while shepherds washed

I don’t think it was just me that grew up singing a mixture between while shepherds washed their socks, and while shepherd watched their flocks by night… it was funny as I got older, slightly cheeky I suppose trying to get away with it, but I can also remember back to the feeling of confusion as to which was the right set of words before it all became clear!

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There are an awful lot of possible causes of confusion in carols! Here are some of my late night musings looking afresh at these familiar words through the eyes of my children…

Some are simply because when we don’t know a word, we most often hear in the sounds a word we do know…

T, yesterday – ‘Ding dong merrily on high, the children are defeated!’

me – ‘pardon???’

(still working on unraveling and putting that one back together!) … and what about ‘and I owe, I owe, I owe’ …’good tidings we bring, to you and your king’… ‘Good King ‘Wences’ last looked out’… ;shepherds leave your compilations’… ‘the angels keep their watch of wandering love’… ‘low he comes with clouds descending’…

There are a lot of words in carols that are very unfamiliar, words that are not words we use everyday, old words and theological words – ‘hark the herald’… ‘yonder’… ‘Lo!’… ‘sages’… ‘as bitter as any gall’… ‘lowly’… ‘meek souls’… ‘incarnate’… ‘mortals’… ‘with what rapture’… ‘oxen lowing’…

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Some carols, even more unhelpfully I guess, have words that have a very different connotation now than they did when the carol was written…’with the poor and mean’… ‘As they offered gifts most rare, at that manger rude and bare’…’swell the triumph of his train’… ‘robed in dreadful majesty’…’hear the trump proclaim the day’…

Then there are the hair raising moments for literal thinkers… ‘what I can I give him, give my heart.’…’be born in us tonight’… and less hair raising perhaps but unnecessarily awkward; ‘good christian men rejoice’… ‘go tell it on the mountain’…’if I were a shepherd I would do my part’

And what about the ones where we are faced with metaphor … ‘In the bleak midwinter, frosty winds made moan, earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone’…, especially the times when it doesn’t seem like a metaphor, perhaps wasn’t even written to be one but maybe ought to be – ‘no crying he makes’…’silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright’…’no ear may hear his coming’…

It is interesting to sit and take the time to hear these familiar-to-me words again… and perhaps have a glimpse of some of the processes we all go through to hear and find meaning … or find ourselves lost in confusion.

I wonder what parts of the Christmas carols my children are struggling with this year? It would be helpful to do more asking what they think things mean, more finding out together about the histories of these traditional songs of praise, and the meanings and uses of the old words… anyway, I’m rambling… just a few, probably very disconnected, thoughts!

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nothing is impossible!

How is it possible that you are now officially a teenager A?!!

Wow, what a lot of giggles & adventures we’ve had together so far! Can’t wait for more!

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This week we have celebrated your birthday with you, just us as a family together. You came home from school and T, B & I were busy decorating your cake together – last minute as always, but so much fun doing it together thinking about all the things you love about books, and stories. Thank you for loving it too & joining in our excitement – particularly as T’s imagination was let loose and caramel snowballs, dripping volcanic rocks, and bloodied princess dresses (from a nose bleed apparently!) and alien like unicorn horns and dinosaur spikes were added to the cake!

Thank you for also joining in the fun of the family games the girls had planned while Daddy finished making the tea, and as usual for quick thinking endlessly to find just the right encouragements and perfect ‘jobs’ for T to do as she struggled to join in. You’re great at that! It can feel impossible sometimes can’t it.

I’ve been reminded this morning that nothing is impossible for God. Life is full of challenges, and daunting adventures, tasks and expectations (especially the ones we give ourselves!) and the brave ones aren’t just the ones who don’t seem to see the obstacles, the brave ones are the ones who see (and feel) the huge mountains but keep on going with God even then. You do that A! Do you remember loving these songs?

We love watching you growing up being that brave giant of faith, keeping on walking with God no matter what, and letting us walk alongside too. By faith we can do anything – because nothing is impossible with God!!

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faithful

I have been preparing an assembly for next week about faith, our faith and God’s faithfulness. And today we celebrate B’s 15th birthday! A great day to reflect on faith & faithfulness…

Some people say that to have faith is fanciful, but of course we all have faith in lots of things every single day. Without faith our lives would be pretty fearful, fretful – quite frightful really. (its going to be quite a tongue twister assembly!) And for us we have our faith firmly in God who, as I look back at 15 years of parenting B, has not let us down. He has been with us through all the ups and downs, the joys and challenges; sustaining & providing, guiding & encouraging.

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 Right at the start we dedicated B to God – recognizing she was already safe in his hands. We asked for him to fill our parenting and living together as family with the presence and help of his Holy Spirit. And we promised to do our best to shape our family life as disciples of Jesus and to be open about that life of discipleship with our kids. It’s still not easy! So much more to learn, & to share together with him in this adventure of faith.

B, you’re 15! Where has all that time gone? Thank you for challenging us, for making a couple into a family. Thank you for your giggles, your joy in exploring, your kindness, your sense of justice & courage to speak out. Thank you for being so expressive and creative, for noticing life in great detail, for your super-memory. Thank you for letting us share our faith with you, and for letting us be with you in the questions and exploring. Thank you for your energy and ideas, your loyalty and sensitivity to the world about you. 15 seems a significant birthday, significant years ahead at school, and a lot of things just in sight on the horizon for the future… so many decisions ahead of us. But I know that in all that’s ahead God will be faithful – to provide what we need, to guide where we should go, to be alongside to encourage and strengthen, and share our joys and struggles.

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happy chatting

This week I had the privilege to give my testimony at a group in B & A’s school, a group for exploring the Christian faith. I took objects and photos representing different parts of my experience so far, and I hope that as I talked and they asked questions we saw that God had been faithfully with me at every step; guiding; helping; challenging; encouraging; strengthening & equipping…

It left me thinking about how important and encouraging it is to talk openly about our experiences of God. It’s not the first thing we think of to ask about perhaps, sometimes it feels it’s a topic we only talk about on ‘special occasions’ or in those intense, mountain top or deep well moments. wouldn’t it be great if it was as natural to ask ‘how was school?’ or ‘what did God help you with at school today?’, or ‘did you & Jesus enjoy the playtime today?’

Well, I came away from that thought to quickly throw together some chatting together questions to start conversations around the table, or the hot chocolate or with bedtime stories. They are a seamless mixture of the kinds of questions I ask all the time as a Mum, and ones that expect and take for granted that God has been a part of our day.

I had a lovely half hour cutting these out & sticking them to lollipop sticks with A last night, and in the process we had some wonderful chatting time together (T & B were having a sleepover in B’s room – that’s a whole other story!).

I’d love to hear if these are useful, and how you use them… happy chatting!

 

 

Whatever you do

What a full, fun, friend-filled day we have had!

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It is a week until our church’s holiday club, and B & her friends have come up with the designs and list of props we need to turn our church into the museum/library that we would love it to be. After church this morning we headed home for lunch gathering some friends to bring back with us as we went, and because it’s been a beautifully sunny day we all went out into the garden to enjoy lunch together. Then after lunch B’s friend joined us to help with more of the prep for holiday club.

It was one of those wonderfully spontaneous afternoons that drew us all in – each picking up a task, sometimes working together sometimes alone but near everyone else. Acetate wings were cut & decorated; cardboard ornate frames prepped and then painted in the shade of a tree; numerous plates, cups & pots were drawn round numerous times and the circles cut out! This particular activity gathered us all in by the late afternoon, and those of us drawing round & cutting out watched as B & her friend began to build the 3D model they had in mind out of card, foil, PVA, paint, glitter and tonnes of (precisely executed) imagination!

We came together with a tea of scones made by A, with cream and some jam from another friend at church who had been busy yesterday cooking a batch of blackcurrant and brought a jar to slip in my bag this morning! It felt like a celebration of our achievements that afternoon and also a celebration of togetherness. We had all contributed, all had something that was needed to get on with the task, and we had (mostly!!) enjoyed it!

I’m always glad of these opportunities to work together on a project. The enthusiasm and focus when B gets going on a project that sparks her interest is catching…the way T gets so involved in painting that by the end her whole body seems to have taken part (the bath tonight def had a hint of silver! … the enjoyment and anticipation of the feast we see in A as he bakes … the working together each of us supporting the whole … it reminds me of the verse from Colossians 3:23:

 ‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord’ (NIV)

It also reminds me how we are all differently gifted, differently able, equally needed for a complete whole and all to be equally valued and celebrated.