changing seasons, yet God stays the same

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There is a season (a time appointed) for everything and a time for every delight and event or purpose under heaven… (Eccl 3:1 AMP)

And so the seasons have most definitely changed, no longer summer afternoon teas but now collecting colourful falling leaves, wrapping up in soft scarves and hats, jam making and open fires! Each season has its own delights, yet some things stay the same – I remembered this particular robin sharing our cream tea as A pointed out our garden robin had come to join in the hedge trimming just the other day. Totally different season, yet that robin reminded me of the constants we have in life in the midst of the relentless transitions.

Autumn brings birthdays to our family, and this year we have our first 18th – quite a milestone. A huge load of transitions heading our way over the next season in B’s life. There is a lot of pressure to make decisions about the next season in life – what university, what course, for what career?? Or should it be apprenticeship, and if so what and where?? Our very nearly 16 yr old also faces big choices, A-levels? If so which? If not, then what?? The pressure to somehow anticipate what’s going to be best in the next season of life is really tough I think. For most of us, looking back reveals just how nuanced and twisty-turny each season actually turns out to be in reality. Yet the decisions are presented as if everything hangs on them, as if this is the only time to have these opportunities. The fact that it seems as though everyone else is managing, and following the ‘system’ doesn’t relieve the pressure either. It feels impossible to step out for a bit, to pause and simply breathe. But for many I suspect, some in our family included, that’s exactly what’s needed to be able to face the next transition, the next season with intention and confidence. Not everyone’s going to fit into the standard timeline.

Andrew & I don’t want to be yet another source of pressure either through unspoken expectations, real or perceived, or by our unintended bias towards one path through life. But that’s not easy is it. We all come with an idea of what that path might (or even should) look like – whether we assume university or expect our kids to go out & get a ‘decent job’. It’s got to be a deliberate decision to pause alongside and see other possibilities, other ways of doing things and to value what each can bring, and to stay alongside as those incredibly difficult decisions are tentatively reached at the right time – not necessarily the time everyone else tells us.

I also hope that as parents we can point to the constants as so many things begin to change. We can offer our very best, praying and promising to be there no matter what. To always be home for our kids. But we have something, someone, even better to offer who we know will be able to fulfill his promise to be there and to always be home for our kids. Our Father God, through the presence of the Holy Spirit because of Jesus will be constant no matter what, no matter which path, no matter how many transitions, no matter which season of life. I pray that we can live in this reality ourselves in such a way that our kids are without doubt where we find our grounding and security in all the changes of life, and that they too in their own relationship with God will be being grounded deep and strong into that secure presence in their lives.

I’m never out of your sight. You know everything I’m going to say before I start the first sentence. I look behind me and you’re there, then up ahead and you’re there, too— your reassuring presence, coming and going. This is too much, too wonderful— I can’t take it all in! (Psalm 139:5 MSG)

 

 

Volunteering together

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Firstly, apologies for the unexpected gap in posts. It was a packed summer, and the new term feels similar! A few good friends are at my side reminding me I’m ‘doing too much’ for which I’m grateful – and am listening, but it’s not a quick fix – life is a bit of a juggling act of lots of demands on my time and energy and in the midst of it all I’m trying to be wise and listen to God’s prompting about what I should be filling each day with. One thing’s for sure – I’m missing writing!

One of the new things that has come into my week over the last 2 years is Girlguiding volunteering. In a way it has crept in, but I welcome it. It’s something the girls and I are all part of now. In fact just this last week we had a first planning meeting for a new Brownies unit and T, B & me all walked down and joined in together which was rather special (with hindsight, it was a bit full on at the time!).

I got involved when T was offered a place at Rainbows, she didn’t want to stay on her own so I stayed too and just helped out a bit where I could. When she moved up to Brownies we wondered if she would stay on her own if she joined the unit where B was volunteering as a young leader but she couldn’t do it very easily – and it was going to impact on B’s freedom to complete her young leader training so I stayed again. This time I began my volunteer leader training to be able to offer a bit more help.

To cut a long story short I find myself this term now heading up the Rainbows and also involved in leading a new Brownies unit – both at Holy Trinity Church.

It’s a bit of a roller coaster finding my feet with more to juggle, and at the same time collecting evidence for the leadership qualification but it’s great to be in it together. Girlguiding’s vision is to be a safe and nurturing space for girls. It has structure, purpose, is adventurous and has the potential to give girls of all backgrounds – and all abilities opportunities to gain life skills, practice teamwork and friendship and to experience things they might not without the group. The structure also has a clear pathway for girls to develop leadership skills, and begin volunteering and leading as they move through from Guides to Rangers and beyond which is what B has been doing.

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Of course B & I are really enjoying the creative side of planning, there may be some projects on the dining room table – again!! – a centerpiece floor mat for our circle time in Rainbows is well underway and should be ready for our first promise ceremony after half term.

There is something really lovely about joining in with something the girls want to be part of. It’s not been without its challenges by any means but I am getting to know some lovely people I perhaps wouldn’t have outside of Girlguiding, and am making the most of the way my girls (at the moment) want to be in it together with me. There may come a day when they don’t want that so I’ll enjoy it while I can.

 

BBQ & picnics – eating alfresco

 

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The summer brings its own unique challenges when your children are hypersensitive, and when they are stressed by change. There are of course the obvious challenges, summer brings heat, heat means different clothes are worn which feel different, are unfamiliar and outfits don’t feel as practiced. There’s sun cream – the feeling and the smell, and the need for sunhats. School breaks up for the holidays so you add in a whole string of changes of routine, weeks at home with parents working; at home and parents off work some days; holidays away; days out & visitors. And along with the constantly shifting routines comes very unpredictable eating compared to term time.

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We plan fun eating as families don’t we! Days out can involve cafes, tea-shops and picnics. Some stay at home days mean take away in the sitting room with a film, some days we eat in the garden ‘because it’s hot’, other days we have people round and BBQ outside. Over the years we have found eating outside together as a family really difficult. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, eating together as a family even in the normal routine has always been a challenge. In fact it has only been possible at all in the last 6 years! It still feels fragile and new to me! (I wrote about it in ‘no-one told me that’)

There are many things that make eating outside difficult.

There are lots of distractions, some of them are good but often we all end up on high alert due to other distractions – wasps, (bees, hover flies – in fact anything that flies and could possibly be misinterpreted as a wasp!), spiders, ants and flying ants, seagulls and crows. The fact that many insects and animals in the great outdoors are attracted by the smells of our picnics makes eating outside incredibly challenging. It’s tricky to enjoy eating when facing an overwhelming feeling of impending doom!!

We have had some very memorable, funny-with-hindsight, eating alfresco experiences so far as a family. One of my early memories of these challenges was a picnic in County Durham, on a wooden picnic table by a beautiful giggling stream. All dappled in the sunlight coming through the trees. I sat one side, Andrew the other. B & A were still quite little, and I remember by about 3 minutes in I was sitting with both of them sitting on the table facing me, their heads burying themselves as close to me as possible with me drawing my rain coat around them to defend them from all the flying things – with Daddy of course standing guard against big flying things near by! So much for the beautiful spot. We did get a fleeting glimpse of a water vole though in-between the cries of terror when gnats came too close!

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When they were a similar age I remember a fateful picnic on the beach during which a seagull plodded nonchalantly over and took the sandwich out of A’s little hands – I’m not sure he’s been able to forgive that seagull yet!

Yet another memorable outdoor eating experience was at a family farm attraction, which just happened to be having a wasp problem that summer. We started our lunch outside but the wasps were dive bombing us, flying at us and down at our food through our hair!! We quickly went inside with our picnic only to find exactly the same problem but this time in an enclosed space. Goodness it was grim.

At a zoo day out quite recently actually we had problems with dive bombing seagulls. One took the food out of my hands in flight. Again we tried putting Daddy on guard walking around us but it was not enough, and we had to abandon outdoor eating and run for shelter.

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Just this lunch time A was recalling a camping meal with friends during which we had to warn a friend who was just about to take a bite & chew that there was a wasp sitting on his mouthful.

Many a camping meal outside the tent has been abandoned as one by one members of the family have run inside despite the heat inside the tent in the day, and eaten zipped in the bedroom behind the flysheet.

Ah, fond memories (who am I kidding!!). Well, this summer is no exception, we’ve already had some BBQ’s in the garden, eaten outside (well, for some of the meal anyway) and been camping. So far mosquitoes are coming out top predators during mealtimes but there’s still plenty of camping meals to be had so wasps, ants, earwigs & seagulls all have the chance to come out on top still! Bring it on!!

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Tired

When people ask ‘how are you?’ what do you reply?

‘Fine’

‘Good’

‘yep, how are you?’

One of my go-to replies is ‘head above water!’ But in the midst of the relentless, coming-at-me, complicated, tiring, purposeful, joyful, infuriating, beautiful life of ours there are times when I add in my head – ‘just’. You know that kind of tired when you’ve been treading water for so long the weary ache sets in, or you’ve been carrying something just slightly too heavy or awkward and suddenly you just have to put it down for a minute, when you’re running to catch up with someone and you’re nearly there – but not quite. That tired.

That tired that opens the door to the insecurities – ‘I can’t do this’, ‘I’m not good enough’, ‘what’s the point in trying’, ‘it won’t work’, ‘I’m failing’, ‘I always fail’, ‘I’m a failure, rubbish, why bother’, ‘nobody, invisible…’ – and a tiny voice in the midst of the clamor ‘ ‘help!’. Elijah tired.

When Elijah saw how things were, he ran for dear life to Beersheba, far in the south of Judah. He left his young servant there and then went on into the desert another day’s journey. He came to a lone broom bush and collapsed in its shade, wanting in the worst way to be done with it all—to just die: “Enough of this, God! Take my life—I’m ready to join my ancestors in the grave!” Exhausted, he fell asleep under the lone broom bush.

Suddenly an angel shook him awake and said, “Get up and eat!”

He looked around and, to his surprise, right by his head were a loaf of bread baked on some coals and a jug of water. He ate the meal and went back to sleep.

The angel of God came back, shook him awake again, and said, “Get up and eat some more—you’ve got a long journey ahead of you.”

8-9 He got up, ate and drank his fill, and set out. Nourished by that meal, he walked forty days and nights, all the way to the mountain of God, to Horeb. When he got there, he crawled into a cave and went to sleep.

Then the word of God came to him: “So Elijah, what are you doing here?” (1 Kings 19:3-9 MSG)

I come back to this passage over and over again. So human. So real. And God, our Father so gentle and purposeful. ‘There’s still a journey to make, eat, sleep, come on keep following – I’m here with you – one thing at a time Elijah’. We are seen, known by name, loved and sent with purpose & company. Time to catch a breath, eat & sleep the best I can and keep on stepping out with God.

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understanding personal space

 

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excuse me – still here!

So how on earth do you begin to learn all about personal space, and respecting other peoples?? Everyone has a boundary at a slightly different distance. Relationship determines subtle yet important differences for each context. Different cultures have unspoken yet definite socially acceptable ‘rules’ about it. It’s not something that gets openly explained very often, yet we’re expected to get it right – every time, every social gathering, family meal, sharing of the peace!

For most of us it is learnt when we’re very young, one of those things that gets ‘picked up’ simply by being in relationships and experiencing a variety of social contexts. Learnt through picking up subtle body language cues; inference gleaned through experience; making connections between a variety of moments of cause and effect, carefully and correctly interpreted in the midst of social interaction. It’s a wonder it’s ever possible to get this right!

So what about those of us who don’t learn by inference? Or easily ‘read between the lines’? What if body language cues are a language yet to be learnt? And what if the way you see things leads to joining up the dots between cause and effect differently from everyone else, and connections are made therefore to different facts, different variables in previous moments of social interaction? How are the rules of socially acceptable interaction with others, understanding their personal space boundaries learnt??

I suppose the answer is, differently; from a different perspective; with an often refreshingly different approach and an analytical honesty that isn’t afraid of questioning a cultural norm.

I suppose the answer is also, painfully. Others don’t respond kindly to people seemingly ‘rocking the boat’, and openly questioning cultural norms – especially when expecting someone to be ‘old enough to know better’. Doing life differently can lead to feeling like an outsider or feeling disliked and unaccepted.

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