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.

Date Night Ideas When At Home With The Tots

vodka_martini

If you are like us- don’t have tons of expendable cash, work several evenings and have small children (we currently have two, aged two and one, and a third in the oven)- then you’ll know the challenges of setting aside regular quality time to spend with your spouse.

Either you have the bedtime routine down, but babysitters don’t come cheap, and there is a limit to how many favours you can call in, or even if going out was an option, you are so tired by the time the evening rolls around, that you don’t want to go anywhere.

Have no fear- there are some fantastic things you can do together at home, which will make the evening pretty special and only take an hour or so.

We really have to work at keeping our ‘Date Night’.
Too often it gets eroded in the craziness of life, but I’m convinced that if we want to continue to connect and grow in love with our spouse, we need to make having designated, quality time together, a top priority.

So here are just a few fun, affordable, home-based date ideas that we have either done or have on our to do list.

1: James Bond Night vesper-martini-006
(obviously this can be adapted, if James Bond isn’t your thing.)
Dress up in your finest tuxedo/bond girl formal dress, mix up a cocktail and drink from your ‘nice’ glasses, dim the lights, sit at a little table in your living room and watch a Bond movie. If you have access to surround sound and a projector- even better.

2: Dig out the cards
Unless you are already a big card-playing family, chances are you’ve forgotten just how much fun (and competitive) a good game of cards can be. Set up some snacks and drinks and play at your dining table. Cribbage is our favourite, but if you are stuck for ideas, there are a ton of suggestions and rules of play online.

3: Get Messyfinger painting swirl
How much fun do your little ones have getting their hands into all things gooey and messy? If they are anything like my two, then you probably have to cover everything with protective gear (or spend a lot of time cleaning up)! So why not do something simillar as a couple?

I’m not suggesting making mud pies in the garden (although that could be fun if it is up your street), but why not lay out a big sheet of paper and try foot painting together? Or finger painting? Or make some bread together, by hand, whilst listening to music? The options are many, and there is something about being practical, tactile and creative, which allows for good conversation.

4: Play Desert Island Discs
Pick three favourite songs that you would take if you were stuck on a desert island, and share them with each other. Take it in turns, and explain what you love about each track and why they are important to you. You may discover something about your spouse that you didn’t know.

5: People-Watching
If you have a front garden or balcony etc. which overlooks a street, then get wrapped up warm (depending on weather and time of year)couple on bench, prepare a beverage of your choice, take some chairs outside, leave your phones and social media inside, and sit together, watching the world go by.
If you don’t overlook a street, just sit watching the birds/stars/nature.
This can be a real challenge if you struggle with stillness, but is a wonderful way to slow down in order to connect with each other, and your surroundings.

6: Throw a Private Boogie Night
Push some furniture aside in your biggest living space, plug in some coloured fairy lights and turn off the main light. Draw the curtains, turn up some favourite music and procceed to dance your hearts out.
It’s important to remember, that unless seriously good quality dancing is your mutual skill, then stupid, exhuberant moves are the order of the evening, and if they have names like ‘The Lawnmower’  (my husband wants credit for this one?!) then so much the better!
The goal is to have fun, let off some steam and enjoy being silly and playful together knowing that you are loved unconditionally.

7: Dream together…
Write the numbers 1-10 down a piece of paper, and give yourselves one minute on a stop-watch to jot down the first ten things, you would like to do, places you want to visit, dreams you would love to fulfil if money, time and opportunity were no object. Then share your answers and talk about them. You may be surprised by what you wrote under pressure from the clock, and even more so if you both wrote some of the same things.
You could repeat this task with other criteria if you so desired.

8: Boardgamesboard game stash
Dig out Scrabble, Pictionary, or whatever your boardgame stash reveals, and play that for the evening. Try to choose a game that still works well with only two people (monopoly isn’t the greatest for this), and maybe start a tournament which you can continue over several subsequent date nights. Or make up your own game!

9: Go to bed together
You don’t need me to spell it out. If your kids are asleep, seize the moment!

Whatever you come up with, just enjoy being together and connecting as intimate friends who make each other giggle. There is so much stress and seriousness involved in the business of ‘doing life’ together, that it is such a gift to take moments out of the madness to simply be playmates together.

I hope that this gives you some fun ideas, and I’d love to hear how you got on, or indeed any other ideas for ‘date nights at home’ you may have. Please feel free to leave a comment.

Man of my life.

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My husband is utterly wonderful.
I have been blessed with the kindest, godliest, most loving man I could have asked for.

Today I hit a bit of a wall- I ran out of energy, patience, emotional stability (although thankfully this only manifested in a bit of a weepy phone call and a voice slightly raised in frustrated caution, when my son attempted to crawl head-first down the garden steps- I stopped him) due to being under the weather with feeling sick and exhausted.
So my amazing man came home earlier than planned, fed the kids and let me sleep until 4pm when he had to return to work for the evening.
I am so very grateful.

He is tired too, and we are counting the days until we have some proper time off- it will have been almost six months coming.
Needless to say we need a break, but I also recognise how good God is and how well marriage can work when we pick up the slack where the other is struggling.
It’s not about being legalistically and exactly even about what we do, but in sharing the load and carrying one another forward when our legs give way, trusting God to supply the energy when our reserves run dry.

His act of kindness and support to me this afternoon, meant that I could recover a little and then be better company for my children, and subsequently the dinner, bath and bed time routine went very smoothly, despite doing it alone.

My beloved man does a great many things like this. Despite his tiredness or mind being occupied with a thousand and one things, he makes time to play and be with his children every day, and is a fantastic father. He helps with the endless housework, cooks alongside me and cares for us in the tenderest ways.

I love him. And thank God for him every day. May God also bless your marriages and families, and give you his unending strength when you don’t know how you will even face the day ahead. He is always faithful.