Timeline of Grace

Journey through the Seasons

Author: admin (page 1 of 3)

I used to think________Now I think________#Outofsorts

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I used to think God had a Perfect Plan for my life.

There was this “amazing life” out there to be experienced, to be grasped, if only I could……figure it out? be perfect in absolutely every way? not “slip up”, be so spiritual I didn’t miss his voice? There was of course the conciliatory prize of “plan B” you know what I’m talking about. It was the mediocre reality of what happens when you miss the boat, when you couldn’t quite be perfect, when you messed up. I lived in dread of Plan B. I went forward for prayer at youth group, at youth events, at church, saying “I just want to know God’s will” I lifted my hands in surrender, I told God I’d do anything, go anywhere. I somehow thought that if I could just be perfect and amazing enough then a dazzling wondrous life awaited. I was told that if I was a super Christian, my light would shine and others would become Christians because of….what? ME? really? I thought that? I guess I didn’t articulate it like that at the time…but the heavy implications of that idea must made their way into my subconscious.

I started to have revelations of the beautiful love of Jesus between the ages of 10-13. Those hard going adolescent years were graced by some truly tangible moments that took place outside the context of youth groups, worship services or anything organised. They happened to me when I was alone listening to 10 year old Amy Grant songs, or with no prompting at all. I experienced the Jesus from my Sunday school lessons, and I fell in love with Him, and felt His love. I also had those amazing charismatic worship experiences at big youth conferences, where I felt the warmth and excitement of His presence, it made me feel, like I could do anything.

So the overflow of loving God is loving others. Yet somehow this simple concept became complicated in my mind. Titles like “world changer” and being “part of a generation of young people that WILL not succumb to this world” and “sold out” put the pressure on me somehow to pull it off. Yeah of course it was “God in us” and “His strength and power” and “by His spirit” but I don’t know…..somehow ultimately it felt like it was down to me to get it right. That’s a whole other thing…being right. Having to be right. Having to know it all. Having to have some edge of faith and ministry that no one else seemed to have.

I lived this reality out by going on a different short term mission trip every summer of my teenage years. These were certainly life changing summers that set my soul on fire, opened my eyes to just how big the world was and helped me encounter God is many amazing real tangible ways. This was long before the days of Poverty Tourism, it was before mission trips were cool and before the youth groups with matching t-shirts. I was considered pretty extreme in my local church for going and my parents criticised by other parents for “letting me” go. But alongside these life changing, eye opening, soul expanding experiences, there was some pretty unbalanced messages I received. It was never intended but I think many of us came away with a very works based gospel. We would preach a message of salvation by grace to the masses, but then back in our team meetings we’d hear messages about not ever dating or else we’d screw up God’s plan for whoever we were supposed to marry, getting rid of all our secular music, and making sure we spent an hour in God’s word every day, or else…..down the slippery slope we would slide to a “less than” life.

This was then exasperated once I got back into my youth group by having  youth leaders who measured their success by what?how good we behaved? Were they were still dealing with their own wounds and insecurities? It didn’t feel like there was space enough for us to fail, lest it reflect on them, and they face the wrath of our parents or risk their paycheque perhaps. I think some of them had an overzealous desire to live out their second chances through us. So many told testimonies full of some pretty chaotic crazy stuff they had been delivered from. But I wonder if they somehow saw raising a group of innocent young people would somehow make up for their own sins? Could we vindicate them? Could we help them somehow make sense of their failings? Did they think they failed so we didn’t have to?? So we could learn from them?

Sounds strangely dissonant. Somehow the message of “Jesus paid the price so you can be free” was lost in the “I messed up so you now have no excuse not to learn from my mistakes”. 

The message of forgiveness was of course there in the mix. Yet it always felt like an afterthought.  Somehow the prevailing message I seemed to absorb was that if I really had enough faith, passion, commitment, zeal, love of God, love for His word, bravery, etc. then I would avoid all he pitfalls and sail through to the promise land.

I knew that God worked everything for the good…but somehow I added my own provisos, like “but it will never be as good as it could have been”, Now I think He is always working everything out for our good and it’s not some kind of quick clean up job, it’s just….what he does. 

I knew my righteousness was not going to earn me God’s love, but I did perhaps wonder if I wouldn’t have a significantly better life if I managed to hold it together on the not sinning front. Now I know God’s love is all I need for every moment of my life however good or bad it is.

I used to think the point of my life was to have a relationship with God so I could find out what God wanted me do, then to be obedient and do it and experience some kind of fairytale ending.  But Now I think that no matter what I end up doing with the rest of my life, the perfect pleasing will of God is for me to be in a real loving relationship with Him.

I loved this book….You can get it in the UK here 

 

Happy Mother’s Day…to my first Teacher

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Back when Iona started school, I was so excited for her. I couldn’t wait for her to experience the whole school thing, something I didn’t do until I was eight years old, having been home educated until then. I remember that feeling of disappointment watching all my friends confidently disappear inside a big yellow bus when I was just five years old. I longed to be with them instead of turning around and heading back inside my house.

When my mother heard Iona was going to school, I remember her words, “Well, you will miss out on one of greatest joys, that of teaching your child how to read”.  I could see she had a point, but it was a privilege I was willing to forgo, confident I would still get a lot of joy from helping with the process. However as the school year unfolded, instead of joy,  I found myself frustrated with the unfamiliar system, trying to “help” her read, and not getting a whole lot of joy from the experience, instead,  the feeling of slowly dying inside waiting for her to sound out words while being distracted by the inane illustrations.

Sweetening the experience was your classic “colour band” system, complete with mothers in the playground pretending that they are not desperately curious as to which band everyone else’s child is on. *cue my disengagement*

Of course I wanted Iona to learn to read. I wanted her to LOVE reading, and to be amazing at it! I looked forward to the day when she’d be “stuck in a book”, and all the pleasure she would get from the wild and wonderful world of fiction, but I just. could. not. marry that desire up with my own lack of enthusiasm when it came to “doing her reading books” after a long hard day at school, or at the end of a busy weekend.   Maybe I should just admit right here that I am probably just lazy, *cue guilt*, or just that I have no patience whatsoever. To quote Jen Hatmaker “Children should not be allowed to learn to read until they are already good at it”  *cue apathy* , *cue mortal fear of failing my child* ,*cue renewed effort to ‘read with them’*, *cue humiliation of other children being “way ahead”* and all these in any order at any one time contributing to a vicious cycle of defeat.

Anyway she’s eight years old now and she can basically read.  I’d love it if she read a bit more confidently out loud, but come bedtime she is “stuck in a book” (yay!!) and various other bits of creative chaos in her room, (I often find her asleep in a pile of books, pens, and bits of paper).   For the moment I’m at peace with it. (mostly…on my good days)

Except now it’s round 2, Judah’s turn. It’s been the same thing, only this time I’m even less than motivated. I’m busier, I’m more tired, and I’m older, and I feel like doing the reading thing even less. *cue vicious cycle outlined above*
The truth is, both children have shelves full of books. My reading to them at bedtime is something that ebbs and flows. I simply cannot swear blind (as many parents seem to be able to) that “We read to them every night!” but we’ve certainly done our fair share over the years.
Judah has one of these magical reception teachers who is making the whole classroom experience for the most part a real joy and adventure. Love the woman. She’s gold.
However despite all that, we still have the inevitable “reading diary” and reading books that end up in his school bag.  That I forget are there.
Last week I had a full on melt down about it all. I will spare you the details except to say it was in public, and may have even been in my son’s classroom, in front of him *wince*. I was suddenly overwhelmed with that hugely frustrating combination of feelings. the “heistooyoungforschoolbutiwishhewasstillperformingbecauseeveryoneelseseemstobebutiamunwillingtopushhimjustbecauseeveryothertigermominherispushingtheirkidishouldn’thaveto”

So after ranting, shouting at a fellow parent, (thankfully a good friend)  and then another fellow parent grabbing me and hugging me, (or perhaps stopping me before I totally lost it)  I finally cried.

After I calmed down,  I started to try and reflect and work out just why I felt the way I did about all this.

I started to remember.

What was it like to learn to read and write? as in….what was it like for me?
I remember having this deep sense inside my little five year old soul….that I was on the verge of doing something big.
I was older than my kids were when they started. I had been five for five months.
I remember my phonograms…they were what we had before “phonics”.
They were these large rectangular flashcards, black and white
no cute pictures, no kangaroo K or purple P.
I can see them all spread out on our living room floor. I can picture my mom sat there holding them up. A (as it cat) A (as in ate) and ahhhhh (as in sofa)
Her First Nurse Works Early
I remember my first three reading books, “In the Tent” , “A mule on a kite” and I can’t actually remember the name of that first one, I think it had a green cover…oh wait *googles* ah ha! it was called “A big big man!” (that’s really funny) 
I can see myself sat on my mom’s unmade bed, in her messy room, with those 80’s mirrored wardrobes, powder blue carpets, probably in my pj’s (no uniform and tie) and I can remember picking that little reader up, and sounding out every word. (probably painstakingly slow) “a b b b i i i ggggg b b b i i i ggggg mmmmm a a a nn.”
No one told me it was “time to read” no one told me I was ready to read. I just picked it up and started to read. My mom wasn’t “sat with me” She was doing something, probably folding laundry, and walking in and out of the room, grabbing coffee from the kitchen, while I painstakingly sounded out every single letter.  I remember thinking to myself “I’m reading!!”
I remember that moment so clearly, like it was yesterday.

Then there were these classics!
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I also remember those first penmanship books. They were these totally old school books where we wrote the same letter over and over again. I mean, if you were to try and imagine the sort of writing exercise book that would put a child off for life….those may be it. However I enjoyed writing! I loved them! they made me feel like I was stepping back in time (which I sort of was) and I love writing to this day.
I hated spelling. If I ever threw a proper strop as a home educated child it would have involved a red pen and a spelling test of some sort, and usually my one home educated friend Laura getting 100%.
It wasn’t all magical
But I do remember learning to read, in my pjs, on my mom’s unmade bed. I will never forget how I felt I’d really made it when I’d advanced to the 3rd book in my first set of readers.
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So I suppose this is when it’s time to say thank you.
Thank you to my mom, who taught me to read.
She researched methods and curriculum, and had the faith in herself that she could teach me, and just…. went for it, despite home education not even being legal where we lived at the time. Who knows what she gave up so that her daughter could learn to read at her own pace, in her own time, with no stress or anxiety?

Maybe my mom remembers more tears than I do. Maybe she had to make me do my phonograms when I didn’t feel like it. Maybe I’m remembering it all wrong and through rose tinted windows of fuzzy childhood memories….maybe.

This isn’t a post to say “home schooling is so much better” because it’s never as simple as that. It just isn’t my friends.

This is just a post to say….Thank you mom for teaching me to read. I have only good memories that I am so thankful for,  and you were right…I am missing out a bit. I’m not the one driving the experience for my kids, I’m having to follow along, and it feels a lot harder for me than I remember it being for you. I always had the sense you were having so much fun teaching me.

Happy Mother’s Day! To my mother, and my first teacher…

 

 

 

 

 

Take your shoes off (for Iona)

I see you
Only two
running round Congleton Park
Naked as the day you were born
wild and free
you climbed with bare feet
no fear, only fun
You soaked in the sun
no cream to shun its rays
We let it all sink in
those lazy summer days

Already a distant memory
I see you at eight
Already so vulnerable
To stress and pain

Strip off the cotton wool
Take off your shoes
Let it go
Feel the earth
Let it calm you down
As your toes feel the mess
of mud 
And the softness of grass. 

Love your body
Know it
don’t hide it
Feel free
You are
So precious
Too precious for it to matter
more
than your inner peace

The world is full of people
who don’t know who they are
they are hurting, scared, and lonely
clinging only
to what they think will save them
fitting in
conforming
doing the right thing – they think
because they don’t know
Who made them
unique

It’s not about dying your hair purple when you’re 14
Or piercing everything
Have fun with you hair
try not to get infected
But seriously
trust me
that’s only a small thing
compared
to the courage it takes
to really know
and be
who you are

So for now
Keep on
Running barefoot
Dancing in church
Wearing summer dresses in winter
Sandels in the snow
So one day
You’ll know
And have the courage to be
Who you are.

Happy Valentine’s Day Kids

So I recently read a parenting book. This one was designed to help new parents maintain a healthy relationship after the arrival of a little one. It had some good tips and was very honest and straight talking and I’ll be passing it along to some of my new parents to-be friends.
The last chapter had this list of parenting tips you won’t find in any other book or antenatal class, stuff that’s worked for their family. One of the things the author mentioned he did was every Valentine’s Day he wrote a letter to each of his kids.

So instead of reading all his super amazing parent things he does and feeling that mixture of envy and self loathing, I figured I’d give it a try this year.

Dear Iona,

You know I love you. Sometimes I’m scared all you’ll remember from this age is this stressed busy mother who shouted at you for not getting in and out of the car fast enough. I hope you don’t remember all the times I’ve shouted at you for the state of your room or the state of your hair, because there have been far too many of those moments. I’m still very much learning how to be a parent, and as I have always said, you are my teacher. I can read books, look at other parents, pray, be mindful, all those good things, but ultimately it’s down to you and me, day in and day out, getting it wrong, and getting it right sometimes!
This last Christmas I looked at you up on stage with your friends at church, singing a song you’d learned in Sunday School. As I stood at the back of the hall and watched, it suddenly occurred to me, “I get to take that little girl home with me….she’s mine!!!” You are so precious to me Iona. If ever I’m rushing through a day, shouting about the stupid insignificant stuff, and too stressed for my own good, the best cure is stopping, and just looking at you. Looking into those big brown eyes, listening to your gorgeous sweet voice speaking, and taking in the strong minded eight year old girl you’ve become reminds me that I am so incredibly happy!
You are my precious little one….that little baby who just wanted her mummy all the time…..you taught me so much and you continue to do so.

You’re beautiful, you’re smart, you’re strong….and true to your name you are full of Grace.

Happy Valentine’s Day

Love,
Your Mummy

Dear Judah,

My little lion. You are so tall and handsome with your new hair cut I can hardly stand it! I am eating up every bit of this special season with you when you still want to crawl in each morning for a cuddle. When you still love to have cuddles and kisses and sit on my lap and be held.
I’m so proud of you settling into school so well. I’m so excited to watch you grow and learn and it feels like you are getting older every single day.
I love listening to you singing, as you go throughout your day, always a song in your heart. I love how you still have a real sweetness about you, and even though you’re turning into a big strong boy who loves to kick footballs, run around, and shout at the top of your voice, you are still incredibly tender and affectionate.

You’re my gorgeous baby boy and I love you,

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Love mummy

 

M is for Mentor

It’s January

My friends and I and I just started doing 1,000 Gifts.

It’s the perfect time of the year for this. Dark cold mornings where I struggle to get up, feeling tired, feeling on the edge of depression, completely overwhelmed with the day to day. Needing very much to look up…

Homework this week included making a list of people who have been “models and mentors” to us in faith.

I feel as though I am going through a change of season. One that perhaps started a while ago, but that I’m only now starting to fully realise.

From where I stand I can look back over the last fourteen years and count five very special mentors. Five blessings. Five women. Five gifts of grace given to me for a period of time. These five women have seen me at my worst, and still managed to love me unconditionally. They opened their hearts to me, showed me their own vulnerabilities, and have made me feel safe, secure, and loved.

Marie
She took me in when I was pretty much homeless in Ireland. It was on her computer late one night housesitting for her that I met my future husband. She shared her home (and broadband) with me and let me make a big mess in it. (once that included throwing up on her carpet after getting very drunk) I could confess my darkest moments to her and be met with no judgement, only empathy, and something to make me laugh.  Marie walked with me during some of the my early scary and dangerous crazy moments of early ministry experience coupled with simply growing up,  where I stumbled around, slipped up, and got viciously attacked a few times. She was my haven, my safety, and my joy. She made me laugh hysterically and she encouraged me all the way, assuring me that God still loved me, and that His grace would never run out. She assured me all was not lost and that wonderful things were ahead of me, that this was just a bump in the road, not the end. She was beautiful and generous and she empowered me to start singing again.

Meryl
A fellow stranger in a foreign land. She could recognise a mess when she saw one. Genuine old school hospitality. Sunday lunches and Saturday night meals.  Several cups of tea. When we broke up…she was there. When I nearly didn’t get engaged out of fear, she was there. When I got married she created my entire dress from start to finish with no pattern, only my random ideas. When I was in crisis, she was there, (more than once). She put us on the path to our 11 months in South Africa where I learned some of the best lessons of my life.

Maine
My daughter paved the way for this beautiful mentor. My little nursing toddler melted her heart and reminded her of her own little girl now grown up. A busy woman doing a million things, she found time for me during those 11 months in South Africa. Found time to encourage and empower. Her heart for mothers stirred my own heart towards the world of loving and empowering mothers and when I think of her, I always smile, or get the urge to go make someone a meal.

Merle
The wise woman, but one you find yourself telling EVERYTHING to one evening over a glass of wine at a local pub. Merle has probably seen the most change in me over the time I’ve known her. She has seen me through several seasons of my life and met me where I was at in each one of them. She has overseen times of deep healing, as well as times of great pain. She has affirmed me, encouraged me, and loved me so much over the years. She sort of feels like a mother now. I take great comfort just knowing she’s there, regardless of how often we get to spend time together.

Michelle
The most recent mentor. Completely full of affirmation and encouragement. Yet full of incredible wisdom and insight. She see’s straight into my heart and challenges the parts that need challenging. I can be honest and vulnerable and say all the things of my heart when I am with her. She offers fresh perspective. She comes from a different part of my life, outside the every day. She continues to mentor me and call out the doula in me. I watch her and hope one day to have the grace and confidence and naturally supernatural way she has about her.

I love these women. Without them…..I know I would not be where I am today, or who I am today.

Thank you….Five of 1,000 gifts.

Out with my Daughter on a Lazy Saturday

We walk around the shop
We look at sparkly things
Things that smell nice
Soft things
Pretty things
Just like I did with my own mother
As a child, looking for things
More pretty things
To fill the space of our life
Things promising warm fuzzy moments
Bright colours
Fragile glass
Perfection
We walk hand in hand
Into a British institution
For Victorial Sponge Cake and Flapjack
Coffee and sparkling something
Silence
What do we talk about?
She’s only seven and I’m already hoping to God
We’ll be doing this when she’s 17
Talking about what she wants to be
Or who she fancies
Hoping when she’s 27
Bouncing her baby on my lap
Letting her drink her coffee while it’s still hot
or maybe not
Wondering if she’ll love coffee like me
When she’s 37
Still out and about together, me with a flapjack, her with her cake
Putting the world to rights
Or convinced the other is wrong
When she’s 47
I’ll be past 70
I hope if nothing else
we’ll be laughing
What I do know for sure
Is that in every moment, every season
I will feel love
I will see beauty
I will know joy
In the messy perfect reality
Not because of what she does or achieves
But for who she is….
The gift
Of a seven year old’s soft hand in mine while we  browsed the shops,
Her savouring her three layered piece of Victoria Sponge with a mixture of delight and seriousness.
Remarking on the “tastiness” of her sparkling drink, looking up and smiling at me in simple excitement just because were were there, having a treat, just us.
She will always be my treasure
my warm fuzzy moment
One whom I stand back and take delight in her just…being.

 

Back to school…now sending two!

Today I sat across from my little boy today in Costa Coffee….he was still “too young” for a local church’s holiday club. Too Young….hmmmm that won’t be for much longer. I also came across this rather morbid poem.  
I think this new job has come just at the right time. When people say the customary “you won’t know what to do with yourself” or “just think all this time to yourself now” I smile, knowing I’m probably not going to know what’s hit me and my days will very quickly fill up and I’ll be scrambling to “get stuff done” between 9-3 each day.
But like, whatever about me.
The real thing is going to be the issue of where he is from 9-3. Not just physically, in a school building, but where he is mentally, emotionally. With Iona I didn’t give it a thought. I figured she was a bright enough girl for school, she loved being with friends, and she’d sail along. She wasn’t one of those kids you’d worry about, fearing it’d be “too much, too soon”.  She’d take it all in her stride, and of course every teacher she had would “see” her unique capabilities and love her.
I wasn’t counting on her first teacher being off sick most of the year due to personal issues, a string of supply teachers, and a change of head teacher all in the same year. I also wasn’t expecting her year one teacher to move to Switzerland halfway through the year.
I was determined to not be one of those parents who worried about her education or her standing in the school. I trusted the teachers to be bright enough to notice her and to bring out the best in her, and for awhile I experienced such a teacher the second half of year one. But then year 2 came, with a new teacher again, and out of the blue she was suddenly a child who was “struggling” (her words, not mine….which in itself is like…really??)
It can all be boiled down to perhaps a little girl still tired from her big trip to America being smacked in the face with the realities of year two, more work, more writing, more “if you don’t get it done you’ll miss playtime” on the very first day of the term,  for her confidence to be knocked right out from under her.
So now I have a daughter facing year three who doesn’t think she’s particularly bright and sees herself as someone who “struggles” and isn’t as good as her friends. This is of course the very situation my dear home educating friends fear the most and what often motivates them to keep their kids out of the whole flipping system.
Me…well I’m holding out hope, because I’ve been on both sides of the spectrum…so I’m willing to write it off as a year that was less than ideal with hopes of things improving.
So now it’s Judah’s turn. My beautiful unique boy who’s teacher sent us a scrapbook to personalise during the summer holidays….and deep inside I’m thinking “oh no is this some sort of test for her to see which parents are bothered and which parents are “those parents”???? Ugh.

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It’s pretty obvious from this just how much TV has filled the first five years of his life.

So as Iona has faced her difficulties with school with grace, and is slowly recovering from a rough start to last year. My prayer for Judah is this, that he will not lose the song that in his heart.

So on that note, this is what I have to remind myself of:

  • My kids are privileged to go to school
  • We actually have a choice of several good schools.
  • They’re going to come out of the 7 years of primary school learning to read and write and that’s more than most children in the world.
  • I’ve been able to spend nearly five years at home with him pretty much full time.
  • Teachers may come and go, but both of his parents will be here when he comes home every night.
  • He may have a teacher one year who doesn’t get him, but he’s got a family who adores him.
  • He’ll have issues with teachers sometimes, and with friends….but nothing we can’t be there for him through.

I will remember this as he puts on his school uniform and suddenly looks about 10 years old.

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Saying goodbye to the magical season of preschool

iona angeljudah learning journey

Some parents give much thought to where their children will begin their education, they deliberate, look around, and may even worry about which one to choose. In my case, it never occurred to me that my children would go anywhere else other than New Life Nursery. I didn’t know much about nursery education, or what the children did there, or how it all worked, I just knew that it’s where my kids belonged.

The wonderful activities, the learning journey scrapbook, the fun toys, and the opportunities to create art, listen to new stories, role play, dress up, and make friends have been like icing on the cake for me as a parent. What’s always mattered to me more than anything is that my children have been able to spend three hours a day with people who genuinely enjoyed being with them, who cared about them, who knew their personalities, and who took great delight in watching them grow and develop.

That has mattered more to me than any OFSTED report, or any progress my children have made, or anything else that’s gone on.

It’s the end of an era, and part of me is so sad it’s untrue, despite being excited about the upcoming season. I can only respond to these big emotions I’m feeling right now with a true sense of gratitude, of being so very thankful that such a place has existed for my kids, a place I know they will always carry memories from, however fuzzy around the edges. They will remember their preschool years with warm feelings, not because of what they did there, but because of who was there, and how they were made to feel, special, loved, known, wanted, and cherished.

Thank you New Life Nursery…..Thank you for being so in love with our kids and loving what you do and allowing God’s love to shine through you every single day.

 

Happy Father’s Day to my Dad

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Anyone who ever says to the words to me “your dad” can’t help but say it with a mixture of warmth, sentimentality, and a hint of humour. I’m the same. When anyone asks me about my dad, I smile to myself, and can’t quite put into words exactly what I feel. I can be speaking to someone for the first time ever, and when they realize I’m “Spencer’s daughter” it’s as though they immediately warm to me and can’t wait to tell me how much they like him.

My dad has always been a place of safety for me. I used to love to go places with him, to the hardware store, anywhere. I just liked riding in his car, in comfortable silence. It was a neutral zone in my life. Although I’m very grateful for all the health food I was exposed to by my mother, the all natural juices, co-op orders full of whole wheat fruit juice sweetened cereals, and carob flavoured peanut butter cups,  when I was with my dad, there were no rules about food. I could basically choose anything I wanted from the rack of treats at the convenience store on the way home from ballet or anywhere. It was ok. The world was not going to end from me eating a Charleston Chew and drinking something carbonated.

I know it will be the same for me with my own kids. I’ll be busy concocting some healthy version of chocolate chip cookies, while their dad will simply buy them a packet of chocolate buttons…and it will really be ok!

My dad has passed on to me many things including a love of coffee, an ear for music,  the ability to burst into fits of unrestrained laughter over things other people don’t find as funny, a heart to encourage people, and the freedom to just….be. I  have a lot of memories of my dad just….being. For most of my life I remember him enduring a 3 hour commute every day to work, and looking back I’m surprised he had any energy at all to run me to and from anywhere  in the evening. On a hot summer day when everyone was outside, in the water, or getting work done in the garden, my dad would be content sat inside on his computer, or watching a movie. I admire that in him now. In a world that doesn’t stop, in a world that values people only for what they do, in a world where jobs are never quite finished, and there is always something you should be doing, he could quite happily be content..just to be.

As an adult now, and especially as a mother, it’s easy to feel guilty when I’m doing nothing, and temporarily checking out….yet I know my dad would be the last person to judge me, and that’s a great feeling.

These days we live in different worlds. We have many differences of opinion on politics and issues, however, despite that, I believe my dad is an excellent judge of character when it comes to people he knows in real life, and I believe he has great insight into important situations.  I spent much time in prayer over whether or not to come to England when I was in Ireland, yet I was still fairly young, and when I heard my dad vocalize his encouragement to me, I felt overwhelmed with peace. In other times in my life I’ve found myself in sticky situations, or in situations that I’ve been felt extremely vulnerable and afraid to face head on, and somehow my dad has been able to wade in at just the right time with great wisdom and insight.

I remember my dad at bed time when I am with my own kids. He was great at putting me to bed. He always had time for another story, or another game, and he made it fun. He would pretend to give me horse rides from the living room to my bedroom, and in between reading stories, he would tell me stories about when he was a kid. As a mother I find bed time hard to savor, I want to rush it, to skip pages of the story and rush down the stairs to my evening, and I know my kids pick up on my impatience.  Yet I never had that sense from my dad. It always felt like he genuinely enjoyed spending that time with me. I now understand what a gift that was.

Last summer when I was visiting, he took it upon himself to drive me to Milwaukee to meet my older brother, and on the way we went through the drive through at Starbucks and he bought us both a coffee, asking if I wanted anything else…I didn’t but it felt so good to be asked.…like I was his little girl again, feeling so secure, and content. I savored that ride up to Milwaukee with him, chatting easily, drining our coffees, not afraid of any silences. 

Someone recently encouraged me, regarding something coming up in my life I was expressing apprehension about, and they said, “you just need to know that the pressure is off you….God’s already gone ahead of you, so just know that there is no pressure on you” The word was just what I needed for the situation, but later on I thought more about it, and I realised that when I think of my dad, I feel no pressure. Living overseas, naturally I miss him, I feel slightly sad when I realise we haven’t spoken or emailed in awhile, and there are many things about me and my life here in England that he’ll probably never get his head around completely, but despite that,  there is absolutely no pressure felt from him whatsoever, I only feel his love, and his approval and his pride in me, even when he may not be entirely up to speed with every detail of my life…..somehow I just know in my heart that it is unconditional….no matter what happens.

I love you Dad……thank you for just being. In just being, you have actually modelled to me the love of my Heavenly Father better than you imagined.

My take-away from IF Gathering, (The Esther Generation Poem by Ann Voskamp)

Atlantic
Two weekends ago, I got cozy on the couch in front of my laptop and tuned in to the “IF Gathering” live stream. Christian women from around the states gathered in Austin Texas, and in their own front rooms and churches around the country to listen, pray, and explore answers to the question, “If God is Real….then what?”
I may have been the only person in the UK watching…maybe, maybe not. I always said I’d never “go back” to the States, and that I was so relieved to be living out from under the American Christian subculture I had grown up with, that helped to mould and shape me, and that I’ll always have a soft spot for, and call ‘home’, but….that I never really truly settled into. I tried, but It always felt like a shut door. Something I’d moved on from.
Yet here I am now, fascinated by what’s going on. When I tune in,  read their blogs, laugh at their Facebook statuses, I feel so relieved…..that I wasn’t the only one….and that God is doing something so fresh and new yet born out of a beautiful legacy of the previous generation….I don’t think I’ll ever get on their radar or get to meet them or work with with any of them directly, but their heart’s cries are resonating with this heart, possibly because, they are so incredibly in to Jesus…and so am I. I feel a thin thread still links me to them, and I’m drawn to what God is doing among them. I maybe feel a bit of a twinge of sadness that I’m not ‘in it’ with them, that I jumped the ship and found a new one a long time ago….but as I gaze across the (hypothetical) pond….I’m so glad to know they are there…and that they are doing this thing, God bless you Jen Hatmaker, Ann Voskamp, and Jennie Allen, fellow American Christian sisters of my generation….I’m so proud of you…and so thankful you are there doing what you’re doing…being who you’re being.From what I was able to stream that weekend, this poem, transcribed, (not published yet…and as soon as it is officially, I’ll do a proper link to Ann’s page) had me sat on my couch choking up, with tears, streaming. I want to share it with my friends…my friends here in the UK who are doing this life with me here….and those who I left behind….GET in on this!! :) 
 (From IF:Gathering)
 The Esther Generation, BY ANN VOSKAMP 
They say you should travel light
But most of our lives we carry it all on our backs
These days it isn’t our arms that stay weighed down
It’s our minds
We wake up in a panic
Its our thoughts that hyperventilate for fear
Of making mistakes.
For fear of failing or succeeding
Or fear that we’ll never move past our past
That we’ll be exactly who they said we’d be
That we’ll never be more than what was done to us
That we will continue to be taken advantage of
That we should accept shame as a companion to carry with us
That we should let the lies befriend us
The lies
started in a garden
Spoken slyly by a slithering serpent with his syrupy sweet: “Did God really say?”
And we’ve be doubting ever since
Allowing an unwelcome guest to make himself at home in our lives, minds, gardens
Keep us bound with slithering fear
that we are damaged goods
Never going to be good enough
Not enough brains, not enough brawn
Not enough guts to take anything on.
 But there is no time for being soft or weak
That at all times we have to be tough
That We’ll never be perfect that
We’ll never be worth it
That we’ll never be enough
And sometimes we feel God calling us, nudging us
Trying to show us
but somehow we stay trapped
Behind walls of unbelief and unforgiveness
Our arm’s a weary rope caught in a vicious tension
Tug of war between our fear and our calling
Between worry and peace
Comfort and inconvenience
Comparing ourselves to each other
While battling low self esteem 
Do we do what’s practical?
Or follow our dreams?
Do we take care of ourselves?
Or meet others people’s needs?
Should we fight?
Should we please?
Should we hide from who we are to put other people at ease?
And then the lies begin to echo and amplify
Loser
Time abuser
Mess producer
Who needs you?
She’s so much better
Just look at her
You actually thought that was a good idea?
Open your mouth and they’ll laugh long enough that you’ll shut your mouth
You aren’t smart enough
You aren’t good enough
You aren’t sharp enough
Who do you think you are?
Fear is our chain and it’s rattling us hard
the poison that deadens our hearts
Fear of failing
Fear of flailing
Fear of the arrows
Fear of the way named narrow
Fear of the shear rock in front of you that begs you sweat and climb
Climb out of that drug dead comforting pit they call status quo
And break right up through the earth and into the life you were born for
In the now of your life while there is still time and hunger in your veins
Turn around and shake off that snake
Because it’s head’s been crushed, no pulverized
So let go of the lie.
Sometimes we imagine that God’s voice is a disappointed hard lined teacher
Who is waiting to whack our knuckles with a ruler for any imperfections
But that isn’t God’s voice at all
That isn’t Gods heart at all
He speaks tenderly
He doesn’t need to raise his voice
He speaks as if He’s right next to us
Because He’s right next to us
Because He goes before us
Because His spirit lives inside us
He starts with love
And not because He is a hopeless romantic
But mostly because
He is ALL LOVE and HOPE and SECOND CHANCES
Let go of the fanged lie and bind the wound with dressings of Truth that will heal your bloodied soul
Take that sharp edge of His Word and hack that snake creeping up the back your neck
The words
The only life hack that will hack off the lie of the snake and make your life whole
We fear that the place we think God’s love will run out or dry up
We fear that place where we think God’s love will run out, dry up, fall of the edge
And we’ll be left dangling beyond its reach
We fear that somewhere God’s love ends
 But His love never runs out
His steadfast love surpasses suburbia
Canvases from skyscrapers to street corners from porch to stoop
His love is looking for you.
Who would you be?
What would you do?
If you weren’t afraid
Could be that you’ve always wanted to come up through the ground
in some desolate place that needed a tree
To bear some fruit for someone with their tongue stuck to the dry roof of their parched mouth
To be a limb that held some baby abandoned
To be a limb that someone could used to swing over the fence and free
We were made from dust
A bit of earth kissed by heaven
made to be groundbreakers
And peacemakers
And freedom shakers
So you can take your glossy Vogue covers and use them for washing windows
Because we’ve always thought the most beautiful women have dirt under their fingernails
And could shake a bit of the very earth out of their warn and pioneering shoes
And lets redefine comfort zone because wherever He takes you
You are with the comforter
Wherever He calls you
You are always in his comfort zone
So live all your present moments in His presence
To keep company with Christ
To get in on the best
There’s a whole Esther generation right here and now and it is us.
Who come broken
Who are done being defeated by fear and worry and stress
Because it advertises the unreliability of God
 Who want hard and Holy things because we want more than hallow lives
A life more than self focus and cell phones
More than iPhones, iTunes and iLove
Who want a life of loving the least, the lonely, and the lost
There is a whole Esther generation rising right here and now and it is us
Who are done with easy
Who know that being like Christ and caring for the poor in body and soul
Means more than just caring about easing our consciences
It means living real sacrifice
There is a whole Esther generation rising right here and now and it is us
Who say now is the time for the faith brave
To sky dive and fly
To remember that we don’t have to strive to be anyone
To stop taking issue with what God made
To accept that our perfect God makes no mistakes
There’s a whole Esther generation rising right here and now and it is us
To take the weight we carry on our backs
And offer it back to the savior who already carried the weight of the world on his shoulders
Who surrender
Who lay out alabaster hopes and dreams at the feet of our Savior
There is a whole Esther generation rising right here and now and it is us
Who will no longer look for peace in opinions
But to find our solid ground in the truth
There are many tomorrows to face
But today, lets open our hearts and our wounds and our stories
To the great story teller
That our lives may be chiseled by His pen
That we may
BELIEVE
and LOVE
and PRAY
and FIGHT
and REST
and LIVE!
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