Growing pains and grace gains.

 

So it’s been a while. I have missed you.

We are now five, havIMG_1103e been since the end of last year, and are getting more and more used to life as an expanded family. Our Daughter (O) is growing fast and we are discovering more of her personality daily – she is funny, determined, sweet, loud and vocal (rather like her mother and older sister (G)) and a delight to have around. She adores her siblings, especially G, and the two of them are so excited to see one another each morning that it lifts my heart.
Her and her brother (I) seem to have the same taste in noisy toys, which can be a challenge, however on the whole and despite his two and a half years, he is immensely patient with her. He also seems to enjoy watching her, and I often catch him smiling at her antics. Three kids in just under three years certainly gives us lots to work with.

We have moved, and now live in the next town along, in a smaller yet spacious cottage with two rooms fewer and no garden of our own.
God has once again provided generously, and we are happy, blessed with amazing neighbours who have young children and who let us use their garden space freely. We are walking distance to town, the local park, ballet lessons, the library and a huge parkland, not to mention on the same road as a pub and several takeaway establishmens – all highly convenient.
We are also in an old fashioned yard, which gives the feeling of having travelled back sixty years or so, to a time where community was more obvious and open. We have in just three months, already shared several evening beers, numerous conversations and one ‘yard bbq’, and our children all enjoy the interraction with one another.
It sounds idyllic, and in truth it is lovely.

That said, it has once again been quite a hard and hectic year.
There was more tragic death in the family, tough work challenges, and the simple feat of trying to stay afloat above a sea of sleepless nights, breastfeeding, no evenings to ourselves (as O doesn’t usually go down until 9:30-10pm) has left us with the feeling of exhaustedly treading water. However, we are slowly beginning to dream again and as O is getting bigger, things are becoming more manageable – either that or we are just more adept at handling it all – probably a mix of both.

I have a tendency towards melancholy, which thankfully stops short of full on depression, and is particularly likely to rear it’s head when I have unable to get out of the house all day. This can leave me in a bit of a funk when P (my husband) is away, or I am just too exhausted to make a decision about even the simplest things.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOUL, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30

It is here, in the maelstrom of emotions, breast-feeding/post-baby hormones, a dirty IMG_1078bathroom, piles of clean washing and used dishes, three gorgeous children who all want a piece of me, simultaneously, no time to myself to pee (all mums have been here!) let alone do something creative and/or beautiful, that I have had to ask for help.
Which can be hard.
Or let P ask for me.Which can be even harder.

I don’t want to be an inconvenience to people where they may already be overloaded, so we have asked people who we can trust to say no if they are unable or in that instance, disinclined.
I also want to know that someone won’t look at the big ball of crazy (our home  sometimes), or the even bigger ball of crazy (me), and (directly or indirectly) either judge it or tell us to suck it up because we chose to let God determine the size and spacing of our family. So we have asked people who love us, and who take us as we are.

But in this, I have had to let God work on the pride in my heart, letting me better discern whether I just need to vent my frustrations, or if I am just being too stubborn to allow anyone to see me be at my most vulnerable, wishing instead to wallow and hide.
It means that I have also accepted help from anyone who has been kind enough to offer it. Learning to trust that God approves of me irrespective of anyone else’s opinion, and that HIS audience and HIS acceptance is enough.
That HIS grace can supply everything.

And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Phillipians 4:19

We have been richly blessed with kind and generous friends who have gone out of their way to lovingly support us: as an extra pair of hands at dinner and bath time; shopping for us; entertaining our children whilst we attended to vital jobs; babysat; funded some of our necessary moving expenses; helped us move all of our stuff to our new home; cleaned and gardened in our old home; supported us faithfully in prayer and kept me company when I just needed someone to be with me so that I wouldn’t lose the plot.

Some of these people have been close friends, but many were from our extended church family, a few I had never even met before, and they gave their time and energy in an expression of love and community.

And I have once again discovered what it means to be strong, to be capable.

It means to utilise your gifts to the best of your ability.
To know your limits and not be ashamed of them, but to ask for help.

It means not choosing to pretend that you have it all together, or can do everything, but to actually lean on others who are willing to take your weight. Really let them feel the weight and give it to them. A little like actually sitting on someones lap when you are not self concious of how heavy you are, receiving help means not holding yourself in tension trying to stand yet pretending to sit.

To be strong means to admit your weaknesses, and to know that you are no less for them.
And it means to offer yourself wholeheartedly when you are able to take some of the strain for another.

It doesn’t matter how anyone else ran, or is running their race… it is your race that counts.
And knowing that you are loved and accepted, regardless of your performance makes it all the sweeter.

But IMG_1069he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10

 

Dad.

image

It’s Father’s Day and I am hugely grateful for my Dad, who has been a massive encouragement to me over my life, especially growing up. His attitude (and my Mum’s too, just to be clear) towards us was always that we should pursue our dreams, be the best we could be and trust that God had a plan for our lives.

My Dad is also the person I get a lot of my gutsiness from.
As a kid he would catch us as we leaped from climbing frames, spot us as we walked along the wooden perameters of the local park, chanting “it’s easy, it’s easy” to ourselves, whilst he did the same and reminded us to keep “chin over chest, chest over knee” for balance. That alongside the sage advice that if we started to wobble, we should bend our knees to regain our balance.

Dad was the one who taught me that the silly and sinister ghost stories I heard in the playground, and which scared me as I tried to sleep, were actually just silly when you really thought about them.
The one who explained that the rattle snakes in True Grit were not real, followed by some rattle snake facts about how to tackle them; who endlessly quoted that “fear is only what you don’t know”; who at age six, first took me rock climbing and taught me to trust the rope by trialling a fall; at age 8 taught me chemistry and helped me make blue copper sulphate crystals in the kitchen with his old chemistry set- boy did I feel clever, and who made up silly songs and wrote me poems, something that I also love to do.

Dad taught me judo in the kitchen, football in the garden, gymnastics over the shed threshold, and when I was being bullied, practiced karate punches and blocks with me. His technical approach to movement always ready to help me work out something new.

We climbed trees, wrestled in and out of water, we went for long walks, had long talks about life God and the universe, discussed politics in depth, despite my young age, and marvelled at sunsets together, always pointing out his wonder at God’s artistry.
He inspired my love of fine art, and fed me the belief that I can achieve anything and that it is always worth trying and committing to something.

He enjoyed us as kids and promoted the family, working hard alongside mum to help my siblings and I build lasting and warm relationships with each other- something we still enjoy.

He was my biggest fan, told me before every performance to “knock ’em dead!”. His approval meant the world to us and his courage to ask our forgiveness when he realised that he’d got stuff wrong, made our fights disappear as relationship was restored.

And when I decided that I had prayed and felt called to be an actress, he never once suggested that I should play it safe, get a trade behind me and wait and see, but encouraged me to shoot for the moon with God in my sights. I have never been in any doubt that he is proud of me, he has told me often and told everyone else who would listen.

Sure he had and still has his flaws.
But he was my first hero, my first example of fatherhood, my first impression of what God’s fatherhood is like, and he has done remarkably well.

Despite being his firstborn, where no man could ever be good enough for me, he learnt to let me go to another, my most wonderful and Godly husband, now also a wonderful father, and he welcomed him into our family as another son.
He is an encourager of me, an encourager of my husband and of our marriage, and he is very much enjoying being a granddad who encourages his daughter-now-mother in her own motherhood.

His love of Jesus and desire to follow him wholeheartedly, frequently in the face of trials and persecution (again just like my mum) has played a huge part in grounding me in my faith, and I am grateful for this above all.

I realise that I am hugely blessed, that not everyone is as lucky as I am to have a dad who cared so deeply, or who praised and encouraged his children so generously and unashamedly, and who was so free in demonstrating his affection, but I also know that there are many, many who do.

I am so grateful for my Dad.
I am also grateful that when his time eventually comes to go home, I will still have an eternal father to love me, who never gets it wrong.

So thank you God for my dad.
Thank you for my wonderful husband who is the most amazing father, and will build his own legacy as he parents our children.
And I ask for blessings on Dad’s everywhere, that they may become more like you with every day of fatherhood. Because this is where the legacy of a dad is – in his children.

‘Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.
Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; They shall not be ashamed, But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.’

Psalm 127:3-5

Easter Vigil

light(I wrote this as a post-communion reflection for our vigil service this year.)

Not a fairy tale, or myth,
But a legacy of Grace.
A history of faithfulness and patience
In the face of perpetual infidelity –
A stubborn people broken,
Shattered into pieces,
The result of brittle hearts.

We are part of the story.
Woven into our lives a scarlet cord of blood,
Links us to those who dared to hope,
To trust that there was more,
That the eternal cry –
Written into our DNA,
And pulsing through our veins –
Would be answered.

In broken trust and deception,
We fell prey to a con-artist of the highest order –
One who took what we already had,
Made us feel bad,
And sold it back to us at an extortionate price.
Suffice to say, we complied –
And lost everything.

Yet The Word who spoke it all into being,
Seeing this, before it took place,
Wove Grace into the narrative.
Pre-empting our loss,
Already the cross in His heart,
That this parting would not be permanent –
He brokered re-union
Through broken flesh and blood,
To restore us in heavenly communion.

His status surrendered –
Abundantly patient
He walked alongside us,
Proclaiming the truth of our identity as
Children of God,
Until, gripped by fear,
He had a choice –
Turn back and give up, leave us behind –
Or walk to a brutal, bloody death.
“Yet, not my will but yours!” He said.

With breath constricted,
As the agony of inflicted separation tore him apart –
So His heart stopped,
That ours and our Creator’s might once again beat in step.

His blood pours forth.
He takes my place.
And I am floored by this incomprehensible love
That sacrificed, not just his body to the pain,
But his Spirit
To the yawning distance of
Disconnection with the Father
His loss –
My gain
That by his broken body
I am made whole.
And in the shedding of his precious blood,
That scarlet cord entwines me and my God
For all eternity.

Here,
Tonight,
In the solemn stillness ‘twixt death
And resurrection –
A realisation of my freedom,
This perfect kingdom,
And the hope it brings –
Makes my heart sing,
As the well of gratitude bubbles up and out of me –
I will not hold back these tears of joy,
As I behold my Christ, my peace, my dignity.