and didn't need me so much anymore.

I remember how much we wanted to show her off and how much I wanted to keep her to myself at the same time. How hard it was to hand her over and how happy I felt when she was handed back. I remember the niggling thought 'I'm overdoing it' being replaced later by 'why on earth did I do all that today.' I remember thinking all I wanted to do was get into bed with Baby B and feed her and cuddle her and sleep but feeling that it might be rude not to see people. I regret that a little bit now.

And if all this is sounding a bit depressing, I remember the joy. Oh my goodness, how much love can you feel for one person? It's like a force. I hold her in my arms and I feel like I might burst with it. I remember after the horrible second night in the hospital, when my milk came in and hormones came with it, and I cried so much it was ridiculous, I picked her up in the morning and held her to my chest and she snuggled up so her cheek was pressed up against mine and I felt so peaceful and wonderful. I remember the moment she first grabbed my necklace and held onto it for dear life when I dared to try and put her down, giving me this look out of one eye that clearly said 'Don't you even think about it.' I remember the first time she did her 'ooh' face, the first time she smiled when she caught sight of Chris, the first time I held her at church and worshipped God and thanked Him for her. I will remember how excited she gets when she sees me peeping over her moses basket in the morning, and how I say 'good morning sunshine!' and how she kicks her arms and legs in delight.

It's harder than I thought and better than I thought. My prayers are now like arrows shot into heaven. Sometimes I can't even think them, I just feel them instead. Starting from the midst of labour, when I couldn't lift myself out of the haze of pain even to form words in my head, just feeling 'help!'. And praying that since then, when she screams and I don't know why, when I start to doubt and criticise myself, when I feel like I can't physically get out of bed to feed her again. And despite the lack of eloquent prayers and beautifully written journal entries and time even to flip open my Bible, I feel His presence more than ever, solid and dependable and real.

The other morning, I couldn't get up again. I just couldn't, partly from exhaustion and partly from pain from labour. I'd only settled her an hour before, and here she was, six in the morning, desperately hungry again, starting to whimper. I lay there listening to her, hoping that she'd go back to sleep by herself, even though I know her hungry cry and I could hear it in her voice. I waited a bit longer. She started to cry. I wanted to cry. Wondering how I'd find the energy to get up, I prayed one of those prayers that aren't really coherent but more feelings - help, tired, can't.

A small and coherent voice reminded me.

'One of the joys of being a mother is that you get to be the one that goes to her when she cries.'

Me. I'm the one that gets the honour of being her mother. That is a blessing, always. It's a blessing when she plays happily, or when she's peacefully sleeping, or when she smiles. It's a blessing when she's screaming in pain and I can't relieve it, or when she's projectile sick all over me and I have to get up and change the bed sheets and change her clothes and change mine, it's a blessing when she shouts for food and my body is screaming for sleep.

Always a blessing. Always an honour. Always beautiful. No matter what.

I guess that's it for now. I'm going to go and stare at her and feel that strange mix of wanting to freeze this moment forever, and not being able to wait to see how she grows and changes next.

I don't know when I'll next blog - hopefully soon, but my laptop is currently playing an interesting game of Russian Roulette when I turn it on, and it only decides to go through with booting up once every five times or so, so we'll see.

God bless xx

Calling number one, part two. A slightly more cynical look at joy ;)

Friday, 30 August 2013

This is a long one. I’m sorry guys. Anyone want to be my editor and ruthlessly cut parts of my posts out for me? I promise I won’t cry when you correct my sentences and cut away the ramble. *

* Much. I won’t cry much.

Sometimes it’s easy to be joyful.

(Check out the two-coaster action. Pre-emptive strike?)

I was chilling in the garden yesterday. Feet up, book in hand, glass of water next to me (complete with lemon and strawberry slices, and ice – luxury!), the tree gently waving in the breeze above me. Complete perfection and peace.

Just as I started to wind down, I noticed something in the corner of my eye. It looked a bit like a cloud of dust erupting from the ground. I sat up to look closer and recoiled in disgust.


I hate flying ants, it has to be said. One of my sister’s favourite memories of me when I was little was of little tiny red-haired me, on ‘flying ant day’, ferociously bouncing my basketball up and down the path outside our front door.

‘What are you doing?’

‘Killing them,’ I replied, calmly. ‘KILLING THEM ALL.’

And so I was. Squashing them determinedly with every bounce. And probably humming creepily under my breath in the manner of little girls from horror movies.

My reaction to things not going the way I planned is not instant serenity and inner peace. It is usually anger. And sometimes bad words under my breath. Yesterday, it was shrieking and running inside as hundreds of them erupted at once, and wondering why on earth God created such disgusting and strange creatures, and why He designed them to all grow wings and hatch simultaneously, making a horrible, squirming, glittering mass, only to have them die hours later.

This is obviously not really a problem. It was a tiny little glitch in my day that was soon forgotten when I became absorbed in my book on the sofa instead, tucked safely away from gross little creatures. But sometimes life throws you curveballs that range from frustrating to the utter breakdown and turnaround of your life. And what then? What do you do with worry and sorrow and grief, when the Bible commands you to be joyful?

Joy in the face of trials. It’s the last type of joy I’ve been thinking about, and the most difficult.

‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the resting of your faith develops perseverance.’ – James 1:2

Does anyone else find that jaw-dropping? These early Christians were being persecuted. Stoned or beaten to death. They boldly declared their faith despite the obstacles, had trial after trial, and they still managed to find joy while it happened.

It’s the strength of the words that get me. ‘Consider it pure joy.’ Pure joy? In the midst of suffering?

All I know is that when I am worried, or stressed, or something is going on in my life to disturb the equilibrium, I am just about able to hang on to the notion that God can do something, that there will eventually be a lesson learnt from this. Is gritting my teeth and getting on with it the same as considering my circumstances to be ‘pure joy’? How do you get the balance right? How do you achieve joy when really you’re struggling to hold everything together?

Chris and I generally spend way too much time immersed in pop culture. The geekier the better, usually. A year or so before we got married, we were heavily into Millennium, a TV series created by Chris Carter. We actually found it pretty heavy going (kind of depressing and dark) and had to take breaks from it every now and then because it was too much, but they had the occasional silly episode. There was this one episode where some guy became involved in a weird cult of some kind (I think, anyway. It’s been a while), and he became unbelievably happy in a slightly deranged way, and every bit of bad luck that came to him was cause for celebration.

Anyway. This guy had the perfect opportunity to shoot one of our heroes, but as he went to do it, his gun went ‘click’ and nothing happened. Instead of screaming in frustration, he beamed broadly and said:

‘Alright! My gun jammed!’

Wow, that took a long time to explain. But we found it hilarious at the time and we quote it a lot. ‘Alright! My gun jammed!’ immediately brings to mind that blind, foolhardy, determined happiness in the face of something bad.

I see that in Christians sometimes. This determination to see the good in everything no matter what’s going on, and an almost prideful way of hiding their true feelings from everybody else. As long as everything is okay on the outside. As long as we keep going to church and everybody thinks we are okay and we keep telling ourselves we are happy, then it’s okay. Even if we’re praying for something and nothing is happening and it’s really wearing us down, as long as we keep pretending we’re happy at all costs, it’s okay.

Does that sound harsh? I hope it doesn't. I'm the same, sometimes. I block out the difficult bits of life rather than deal with them, I keep things to myself, I pretend everything’s fine-and-dandy when it isn't. And I'm not suggesting we go around wallowing in misery all the time. I just don't like to pretend it doesn't exist.

I know people that do this almost constantly, and you can tell the difference between someone who has joy and contentment in their heart, and someone that is putting a smile on and pretending that it’s okay. Years ago, I was unemployed, miserable, and desperate for a job. An opportunity came up in a Christian bookshop and I was going to apply for it. A well meaning family member said about this, with a big smile, ‘Oh, yes! This job is for you! We claim this job for you in the name of Jesus.’ So determined was she to see me in this job that I don’t think it occurred to her that God might have other plans for me (which He did).

She wanted the best for me, which I appreciate. In her mind, the best was this job. So she ‘claimed’ it. Did I get it? No. Did that knock my faith? Not really. I was balanced enough to see that maybe God had other ideas and that we’re only human and all that. But it did make me question the notion of ‘claiming’ things for ourselves when we don’t know for sure whether or not they belong to us, and the balance between claiming what God has promised for you, and letting Him take control of your life. And do you know what? We never spoke about the fact that I didn't get the job. An unanswered prayer swept under the carpet.

Do we talk enough as Christians about how hard life is sometimes? About how much we’re struggling? Is there a place for it? We are commanded to consider trials as pure joy. Are we expected, then, to put a smile on and pretend we’re happy? Or do we embrace pain – and the unity it can bring, the way that grief or stress can bring families and communities closer together – and feel that pain, without feeling we’re letting the side down? Do we allow enough understanding of that feeling of, despite circumstances being fine or blessed, things not being quite right? Do we allow enough room for people to be exhausted? Bored? Do we talk about it? Do we accept it as part of life and help each other through it?

I for one don’t want to live a fake life. One where people think I'm perfectly happy all the time and that God has taken care of all my problems and now I live on a cloud. Because that’s not true. Life with God can actually be really difficult.

The key difference for me is between the word ‘feel’ and ‘consider’. In James, it doesn't say ‘Feel pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds’. It says ‘consider it’.

Maybe there’s a reason for that word. ‘Consider’. Maybe – in answer to my earlier question – teeth-gritting and hoping that one day something good will come of this trial, is considered ‘considering’. Maybe that’s enough.

Or maybe joy is something different. Maybe joy comes from determination as well as feeling. Maybe it is cultivated in us, over time. Maybe it’s something ancient and deep that goes beyond our understanding, that is something to do with God’s work in us.

One last thing. Two days ago I was about to get in the bath and stood in front of the mirror just before I got in. Two thoughts came into my head, and they were very clear. One was ‘I am about to have this baby.’ (‘About’ could mean anything. It could mean three or four weeks yet. But my body just looked different to me. I felt so sure of it). The other was, ‘I am beautiful right now’.

I rarely think that about myself, believe me. I wasn't looking like model material at the time. I was all sweaty, my hair had curled up weird, I was aware of how deep and raw my stretch marks looked. I just believed it about myself, and it wasn't the kind of ‘I'm glowing, my skin looks great’ beauty. It was something deeper, somehow older, bigger than my own superficial expectations of what I want to look like. The deep and inner beauty that comes from being blessed by God, by carrying a life. I still felt this layer of criticism about myself, but it somehow faded a little in that moment, making way for a kind of grittier, stronger, truer beauty instead.

Does that make sense? In my hippy way, I guess I'm saying that I think some things go deeper than emotions. Some words mean more than just feelings. Words like ‘peace’ and ‘joy’ and ‘beauty’ go much deeper than fleeting emotions. They mean something more permanent. They are old words.

So in that case, maybe it’s easier to understand how the early disciples could be beaten and tortured and still maintain that joy (Easier to understand – not necessarily easier to bear myself). Because they knew what that word really meant. They knew it had something to do with God and His plans for them. They knew the bigger picture.

Maybe I’ll write about this again sometime. Maybe I’ll look into it deeper. For today, though, I think I’ve exhausted my brain. Congratulations if you’ve read this far J

Calling number one. A joyful post about joy!

Friday, 23 August 2013

'I just want to celebrate
Another day of living.
I just want to celebrate
Another day of

This is a song that we have discovered in our house. It's become one of those songs that belong to us now without us having to decide on it, an extra track on a very long playlist of our relationship so far. Chris sings it a lot as he potters around, and if it comes on in the car we'll both sing along to it. Sometimes I'll make myself sing it in the mornings when I'm drying my hair or something just to perk things up. The only rule of singing it aloud is that you kind of have to bellow the last word*, no matter how quietly you're singing the first bit. 'LIIIIIIIIIIIIFE!'

*Or you at least have to do one of those whisper-shouts. You know, when you're trying to shout something but you're in circumstances where you have to whisper so you get a kind of cross between the two? Like an old man rasping for breath. Or Lord Voldemort. You know what I mean, don't you?

It's just a nice song. Nice words to start your day to, to celebrate another day. Of LIIIIIFE!

Did you know that celebrating life is something we are commanded to do?

Check it*:

* I promise never to say or type that again.

All those references to joy in the Bible. They nearly take up a whole page in my concordance. (Actually they do, pretty much, because they’re followed by the words ‘Joyful, Joyous, Jubilant and Jubilee’ which are pretty much on the same wavelength). Three of those ‘joy’ references are:

‘The Lord is my strength and my shield, my heart trusts in Him and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to Him in song.’ – Psalm 28:7

‘So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith, and overflowing with thankfulness.’ – Col 2:6-7

And this, my favourite passage of the moment:

‘Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.’ 1 Thess 5:16

Joy. Joy. Joy. Joy. It’s everywhere. It’s God’s will for me. Give thanks in all circumstances. Be joyful always.

For me there right now I can think of three types of joy:

1)      Joy in the little things. This is, for me, what the first part of the year really taught me – and a huge part of that came from reading Ann Voskamp’s 1000 Gifts (I’ve mentioned it in previous posts – it’s a good book). In fact, to quote it:

‘I am a hunter of beauty and I move slow and I keep the eyes wide, every fiber of every muscle sensing all wonder and this is the thrill of the hunt and I could be an expert on the life full, the beauty meat that lurks in every moment.’
            It’s finding joy and beauty in the midst of the ordinary. It’s generally appreciating life. Noticing the small things and being thankful for them. I could list a thousand things that I’m thankful for, but I won’t now, because I know you all know what I mean by it. It can be anything. Things and people and moments you love.

2)      Joy at my salvation, and in the grand scheme of things. When I first became a Christian … when that first defining moment happened when I realised that something (or Someone) else was at play other than me … I was a mess. Externally, all was well, but internally – sheesh. I was emotionally torn down and it would take a long, long time to build back up again (Maybe one day I’ll tell that story on this blog).

When I think back now to the girl I was, I want to cry with thankfulness. Not just the radical change in circumstances (because now, things are pretty cushty – lovely husband, nice house, baby on the way, financially stable). But the internal change – the change in my heart and my mind and spirit – wow. I can confidently say I am a completely different person now than I was back then, and that journey of healing and discovery has been immense. I look back (not too often – every now and then) and I remember how I felt then and how I feel now and I thank God for all that He has done.

The third type of joy will be explored in the next post … in which you can expect me to be a little less crazily upbeat and a little more cynical ;)

a call to ...?

Friday, 9 August 2013

I've been rethinking recently what it means to be a Christian, and how this should affect my every day life, and how the things of God get pushed aside for ... you know, life stuff. When things really boring things like car repairs and tax returns and hospital appointments start to clog up your brain space, pushing out everything you know in the long-term are more important. Or when things that aren't boring but also aren't important get in the way. When you know you should be reading the news but you're Googling something pointless instead. Or when I'm supposed to be writing a blog but I end up staring at Pinterest and mentally assembling my dream home (Look! Look at that vase that I've never seen before but suddenly desire with all my heart! That would go really well in the French windows of my imaginary house. It would match the expensive curtains I pinned yesterday that I also suddenly need).

'Calling' is something that baffled me when I first became a Christian. Immersed into the world of Christian literature, I immediately felt that discovering my new faith first hand was not enough. I needed A Calling. A Mission. Something that God had given me specifically to do, a task for me to complete while I was on this earth, something that He had specifically lined up for me. I worried endlessly about this and would pray about it a lot, hoping that He would outline the exact structure of this grand plan, word-for-word, so I could write it down and follow it like a map for the rest of my life, because I didn't trust myself to know what to do without someone smacking me upside the head with it.

God is more subtle than that, of course, and I learnt that (eventually). I do believe that God gives people specific words and messages, specific places to go and people to speak to and things to do. Of course I believe that. What I don't believe (or at least, no longer believe) is that every Christian will be called to go off on a grand and epic 'ring-into-Mordor'-esque* quest around the world. Some Christians will be, and I love hearing their stories and being inspired by them. They fire me up in a dull moment, they encourage me to step up and do better.

Others, however, are simply called to serve God and others right where they are. Right in the middle of whatever dull drudgery life has to offer here and now.

Sometimes the 'grand plan' is just the opposite. It's not grand. It's not structured. It's not broken down into specific life moments. It's a lifetime of learning to be less 'human' and more humble. It's a lifelong lesson, repeated again and again and again, about how to rely on God, how to put other people before yourself, how to Live Right.

Sometimes the 'grand plan' is the endless washing and folding of babygros (it's already started. I've got them drying upstairs on the airer and I'm wondering where on earth they all came from). It's filling up the car with petrol. It's sitting in the dentist's waiting for an appointment. It's going to Sainsbury's to get milk and bread because you're ran out and are somehow shocked by this even though yesterday you commented on how it's getting low and you weren't going to have enough for cereal. It's begrudgingly slapping your alarm in the mornings to shut it up, knowing you're going to be out of the house for thirteen hours and you'd better get up. It's listening to someone on the phone, not being able to offer any advice, just saying 'Mmmm. Mmmm. Mmmhmm. I know. Mmmm. Yeah, I know. But she - yes. I know. I know. Yeah.'

Sometimes the 'grand plan' is being knocked off your feet when you were just feeling stable. It's the phone call that you never wanted to get, or the loss of a job that you desperately needed, and facing the mounting horror of having to be on benefits again. It's checking your bank balance and wondering where it all went. It can be difficult decisions that you can't make without causing problems either way. It can be owning up to mistakes and having to swallow your pride. It can be pain and emergency trips to the hospital and sobbing into pillows and the confusing, tangled hurt that we cause each other.

Sometimes the 'grand plan' is joy. Little pockets of it. Moments of peace, of staring at the tree outside your window and looking down at your belly and seeing a little foot suddenly stick out (weird but delightful). It's getting off a plane with that anticipation that comes from discovering a new place. It's sinking your teeth into dinner cooked lovingly by someone else when you're exhausted. It's friends that organise and arrange surprises for you and family that let you off the hook when you're snappy and tired. It's having 'in-jokes' with people that don't make sense and aren't funny to anyone else. It's a kiss that lingers for a bit longer than normal when you least expect it. It's singing a bit louder in worship. It's grace and blessing and joy.

Life with God, for me, is not separate from Life. God underpins everything. He attaches all the parts of my life like a string pulling everything together. His love - and purpose for me - are like a heartbeat underneath everything I do and everywhere I go. He doesn't pin me down to a structure, doesn't take away my free will, and doesn't abandon me when I make mistakes. He just remains. Still and steady, ready to walk with me, to weave the next part of the journey.

With that in mind, the next few posts are going to be about different things that I feel I - and every Christian - are called to do. Not just because they're Good Deeds, or because they're written in the Bible, or because other Christians have told me. It's a mixture of those things, and an undeniable pull at the heart that I feel when something keeps cropping up that should be important.

I hope you enjoy them. I guess this is part one of a four-part post. Maternity leave = prime writing time! :)

*I'm not sure how well that sentence was structured. Do you have to have a '-' before an 'esque'? I shouldn't be allowed to write, should I?!

resting and preparing

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Being on maternity leave is weird. It's like having my first summer holiday since school, but with this kind of nervous anticipation that at any moment, I could potentially be rushing off to hospital. It's weird, too, because I've never actually looked forward to feeling pain before, yet whenever I feel a twinge (which is probably just the weight of my baby pressing down on me) a mad part of me hopes it will get worse because that means that baby might be coming. Chris could probably give you a detailed report of how I'm feeling at any given moment because I give him a running commentary: tired, uncomfortable lower back pain, slight twinge on my right side ...

I'm also starting to fully understand why they call it 'nesting'. I literally am like a mother hen or something. When I'm supposed to be resting, I'll suddenly catch sight of the garden and then I'll be outside wiping down the chairs because they've got cobwebs on them. Or we'll be watching the TV and I'll disappear and Chris will find me twenty minutes later hanging up and putting away our clothes because the thought of them sitting up there in a pile is enraging me.

My favourite thing to do is just to look at baby's clothes. I can't get enough of them - even though I've washed and ironed them, I still have this made urge to get them out and smell them and cuddle them and then put them back in the drawers again, neatly arranged by size.

Is this normal?

However, I am enjoying the fact that I get to just rest for a little while, and I make sure I sit down and do nothing (in between the frantic bursts of cleaning and prodding baby to see whether she's turned the right way or not). I've watched a zillion episodes of Friends. I've read two books so far and finished one that I'd been reading for a while.

I've had lots of what I call 'God-time' too. I find solitude - true solitude, that is, without listening to, watching, or reading anything to keep my brain occupied - really difficult. Whenever I try to do it my mind wanders or I start pottering around. I tell myself it's because my brain isn't wired that way; that a mixture of how God designed me and modern technology that keeps my thoughts flitting constantly from one thing to the next. Today I pulled the blind right up in our bedroom and just gazed out at the tree moving in the wind and I laid on my pillows and thought: do you know what, this is actually pretty nice. I can sit here and think things through until there's nothing left and then just be.

Looking at this photo now makes me want to leap up and clean my windows.

Maybe 'switching off' is something that can be learned after all.

father to daughter.

Monday, 29 July 2013

'Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come with me.
See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land.
The fig-tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.
Arise, come, my darling;
My beautiful one, come with me.'

Quite a while ago now I posted that verse. At the early, scary, tentative stages of pregnancy, suffering with chicken pox, stuck in the house and in a rut, panicking about the amount of money I was losing for being off sick, the sheer beauty of that verse hit me and I realised that was how someone felt about me, and I sat there and cried over it. Today I've been reminded of it again and it made me smile.

We - me and Chris and baby - have all been spoilt recently. The anticipation of baby has made our families pull tighter together and I feel their protection around us. The sheer blessing of having them there - of being a couple fortunate enough to have a family that care this much about them and about their child - is hitting me more than ever as I realise that we are not raising this baby alone, but in a community of people that care deeply about her. When we've needed something - a pram for baby, furniture - money has arrived. When I needed a bag big enough to take into hospital with me, my friend came round and gave me one. When I thought we might need to buy a new car, and my heart sank as I wondered how we'd afford it, the problem was fixed in a moment and it hardly cost us anything.

I, personally, have been extremely spoilt.

I don't feel like I deserve it.

I have been blessed with two enormous gifts recently that were entirely separate from my birthday and from baby and Chris. Just for me. And I don't know how to handle it. I get awkward and embarrassed and shy and I feel a paradoxical combination of being deeply loved and blessed and not at all worthy of it. It annoys people because they just want to bless me, just like everyone wants to bless people they love.

I'm the same way with God sometimes.

I'm not super spiritual. I don't find reading my Bible to be easy and I don't often always hear things from it that make me weep. I don't spend every morning reading it. Sometimes I'm lucky if I remember to read a verse on my Kindle through blurry morning eyes whilst scoffing down breakfast. Sometimes my mind wanders during worship and I have to force myself to sit down and pray, even for things that I really need help with, because it doesn't always come naturally. I regularly forget what I've read and I make silly decisions and sometimes I can be pretty mean. (I'm not bragging about that. But it's my blog and I might as well be honest about it).

I second-guess myself, too. When I am on track and I'm sitting in bed reading a verse and I feel moved by it, sometimes I can't just be thankful for it. I wonder how I can do more with it. Which is sometimes a good thing, but sometimes leads to me striving, and the simple joy of being touched by a piece of scripture and letting it settle in my heart is lost.

Sometimes I'm cynical and the questions I have about my faith and the sheer complexity of it weighs me down.

I'm not good enough in any way. I try, sometimes not hard enough. I fail.

Yet every day He boldly declares His love for me in a million different ways. Not just through physical gifts, but through family and friends, through quiet moments of joy in an otherwise exhausting day, His love for me reaches beyond my own tiredness, lack of obedience, lack of grace, my cynicism. One quiet time with God, this morning, and I'm overwhelmed yet again by the fact that I'm loved despite everything, despite how long it's been since I set time aside for Him, despite my many mistakes.

May the journey of learning how to be thankful and joyful continue.

Because that's my calling.

'Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.' 1 Thess 5:16


Saturday, 13 July 2013

This week I've been in receipt of a lot of sympathetic glances and 'Oh, are you suffering in this heat?' type questions.

The answer is yes, yes I am. Much more than I thought I would be. I am exhausted at work by about two o'clock in the afternoon; my Braxton Hicks seem to intensify in number and strength depending on how hot I am and how urgently I need them not to happen; my brain won't work properly; I can't sleep, and I have an extreme case of 'pregnancy dropsies' (dropsies = bizarre phenomenon which means that otherwise stationary objects, when in my hand, seem to fly out of their own accord).

So yes. I am a clumsy, hot, sweaty mess. My baby, meanwhile, kicks and squirms in delight, utterly unaffected by how tired I feel, sprawling happily across my belly in between practising her aerobics, which means my formerly neat bump is now growing sidewards as well as outwards.

My default answer to the question 'it's a bit hot for you, isn't it?'  after the first day of the heatwave was: 'Yes, it's a bit too hot for me.' (Polite smile). My default answer after a few days of working in intense heat was a slightly sarcastic, through gritted teeth 'Oh, just a bit.' My default answer after a weak of chasing after babies and toddlers in a heatwave with an energetic baby bump and no energy is now a dirty look and a muffled, Marge-Simpson-Like 'MMMMM.'

So I haven't blogged for a while. Terribly sorry. I'm hoping at some point my brain will go back to normal function even if my body isn't quite up to it. But there we are.

In a break from staring hopelessly at my ever-growing 'To Do Before Baby Arrives' list whilst having no energy or inclination to do anything about it, I'm going to write down a few things that have blessed me over the past few weeks:

  • Girly birthday presents from my lovely husband
  • Seeing our baby in another scan and having a rush of realisation that, as far as I can see so far, she looks as though she has my lips and Chris's nose
  • Friends and family gathering together for my birthday to watch a terrible film ('Birdemic' in case you were wondering)
  • Buying a fan for our house (this right now is literally the best thing we've ever bought in four years of marriage)

I'm blessed, really, and every day my body successfully grows and feeds my baby, I am thankful.

But I'm a grump.

Go out and enjoy the sunshine for me, happy, soon-to-be-sunburnt British people!

God bless x
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