Racing cars and quality time 

Today Eldest and Husbandman have gone to see the racing at Silverstone. This is because eldest went through a particular streak over the summer of watching Cars and Turbo (big, brilliant animated movies about racing – a car and a snail, respectively), and kept talking about how she intended to go on a trip to Indianapolis US, with a whole bunch of people she kept inviting, in order to watch and participate in the racing.
She is imaginative, generous and immensely determined, so although we tried to help her understand that Indianapolis was too far away and way over any budget for the time being, she wasn’t prepared to let it go. 

Around this time, as God would have it, he brought Husbandman into contact with a parent of one of the lads he used to have in his youth group, and who along with her family,  races cars. At Silverstone. Among other places. This lovely woman, heard about Eldest’s interest in racing and promptly offered to help, blessing them with a gifted ticket for the next event they were racing at. 

And today is the day.

Eldest went through a bit of an unsure moment, saying she didn’t want to go, but as the day got closer, the prospect of exciting, quality daddy/daughter time became a big draw. She went to bed earlier last night, aware that she was tired and had a big day ahead, and this morning she was zipping about the place pretending to be a racing car and hurrying Husbandman along, impatient to get going. It was gorgeous! 

Today will be loud and tiring for her, but she is with her daddy, and experiencing something new, without her younger siblings in tow, and I have no doubt that she will return buzzing and expanded in mind and imagination. And she will have had her love tank filled by the one to one attention. 

That is what Husbandman and I  want for our children. The excitement and delight of discovering more of the world, the freedom to go at their own pace in order to do it, and a curiosity about life and people. We don’t want anything to cause them them to lose this- Because surely that is where we begin to die. 

For us, the home Ed journey allows us that flexibility, and whilst many parents of school children are equally putting themselves out to provide the same, we are grateful for the gentle pace, and ability to go ‘off timetable’ as little or as often as we need. This week we spent two lunchtime/early afternoons in the woods, messing about outside and exploring, enjoying the last of the good weather. It was wonderful. 

Eldest, however, is currently in need of a few more opportunities to expand and explore, and days like today are a wonderful addition to the mix. Apparently she’s having a great time so far- hanging out with her racing posse.  

Meanwhile, I am at home with the younger two, pootling and getting on with housework whilst they play and direct much of their own time. And I have the freedom to join in and play with them too. We may go to the park, or build Lego or have whole conversations with Anna and Elsa – or we may just cuddle and read stories. As I write this, I can hear singing… 

Whatever happens, I am so blessed by my life and my family. God is indeed very good. 

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When you have no idea where you are…

IMG_20170323_144613
Grief is such a strange beast.
Regardless of how I seem to be doing, it lingers.

Things which are usually enjoyable, seem like an uphill struggle, and disproportionately drain me. Getting out of the house for a walk on my own, feels impossible and I find myself afraid I’ll miss my family too much, to take an hour to myself.

I have been reading though, lots – blogs, novels, poetry.
Over Christmas, I re-read my way through the entire Harry Potter series, in about two weeks, including The Cursed Child. I also read several biographies, and then made my way through Sense and Sensibility (which I had never actually read), and Persuasion (which I had). I have just finished The Penguin Lessons – a memoir by Tom Michell.
It has provided a welcome escape.

I am feeling pretty low and lost at the moment.
I love my family, but for the first time in years, I have no idea what my purpose is. I have nothing to work towards, nothing to look forward to – although in the day to day, I do have a million little things in which to delight.
But I am struggling.

Where there is no vision, the people perish:
but he that keeps the law, happy is he.
Proverbs 29:18

I have moved churches, and whilst this was a good decision for me, and well supported by Husbandman, whilst he and I go to the evening service at my church together, we are no longer worshipping in the same church community.
Because he is responsible for music at his church, he is not free to really be engaged with watching our children if we go there, although he occasionally takes Eldest on her own. I find it too hard with the particular children we have, to manage at church on my own, wherever we go, as the Boy and Mini One want to run around and climb. It really needs two of us, therefore the kids don’t very often attend, meaning our family church experience is dissipated – disconnected.
And I want more. I know there is more.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
Ecclesiastes 3:11

I am not working as an actress, either.
I have said before, and I absolutely mean it, that I have never missed acting more than I have cherished and delighted in raising my children and committing to educate them – yet I still miss it dreadfully. I have no project to work towards, nothing that needs my skills, creativity and focus, and I am floundering.

Encouraged by my best friend, I had begun recording my own poems and those that I have previously performed, but, like with my walks, I struggle to take the time – despite it being available to me.
I signed up to a casting website, with a view to taking a few bits of work as they would fit with our family, but didn’t even complete my profile before the 30 day trial expired! They have since offered me a further 30 days free of charge, but I can’t seem to make the effort.

I am lost.

I have always been full of ideas and dreams, of what next and where I want to go. These are still in my heart, but for the first time in years I have no idea what I need to be doing.

I am not currently needed in rehearsals. There is no role for me to have to get my mind and body around.
No one needs me to record my poems, or work on speeches. I have been out of the loop for ages and I have lost my confidence, and the drive required to generate sufficient energy to push through to completion is painfully absent. I find that unless there is a genuine need for my efforts, or the inspiration to pursue something, it is an enormous struggle to motivate myself.

IMG_20170409_144630We are unschooling our three children, so whilst I am needed for a huge variety of things in the day to day of life – to be part of games, to make food, to help them with their ideas – whilst I am needed to drive us places, to encourage them, to answer their many questions, and I am definitely needed for many cuddles and kisses – which I thoroughly enjoy – I don’t have to work towards anything.
My kids are developing beautifully in their individual ways.  I love and delight in their company. They are not my project, they simply share my life and I theirs, and whilst mothering is definitely the hardest job I have ever done, it doesn’t feel like a job  – it just is the privilege of my life and I enjoy its flow.

The only thing that I was looking forward to last year was the arrival of another child into our family.
We were both delighted to welcome another gorgeous blessing into our hearts and lives, regardless of any natural sense of uncertainty and trepidation that comes with expansion, we couldn’t wait. This baby gave us a sense of moving forward, moving towards something.
But sadly she didn’t join us, instead bypassing earth and going straight to heaven.

She is safe, happy, fulfilled.
I am happy for her, and know that I will see her again. Truly.

But I miss her. A lot.IMG_20170406_122702

I feel empty and cheated, especially since I had a good four months of vomiting and exhaustion and general pregnancy woes, all for nothing. And now this week when we should have been in the chaos of birthing another family member, we instead had the ultimate anti-climax of no baby, just grief.
And we are not currently pregnant.
And I want to be. We both do.
Our family is incomplete, and whilst a new baby will not be Hope, I really want another little person to cherish, and to have that focus.
But here is the rub. My kids, my husband and my life are not projects.
I know this, and wouldn’t want to compromise the dignity of any of us by seeing us so.

Yet I am left feeling empty. WHICH HURTS.

A deep emptiness that only God can fill.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:18

I think that God has brought me to this place, gradually having stripped away all the things I feel that I flourish at.  Bringing me to where I have nothing to rely on but Him.
Don’t misunderstand me, he hasn’t sent bad circumstances my way. He is love. He loves me, but he will use them to bring about my transformation.

Not that I’m enjoying the process.
Actually I feel frustrated, confused and angry with him. But He can handle my anger.
He can actually see the whole of everything, whereas I can only see the equivalent to two feet in front of me.
The problem is my heart. My discontentment, my fear that I am too big for God to ever completely satisfy.  In which case He couldn’t really be God.
Which isn’t true.
But it still hurts badly.

Yet he is here with me.
I know His presence, His voice, and I have learnt to recognise the God whispers that drop into my heart  – He hasn’t abandoned me – I know he is close.

The man that has friends must show himself to be a friend, and there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.

Proverbs 18:24

This is what dying to yourself must feel like  – anxiety, and the terrifying lack of understanding of how to keep breathing, how to make it right, how to get things back to normal. Knowing that I cannot do it.

Praising Him helps – Husbandman and I have enjoyed some marvellous praise sessions in the kitchen, which has lifted our spirits and brought us moments of peace.

If God has given me my talents and gifts, blessed me with the opportunity to learn and to hone my skills, if He has gifted me with any insight or wisdom – then he will use them for His purposes, not mine.
Crucifying all my hopes and dreams with Him is the only way forward. That and being honest with God about the disappointment and frustration. He will return to me what I have given up for Him.  But if not, I am better off without them.

“Then I will make up to you for the years That the swarming locust has eaten, The creeping locust, the stripping locust and the gnawing locust, My great army which I sent among you.
“You will have plenty to eat and be satisfied And praise the name of the LORD your God, Who has dealt wondrously with you; Then My people will never be put to shame.…

Joel 2:25-26

Meanwhile, He carries me.

I have no idea what is coming next.
When or if I will have an acting project to dive into, when we will be blessed with another longed-for child. When this sadness and discontentment will shift.
I don’t know what I need to do. If anything.

My hope is in Jesus. And He will not change.

I still feel lost.
But God hasn’t lost me – and this makes all the difference.

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.