Word of the week: evening

Friday, 26 June 2015

Evening

Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes. - Matt Redman, 10,000 Reasons

I am really enjoying early evenings right now.

When it's Chris's turn to put our daughter down to bed, I quietly get on with things that need to be done. Tidying the shoes by the door; sweeping the floors; wiping the kitchen tops down; transferring piles of laundry, which is mostly unmatching, dirty toddler socks and discarded cardigans, into their right places. These are things that I quickly do at the end of the day before lighting a candle and then slumping onto the sofa.

There just seems to be a serenity about that time of the day, when the sun starts to set, and things are slightly tidier than normal. Even when I know I'm not actually going to be resting for the evening, it still feels like wind down time.

That zen-like moment of the day is starting to become a time of reflection and thankfulness to me. I think it's because recently, we've started to pray with Jellybean at bedtime. We talk about her day, the good and the bad things that have happened, and we say a prayer of thanks. (One time I asked Jellybean what she wanted to thank God for and she said 'cheese' and 'blueberries' which speaks volumes of what she cares the most about.)

I start to question myself. What happened today? What am I thankful for? Usually my prayers are a bit longer because I make them more complicated with all my Grown-Up Problems. And a lot of the time I get sidetracked in my thought process and I feel myself slipping away from thankfulness and slipping into something more like regret or anger or daydreaming or mild panic.

Sometimes I have an evening shower (by the way, showers in the evening are AWESOME. There's nothing like being sparklingly clean and slipping into your horribly old, baggy, faded pyjamas). And I think for a bit. I say thank you (eventually) because despite the aforementioned Grown-Up Problems, I have a lot to be thankful for.

Last Sunday at church, we sang the song 10,000 Reasons. It is a beautifully written song, essentially about being thankful to God in different seasons of our lives. It is a song that portrays fierce loyalty and devotion to God, about a person so overwhelmed with reasons to praise their Father that even at their weakest point, they make the conscious decision to keep singing.

As we sang it, I had to swallow a lump in my throat, because I remembered this article. Matt Redman was interviewed recently, and he spoke of a group of Christians in Indonesia who, as they faced a 13-man firing squad, sang that song.

That image has been stuck in my head recently. Of those men, facing their deaths. They declined to wear blindfolds, choosing instead to look in the faces of their executioners, and they sang

Bless the Lord, oh my soul
Oh my soul
Worship His holy name,
Sing like never before
Oh my soul
Worship His holy name

and I can't get over that. I couldn't get over it on Sunday, as we sang, and I felt a swell of pride to be connected to those brave men, that faced their imminent death, that stared in the face of the weapons that would kill them, and still had the strength and courage to sing those words.

The thing that gets me, too, is that the men who were executed were part of a well-known drug trafficking ring. All but one of them had turned to God in the decade that they had been on death row. Those are the kind of people that people in our society would call scum and throw into prison to rot. The kind of people that, in different societies, have their lives ended, because they are considered irredeemable.

In my house, the only sound I can hear is the clock ticking and my child's quiet breaths through the baby monitor. The surfaces are clean, the toys and clothes are in their right places. The candle I lit flickers and burns.

I am overwhelmed by the complicated and mind-blowing business that is redemption, and forgiveness, and the concept of being wiped utterly clean, the concept of not one person being out of God's reach, not one person being unworthy of His love, and how His ideas of what makes a person worth going after are not the same as ours, and how much better His way is than ours.

And I wonder if I was facing that firing squad, if I would feel brave enough to sing.

***

The Reading Residence

Kids' book review: Littleland

Thursday, 25 June 2015


I've been meaning to do another book review for a while now. Recently we've been making the most of our local libraries, and I was happy to find this amongst some of the more, er, well-loved books there. This brand new, beautiful, colourful book: Littleland All Year Round.


The Littleland series is about a group of (adorable) animals, and All Year Round sees them in different places throughout the seasons: on their way to nursery in the winter, a farm in the spring, a beach in the summer, a park in the autumn. Each scene has a double page spread and there is just so much to look at.


I have a toddler and she is learning some pretty deep concepts right now: about light and darkness, day and night, hot and cold. She is learning that when the sun shines you feel warm, that when something is difficult to lift it is called 'heavy', that when things run out they are 'empty'. She is understanding that when we go out we need to put on shoes, that when the sun shines we need to wear hats. She points out the smallest little details: an ant carrying a leaf on the ground in the garden, a thread dangling from my cardigan. She wants to know everything about everything. It is amazing watching her soak everything up, like a sponge, taking in more and more.

This book, then, is perfect for her. There is so much to see - not just the characters, what they're wearing, what they're doing, but also things in the environment, how the leaves are on the ground in the autumn scene, how someone has lost a glove in one of the winter scenes. We talk about how the teddy bear holds a ticket ready to get onto the train in the train station scene. She spots tiny little birds and butterflies, sticks on the ground. There is so much rich detail on each page for us to discuss. And some of the things she sees triggers memories for her: the time we went to the beach and Mummy went in the sea, for example.


We have had so much entertainment out of this book I couldn't help but write a blog post about it. If we owned it, I could see that we would enjoy it for a long time to come. If you have (or you know) an inquisitive toddler, I heartily recommend it!

Littleland: All Year Round is published by Nosy Crow.

Jonah, blank pages, and analysis paralysis

Thursday, 18 June 2015

I haven't posted in a couple of weeks. I'm so sorry! I've been spending some amazing quality time with my loved ones, so that's been great. But I've also been busy doing ... well, life stuff.

It is safe to say I am at a crossroads in my life right now.

Without going into too much detail, I have a decision to make. To be honest, what the situation is doesn't actually matter. It's the way I deal with it (or, rather, the way I fail at dealing with it) that is in question here.

The question is:

What do you do when you just don't know what to do?

A blank page in a notebook is always a bit daunting to me. That first blank page. What do you do with it? What if you write and it's all ... wrong? There's just something about a crisp, new sheet of paper that gives me what we call in our board gaming circles 'analysis paralysis.'

Analysis paralysis. I just can't decide. So I don't do anything.

This is how I get over the fear of a new page: I write on it. I just grab a pen or pencil and start drawing or writing or whatever. Even if it's naff and awful. Even if it's just my name and the date. I just write something. Once I've made that first step, the rest feels a little easier.

This is probably how I should approach my decision making.

The thing is, I analyse each option to death. I write lists of pros and cons for each thing in my head and mull over it. I imagine every scenario I can think of. I contemplate the various ways my decision might impact Chris and Jellybean.

And I pray. Boy, do I pray. They start tentative 'Please, Lord, could you help me see what Your will is for me?' and turn into 'Lord pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease just tell me what to do, I can't decide, please please pleaaaaaaase.'

(I am very good at prayer.)

Anyway. The truth is, life with God isn't like that. He doesn't force us down a particular road - we have free will. Therefore we have decisions to make. Sometimes, God speaks very clearly into people's lives about what they have to do and sometimes, for reasons unknown to us, He doesn't.

Right now I am studying Jonah and it is very interesting, partly because beyond being swallowed by an enormous fish, I didn't know anything about him. In fact, I don't think I've ever read the book of Jonah despite it being incredibly short (usually a selling point for me). Anyway, I found myself frustrated with Jonah (before I understood how much going to Ninevah, a land where the people living there had potentially slaughtered people he loved) because, you know, dude, at least you knew what to do. At least God made it clear to you even though you didn't like the answer.

Alright. I would still not want to trade places with Jonah.

But I see that a lot in scripture. People seemed to just know what to do. (If someone could point me to a Psalm where David says something along the lines of 'Lord, show me what to do, for I do not like this not knowing business' that would be helpful).

Joking aside (well, I was only kind of joking about the Psalm thing) I do kind of get why God doesn't tell us everything. It's not for us to know everything that He does. He knows what information we can handle.

But in the meantime, what do I do when I can't decide what to do?

I was talking to my very good friend (and very patient prayer partner) Sarah about this, as we shared our mutual tales of frustration and indecision, and she said something along the lines of 'Do you know what, sometimes you just have to start pushing doors and see if one of them opens.'

Yep. That pretty much sums it up. So yes, I might be a bit sporadic in my blog posting at the moment, but it is probably because I am pushing some doors. Some doors I'm practically hammering down to try and get in, but you know, I believe it will work out in the end.

Because I read things like this:

'While our insatiable desire to know it all seems to rarely be satisfied, we must discipline ourselves to place confidence in His decision to give us the information we need to successfully accomplish the step we are on in the journey. He doesn't withhold information because He doesn't love you but because of His great love for you.' - Priscilla Shirer, Jonah: Navigating a Life Interrupted

So I suppose I'll have to figure it out over time. I will push a few doors, and see which one opens. And maybe I will report back when it does!
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