Gypsy, Dreams and God Moments

 

‘Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.’
Psalm 37:4 (ESV)

So, it’s that time of year when we were all supposed to make resolutions to be better versions of ourselves, and usually have failed miserably by this point in January. It has become such a standard expectation, that even when we don’t really subscribe to the idea, we still find ourselves having made half promises to be and do better, and then when we fail, brush off the disappointment with a ‘well I don’t really believe in making New Year’s Resolutions anyhow’. So why does it still seem to get under our skin?

I think that we have a God given desire to dream, to realise these dreams, and to speak them into existence. As we commit to voicing them, we in turn, become more open to receiving what we dream of, always supposing that we have surrendered any idea that we can ‘make it happen’.

I don’t know about you, but I am a natural control freak, I like the idea that I am in charge of my destiny and that I am both capable and determined enough, to bend the world around me into the shape I require. Yet experience has taught me that this is not so.

I can no more bend the world into the shape which suits me, any more that I can force someone to love or like me, or stop time. And if I really think about this, I wouldn’t want to. Just as I wouldn’t want to be forced but invited, I can only invite the world to join me on my adventures, only invite someone to know me, trusting that friendship may follow. If it were forced, then it wouldn’t last, and it wouldn’t be true, and at some point everything would come crashing down on me, and I would be left ineptly attempting to rebuild and sustain the wreckage.

However, I can learn to line up my thoughts with the one who does promise to hold me, who draws out the poison and allows my wounds to heal perfectly. The one who calls me to be part of an adventure, one far bigger than myself, for which I have been designed and designated a strategic role to play.

I can invest time, care and love into the relationships with which I have been entrusted.

I can learn to speak life and blessing over my time, my dreams and my relationships, and I can learn to trust – a really hard word which requires so much surrender and comparatively little tangible ‘doing’ – that what is good and best for me, and God’s glory, will come to fruition at exactly the right time, in the right way. This is sometimes SO hard to wait for.Gypsy 1

I went to see Gypsy at the Savoy Theatre in London at the end of November, and it blew me away, something which I find happens all too rarely. I watched Imelda Staunton give a heart-stopping performance as Momma Rose, and found myself wanting to remain there, in that bubble of theatrical magic, for a very long time. I also looked at the role, and felt my heart say “That’s mine, I can do that, in time. I want to do that.” Suffice to say, it has been a very long time since I felt so strongly about a role. Gypsy 2

My heart was moved by the quality of the show and performances, and by the subject matter – the dignity of people, and the desperate cries of mothers and daughters in pain and yearning to be loved, unconditionally. And I once again felt that deep desperation I used to feel all the time, especially pre-drama school, to be who I am called to be and to give life to the huge potential and unstoppable capacity to dream I have inside of me.

I have barely stopped talking about Gypsy since.
I received the sound track for Christmas, and when I missed the live showing, my wonderful husband found it on BBC iplayer and downloaded it for me, so I have had the joy of watching it again several times.

This has been both to re-capture and better understand something of what happened to my heart that night. Because it wasn’t simply the joy of seeing a great piece of theatre and a masterful performance, it wasn’t even the connection with a cry of brokenness that is international and sometimes overwhelming. But it was a God moment. Not the show itself, amazing as it was, but one of those moments when God pulls you up out of sleep, into a full wakefulness, and shows you something of his purpose for your life. When He reveals something deep in your spirit which either you never knew was there, or in this case, had had to allow yourself to let go of.

Like being pulled out of sleep at any time, it is uncomfortable and exciting and surprising all at once. I am feeling more alive, more tender and more emotional. That desperate passion which had been building over the past few months feels as though it has come to a head, and I am not sure what to do with it. I miss acting and working as an actress more than I can express, and yet have willingly laid it down in front of a God who made me that way, knowing and trusting that he will either return it to me better than I could have dreamed, or given me something even better instead.

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I absolutely LOVE, LOVE, LOVE my children, and see the legacy which I am leaving written in and through their lives as WAY more valuable than anything I could achieve on stage or in film. I truly enjoy being a full time mother, and am committed to being a home educator because we are convinced that this is the best way forward for our family. I have never once missed working (or the hope of work), more than I have delighted in and willingly given my heart to spending my days walking alongside three amazing children, and helping them navigate what adventures and purpose they are called to. And I have repeatedly asked God to take away my desire for acting if it is not his purpose for me.

Yet it hasn’t gone. It has periodically reared its head, and now feels more present than ever. I can only assume that I still have acting adventures to come.

But I have no idea of what these are, how they will look, or when they will be. I have no idea how these dreams of acting, marriage, motherhood and home educating will work together, but I know the God who makes the impossible possible, so I am certain that He knows how.

Therefore my plan, if you can call it such, is not to try and bend opportunities and people into the shape I am dreaming of. But instead to hand all of this over to the one who is eternal and therefore knows the best time and way for all of this to occur. HE can shoulder all of the responsibility needed to see these dreams called into being, and I shall ask Him to keep my heart and eyes open to see the moments which need seizing, plus the courage to seize them. I will continue to live and walk in His grace, building my relationships and seeing my family grow. This is the only way I can find peace, so watch this space.

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.” Zecharaiah 4:10 (NLT)

To Trolls Foreign And Domestic

Thanks for stopping by,
But I didn’t ask you to stay.
You are welcome to look in,
To see what I have to say,
But if you don’t like it,
That’s fine –
Don’t stay.

I have ideas, vision,
Which matter immensely to me –
But I don’t expect us all to share,
Or even care about the same.

I am not ashamed,
Just convinced –
Hence the commitment to offering a perspective,
Boldly putting outside of me,
What may not necessarily
be only
my opinion.
If I didn’t think it offered truth,
I wouldn’t share.

If this bothers you,
I am sorry to disappoint.
Open to open-hearted dialogue,
I take no interest in getting
Bogged down in a slanging match.

Please don’t troll,
Lying in wait under a bridge until you are ready to pounce –
Because that’s what it feels like.

As though you declare that I have no right to share my views,
That news and research are invalid,
And conclusions drawn are mere idiocy.

I don’t hound you this way.

If you truly want to discuss –
I am open,
Interested.
But when you just want to argue –
I will not play ball.

So let’s agree to disagree,
And if my take on things bothers you that much –
Stop showing up.

HO HO Who?

Father christmas


“He’s making a list,
he’s checking it twice,

He’s gonna find out who’s
naughty or nice,

Santa Claus is coming to town.”
(performed by the Jackson 5.)

Or is he?

I realise that this could be somewhat controversial, but my husband and I have decided NOT to tell our children that Father Christmas is real. He wont be questioning whether they are naughty or nice each year, and he wont be coming down our chimney. Especially since we don’t have one.

I grew up believing in Father Christmas. My parents didn’t do the dressing up part of things, but we wrote him letters, we did have stockings, and we did put out a mince pie, a glass of something and a carrot for Rudolph.
And I loved it.

They did a great job. I was utterly convinced.
So convinced in fact, that even in the face of some of my school friends attempting to burst the bubble, and in conversations with other adults who, whilst not actually undermining the idea, gave me a hint that they didn’t believe in him, I adamantly refused to waver – accusing them of not having enough faith, and subsequently not deserving to have him visit. I think my Mum had to gently challenge me not to be so fervent in conversation with others, because I was coming off a bit rude.

I held on to this until the end of year five, not so long before my tenth birthday in the summer.
I had begun to question, after years of arguing with people, whether there may or may not be some truth to their insistence that I was being duped.
This had also come at a time when I had recently given my life to Jesus, and was wondering how, there only being one powerful God, was reconcilable with the magic of a jolly, fat man, flying round the world filling every child’s stockings with presents in one night. So I did the sensible thing, and asked my Mum a direct question about whether it was actually all true.

DSC00947We were in the last weeks of Advent, so Mum told me to ask her again on Christmas night. I was highly suspicious at this point, and thought that if it was going to be bad news, why on earth would I want to hear it on Chrismas Day – one of the most joyful days of the year and the climax of all the build up – so I didn’t bother. Instead I left it until the summer, when I finally got my answer.
She told me about St. Nicholas, and that he had been real, but that the actual Father Christmas idea was not true.
I was gutted.

Always with a flair for the dramatics, I think I said to her something like –
“So many times you have lied to me!” to which Mum understandably got a little irked and defensive, and told me not to be so ridiculous, that it was only this one thing.
I had simply meant that she (and Dad) had continued to perpetuate the myth.

I was a good big sister though, and as the eldest of four I diligently kept the secret for my siblings and continued to honour the story, although I am not sure that they were as bothered as me when they eventually found out the truth.IMG_0607

I have since discussed with my parents many times, their decision to tell us about Father Christmas. It was my Mum’s idea as she had grown up with it, whereas Dad had been the annoying kid at school (his words, not mine) who went around telling his schoolmates that there was no such person. However they both agreed that it had been really lovely hearing our delighted voices from downstairs opening our stocking presents and shouting
“Oh, Thank you Santa!!!”, knowing that we didn’t know it was them who had done it all.
I can see the appeal. Giving anonymously, and yet having the pleasure of seeing the response, is always a huge blessing.

However, the more that I come to know Jesus and grow in my faith, the more I am convinced that honesty and transparency are both vital and right. Particularly in a world which is filled with deception and lies, it falls on us where we know the truth, to stand apart in telling it, refusing to just go along with the norm.

I know that as parents, we will make loads of mistakes. I will probably inadvertently teach my children things which are wrong or shortsighted

But I don’t want to tell them untruths when I have the capacity to choose to avoid it. I don’t want to lie to my children.

And I don’t want them to ever doubt our trustworthiness as parents.
Who’s to say that my choosing to tell, what many would consider a white lie, won’t subtly communicate to their tender, impressionable hearts, that even the people they most rely upon are not safe to trust?

I want them to know that we can be relied on to help them navigate what is true, what is right and wrong, and how to view themselves and others, with integrity.

Like all parents, I have their best interests at the forefront of my mind when making choices on their behalf. But in preparing them to be all that they can be in the world, I can’t afford to let them feel that maybe they aren’t respected enough to be told the truth, in an appropriate manner.
angels and shepherds

My other problem with a lot of this is the subtle ‘truths’ about faith which are communicated to our kids through this idea.

  •  How can I knowingly ask them to believe in something that I know to be a lie?
  • When they do find out, how can I still expect them to believe in a God who they can’t see, who many others will declare is a myth?
  • Many people do make this transition fine, but how many more have found that this disappointment, among many others, has left a mark on their ability to trust someone unseen?
  • And particularly, how can I teach them about unconditional love? About the nature of GRACE (God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense), if I am perpetuating the lie that someone is keeping a list of who will get presents based on whether they were good enough all year?!?
    This feels too much like manipulation, and I have no wish to hold that over them.

    My children will have many hurts in this life, some of them will inevitably be at my hands, but I would never knowingly choose to hurt them, however minor it was. So why should I set them up for a fall, even a small one, with Father Christmas?

    So instead, we give stockings filled with a few small gifts- something to play with, to cuddle, to read, something godly perhaps, and a piece of fruit to start the day with – the clementine was always a favourite of my childhood stockings.
    As they get older we’ll add something for them give away.  There is no need for hundreds of toys, just a few meaningful, thoughtful things, and second hand stuff is great.
    A stocking is fun, and certainly a practical way of holding back the start of Christmas day until at least a vaguely reasonable hour (here’s hoping- HA!), but the presents will be from us.

    Father ChristmaspoohandpigletGruffalo

    In our family, we talk about Father Christmas as an amazing character, like the Gruffalo, or Winnie The Pooh – a part of the festive decoration.

    We will tell our kids of the story of St. Nick who, upon hearing of a destitute family of young women on the brink of prostitution, chose to anonymously gift them a purse of money to make ends meet – by dropping it down their chimney.

    his_nameWe can talk of the graciousness of God becoming human, as a vulnerable baby to a poor couple, just so that we could know that He knows how hard it is, that he gets it. To discover the permanent freedom and peace he offers us for eternity – starting now.
    That grace is not about balancing our good works versus bad deeds on the scale of rewards, but about receiving our reward regardless of how ‘deserving’ we may feel we are. Because, after all the tinsel and food, Christmas is actually about the arrival of the baby Jesus.

    Every family is different, and we all make the decisions we feel are the best ones. Therefore if you practice expecting Father Christmas, please don’t feel condemned by this post- you are not. These are our thoughts, this is our journey…. My husband and I simply find it helpful to periodically re-examine our choices with an open heart. If they are right we can be confident in them and if there is a better way, we can always make changes.

    This Christmas we shall still experience the joy of anonymous giving, by choosing to bless those in real need of help, and by trusting that our Father in heaven is pleased with us.
    And we shall trust that Jesus is gift enough.