Five Minute Friday – HOLD.

filtered-through-fingers-of-love**Five Minute Friday is an initiative set up by Lisa-Jo Baker over at Surprised by Motherhood. It has now been taken over by Kate over at Heading Home. The basic premise is to take the word Kate gives and write, non-stop for 5 minutes. Then you stop and post. Read more about it here.
My friend Claire at Life With Open Arms has been writing these for a while,on and off, and today I thought that I would give it a go.**

The prompt word is HOLD.

“This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.”  James 1:19-20

Start.

So, today I have had to realise that my temper and frustrations need to be put on hold, when my daughter shouts my name out for what seems like the millionth time, and I am trying desperately to nap.
She should be napping too. Or at least playing quietly. As should her little brother in the same room.

Instead, despite me asking her to go back to bed and stop yelling as -
she hasn’t pooed; No, I don’t know where Reverend Timms is (her little doll that looks just like the Rev from  the old school Postman Pat); and no she can’t ‘sleep’ in my bed, because we all know how that is going to go -
she keeps going, shouting at the top of her voice, pausing briefly whilst I wait to see if she will stop, before resuming several decibels louder.

My temper sadly didn’t hold, and I barked back at her pretty loudly and very crossly.
I was feeling desperate.
But she cried.
Normally I have more patience. Today I didn’t, and yet I was reminded of how much patience God has with us. With me.
I am human. But I need to let his love and patience flow in me more, and today I didn’t.
Not my proudest parenting moment.

I did however apologise to her, explain why she needed to allow me the space to myself during nap/quiet time. And then I held her. Close.

She is who I should hold. And my son. And who I should hold my temper for.
They are my precious gifts, given for me to love.
And I need to let God hold me in the tense moments.

Because everything is always better when we are being held close.

Isaiah 49 pic diffused

Stop.

Finding peace in the doldrums

IMG_9716I haven’t written anything for some time. Despite the energy and enthusiasm with which I began the first six months of my blogging adventure, I have been seriously lacking motivation since January arrived almost nine months ago.

It feels like a long time to have been in the blogging doldrums. Or maybe not. I realise others have been here too, probably for longer, so I cannot wallow.
But IMG_9885perhaps it’s time I pushed through this season of dryness.
After all, so much of writing, (or doing anything for that matter) is about showing up at the page and committing to it. Half-hearted attempts never take you anywhere interesting, and it is hard to grow if you never allow yourself to be stretched.

Part of me wonders if I have simply had little to say over the past nine months, but then those who know me well would probably chuckle at the suggestion. Especially since nine months is enough time to conceive and gestate a whole new life inside a womb. Is it possible that I have been subconciously sitting back and allowing the seed to put down some roots?
Perhaps I have needed to listen more. It’s hard to hear clearly if you are always talking.

It hasn’t felt quiet.
The past nine months have been slow, exhausting and frustrating for me in many ways.
I had some low-grade background virus in my system that seemed to linger throughout much of January and February, mostly just tiring me out, giving me occasional dizzy spells, and leaving me lacking in energy to complete many basic tasks. It was nothing really serious, but felt like when your computer is functioning much more slowly, as energy is quietly being sapped by a program running in the background.
We wondered if I could be pregnant, and hoped that I was, at least that would provide some explanation for my symptoms. But the tests came back negative.

IMG_9533In March my husband and I conceived our third child, (the third month in a row that we took a test) which was absolutely wonderful news, and we were delighted. But then the morning (or whatever time of the day it chooses to strike) sickness hit me. This time it was the worst I have ever had it in intensity, but mercifully the season was also quicker than before to pass.

We had some highly amusing moments with our daughter, who is a compassionate and perceptive girl, whilst having to dart for a sick bowl.
She would at one moment be all concerned for me, asking me IMG_9741

“You ok Mummy? You feel a bit sick?”

before seconds after it had passed, grabbing her own bucket, making retching sounds and then giggling up at us. It certainly eased my frustration at feeling out of sorts.

As I moved into my second trimester, I found that I had a bit more energy and started to enjoy late spring change into early summer. We got out of the house more, and joined the zoo meeting up with a group of home educators and their children, on a semi-regular basis.

We also spent more time outdoors and in the garden, which I find instantly lifts my mood. I have had the pleasure of watching our son learn to walk, and then take great delight in escaping round the house, or out of doors, at speed and with a focus and pleasure in his own space that would warm your heart.

In late May we went to house-sit for some friends down in Gosport, right near the beach, thereby aqquiring a free holiday, and I was reminded just how much I love and miss being near the sea. It actually made me quite melancholy, because being there brought into sharp focus something that I long to have in my life, but never realised how much.

IMG_9601It was a wonderful break.
For just under a week, we walked along the beach, drank coffee out, let the two kids go nuts at the splash park, and stop watching the television for a while. G had her first ever ice cream, a mini-milk (I was glad to see that they are still being made, though sadly no longer only 20p!) which she thoroughly enjoyed, and our son wandered up and down the promenade relentlessly, enjoying his new-found freedom. We were kept on our toes following him around, as his direction was very unpredictable.
But as usual, it didn’t feel long enough, and no sooner had we relaxed into it, than it was time to go home again.

Part of the challenge for us this last year has been the amount of extra work my husband has put in to his job, and any additional work that has come his way, to the detriment of breathing space for him, as a family and any real quality time for the two of us.
He has also had a very hectic summer, as is the nature of his job, but this time it felt too much for me, especially the week that he was away for six days. Despite having help here with the kids, it was not the same as having him home with us.
Coupled with children, who between them have not slept through the night with any real consistency this year, it has been very emotionally draining, wearing us out, and taking a toll on my pregnant body.

However, God is good. We have had many, many beautiful moments together, lots of laughter, a few tears, and so much joy.

I understand better what it means to rejoice whether or not I am feeling joyful, because even in my lowest moments when I have felt so run-down, lonely and exhausted, that I have cried myself to sleep at 7:30pm, I have known that God is close to me. That he has neither abandoned nor left me to fend for myself, but has comforted and listened to me pour out my heart to him. He has not allowed the hope that sits in my heart to ever completely go out, and for that I am immensely grateful.wpid-DSC_0391.jpg

So, my house has regularly been in various states of disarray. So, I have had a lot of flopping out on the sofa days whilst my children watch the television. So, I have thrown the dinner together with much less care than I would like, whilst my darling husband comes home from work briefly to tidy up around us. I am not condemned.

I am beloved of Him who made me.
I am loved by my husband who is so generous, and by my children whose open-hearted patience and curiousity take my breath away.
And I have some wonderful friends who I can lean on, or call up when I am having a melt-down and just need some support when flying solo during the dinner/bath/bed routine.

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!  Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.” Philippians 4:4-5

 

I don’t know if this is the kind of post which appeals to many people, or whether it is just something that I write to get out of my system, but I hope it blesses some of you other mothers out there. May you know that you are doing a great job as long as you are even trying to do what is best for your children, that everything happens in seasons, and you are not alone.

I am still tired, still under the weather, still pregnant (for another few months at least), and My new DSLR first round pics 121still alternating between gloriously creative, productive days, and those where if we get out of the house to the back garden it has been an achievement.
The work-load of my husband has eased, but we are still catching up without sleep.
Yet I know that I am not alone. My marriage and my motherhood are in God’s hands because I choose let him be in charge of it, and he is far more able to sustain them than I am.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

Letting ‘My Life’ go…

Once again I find myself wrestling with surrender. I have walked this way before.jacob wrestles angel

Challenged to release my sense of timing into God’s hands, and trust him with my need to see my ‘life as I imagined’, take shape at the speed I want.
It appears to be an on-going process, always requiring another stretch of faith, another decision to extend my trust.

At age eleven, I went to a christian summer camp and was really desperate to find out what God wanted me to do with my life. Our small group leader told us that because God longs to give us the desires of our hearts, our best option would be to pray for a deep desire for whatever he had in store for us. So I did.

At thirteen, having taken part in various school and amateur stage productions, I realised that nothing made me happier than being part of a rehearsal and performance process, and that I never felt more alive than when acting or performing on stage. I kept praying about it, joyfully concluding that I wanted to be an actress, spending my professional life telling people’s stories, walking them out for others to be moved and inspired by.
I spent the next few years researching how to go about this. stage moment 2

Drama school was the obvious and best choice as far as I could tell, and so I learnt my classical and modern monologues, worked hard and auditioned at Guildhall and Central. Obstacle One – I didn’t get through the initial rounds at either college.

Utterly devastated and confused, I realised that I was facing an unplanned year out. That year I worked, spent too much money, partied too hard, but had to trust God’s timing and so, I re-applied, this time for six colleges.

Having visited Guildhall and Central the year before, I was convinced that Central was where I wanted to go. I did a lot of praying and worrying, but found that I was much more successful this time around. I leapt through the various rounds at RADA, Bristol Old Vic and Central School of Speech and Drama, finally being offered my dream place at Central. I was over the moon.

However, despite being utterly amazing, the experience of drama school was challenging to the extreme, exhausting and made me come face to face with who I really was – something which most of us spend our lives avoiding, and it cost me depression and a near nervous breakdown at the end of my first year.

Yet God used that time to grow me.
He showed me just how big his love and grace really are, and I came through the fog into a greater sense of freedom and clarity about who I was, and how God felt about me.
Subsequently I was more focussed and professional in my work.
An additional bonus from this experience, was the courage to take bigger risks creatively, and to be braver. Because when ‘God is for you, who can be against you?’ – you can’t really fall that far.

I thought that that would be it from there on in.
A steady climb of growth and success through college (this did happen), followed by a season at the National Theatre or Royal Shakespeare Company immediately following graduation, and then continued advancement until I was my version of Judi Dench- this, however, did not happen.


I did well in my final year, and in my professional showcase, but obstacle two, I wasn’t signed to any agency, and so my meteoric rise to respected stardom didn’t go the way I wanted. Which frankly, was disappointing.

 

stage momentI have worked as a professional actress on some really wonderful and exciting projects since leaving drama school – including three tours, a friend’s beautiful new musical, and being a founder member of a Christian devising theatre company, among other things – and I feel proud to have been able to work and earn in my chosen profession.

It has been throughout these past eight years since leaving drama school, that I have had to learn to trust God’s plan for my life and his timing the most.

It’s hard being an actress when you aren’t acting.
When people ask you about your profession, they then expect to have seen you in something on television. Whilst a perfectly plausible aspect of an acting career, it isn’t automatically the nature of being a working actor, at least not for most. Because unless you’ve had a big break of some kind, getting offered high profile work left, right and centre is rare, and even then may only be for a season.
Frustratingly, a massive chunk of my profession is out of work at any given time, and to be paid a reasonable living wage, working on a project which is intelligent and interesting, is something of a Russian roulette.

The interested question of “What have you been in? usually followed by an answer like
“A few small scale tours, several rehearsed readings, and a devised work-in-progress piece – which you most likely wont have seen”, can be quite deflating when those jobs were six months apart.
And even that was all nearly four years ago.

Especially if for whatever reason, God isn’t promoting you right now.
And doesn’t seem to be planning to any time soon.
At least, not in the way you would like.

Since getting married and having children, I’ve had to wrestle the desire to spend my days working on a play or film, something which despite several years of no acting work, has never left me, and I miss A LOT – with the genuine sense of joy at and commitment to being a full time Mum, educating my children and, what I see as an even deeper sense of calling – to build God’s kingdom at a grassroots level in my family.

So we are back atSurrender’.

It’s not about giving up the desires you desperately want and dream of, but trusting that the one who gave all your talents and drives to you
A) has no intention of diddling you out of them, but actually knows better and has a bigger purpose for you to fulfill, and
B) will give them back to you at the right time. When it will bring Him glory and will best bless you.

But if you aren’t sure of the goodness and character of this God who apparently loves you, it can be a very painful place to be.
If you don’t know that


‘[He] works all things for the good, for those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose.’

(Romans 8:28),

then you can feel as though you have been dumped at the armpit of the universe, and frankly, need to start ‘making it happen’ for yourself.

I have been here. It is not pretty. And I have wasted a lot of energy and effort (and in some cases money) banging on doors that wouldn’t, and were never intended to open for me.

BUT what God has been teaching me, is that his kingdom and the way it works, is COMPLETELY CRAZY IN THE EYES OF THE WORLD!
It is upside down.

‘Then Jesus said to His disciples,
“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.
For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?…”

(Matthew 16:24-26)

God’s idea of promoting us, is not the same as ours.
His values are (until we start to become more like him) not like ours.
So we need to catch His vision for our lives, rather than trying to make him bless and fulfil our own. We are his.

God has lately been promoting me in the areas of marriage and motherhood. We have two children and I’m currently pregnant with our third. This is where he wants me right now.

So I have the choice to fight Him,  and try to be and do everything I long to now - making sacrifices and working away from home, which would not currently be right for our family -
Or I can choose to be truly present in this moment, in this season. To trust that my longing to act in the mainstream business and to work with Judi Dench, will be fulfilled (possibly not in the way I imagine), at a time in the future when it will be for His glory and my greatest joy.
But even if it doesn’t happen, I trust that God will have changed my heart in such a way, that I will not have missed out, or felt as though I had. However this goes – He is still God. He is good.

So I surrender, confident of his love for me, and ask to catch His vision for my part in the building of his kingdom.

For now, I will be content with being a full time Mum, educator to my children, and joyful woman – singing and finding creative expression at home and at church.
It means answering the questions about ‘what I do’, with a smile and lack of self-justification, because, my identity isn’t wrapped up in being an actress, or even as a wife and mother, though it’s how I tick and is still a part of me.
But my identity is found in Jesus, as a child of God, and whilst seasons will come and go –  this will never change.

I am learning to live as though my life is not my own, which is not always easy.
Sometimes I cry and rail at God. Other times I feel at peace.

But I am not in charge.
He is.
And I wouldn’t have it another way.