Valentine – A Sonnet

To my love…

My Darling Husband, kind and loving man,
Though tested by my melancholy state,
You’ve wrapped your arms around my crying frame,
And lovingly have bourne much of this weight.

These storms have lately shak’n us both with grief,
Attacking peace and robbing us of quiet,
Challenging Love, our patience and belief,
As darkness loomed, obscuring, briefly, light.

And still you love me, sure of brighter days,
Creative bursts and energy restored.
You watch for smiles, where vision lights my face,
Sense resolution for the broken chord.

My grattitude, O darling, gift of mine,
Is offered here, beloved Valentine.

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 Our Family Walking In A Wilderness Season

The past few months have been challenging for our family.

At the beginning of June, we moved out of our home with only a week’s notice. Our landlords were suddenly dealing with life-threatening sickness and a dodgy buyer for their home, and so needed our place back in a hurry. They were so grateful that we were so accommodating, that they bent over backwards to help us, paying for removal services and up to two months worth of storage for pretty much our entire house-worth of stuff. This took a weight off our shoulders, because finding accommodation for a young family of five in a week is one thing, but taking our furniture with us was not an option.

We had offers to stay from two sets of friends, and moved in with just suitcases, highchairs, a changing station and a few toys and dvds. They had generously said that we could stay for up to a month whilst we found somewhere, so despite nothing on the horizon, we were incredibly grateful for the provision.

This all came during a season where things have not been very easy for  P at work, causing a lot of pain and stress for him, and subsequently for us as a whole family.

We have been waiting for a particular breakthrough, which has not yet come, and so tensions have at times run high, and spells of depression have attempted to drag us down. Throughout this whole process – from knowing that it was possible we would need to move out, waiting for breakthrough, to hearing for certain that we only had a week-  we have been praying and waiting on God for some kind of answer.

Admittedly, this was often a case of waiting on God to give us the specific answer we wanted, but we also fervently wanted whatever it was that He has planned for us, and for it to come to pass at the right time and in the right way.
It has been a test of trust and obedience, that neither of us have found easy.

But Jesus didn’t promise that when we chose to follow him, we would have all our circumstances lined up and easy. Rather he promises that he will be with us at every step, never leaving or forsaking us. This is a pretty massive and hope-inducing promise.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33

God wasn’t really telling us what we wanted to hear, but neither did he seem to be telling us anything. We were listening, but He seemed to be choosing to remain silent.

The night I heard that we had a week to move out, I felt pretty upset and in went into ’emergency planning mode’.
The next day, I was immensely hormonal and drained, and just kept seeing how big and seemingly insurmountable the task would be. Needless to say, that was not a very peace-filled happy day. Quite the opposite.
But that evening when I went for my walk and prayer time, I ranted at God, and poured out my heart- my fears and frustrations with everything – the lack of change and breakthrough, and how I needed to know what was coming next.
I  felt God impress upon my spirit that no, I did not need to know, but I simply wanted to, but that HE knew what was coming and how things would play out, and that I needed to let go and trust Him.

He also drew my mind to the Israelites at the time of the Exodus, reminding me that they had to have a season in the desert in order to get to the promised land. Whilst God had taken them out of slavery in Egypt, he also had to take Egypt and it’s disfunctional ways and attitudes out of their hearts before they would be ready to take their land, stepping into all that He would give them.
All this resonated with me and I felt so encouraged and graced with trust, that during the whole process of moving out of our beautiful cottage on the Friday and into our friends’, I was full of joy and peace, and immense grattitude at God’s faithfulness and provision.

As is so often the way with God, that once you step out in trust and obedience, THAT is when He brings the provision you need, so the very next day after we moved out, we had a phone call from a close friend telling us that his in-laws were on a canal trip for most of the summer, and that we were invited to house sit, free of charge, from a week Monday until the middle of August.

This turned out to be a BEAUTIFUL family home, with lots of space, a beautiful flow to the downstairs, and a gorgeous big garden with a climbing frame, swings and a slide. It was in the same town we had lately moved out of and which we loved, and because the couple have grandchildren, there were child-locked cupboards, toys and even kid-friendly toilet seats. HOW GENEROUS IS GOD!

We moved in and have had an amazing time there.
With all the challenges brought by what was going on for P,  it has been a place of sanctuary and peace. 

But just when we started to get comfortable, feeling secure in our surroundings, God threw us another curve ball.
This couple had needed to change their plans, and were now going to return home nearly three weeks sooner than we had initially thought.
Which is totally fine, it is their house, and they had been more than generous to us.
But I was a little cross with God about it.

I am not a huge fan of uncertainty and change (I suspect not many of us are), and would have liked something more secure.
However what God has been showing us, time and again, is that HE is our provider, not our friends or our circumstances, not P or even his wage, and that God is the one who  will provide for us and who will mobilise his people. We will not go homeless.

So we moved out on Monday this week, and have had a house sitting holiday, at a friends’ home by the sea, which so far has been lovely.
On Saturday evening we move into our other close friends’ house back ‘home’, part house-sitting, part sharing with them, their two children and dog, for the month of August.
They are also being incredibly generous and accommodating of us and our needs. They have counted the cost and inconvenience of having us, but have decided to go ahead and look after us anyway. This should hopefully be a lot of fun, as we and our kids are all good friends, but it will also pose the natural challenges of merging two households and two (sometimes different) ways of living.

After that, only God knows, and he is not currently sharing.

We are on the council housing list and will have to wait out that process, because despite P’s reasonable wage, we simply cannot afford to live anywhere in the area at market prices. Even looking at small places without an adequate number of rooms, we are still priced out. The area where P works is wealthy and affluent on the whole, so prices for living are sky high, and as I am a full time mum of three aged four and under, (no fee paid for this!) we only have the one wage to live on.

  • God has never let us down yet. So he isn’t about to now.
  • God also never answers a prayer less well than any he has answered previously, so He is hardly likely to do a less good job of supplying our needs.


    And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.
    Philippians 4:19

 

We have been saying that we are a #FamilyOnTour. Sometimes this helps.
My discovery during this season, and really the whole conclusion and point of this blog, is that trusting is hard when you don’t know what is coming next, but that if we did know what was coming – it wouldn’t require trust.

But we do know Who we are trusting in.

For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.
Psalm 84:11

Our God is faithful, kind, loving and generous. His timing is perfect.
If he doesn’t share His plans with us at the point that we ask, it is because He knows we couldn’t handle it and/or wants us to see His goodness as he comes through for us -BEAUTIFULLY – yet again.
We have been learning to find our hope and our home in Him, not in our circumstances, and there is JOY to be had in the process, regardless of how tough things get.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
 
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:4-7

And the biggest joy of all is knowing His PRESENCE – HE is close to us at all times if we would just learn to look, and lean into it.

I have been switching on my teaching podcasts and worship music more often, learning to steal moments of praise in my kitchen or bedroom, with or without the kids around my ankles. I have even begun to do this more quickly in response to a horrible and depressed day (though admittedly I still have growth to do in this area), rather than wallow in my sadness. And when I have, His Holy Spirit has lifted my head and my heart, swapped my misery for joy, and changed my perspective.

Likewise, we have been lifted up in prayer from so many different directions, that I have discovered a far deeper understanding of what it means to be part of the body of Christ and to be connected to a praying community. This too, has MASSIVELY helped and encouraged us during this season.

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
Romans 12:15

So I say, despite my uncertainty and trepidation about the future, despite the confusion and unrest this upheaval has caused our children, I will lean in to this process and I look forward to what God brings next. Praying that I finish well.

Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have laid hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize of God’s heavenly calling in Christ Jesus.
Phillipians 3:14

Poor me? Erm…?!

 

So yesterday I was out for a walk on the High Street with the kids, on our way to the parkand as a bid to get some fresh air. We all, especially I, needed to burn off some energy, so I had strapped O to my back in the sling and was holding hands with the other two.

We are trying to allow I some more trust and freedom, as he is perfectly capable of walking miles, and he seems pretty able to judge risks. The challenge we have had is that because he isn’t talking yet, and doesn’t want to respond to us telling him to stop, we don’t want to risk him mis-judging traffic and getting hit by a car, so thus far we have kept him in the buggy when out and about.
However, the gorgeous boy is lively, intelligent and hugely curious and investigative, and at just over two and a half, has been (understandably) getting frustrated at not being able to walk and explore.
Therefore we are giving him more freedom out and about, by either holding his hand, or walking an appropriate grabbing distance from him, so that we can learn more about how he thinks.
So far, so good.

Despite the slight feeling of cabin fever which had prompted the escape, it was a lovely morning, and we were all enjoying being outside. I was holding my hand, leading the way, watching cars pass us with delight, G was walking alongside chatting to me about all sorts and O was on my back, watching the world go by and deciding whether or not to fall asleep.
We had a few smiles from people, had the amusement of seeing their faces when they suddenly realised that I had a third on my back as well, and I was feeling pretty happy and proud to be out with my lovely family.

Then a woman (who I am guessing was in her 60’s) passing us, stopped to say “Poor you!”, to which I exclaimed “Why ‘poor me’?!” and she looked and my children and said
“well you’ve got one, two, three of them.”
So I told her that they were wonderful and a gift, and she answered surprised “Oh, are they?”, I said yes, that they were, and yes it was sometimes hard but that they were wonderful. She responded with a mumbled “Oh, right then” and carried on her way. G had tried chatting to her, which she had seemed surprised by, and I was left gobsmacked by the encounter.

Now I am used to the surprise on peoples faces when they see how many small children I have with me, (there are only three thus far!) and the comments of “you have got your hands full”, sometimes warmly and sometimes disapprovingly given.
I usually answer something along the lines of “yes, and it’s great” or “full of good things” or sometimes “yes, isn’t God generous”, and temper my tone to meet that of theirs. But I have never had someone see us, (especially not when we were all happy, unstressed and not it full melt-down mode) and judge that I should be pitied, so directly. It made me so sad for her. And, I am not going to lie, a little irked at her rudeness. But mostly heartbroken at how far we have come in our culture in our dislike and fear of children, particularly larger families and especially young children.

No one who has had kids would deny that they take the whole of your commitment (and energy levels when young), and that there are days when you feel like you are struggling under the pressure of nappies, sleepless nights and the emotional exhaustion of being needed so keenly and physically. But the rewards so greatly outweigh the sacrifices (though some days we have to remind ourselves to take stock of this truth, and have a breather) that having a family is to be celebrated.

No one would ever choose to send a child back after having them, (and if they truly would, then there must be something wrong, and they need some more help) yet many, many people I speak to, christians included sadly, speak as though children are really such a burden and that it is irresponsible to have more than a couple unless you are a millionaire or simillar.
And the fact that we have swallowed this lie, hook, line and sinker is what truly breaks my heart.

It is vain for you to rise up early, To retire late, To eat the bread of painful labors; For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep. Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Psalm 127:2-3

Show me in the bible anywhere where someone with children, (even many children) rich or poor in finances, is seen as being cursed rather than blessed. Show me where God doesn’t provide for his children, and especially the growing families of young ones.
Even Elijah when he went to the widow of Zarephath to ask her to give him something to eat, was richly provided for in her poverty and her and her young son were taken care of. In fact God, through Elijah, even raised her son from the dead, so that she wouldn’t have to be without him.

I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.
 Psalm 37:25

My husband and I are not rich. Far from it. Yet the Lord, the king of eternity, who has the whole of the resources of the universe which he created, has never struggled to provide for us, never let us down, because we have put our trust in him. And we continue to do so.
And far from being impoverished, we are richly blessed beyond what we need, and able to bless others in our turn.

Why would having more children stop that? Why would having more children do anything different than bless the world abundantly?

It wouldn’t. It doesn’t.

This is not about having a particular number of children. If you have one, or if you have twenty, they are all a gift. But it is about seeing them in the light of the truth that they are always a blessing, never a curse, regardless of the circumstances of their conception.

So if you see a parent of various (or any) small children, feel free to stop and say hello. If they are looking harrassed, why not kindly offer to help in some small way, it will be appreciated. And if they are not looking stressed out, smile and enjoy their family moment.
But if seeing a large family makes you feel afraid or threatened in some way, then ask yourself why it bothers you… but don’t say something negative or disparaging.
Encouragement goes a long way to lift someone’s day and a thoughtless comment can really knock their confidence and make them feel judged.

And don’t presume… I love my kids and enjoy their company. I supect if you gave them the time, you would learn to do the same.
I wouldn’t be without any of them. And in time, hopefully we shall welcome some more.