Timeline of Grace

Journey through the Seasons

Category: Mothering (page 1 of 2)

That Mum

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I get wound up
When I hear them say
Look at her
She doesn’t even play
with her son
she’s on her phone
She doesn’t care
Shame

I get fed up
When they hover
over their playing child
over their exploring baby
So scared of being
judged for not seeing
their children
unable to just be
Normal

Would you like to trade lives
With that mum
who can’t face ‘inter-acting’
as you like to say
with her son
because she just needs to breathe
Home’s a depressive space
laundry and endless mess and countless jobs undone
She’s never learned to do.

Overwhelming
So she comes out
to get a break
to give her kid the chance to play
to make mistakes
to be accepted amongst the ranks

But he bites and hits
and oh look!
she doesn’t notice
or at times she overreacts.

Would you trade your life for her’s
Just for one day?
Would you spend one night in her house?
with a disinterested or non existent partner and all her fears and self doubt?

Give her a break
Let her finish her cup of tea
Look her in the eyes
when you ask her how he’s sleeping
or If she’s sleeping
let her vent
Assure her it’s normal
That yours did the same
even if they didn’t.

We get into our cars
She covers her pram
We feel the heat come on
it warms up our cosy space
while she walks up the hill
every single day

But we sigh when we hear him scream
We wonder what she could be thinking
He’s so out of control
She’s just on her phone
We forget as we sit in our comfort zone
That she feels so alone

Give her a break
She’s one of us
That Mum

 

Post natal Doula work, Judah, and Ann Voskamp.

My heart is full tonight.
Maybe it’s because I’ve just returned from a day doing what I realise I absolutely love.
Maybe because today I realised how much I don’t like telling people what to do….but how much I Love being a safe place for them to come for information and 100% support.
Maybe because I’m reminded of how precious that hard, difficult, soul destroying, sleep deprived, draining, time of life was when my little ones were babies.

It was an unusual dynamic tonight when I got home. Both Jon and I returning from “full days” of work. Iona was left with a friend for an impromptu sleepover and so I brought a disappointed Judah home with me. We decided we’d make up for it by letting him stay up with us a bit later and fall asleep on the couch next to us.

I look over at him. He’s got his sister’s pillow pet with him so he won’t miss her too much. His gaze is far away.  Sometimes his tenderness is enough to shred my heart.
How long has it been? since I’ve held him in my arms until he fell asleep?

Today I held a little baby boy, full of wind, rocking him and winding him for his exhausted mother, remembering it so well….remembering how it felt…willing them to drift off to sleep…desperate to put them down. Yet as I held this little one, I felt privileged.

My mind drifts back to Judah, and his most recent loss.  When he was told the facts, he didn’t really respond, it didn’t sink in. But the other day when we called in to see my mother in law, he took a few steps into the front room, and then just stopped…dead in his tracks, and just stood there with such a sad look on his face, staring at Granddad’s chair, empty. We asked him what was wrong and he just gave a bit of a whimper and turned around and buried his face in the furniture. There are just no words….he’s lost his mate…one of his biggest fans….Thank God for the hours spent on puzzles, connect four, and simply being together watching Micky Mouse on the telly. Time spend just the two of them. Time I am so glad he had…and so pray will be clear in his memories for the rest of his life.

So tonight Jon and I sit in our front room, with our little lad snuggled on the couch. We’re not hurrying him off to bed…we’re not rushing through a story, we’re unashamedly spoiling him with as much fun as we can muster on a Friday night when we’re both exhausted.

Before I left the new mother today we had a chat about parenting styles……I said “you will never ever regret the time you spent cuddling…no matter how hard it was….when I look back, I am more likely to feel sad over the times I rushed things, and where I wasn’t fully present, never the times when I spent that extra time…just being with them”

Judah is breathing deeply now…fast asleep…..having drifted off after spending time with his dad….hearing stories about Hobbits, and watching images of Hobbits on Youtube along with the gorgeous soundtrack. (Jon has been telling the kids his own version of the Hobbit every night at bedtime)

I pray he remembers….

“Judah what should we get daddy for Christmas”
Judah: “I want to get him a picture of his dad”

At the moment I’m reading a lot of Ann Voskamp’s blog.….her big thing is thankfulness…..Many years ago now I was told Gratefulness was the secret to surviving a hot sticky summer sleeping on the hard floor in a remote village in India….I didn’t get it then…

The weight of Judah’s raw emotions touches me deep inside. I remember his high pitched scream as a young toddler, before he could speak. He has never been shy about expressing what he feels and now that he’s talking, he’s scarily articulate about his likes and dislikes. You always know how he’s feeling…and most of the time…he seems to be overflowing with

Joy

Judah: “thank you God for trains, thank you God for cars, Thank you God for planes, thank you God for food…..and thank you God for Granddad….Amen……and with all my heart….Amen”

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Judah’s name means praise….

I’m starting to get it.

 

 

 

Coming out of this parenting small children phase…..

This morning I called in to visit a friend. A newcomer to our church. A mother of a little 10 month old baby girl, and I was struck at how far removed I am now from “that world”.

The world of changing nappies and having your wriggly little one flip over so you had to quickly wipe the poo before their bum cheeks squished it, and they toddled off.

The world of unsettled teething, where nothing seems to satisfy. Where you go to feed them and they arch their back and you’re at a bit of a loss of what to do.

The world of toddler groups. Of sitting having coffee while little ones played. Eating homemade cake, singing songs in church halls and forging new friendships.

The world of wandering around pushing a pram, or wearing the little one in a sling, looking over the top, hoping to see those eyes closed out of a deep hope they’d sleep for a bit that day.

The world of being tired and frustrated and not sure if you’re doing the right thing “giving in” to your baby at night, wondering if you’ve done it all wrong, wondering if it’s time to “let them cry” because you just. need. to sleep. but then being afraid that if you do that you’ll damage them. That feeling where you really wonder if you’ll ever sleep through the whole night again.

The world of having to find your own way. Of feeling judged no matter what you did. The moment when you started to feel more sure of yourself and the opinions of others didn’t matter so much. That journey.

The world of being woken up every day by a little one crawling into your bed.

It went by so fast. Everyone says that. Judah’s now in preschool every morning, and next year it will be school. I had sort of felt “done” with the whole toddler group scene, having made some good friends and preferring to spend the time relaxing at home chilling out or getting things done with a more independent toddler in the next room.  Yet now it feels like a distant world I’ll never get to visit again.

I hit the halfway point between Astbury School and New Life Nursery the other day, making my way around the round a bout, around the new Tesco, and I realised that time is running out. These days are draining away one by one and I’m going to really be….done. Done with the “parenting young children” phase. A phase that I was only really just coming to grips with and getting my head around.

So to parents who are still there. I won’t tell you to “enjoy it because it goes by quickly” like so many others do….I just want you to know now that I look back, from this point…..I can now see that those were irreplaceable beautiful days. Not because I am good at enjoying my children and getting on the floor and playing with them (because I’m rubbish at that) But because when I look back, I now see that I wasn’t “just” going to play groups and hanging out with other mothers. I wasn’t just “surviving” in a haze of exhaustion. I wasn’t just fumbling through my days just trying to make it to bedtime.  I was growing, changing, and developing, right alongside my little ones. I was becoming a huge part of who I am today.

I am not the same person who left my full time job as a youth worker seven years ago to go have my first baby.

I did not “lose myself” when I become a mother.
I found more of myself.
I grew up……a lot.
I found the friendship I’d been so desperate for in other mothers.
I learned the value of community.
I learned the power of vulnerability.
I learned to avoid the pitfalls of comparison.
I learned how isolating it can feel when you feel alone in your choices, and how healing it can feel to know you’re not alone.

I didn’t spend the time desperately trying to claw back and get back to “my old self” or “who I was before I had kids”. I guess I moved on.

Just like our children go from a few cells to fully developed people with personalities in a matter of months. I grew as well…only I hope that as they continue to grow, that  I can keep on growing and learning and changing alongside them.

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Spoiled for Choice

So it’s been a few months since we completed Seven. Our group had the great pleasure of passing on the DVD’s to another women’s group down the road who are crazy brave enough to have a go at it, so we wish them well, and it’s exciting that more and more of us are having this conversation. Since the lessons of Seven my family has been through some changes.

  • My husband lost his job at the start of the summer holidays, and has been battling the ups and downs that come with that.
  • The kids and I spent three long beautiful weeks in August in the States soaking up time with friends and family and doing our best to not get overwhelmed by the “oh wow look at this I could so use this back in England they don’t have these oh look i miss those let’s get some for old times sake oh my gosh that’s SO much cheaper here need must have” mentality that often creeps in.
  • A new school year has started and my daughter, after spending two years sailing merrily along with no issues at school has been hit with her first real wave of “ohnoican’tdothisit’stoohard” and due to circumstances has had two parents around to gently walk her through this. (what i really mean is that she’s had her dad  around to give the gentle help, as I have no patience and can get just as overwhelmed as her. He’s also been there to have a man to man chat with the teacher as opposed to male teacher in shirt and tie vs. mom on the verge of tears chat because I’m rubbish really
  • I actually have work to do, and am looking forward to three births over the next three months. yay.

Something I’ve realised in the last few weeks and days, is just how spoiled I am. I’m not talking about wealth, because that’s a different story. That falls in the realms of blessing. We’ve had no real income over the last few months, but people have been so generous to us, it’s humbling. We’ve been given money outright, Tesco vouchers,  food from people’s fridges and freezers, grocery bags full of those extra treats like humous and sticky toffee pudding and extra apples to feed Judah’s compulsive apple binging, clothes, shoes, and even a bottle of wine! Thank you friend and family….I’m humbled.

Back to the spoiled thing. I’m talking about choice. The choices I have in life. I mentioned Iona’s beginning of the school year wobbles. First off, I take them seriously. I love her, and the last thing I want for her is to be feeling sad, overwhelmed, and powerless. So when this whole thing first happened, in came the flood of worry, self doubt, and brainstorming.

  • Have we chosen the right school? Did I just choose Astbury because it looks so darn lovely and felt comfortable to me? Did I let my own ideals or fears of a larger more secular school environment cloud my judgement?
  • Should I actually be home educating? Am I selfish? Wouldn’t she just flourish so much better at home given the space and freedom to learn things in her own time?
  • They start them too young!! Why can’t we be like those European countries who let kids do nothing but play until they are 7!!!???
  • Her teacher’s style is to blame! He’s putting her off! I miss her old teacher, he was better, wah!
  • floods of worry over Iona’s confidence, development, intelligence, ability, fears over what others think of her, my parenting choices, stuff that matters, stuff that totally doesn’t matter but I make bigger in my head, and on and on.

Do you know what came to me? I am spoiled. I live in a lovely town with the choice of several lovely competent schools where I can choose a school based on how much I like it, not on whether my child will actually come out the other end knowing how to read and write. I can choose a school out of walking distance because I have a working car, that looks and feels like something out of a storybook. I can choose an open plan school with an intentionally relaxed ethos, or I can choose a school with a more intentional emphasis on academics. I could choose a school within walking distance, allowing my kids to befriend those in their immediate community and get that daily exercise, or I could choose that school with the yellow uniforms, because they’re just so cute.

What happens when we are presented with these choices is that by nature we feel compelled to pick apart the options and certain schools actually get labelled as “rough” because the vast majority of the parents don’t fit into a certain socio-economic bracket, which when compared to truly “rough” schools, is laughable.

In addition to the choice of several perfectly descent schools, If I really wanted to, I could choose to home educate. It’s legal in this country and although still not socially the norm, I could join in with other like minded parents and my children could receive a well rounded holistic education at home and likely have even more practical learning experiences and opportunities than those that are formally educated.

The bottom line is that my daughter, who is precious, loved, and treasured by us, has a roof over her head, clothes to wear, and the opportunity to learn to read, write, and add up. I’m not faced with the choice on whether she receives an education or not. I’m not worried a human trafficker is going to snatch her or deceive her as soon as she turns 10. She gets to go to a school. She gets to learn. She is a lot better off than most girls her age. 

Does this mean I never raise concerns with her teacher? no. Does this mean I roll my eyes every time I hear a gaggle of pre-school mums chatting about which school? Of course not! (Well I try not to) Is it still important to choose the right school? Of course, but balance that with a sense of perspective and gratefulness that we actually have that choice.

Now I have not just dropped my concerns over my daughter’s rough start this year. I’ve been challenged to be more present with her when she is at home, and  I’m praying for her, and unashamedly asking friends to pray for her.

I guess I’m just trying to get some perspective and remember just how privileged I am. It’s the tension those of us here in the western world will live in most of our days.

 

The Big Church Day out 2013

I’m avoiding getting into my car. I spilled milk in it last week and it stinks and having been away all weekend, I have not had a chance to scrub it. Today it’s raining, so I’m in the house, doing laundry,and just going over some of the great music I heard, discovered, and soaked in over the weekend at The Big Church Day Out.

The kids were little troopers. There was plenty for them to do, but as well as all of that, we dragged them to all the bands we wanted to see, including an 11:30 PM campfire with the Rend Collective where they both fell fast asleep on the ground in their pj’s and wellies. We all caught the sun, and my face looks like I had a terrible accident with fake tan.

You know that family with two parents, two children, all kitted out in waterproofs? The family who puts sunscreen on in the morning? The family who remembered to bring tissues? The family with the immaculate camping space? That wasn’t us. They were our neighbours. I didn’t even bring a rain jacket. I managed the weekend with no shower and one pair of jeans that sort of got trashed the first day.

Despite having a horrid cold, and a very cold and rainy first day, we all survived the weekend in one piece. What is it about camping? The extreme out of your comfort zone experience combined with experiences you just could not replicate anywhere else? I was so thankful to the random South African guy who helped Jon put the tent up in the pouring rain while the kids and I shivered in the car.

The weekend can be summed up in two things. Me welling up a lot, and my heart resonating.  Musically there were a lot sentimental moments, (I saw Amy Grant all 3 times she was on, and got to sit on the front row in the tea tent for her long acoustic set Saturday evening!!!) many truly worshipful moments, some moments of pure beauty, and just some WOW moments.

I loved that although the weekend was about celebration, family time, relaxation, and just pure fun, all the things you want from a good day out, there was an undercurrent of outworking as well. Christians Against Poverty were the main sponsors of the event, an incredible organization that helps people out of debt. Costa Coffee donated their coffee, (and their branding), for them to sell. Nothing like a proper Hazelnut Americano when you’re camping! Not only did the family get a free hovercraft ride, but we found out about this great organization that delivers medical aid (via hovercraft) to people in Madagascar! I discovered Global Seesaw, who sell gorgeous clothes and various bit and pieces fair trade/anti trafficking etc. Missions was just…like everywhere around the event. From the Tear Fund tea tent to the marketplace where there was one display after another.

The main resonating moment came from The Rend Collective at the campfire. We were about five feet away from them and I could see they were very much a typical group of Irish musicians who loved to rip on each other and banter.  They passionately spoke about how Christianity is not something to be packaged and sold like Starbucks sells coffee. So many people try to “Brand” church, feeling they have to make God appealing, that they have to somehow sell the gospel so people  will be interested. So. not. where. I’m. at. They also talked about being raised in church and youth group and getting to their 20’s and suddenly struggling and realizing it’s not so black and white…and so much of their music is a reflection of them coming out the other side of that…and is very much where I’m at and probably not only why I love their style, but their lyrics so much. A lot of stuff resonated. I also loved hearing from Peter Greig from Prayer 24/7 (another formative influence during my time in the UK).

The event ended with Chai and Hot Chocolate, cuddles on the side of the hill, worshipping with Matt Redman, and concluded with singing 10,000 reasons with nearly that many people!! Later that night, Jon and I sat in our tent, after putting the kids in their sleeping bags, and listened as they drifted off to sleep singing the songs from the weekend.  Despite having a cold, getting sun burnt, wearing dirty yucky clothes, and not sleeping terribly well. (one night I woke up to Iona crying in her sleep, and could not see Judah anywhere…he was UNDER the air mattress…fast asleep!!!! eek!) It was a brilliant weekend, and a blessing as well as a challenge to our family.

iona carasol

 

 

Lilies of the field

Tomorrow we’re heading to the Big Church Day Out. As I feel the wind ripping through my clothing and beating down on my wet hair, I’m wondering why in the world I thought this would be a good idea. However as I sat down to do some work before heading out to buy ice packs (which I cannot imagine needing at this moment in time) and other bits and pieces for the weekend, I clicked on Amy Grant’s new album on Spotify.

Her new single “Don’t try so hard” came on, and I stopped. Tears welled up. Suddenly I was back in my bedroom in Wisconsin at the age of 12 listening to “All I ever have to be” feeling completely free, released, and happy, with such a strong sense of who I was. Fast forward twenty-two  years, and His message through her music is telling me another version of the same thing…because I need that message now more than ever. So yes, I’m going to see her live this weekend. She is a voice from my past….and I feel very drawn to go and see her live, which I’ve never done. Alongside her will be the very present and current inspirations of my favourite worship music. Gungor, Rend Collective, and Matt Redman. Judah keeps running around singing “Set your church on FIRE!! win this nation back” and it’s just too cute, along with Iona’s “oooooooOOOOOOooooo my soul” as she sings along to 10,000 reasons.

This week is possessions week for 7, so yesterday I spent the day sifting through cd’s, books, dvd’s and other bits and pieces. The idea is not to just bung them in a bin bag and charity shop them, but to turn them into something more specific. The reality is, I can’t imagine anyone really wanting or finding any of this stuff useful, so I went on music magpie and zapper and have decided to use the cash towards towards some things I’ve wanted to give to recently. However Jen said…”This isn’t a one hit wonder”. I have yet to do the homework, and much of what she said on the DVD was again, so much more than just about having a clear out and simplifying our lives….much deeper…and as we’re on half term next week that means I have a whole other week to dig deeper on this one.

Monday morning was good. The best lesson many of us learned during clothes week was that no one seemed to notice our amazing ability to just wear seven items of clothing for one week. It was sort of a non issue. I am pretty sure Jon never even noticed me only eating seven foods lets alone only wearing seven clothes. This revelation was particularly liberating to those accustomed to giving much head space and time to what they were going to wear every day.

On a deeper level, one of my friends arrived armed with copies of newspaper clippings about injustices in the garment industry, as well as a compiled list of fair trade clothing and goods retailers. Her response to several people being ill on Monday: “they won’t get away! I will get them next week” Love it!! I can just sit back and enjoy and not feel like “the one” who’s always going on about this stuff.

For me….my lesson from clothes week was simple. It comes from Matthew 6. God used several incidents in the week, particularly at the weekend to confirm to me again, (as he has MANY time before) that he looks after me…so much more than the lilies of the field. He clothes me, feeds me, and provides….not only for me, but for my children. Iona danced on Saturday, dressed in a lily white dress, she joined hands with her classmates as they celebrated the ancient tradition of May Day. My heart was full as I saw her smiling, dancing, and clearly taking pride in what she was doing. When she asked afterwards for a crown of silk flowers and ribbons, it gave me great pleasure to say “YES!!” and it made me even happier when she knew exactly which one she wanted…the gold one with sparkles! The sun didn’t shine, and we were shivering, but we drank tea out of real tea cups, ate cake, and Iona went home happy, having danced and having been and gifted with a crown.

The next day, after proudly wearing her crown to church, and Sunday club, after a play in the park, we were halfway home when we discovered she’d left it behind. In a whirl of frustration we rushed back, had a look for it, and could not find it anywhere. We took her friend home on our way back and I had to console a very very sad little girl. That evening at bedtime, we prayed it would come back to her, and not 20 minutes later, a knock at the door, and her little friend was there with her mother. Her friend had bugged and nagged her mother to take her back to the park so she could look again for Iona’s crown, and they’d eventually found it! I could have adopted that little girl right then and there. I sent her straight up to Iona’s room as I’d just put her to bed. The smile on her face was precious!

More than the pleasure I took out of buying her the crown, (a mere £3), It was even more amazing to see her witness answered prayer. He looks after us Iona….we can trust him.

Iona Maid 2013gold crown iona

 

Mother Memories….

I close my eyes sometimes and try to remember my earliest memories. It’s like seeing underwater. The first image that comes to mind is the first home I lived in as a baby. I don’t remember much, but if it’s like I can remember the mood that was there. In the memory I can hear my brother Chris, and almost see him, and I can hear my mother, not really her voice, but just, her. I suppose it’s because as a young baby and child, she was often very close to me. It’s a relaxed memory, and very peaceful.

I then have memories of a move to Michigan. I remember the boat across Lake Michigan, the first night in the new house, sleeping on the floor, and settling in. I remember my sibling’s bedrooms in the basement, and much of the detail of that house like the spiral staircase and the round brick fireplace.  I remember sand. Sand on the beach of Marl Lake and my mom’s brown legs. I remember swimming and playing on the beach for what seemed like hours every day of every summer, while my mother read, chatted to friends, and watched us, and often played with us.

One evening after the other kids had gone home, while it was still warm out, and the sun was starting to sink, she taught me how to swim. She held me in the water and spun me around. I think part of my mother came alive when she was in the water.

She home schooled me. I didn’t appreciated it at the time…I mean, I wanted to ride the school bus! She did not send me off to school to enjoy 5-6 hours of freedom, instead she kept me at home. She read to me every morning, she took me to a friend’s house who was also home schooled and she taught me phonics, and never do I remember feeling nervous or intimidated by learning to read. It just happened. (Spelling was a different matter).

Every year there was a birthday party. Friends were always allowed to come and play, and sleepovers were rarely refused. I mainly remember my mom being so laid back during that period of my life.

One of my favourite things to do with her was to visit the health food shop. Adam’s pantry. I was always allowed a “treat” something like a carob peanut butter cup, or fruit juice sweetened gummy bears. she always bought us pitta breads with stripples (soya bacon), lettuce, and tomato. I could always tell ours apart because her pitta was always overflowing with alfalfa sprouts. I complained about having to eat “healthy” and used to love going to friend’s houses to drink Kool-aid and eat Chips a’hoy cookies, but nowadays I’m so thankful for the 100% All natural juice we drank, the fruit juice sweetened animal biscuits, and everything always being whole wheat.

Later on, after we moved to Illinois, and later Wisconsin, I remember it as being a time of continual transition. We were looking for houses, churches, friends, schools. It took us a long time to really settle. When we finally found our house I remember weekends spent raking and burning leaves in the yard, but usually there was pizza and an old movie to look forward to that evening. Thanks to my mother, I know who Judy Garland, Fred Astair, Gene Cary, and Cary Grant are. During that time I struggled to make friends. I was shy, and could be a real homebody preferring to read a book than to go through the ordeal of making new friends. However my mother was always willing to drive me somewhere. When I found a youth group with some nice kids that I got on really well with, my parents thought nothing of driving me to visit the friends (some of them over 45 minutes away). She valued my having good friendships, and to this day, good friendships mean the world to me, and I will go out of my way to nurture them.

My mom always let me loose in the kitchen. I was probably only 10 years old when I was allowed to bake and cook with hardly any supervision. I am so appreciative of that nowadays. It gave me so much confidence.I always remember this whenever I’m tempted to shoo my kids out from under my feet when they want to help me bake.

Then of course there was the time I came home from a youth convention determined to go on a foreign mission trip. It was a desire so strong in me I thought I was going to explode. Instead of ignoring it, downplaying it, or hoping I’d grow out of it. My mother took me seriously. I didn’t have to “prove I was really serious” about it, and pass some sort of test. She spoke to people from our church, got in touch with missionaries we supported, and arranged to send me to Guatemala on my own for three weeks so I could experience missions.

How easy is it to think we have to have it all together before going into the ministry. We scrutinize others, question their motives, wonder if they’re mature enough, have enough experience, have the right attitude etc. Yet just as Jesus called his disciples who certainly didn’t have all their ducks in a row, and walked with them for three years, and set them loose on the world (while they still had issues), my mother was willing to let me go.  Jesus knew that God was bigger than all their imperfections, and he saw the big picture. My mother didn’t have the insight of Jesus to see into my future…but she risked it anyway.

That one trip changed my life’s trajectory. I was a quiet girl who could never imagine living overseas, and after that summer, I knew overseas was exactly where I belonged. Far away from home, far away from any church or youth group I knew, I had my own personal revelation of how big God was and received a vision for my life that influenced every decision I have made since.

Every summer after that my mother supported me financially, emotionally, and spiritually to travel on short term mission trips.  It was not easy for her. Although we travelled in a bubble, surrounded by excellent leaders, we were travelling to dangerous parts of the world, and anything could have happened to us. When I think of some of the crazy busses we rode on, the narrow country roads, out in the middle of nowhere, nearly kidnapped in Africa once but for God’s grace, and roughing it in a remote village in India, (where a close friend nearly lost her foot due to a poisonous scorpion bite),  my mom had the confidence that you usually only find in missionaries themselves who encourage their children to travel. Never once did I feel she was worried about me. She was just excited for me, and of course she prayed!

My mother’s releasing me during my teenage years to do all that was amazing. She was criticized by people, mostly fellow church members who felt it their place to tell her she should be saving for my college education instead of supporting me to travel.  She was questioned as to whether I was learning any real responsibility out on those mission trips like teenagers who spent the summer working proper jobs at fast food restaurants, and Six Flags Great America.  Now that I’m a parent, I know how annoying it can be to have your parenting choices scorned or disapproved of. I can only imagine what some people thought of her home educating me through high school, letting me travel etc.

My mom (and dad) took me to church every Sunday. We moved a few times, and we moved around a few churches, but we always went, and my mom always went out of her way to make sure I was able to be involved in youth groups etc. When I was five, she sent me to the Baptist church’s Awana club where I learned John 3:16, all the books of the Bible, and several other verses that I can recite to this day.  I know there were some who were convinced I was simply the “good Christian girl” because of her influence, and I don’t deny the home schooling, Sunday school going, Christian sub culture experience…however, I can honestly say that from a very young age…my faith was my own.

I don’t know how she did it, but I was somehow given the space to work it out for myself, within the  environment of her influence and the church’s.  I’m so thankful for that. So even in the later years when tensions inevitably rose in the home, (note to parents: just because your teenagers love God and go on mission trips…they’re still humans) I never questioned my faith or rebelled against it in order to have a go at my mother. It just never entered my mind to.

My mom was the one who pointed me in the direction of Central Bible College when I was so lost and confused about what to do after high school. She paid for my tuition so I never had to worry like other students did, neither did I have the weight of debt around me when I graduated. The decision to go there was my own though. When it got tough there, she was the first one to tell me I didn’t have to stay there.

Through tears she let me go. She let me get on a plane every summer from the age of 13-19, and go into the unknown. She left me on the CBC campus in a fully stocked dorm room at the age of 17, eight hours away from home. At 22 I got on a plane, and she had to let me go Ireland, as an adult, most likely suspecting that I would never really come back permanently.

I was still growing up when I was so far away. I still had so many lessons to learn, and was in need of so much grace. It was a tough time, despite being exciting. She always prayed for me, and although she questioned me at times, and most likely worried for me at times, was there when I rang her in the early hours of the morning in tears at the end of my rope. She was always on my side when it really mattered.

Later on, she let me go again…for good. She took me to the Trafford Centre and bought me a gorgeous dress, we had a lovely meal. I never really needed to describe how I wanted the church decorated for my wedding. She just knew, and she did it with so much joy, and it looked amazing. On the evening of my wedding, with hardly a moment for a proper goodbye, I was whisked away in a total blur of Ceilidh dancing, mad Irish people, and a swarm of New Lifers. (ironically, to get on a plane, and go somewhere overseas…Turkey for our honeymoon)

Packages of baby clothes started to arrive. Prenatal vitamins, and red raspberry leaf tea all came through the post. Nursing tops, (one that she had to buy twice because in a blur of sleep deprivation, I’d damaged it while getting it out of the package), and more baby clothes sent with love. There has been a steady stream of packages ever since….things for her little angels…but always something for me…a top, a package of healthy mac and cheese, or something random I’ve asked for.

My mom’s had to let go. A lot. I’ve been the one running off, growing up so fast. Yet, it’s often myself who still does not want to quite let go. “Mom, I need lemon witch hazel” I say over facebook…no hello, no how are you…just this instinct to ask her, just like my kids burst into the room and ask me for a drink. My mother may have allowed me to have experiences that meant I matured beyond my years quite quickly…but I have never grown up too much to stop being her daughter. I’m afraid she’s stuck with me.

Happy Mother’s Day to you mom….It’s hard to write about distinctive memories….when a mother’s presence is like the air….it’s an environment, that permeates everything. It’s so powerful….and amazing.

 

unravelled

I am nuts.

I’m addicted. I’m something. I don’t know. I had a lot to do today. Sort of. If you count printing and pealing and sticking labels for my Doula post cards….and getting ready for music practice tonight and getting dressed at some stage (kind of dreading getting that car now….knowing it’s going to shock me into the cold hard reality of school runs and responsibility…rather than just shoving my daughter out the door every morning)

In the midst of pealing and sticking, I suddenly heard the oven go off, and an ominous sound from the electrical box. I got up to look, and could not see any visible switch that was “tripped”. When faced with the prospect of your electricity being broken…with no internet access or computer capabilities, eat.

I got my baked ziti out of the oven and gobbled it up. Then I tried a few more things to try and sort it out…meaning I starred at the trip switch box, “fiddled” with it and somehow got our alarm system going which actually we don’t really use so it meant I had to go digging through the paperwork the previous home owners left to find a shrivel of paper with the code on it in order for it to stop beeping. Then I ate some cheesecake. Because..well, I couldn’t have any yesterday due to my new attempt at the 5:2 diet. But today I can. So I did. I ate the cheesecake then remembered there was left over chocolate in the bread bin from making the cheesecake. So I ate some of that. I had tried ringing Jon…but no answer so I scrolled through my whatssapp contacts hoping to find someone…anyone. Who? Jeff!! “Hey Jeff..welcome back” I write….hoping for an immediate response. Of course there isn’t one. Hmmm. I’m now feeling bloated from the cheesecake and chocolate. I then start to worry. What if it’s broken? What if this means paying an electrician a huge chunk of money to totally rewire our downstairs? This will make Jon more frustrated with life than he already is. *sigh*. It will also be annoying in itself, but when you’re married you often find you dread another person’s annoyance over an issue more than your own. I should take this time and tidy this place up, at least when Jon comes home to broken house, it will be clean. But I am too demotivated to tidy up when my security blanket of electricity has been yanked. It’s like huddling in a bed feeling cold, but being too cold to get up and turn the heating on. Ugh. I am really really really sad. So then I ring Jon again. He is not angry, rather quick to offer help. I imagine he envisioned an evening stretched before him with no computer access. He suggests I go through and turn all off the strip switches and turn them on again (I had done this before and was secretly relieved this was actually an ok thing to do and hadn’t made things worse). I then noticed one trip switch that didn’t look like the others, and I realized I hadn’t managed to turn that one off….ahhhhh ok. Got it. Working….great. *huge sigh of relief* I went and ate more chocolate. Then I went and noticed the oven had not recovered. Meh. So the oven is either broken….or broken…or…I don’t know. I even managed to change the fuses!

SO yet again another incident that highlights my many faults and inconsistencies and instabilities in life….note all of this was to the soundtrack of the CARS two top menu….the movie had been finished for ages….and was just blaring.

Phrases I think should be thrown out of Parent-speak.

There are many, but here are my top five. When I hear parents saying them, I can’t help but cringe inside. These phrases are ‘part of the lingo’ of parenting and parents, family members, and friends say them back and forth to each as part of a sort of script. I don’t think many people put much thought into it, and some would argue I am just being over sensitive and highly reactive and these are just sayings that mean little, are said with good intention, and certainly don’t give the full picture.  I’m sure my own mouth utters its share of mindless drivel from time to time, so maybe I should just chill and forgive the parent-script. But for the moment, there are the top five. I want to start by saying I AM SURE I HAVE SAID SOME OF THESE or else mindlessly nodded to others.

 

“What a greedy boy”

Says the grandmother or whoever who previously insisted the baby was “hungry” and needed Solid foods and now decides the baby is greedy. The thing is, you really cannot win when it comes to feeding your child solid food. Most mothers start because of the scientifically disproven but die hard generational old wives tale, that introducing solid food with “settle” the baby, and “get them used” to food. They are often pressured by friends, family, and even health professionals to start shovelling food in. So the weaning journey begins. However as soon as a mother masters spooning food into a baby’s mouth, (this is if their baby just happens to accept and grow accustomed to this form of feeding, which is again, a western/modern style of feeding a baby sold to us by the baby food industry and not biologically normal) when their child grows impatient waiting for the next spoonful while the mother is chatting to a friend, they are then showered with comments from friends/grandparents, and passer’s by like “what a greedy boy!” No. the baby is not greedy, they are just eating, and as babies love to be in control, they tend to grow frustrated waiting for the spoon. Spoon feeding is fine, it works for many parents, and I’m not condemning it, I was huge fan of Plum baby food pots for my daughter before I grew confident to do BLW with my son, I’m just saying….baby is NOT greedy. Grrrrrrrr

“You Just don’t know do you!”

Says the mother talking about breastfeeding. Now let’s not pretend in our breast phobic culture that breastfeeding is going to be easy for everyone. Most mothers have a few hurdles to get through before become becoming comfortable with it, and some more than others.  One of the reasons mother’s give up breastfeeding is the lack of belief in themselves, and confidence to know that their body is really doing its job.

Just because you cannot measure breast milk in a bottle does not mean “you just don’t know”. There are several signs that a baby is getting plenty of breast milk. In a very new baby, as soon as that Meconium comes out, you know that the colostrum has done its job. Then later when you get lots of wet nappies and poo’s with little seeds in them, you can feel confident that your baby is getting plenty. On top of that, you can obviously have your baby weighed regularly which will let you know generally if they are gaining weight or not and if there are real concerns you can get help from a health professional if need be. Whatever issue there may be with a baby’s ability to empty a breast, the solution is not just to “know how much”. It’s learning how to look for the right signs and growing in confidence. One thing we can know is that they are receiving the most normal source of nutrition for them which will provide them with everything they need, something that’s not so certain with other forms of infant feeding.  So actually, yes, we CAN know!!

“Is he/she a good baby”

Ok, I know I’m being picky here. We’ve all said it to the new mother. It’s one of the first things we ask after ooooing and ahhing. However a better question may be to ask to a mother, “how are YOU??” A baby who sleeps a lot and just happens to go long stretches  between feeds is no more “good”, than a baby who sleeps little and feeds frequently and seems to get a lot of trapped wind. I’m not denying that the latter baby may be more hard work, which is why I want to know and care very deeply how the mother is doing….I just don’t like phrases that imply that certain types of behaviours are good or bad in an infant, they can certainly be hard or easy, but once you start with using words like good or bad, it opens the door to realm of “good and bad” things YOU may or may not be DOING, which is discouraging and dis-empowering. It also perpetuates this notion that really, children should be seen and not heard. A baby who happens to make themselves known a bit more is probably a good thing.

“You’re making a rod for your own back!”

Says the mother/grandmother wryly to the mother who rushes to pick up her crying child, nurses or rocks her child to sleep, or uses any other instinctive form of parenting that happens to WORK in the moment. This phrase terrified me when I was a new mother. I felt like such a failure sitting around all day doing nothing but feeding, thinking I must be doing something wrong. “your child will never know who is really in charge” said a friend. How many precious newborn moments are ruined from worrying we’re doing it wrong?  Is responding to a crying baby, rocking it to sleep, etc hard work? Yes, it sure can be. Any investment is going to be hard work. It requires a pound of flesh at times. Do we need a break? Yes. Should mothers be martyrs, No. But the fact remains that responding to baby’s needs is normal. It simply makes sense. In what other stage of life do we completely ignore someone’s tears? Is a baby crying out for comfort the same as a 3 year old’s rage over not being given chocolate? No. it’s completely different. There is a race for independence as soon as the cord is cut in our culture, and many of us don’t value our role as a mother/comforter with our children. People encourage us to do the least amount possible in order to not form “bad habits” and to “make our lives easier”. The fact remains that having children is hard work. No matter how you slice it. Our lives will never be the same again.

Every baby is different and many babies genuinely need much more affection and comforting than others. Babies are not “manipulative” neither are they in any way capable of understanding our needs as parents. Attachment theory encourages us in that the more a babies needs are met in the earliest stages of life, the more independent they will be. Many parents who co-slept, breastfed on demand, rocked/walked/swung their babies to sleep are enjoying happy independent toddlers and older children now. Meeting a baby’s needs is not diametrically opposed to meeting your own. Certain comfort measures may only be for a season. Co-sleeping for a few months in the early days does not sentence you to it forever, neither does any other form of comfort that is working right now.

Don’t let our cultures misplaced values concerning independence get in the way of instincts!

“Just for Comfort”

This phrase is often used to describe a baby who nurses longer than expected, (or in a younger baby, one who nurses when they”couldn’t possibly” be hungry but that’s a whole other issue) In our culture this is anytime past six months and often around the 1 year mark. Any mother who manages to breastfeed for any length of time should feel good, and those who make it to six months or to a year are certainly few and far between.   Although it’s biologically normal, it’s not culturally normal, and many mothers have had to overcome a lot to get to the point they did. Yet often mothers will find themselves nursing a child longer than expected, and the questions will start to roll in. “how long to you plan to feed for?”  We know babies wean at various ages and stages, but many mothers make the decision to wean at whatever stage and often will state that the baby was “only nursing for comfort anyway”

The problem is, we have such a hang up about breasts, that we can only JUST about forgive breastfeeding based on the fact that it is so nutritionally perfect for our children. However, using the breast to comfort feels like it’s pushing it. It’s like our culture says “fair enough, it’s good for them nutritionally, but let’s draw the line after a certain (arbitrary) point”

Young children certainly need comforting. They get overstimulated, they can’t express themselves, they get frustrated, they get hit by other children, they get toys taken off them, they get tired, they get hungry, and they don’t always feel secure in certain situations. This is why they need parents. Mothers in particular were given a special tool for dealing with these normal baby/toddler needs that works instantly, and has several added benefits. So what’s the problem?

Why not nurse for comfort? It works. The only reason we don’t is because we may feel uncomfortable, but whose fault is that? It’s not our fault usually, it’s usually because weaning is elevated as some sort of milestone that once reached, is an accomplishment. (again going back to the race to independence) We also have fears that if we carry on after so many months they’ll NEVER stop, or that it will make them clingy and that we will never get our “bodies back”.

Here are some thoughts to consider:

Nursing is never technically just for comfort. There are massive nutritional benefits to drinking breast milk that do not suddenly dry up at the first birthday. Have a look here.

The longer a mother nurses, the longer she puts at bay risks of certain types of cancer. She’s making an investment in her body, not a sacrifice.

Many mothers find nursing their toddlers and older children helps them to be more independent. They have found it to be an invaluable tool that simply works.

Finally, the work of a mother to comfort her child is a beautiful picture. Hugs, kisses, cuddles, kind words, they are all invaluable. The breasts were designed for nourishment and comfort, and both are important. So if you want to say “He nurses for comfort” leave out the Just….

We all find ourselves following “the script”…but maybe we can try and write a new one that reflects our instincts, and is supported by information and facts. A script that does not perpetuate guilt and fear, but one that empowers.

 

 

 

My little Lion

Today was Judah’s dedication at church. For those of you who don’t know what that is..it’s sort of like a baptism, but it’s not that at all really. The only similarity is that it often takes place in a church, but it certainly doesn’t have to.  It’s mainly a time of thanking God for the life of a child and praying God’s blessing over their lives and praying for the parents and family and wider church family that we would all play our parts in nurturing the life of the child spiritually and emotionally….that we would be the best family we can be.

Sunday morning was a rush out the door. I was decorating cupcakes, mentally preparing for leading worship, everyone else was busy…we forgot our camera. Typical. So there are no good pictures to remember the day. No pictures of Judah in his gorgeous little Calvin Klein outfit, (except the one above, taken later in the day)  the purple T-shirt with the guitar across the front, or the chocolate cupcakes with purple frosting decorated with minstrels.  Never mind, the day was gorgeous. The sun was shinning and it was an unusually warm Sunday in April. Many of my friends turned up and it was such a joy to share the day with them as well as my church family at New Life.

My little boy, with the mass of blonde curls that may be messy but in my opinion are unashamedly gorgeous and beautiful. Like the mane of a lion. I find myself often having to repeat his name when asked. It’s not one of the more well known biblical names, but it’s a good strong one. If you google Judah on an image search, several pictures of Lions will come up. Jesus is often called “The Lion of Judah” which always makes me think of a Lion’s mane whenever I see his beautiful curly hair. He’s also got quite the roar on him that demands to be listened to and noticed…a shriek and a cry that could break glass….not to mention everyone’s ear drums. The amount of times I’m out and about and people turn to look whenever he’s given one of his famous shouts. I’m amazed at how strong he is. He can push his four year old sister off my lap with little effort. He seems to think whatever he wants is his right to take and own and snatch off people…oh the cringe-full moments to come at playgroup..the endless apologies…..I can see it all now…my little baby Lion.  But he can smile. His giggles and laughs brighten up a room like sunshine. They seem larger than he is. He kisses with his whole head. He nurses standing on my lap with his bum in the air. He crashes into me to give me a hug with the force of a battering ram, but his cuddles are soft and sweet. Although he can make a loud noise, he can also make the sweetest little sounds, including something that sounds almost like a purr….

Judah’s name means praise. In Genesis when Leah gave birth to Judah, her fourth son she said “I will praise the Lord” Leah had had a pretty rough time of it. Her husband did not love her, she was sharing him with her sister (who he did love) and even though she managed to give her husband many children, she never won his heart. In some ways her sad story is perhaps many women’s worst nightmares. But she said “I will praise the Lord”

Life certainly does not always turn out the way we imagine it. Things happen to us that we always thought only happened to other people. We make mistakes we thought only other people make. I know I have. Yet so many amazing things happen to us that we could have never dreamed up or imagined for ourselves. Our seaming mistakes and mis steps take us to places we never ever thought we would be.  We may not be living the life we dreamed of, or the life we thought we wanted, but we are being given the incredible gift of life every single day, and each day holds a potential that is unlimited.

My Judah has existed in three different countries. He has lived in six houses, and survived four major home moves. He came into my life when words like “transition”  “limbo” and phrases like “settling in” and “up in the air” were starting to wear thin. The ground was unsteady and it nearly swallowed us a few times within the first year of his life. Even before he was born, he’s felt like an angel to me…giving me hope and reminding me to praise God…no matter what the circumstance. When I turn to God and stop dwelling on the circumstances, I find my strength, and most importantly, I find my hope.

I sang “Desert Song” today. I first heard the song holding Judah stood at the back of a church I was visiting in the States. The words filled my soul with hope during a time when I was desperate for it. Every word of every verse resonated with where I was at that stage.  The desert, the fire, the battle….and even the harvest…all seemed to happen in the short space of a year, and through it all, I’ve known what I’ve been meant to do. To praise God for the beautiful gift of life he’s given me, not denying any reality of pain or hurt or disappointment, simply finding a place where I can praise Him in the midst of it all….because when I do that….it does not magically make the problems go away…but it reminds me of who God is…and my faith grows stronger, and I am flooded with hope.

So Judah, may you praise God in every season of your life to come. May it be an extraordinarily rich life full of blessing…but as you go through your trials, battles, and desert times…I pray that praise would rise from within you almost as an instinct. That you would be drawn to your Creator…and that you would know in the deepest parts of your heart and soul…that He is God and that he loves you more than anyone else, even me, who cannot imagine loving anything else as much as I love the beautiful family I’ve been given.

May praise be always on your lips. Psalm 34:1

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