special interests

 

Some call it obsession, some think it narrow

but in our family we love special interests;

with intensity, with all we’ve got

we focus, we explore, we research and find out.

Our knowledge creates a safe space in which we can curl up and rest.

Familiar and known.

Digging and drawing,

collecting and cuddling, playing and gaming,

gather the facts, devour the info.

It is expertise we can share.

Breathe it all in, get the sand between your toes,

the clarity of focus takes experience deep, deep, deeper;

you can taste it, smell it, know it.

It’s all or nothing,

all in, or not at all.

That’s the wonder and beauty of special interests.

And in the pursuit we see

fierce loyalty, tenacity against the odds;

a single-mindedness that isn’t swayed.

Peer pressure can’t touch this.

So yes, some may think it narrow, some think we obsess.

I guess some may even find it boring,

but in this family we love special interests.

In them we see echoes of a Creator, a Father’s heartbeat.

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one of those weeks

Firstly let me apologize that it’s been a whole month since my last post. I don’t really know how it’s become so complicated and busy for us as a family lately! But I’ve missed having the chance to sit and reflect, and chat with you. How are you all? Is life busy with you?

This last week we had a break from school. Andrew took A away for a holiday, and I had a break here at home with T & B – who was still at college. Inevitably as Andrew was away the week was challenging in ways I could not have even thought of! A friend I rang for help at one point commented that she couldn’t wait to read the blog, so here goes…

Andrew had taken the girls and I down to my Mum’s for an overnight stay on the Sunday. The boys were heading to the airport on Monday morning. I was, believe it or not, meeting up with my sisters for a spa day on the Monday and then we had tickets to travel home by train that night so B could be back in routine for college. It was a surprisingly good day at the spa actually, and really special to have the space and time together. We finished the day with a massive afternoon tea in a beautiful setting with live music – what a treat.

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The train journey was hard work, managing the anxiety and the dynamics between B & T. It was helped by finding seats on both trains, no delays and the lovely surprise of sitting opposite a travelling cat on our second train which distracted us beautifully. However when we got off the train and were met by a friend to drive us home (Thank you – you know who you are!) I realized I had left my keys at home in the scramble to get going the day before. Dark, raining, but thankfully not on our own on our doorstep! Well after a few internet searches, and phone calls we met a local locksmith who coped with us, and got us into our house again!!

Tuesday was a day spent recovering from all the stress of change, travel, people and the shock of being locked out!

Wednesday began positively, T was up and ready (even if full of nerves) to go our for a pony day at the riding stables she goes to. A friends parents came and picked her up and took her for me. B then went off to college and I breathed and then got the hoover out. B had commented to me that the sitting room smelled funny, so I went there first. We had eaten tea in there so I figured it would just be the lingering smell of chips and nuggets. But no, tucked in neatly behind the sofa was a present from the cats… a well dead pigeon. After a good talking to myself I set to and cleared it all up.

Was just putting the bag of rubbish outside when a car arrived and there was T back early – brought back by her friend’s Dad (Thank you!!). She’d fallen off her horse.

As soon as the door closed T fell apart, having masked at the riding stables, masked on the way back in the car and in lots of pain she just lost it. She was shivering, sobbing and not talking. So I tucked her up into my bed, got the calpol, and sat with her waiting for her to calm down. It’s so difficult when emotions and pain are so overwhelming that words just can’t get out, I feel very helpless in those situations. As soon as the pain relief should have started working I tried to find out what was going on. She was still pale and cold, but as I talked to her she began to overheat and then the sensation of the covers and clothes became unbearable and in all of this I could see she wasn’t moving her arm. In my head I began working out what would be the best thing to do. This reaction didn’t seem to indicate a bump or bruise. It was hard to think straight though at the same time as managing T. So I texted a friend, blurted out what had happened and asking what they thought I should do. She rang, we chatted and then she said she’d ring back in 5 with a plan! True to her word she rang back 5 mins later having spoken to a GP to ask whether T should go to a walk-in or A&E, organised a lift and sent them to come and get us (again thank you, you know who you are!), and thought through what I needed to take with me, and what to tell B about getting home from college – she was amazing!! (Thank you – you know who you are!)

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We sat in A&E, just keeping T as calm as I could. Triage, waiting, sent for x-ray, called in – it was broken. A clean break right through near the top of her arm – too high for a plaster cast. img_20190530_083804287.jpg

So we were sent home with a collar & cuff sling, and advice to keep pain relief going. What a day – what a week!!

When he got back  (thankfully no further unexpected challenges) Andrew asked me if the week had made me wonder about getting back into driving. Do you know it hadn’t, but it had made me so very thankful for all the friendship and support that we have been surrounded by being part of the church family and the local community. When I pray for what we need as a family, God does sometimes give me or Andrew the gift, talent or resource we need to face the challenge but more often than not he gives us what we need through other people. I don’t quite know how I would manage to parent, adult or stay vaguely sane without that network of support around us.

 

the unexpected conversation – prayer

 

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When you actually stop and think about it prayer is unbelievable – in the awestruck sense! One simple, everyday word that means approaching the Creator, Eternal God, and being invited not just to an audience with majesty but also being invited to climb onto our Father’s knee.

Last week I was involved in ‘prayer week’ at the local secondary school (one of the things I do is being an active member of the school’s chaplaincy team). It’s a week when one of the year groups gets brought to a prayer discovery/experience lesson led by us as part of the RE curriculum. We then also go and visit RE lessons and answer questions and chat together about their thoughts on Christians and prayer.

Of course not all students are Christians and the activities we plan hope to open up discussion and a chance to chat with us as chaplains about our experience of prayer and what it means to us. We even decided to make 1 min ‘what prayer means to me’ videos this year that could be used in classes! Scary!

 

Lots of the discussions I had were so interesting, hearing why students thought we might pray, and why they didn’t. It was good to have that space to chat honestly about faith together. I love doing things like this – despite it terrifying me! – the conversations are so real, no facades.

One comment in particular stuck me, that prayer sounds scary. Yes, I think it does when you stop and think about it. I mean we really, genuinely believe prayer is communicating with God the Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit…don’t we? Not just words of comfort said in hope that someone might be listening. Not wishing. Not putting coins into the vending machine to get what’s on our list. Christians dare to believe that prayer is communication with God. That student’s comment made me wonder about how mundane and chore like we can often make prayer sound like – to others and perhaps to ourselves too.

Prayer is such an unexpected invitation. A privilege. A crazy, unbelievable conversation. We can be ourselves, we can speak and the Bible suggests that Father God enjoys listening, and wants us to come to him as Dad! How unexpected is that.

The day to day modelling and teaching about prayer continues in our family life – with its ups and downs, questions and wonderings. Prayer out loud together with each other can seem rare and surprising. But God’s greater than all that, listening and present and constantly drawing us into conversation. The other night T didn’t actually say ‘No’ when I asked if there was anything she wanted to talk with God about, and there was a little pause of quiet followed by a ‘yep, done it!’. I smiled, and felt fairly certain Father God did too.

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Easter holidays

 

When the school break happens leading up to Easter it’s a little tricky in our house!

A lot of patience was required from B, A & T as Andrew & I worked and prepared different services and events. A lot of patience was required by Andrew & I as the kids needed help relaxing, finding things to occupy themselves with and completing work.

In the end we began the holiday fortnight digging out a new pond in the back garden, with A designing and directing, me digging when I could and finishing other things when I could, and T with a trowel & paint brush checking for archaeological finds! Andrew mostly in the study or out for work, and B also working.

We found some fairly recent broken house tiles and the remains of a garden brick wall we think – and perhaps some pieces of a not-so-old plant pot! We also finished a pond.

As you can imagine it was a lesson in ‘I am simply not good enough, I can’t do all this without help!’ My patience has limits, each day has limited usable time, and lets face it washing clothes (and people!), cleaning, tidying, food (though Andrew handles that thankfully) and time together all still have to happen – sleep is apparently still fairly optional in our house but that’s another blog! Where does my help come from??!

I look to the hills!
Where will I find help?
It will come from the Lord,
who created the heavens
and the earth.

The Lord is your protector,
and he won’t go to sleep
or let you stumble.
The protector of Israel
doesn’t doze
or ever get drowsy.

The Lord is your protector,
there at your right side.

Psalm 121 (CEV)

There’s a limit to how far you can dig deep into your own resources, or at least that seems true in my experience. I’m finite. I’m not brilliant at everything. I’m tired – genuinely, mentally, physically and emotionally tired. I’m not enough many days. My faith in a faithful God is where I go for resources that go beyond my own; like walking uphill on a hot day and finding a well overflowing with cold pure water.

There’s no limit to how far you can dig deep into God’s heart finding love bigger, greater, stronger than you can ever imagine; patience that can outlast eternity; peace – real peace; forever new beginning forgiveness; mercy; being known, heard, understood; home…

 

It was I suppose a good context for Easter celebrations in the end. I went into Good Friday knowing I desperately needed help and forgiveness, knowing I couldn’t make it on my own. And found as if for the first time, as always, surprising mercy and love flowing from the heart of our full of life God.

 

 

seeing in colour: how do we experience life in all its fullness?

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Jesus told this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about. So he tried again. “I’ll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good—sheep stealers, every one of them. But the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for—will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of. (John 10:10 MSG)

“It’s so sad Mummy”, “what is T?” – “they don’t see all the colours.”

We were chatting about our two lovely, cuddly kittens. We’ve been busy in T’s bedroom, new curtains, some bigger shelves and a good sort out. We’ve also been making a house together for her dolls, and have so enjoyed the colours and fabrics and papers we have been playing with. And Jaffa loves it as you can see – on this visit to the house he found the bedroom and decided to settle in for a nap tucked in by T, too cute!

Cats apparently only see in black and white, or only a very limited range anyway. Of course we talked about how they had only ever seen things this way which meant that the shades and densities of black and white and all in-between were what they were used to, they could still have favourites and enjoy the differences (Jaffa seems to love pink for example, but we don’t know that pink looks the same to him as it does to us).

Recently someone reminded me of John 10:10 – life in all its fullness, life in abundance is what Jesus gives us as he comes into our lives. And I thought back to this little conversation. Spiritually we have got so used to seeing only in black and white, and we are very comfortable with that. But God sees in technicolour! And in Jesus it is as if he opens our eyes to catch glimpses – not too much or we’d be overwhelmed – of the dazzling colours of real, full, life. I expect we each get to see and experience different glimpses too. The abundant life of God splashes into our lives in different places and in different ways. One of my go-to phrases about my life as a disciple is that ‘my joy looks different from yours’ (or swap in peace, or hope etc). I don’t mean that God’s truth is relative – not at all – I guess I’m meaning that the expression of it, my experience of it as it splashes into and through my life here on earth may be very different from yours. We are unique, and God’s revelation of himself is personal at the same time as being the same truth for all, across all time and cultures.

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We each see and experience in a different way. Some much more differently than most. My girls see and experience the world around them differently from most and sometimes I wonder if that means they see very different shades, depths and brightness in the colourful splashes of God’s abundant life that break into ours.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to understand more of what they see, what their faith experience feels like? Wish I could be a fly on the wall. But it’s their personal friendship with God, their story with him. I only walk alongside, hoping to encourage and enable. But I’m also walking alongside ready to listen and learn, and rejoice when they share with me. I am learning (still!) to listen when T starts to sing in the garden or as we walk – it’s in these songs that she often describes her friendship with God, or her wonder at him and all he’s made. When I chat with B about a faith experience of my own, I’m learning to be braver and gently ask how she sees it, or if she’s experienced anything similar – and am learning to wait for her answer (which may come days later!). When I am planning something for a church group I’m enjoying asking B, A & T what they think, what they would choose to do to explain, or what craft or activity it makes them think about. Drawing and doodling together continues to be a great way of talking and sharing faith experiences together too.

What are the times your kids are able to share an insight about their faith?

In what ways does God’s abundant life splash it’s colour into your family life?