A whole hour? Really??

Our church has been taking part in ‘Thy Kingdom Come 2017’ this week beginning with a prayer 24/7 style prayer marathon that will finish in time for our early morning service on Sunday, and our celebration of Pentecost.

Everyone in church had an opportunity to sign up for one of the hours in the prayer space – a whole hour?? I went with T for an hour yesterday, not the best timing 12-1pm – right when she’s usually eating lunch! Anyway, we packed biscuits and a flask of hot chocolate to keep us going if hunger got in the way, and we set off with Annie (favourite doll) quite ‘nervous-ited’ as T calls that funny mix of excitement and feeling daunted at something unknown.

It was less of an unknown to me, I had planned the room so knew exactly what would be there… and of course had made sure there were plenty of hands on things people of any age or ability could join in with.

We began the hour predictably, straight to the playdough mats. While she began we remembered the story of the Holy Spirit coming to the disciples as they prayed. And talked about how the Holy Spirit helped them share Jesus’ good news. We read the story of the wise and foolish house builders from a children’s Bible as T finished (and helped Annie finish) the playdough picture. And we began to wonder together what it means to pray ‘Thy Kingdom Come’…


T knew the phrase from learning the prayer at school, so we said the whole prayer out loud together and she and Annie set off to another part of the room. To my surprise she didn’t stop at the library of story books & cosy tent with beanbags, she went straight to the table with the papers and odds and ends people might find helpful – blue tack, post-its, luggage tags, Bibles, felt pens, colouring sheets (yes, any excuse to design a new one!) & colour in booklets about the Lord’s prayer. I showed her the booklet she could make and how it might help her to pray, but she picked up the colouring sheet, sat Annie on a little chair, drew up another, chose a colour and then said ‘tell me about this wall Mummy’…


Right next to us was a wall for drawing and writing onto, ‘The Kingdom of God is…’, with questions; what does the Kingdom look, sound, feel, taste, smell like? ‘Taste like???? how can it taste Mummy??’. I found the passage after the beatitudes with the passages that compare the Kingdom to different things. And read about salt! ‘Do you think we are supposed to be salty if we are part of God’s Kingdom T?’, ‘Ughhh! I don’t like salt!’. ‘Hang on though T, what would ready salted crisps (a favourite) be like without salt?’, ‘Yuk!’ said T. ‘It’s salt that makes them taste good, salt makes all sorts of tastes extra alive. Salt makes some things last better. And it can make things get better quicker sometimes.’ ‘Really? Wow, Mummy you should draw salt shaking all over the whole world then it will be better.’ I drew as I was instructed and we prayed for God salt, and God’s salty Kingdom people to make the world better.

Publication2We sat for quite a while, T colouring, me praying.

‘What are you doing Mummy? Are you still worrying about salt?’, ‘Not really T, just listening to what God might say to me as I talk with him’. ‘How will you know? Have you heard his voice?’, ‘Have you T?’. ‘It’s low low low, and serious… and beautiful’. ‘I think it’s also sometimes like this too’, and I laid my hand on her arm, ‘like that, safe warm..’, ‘With you feeling!’ T smiles, ‘Yes Mummy, sometimes’. ‘I think that when I’m talking with God and thinking with him he helps me with new ideas and thoughts, helps me see new things I hadn’t noticed or understood before’, I said. ‘So what do you need to draw there now Mummy?’…


I asked T to come and pray for our town, we had wooden houses, trees, people & animals to put onto the map. We thought about places and people, and took turns to ask God to be with them, and help them. Then we saw the table with A’s globe on it, and we had to stop and look. A display of prayers from around the world. ‘Is there China?’, said T. She was fascinated by China when she learnt about Chinese New Year at school. We read the prayer from China together looking at it on the globe. And then the doorbell went – the hour was gone! It was a very precious hour, heartfelt conversation T, God & me.


B’s colouring later in the day.

Review: Comfort in the Darkness

Rachel Turner’s book ‘Comfort in the Darkness’ is a series of devotional bible stories of people connecting with God, encountering him, in the night. Each is written as a narrative perfect for reading aloud, short enough for tiny attention spans and tired minds, and long enough to intrigue and invite.

I have read with T (6 yrs) & with B (15yrs), and both have enjoyed them and have engaged with the stories in different ways. They have prompted questions sometimes, discussion and sharing our own experiences of sensing God’s closeness.

“If your child asks a tough question that you can’t answer, feel free to say, ‘I don’t know. let’s find out together.’ … Enjoy your child’s curiosity about the things of God. It is one of the great and wonderful privileges we have – wading into the tough questions with our children, with no fear.” (p49)

B has been open to using the prayer after the stories. With T, I have been able to let our chat lead into moments of asking God to draw close, and a couple of times led to windows of quiet waiting together in God’s presence.

After each story are suggestions for discussion starters, and also prompts to help you enable your child to draw close to God. There are ‘parenting for faith’ sections at the end of each chapter too, with helpful reflections on the issues arising in the story, or practical ideas.

I am sure we will read through these many times in the years to come, and I think the reflections, suggestions and resources built into the book for me as a parent coming alongside my child as they grow in faith will mean that each time we come back we will listen and engage in a new way. I can imagine that each time we read we will build on knowledge and skills, and experiences of God from the previous time.

“We can model our trust in God’s ability to be present in dreams. We can help our children to understand that there are no limits to where God can go … Invite God to be part of their dreams…” (p96)


I was particularly struck by this paragraph in the first story when I was reading aloud:

“The word of God can make all things happen, and with a few words he began his great creation. ‘Let there be light,’ God said. …

But God made a choice. He kept darkness, too. He saved it and protected it. He could have got rid of it altogether, but there was something about darkness that was important and special … He called the light ‘day’ and the dark he called ‘night’. He had great plans for both.” (p12)

I have become so used to night being associated with worry and stress, sleeplessness and the pressure to sleep that it has become quite a negative word I suppose. But here was an invitation to recollect that God treasures the night as much as he treasures the day. To see that God had plans for the night – and as we continued to read bedtime after bedtime it was clear that so many of the times God provided, rescued, guided, challenged and encouraged happened in the night.

Night as a set aside, retreat time with God is not the way I have been thinking of bedtimes, and has certainly not been the message I have been modelling to my children. So I have been challenged – in a good way, and feel I have been given some tools and pointers to change my thinking and my expectations about night! That has to be a good thing!

Isn’t it a wonderful thing that God wants to chat with us, and draw near to us … even (or perhaps especially) in the rather challenging nights (that don’t exactly feel retreat like) when it seems none of us can get much rest or peace. With ASD, anxiety, night terrors, bad backs, eczema and long term sleep deprivation nights are anything but sleep-filled in our house – but maybe they have been God-filled all along, I just needed a nudge to begin to see that more clearly.


lost in the garden


‘Flowers are restful to look at. They have no emotions or conflict,’ said Freud

Spring is definitely here! I am back out in the garden, finally. Any chance I get!

I love the escape of the garden, the straight forwardness of it’s demands and needs – at the moment, the weeds! I love the creativity of arranging (and rearranging) and the satisfaction of watching things grow and flower.

I got into gardening as a self found therapy. The year we got married I was recovering fairly slowly from glandular fever which had knocked me for six, and left me with clinical depression (there isn’t another kind, but many use the word to mean feeling low, and it wasn’t that). The house we moved into after the wedding was a new house to the landlord, a pretty Victorian terrace house opening straight onto the street, and the long thin garden at the back was ‘full of potential’ with a beautiful large tree and hidden under weeds and brambles there were (I was later to discover) some flower beds.

While Andrew was at college, I got out there whenever I could as soon as I was physically up to it… short visits at first, then gradually I found myself getting lost out there working methodically, very slowly but surely clearing and planting, clearing and planting.

‘Perhaps the most unexpected potential benefit of getting your hands dirty, however, comes from researchers at the University of Bristol, who reported that bacteria commonly found living in soil may have a positive effect on our mood’. James Wong.

I have found many articles and essays on the benefits of gardening for mental health, for stress relief, and for physical recovery. One I read recently suggested 10 benefits:

  • sense of responsibility
  • reminds us we are nurturers
  • connects us to living things
  • helps us relax
  • releases happy chemicals
  • reminds us to be present in the moment
  • immerses us in the cycle of life, helping us to work through anxieties about death
  • plenty of room for venting anger and stress
  • gardening is easy

(from an article for Psychology Today, by Sarah Rayner)

I have not read much in these articles about drawing close to God, or being reminded of the beauty of creation or of the care he takes over the smallest of parts of his creation. But I find it fairly impossible to ignore! And the very action of gardening; tending, nurturing, freeing the swamped or vulnerable, feeding, watering, hoping, both rejoicing and bearing disappointments – all of these aspects of gardening are parts of God’s heart and actions towards his creation. Gardening doesn’t just cultivate the plants it probably cultivates the gardener too, as we learn and practice these attitudes and as we participate in the care of God’s world.

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? (Mt 6:26 NIV)

One part of the garden here that I have been working on is a hidden away patch that I discovered whilst clearing brambles last year. I have cleared a path to this little clearing between the shrubs and trees and arranged the stumps and logs we unearthed there under the ivy. It is becoming our ‘fairy garden’ – a hidden play space just big enough for a couple of littlies. I am still clearing the hard to get rid of weeds; the docks, brambles & ivy – and a few of the shrubs and wild roses that seem to be of the belief that it’s their space!

But this year we have already done a bit more planting, and some fairy houses have moved in – and (when there aren’t too many bees buzzing near by) it is becoming that play space I hope it can be as the houses and bits & bobs that I am making get rearranged and fairies are imagined there. Shells and nuts, twigs and feathers are being collected and transformed into plates, chairs, canopies…



I can’t find him

‘I can’t find him Mummy! I asked him to help but I can’t see where he is?’

It was another nightmare. So there we were again in the middle of the night, me & T trying to find some calm. At first I wasn’t sure if she was still asleep and simply shouting out but as I gently came alongside and held her, and asked her to explain. It became clear.

‘Mummy, should we ask Jesus to help instead. I can’t find God. Ask him now Mummy, I need help.’

I decided now wasn’t the right time for a long and careful bit of teaching on the Trinity, so I prayed, asking Jesus to come & help, and asking for us to have eyes that could see him in T’s dream. Then I suggested she go back and look for him. ‘Where do you need help T?’

‘I can’t get custard out – he’s fallen into a hole coming up the stairs and he’s stuck.’

Custard-cream, custard for short, is one of our guinea-pigs and very loved. I could imagine straight away how distressing this dream would be. ‘Jesus will be by the stairs then, do you think?’

‘Mummy, what if Jesus can’t see him to get him back, custard is stuck?’

Into my mind popped the verses which remind us that not even a little sparrow falls to the ground without Father God noticing. Thank you God. ‘T, he even sees when little tiny sparrows fall, he’ll be brilliant at seeing custard and getting him out.’

I am trying not to fall asleep while I hold T, still fitful and half awake, half asleep. Not sure I managed, next thing I know:

‘It’s ok Mummy, I’ve found him. He’s got custard.’

‘That’s great T. Time to get back to sleep then.’

I think I must have fallen to sleep right there in her bed (yet again!), I woke up to my alarm – Andrew shouting from the other room that my alarm was going off, and where was I!  As I sleepy as ever, got B downstairs for breakfast and another day began I was reflecting how amazing that night time chat had been. How wonderful it is that we can ask God to come even into the situations of our dreams and he comes to us quickly, and turns the situation around. And how encouraging that since the last time I had been with T through a nightmare and had coached her through inviting Jesus in and looking for him, she has taken it in, and run with this new possibility – she had already asked God to help before I even got there! I was also so thankful that the Spirit dropped just the right verses into my mind, against all the odds – I was so tired, not able to think straight, and it was the middle of the night after a day & a half of intense, difficult parenting – I had gone to bed (for approx an hour) feeling anything but calm and gentle. But His grace covered all of that & gave me what I needed for that moment with Him & T.




It was pitch black as I stumbled to find the bedroom door, and sharp urgent cries were piercing the quiet house again. I’m disoriented but the adrenaline is pumping, I’m on the case.

“Who’s crying?” – Andrew, “T, I think, just going…” – me.

I follow the noise, and am quickly climbing the ladder into the high bed and being grabbed and pulled in by terrified clinging arms. As I find a space to sit T is climbing into me, her face pushing into my neck and face, her fingers at my eyes to get my attention.

“Is it a bad dream?” – me, “yes really bad, they’re all at the door, roarhh, grrr..” – T, gritting her teeth, and growling.

I loosen her fingers that are now digging into my eyes and cheeks like bear claws. “I’m here now, tight squeeze?”. I hold her close & tight as the growling and screaming lessens and turns to sobbing. “Please God, don’t let this wake the others. How am I going to settle T to sleep again this time?”

As she begins to quieten I slowly but surely maneuver the tangled mass that is the two of us towards the pillow, trying to bring some covers with us.

“I won’t sleep Mummy, they’re still there. TURN THE LIGHT ON NOW!! NO MUMMY, I WON’T CLOSE MY EYES AGAIN. DON’T LIE DOWN!”, “Ok, lets move the little light closer. I’m not going anywhere, I’ve got you.” I hold tight as I get us back under covers with heads on the pillow. Her hands are back clutching my face, her eyes are scared. “Shh, I’ve got you, come on it’s still sleepy time.”

“They’re still there Mummy, it’s not finished yet.”


from ‘Children can you hear me?’ by Brad Jersak

“I know T. Is Jesus there? Do you remember we know that Jesus can meet you in your dreams. Where is he?” – “Don’t know Mummy, don’t like it..” – “Let’s ask him where he is? ‘Jesus, we need you. This is a bad dream, and T is scared. Where are you? come and help T to shoo the baddies away please’.”… I carry on holding her, waiting … “T, when you close your eyes just look for him, I’ll hold you the whole time. But Jesus is great at driving the baddies away, he can help you. He is always stronger than baddies. When A gets scared by bad dreams I remind him of a verse in the Bible that says perfect love drives out fear. Jesus is perfect love. He can do it for you, he’ll get rid of the baddies with you. When I talk with A he says Jesus does a great big Karate kick and sends the baddies down the stairs and out of the door for good. Can you close your eyes and see Jesus, go and help him get the baddies away”… “Jesus is our protector too” – T, rather surprised I hadn’t mentioned such an important fact. “Yes he is… the Bible says he is like a big strong castle with high walls we can run and hide in…”

She is calming down, and really trying to get ready to sleep again. She wriggles round and pulls panda & pandy close, and then I feel her body begin to rest and settle as she starts to close her eyes. I am so tired! “Jesus please help her, I can’t help her.”

As I begin to drift, “It’s ok Mummy, he didn’t need to build the whole castle, we’re building a wall together. They won’t come near me with Jesus here. They’re watching but they’re bored now.” … “great, they’ll go soon. Back to sleep now.”

Can’t keep my eyes open, despite the light, and the books and toys I can feel underneath me (she nests!) now that we seem to be the other side of the crisis! My arm’s gone to sleep before I have, I carefully slide it out from under T and I sleep again.

“Mummy, they’ve gone… and my little ponies have come to play with us.”

20170120_1041431I open a bleary eye, “wonderful. I’m just going to the loo. Is that ok?” – that’s our code for I need my bed now T, let me go please! She lets me go with a squeezy kiss, pulls the covers in tight and closes her eyes. Just like that! (yes it does have an air of the miraculous about it don’t you think?)


I leave the light where it is, and head back to bed. I have no idea what unearthly time it is, but I’m hoping there are weeks before the alarm goes off at 6! (and that for most of that time I’ll be in my own bed!) “Thank you Jesus, for being there, for protecting A & B from the noise, for speaking to T in a way she could see and understand, for understanding T, for knowing just how to get her involved in sorting out her bad thoughts, for knowing just what will make her smile and feel safe, for being stronger, for reminding me what to say, for giving me patience and wisdom and love … for my bed, for precious sleep.”

This way of using imagination (looking with the eyes of our hearts) and being with Jesus is something T and I have been exploring. This is probably the clearest example so far of us putting it into practice. Find out about the beginning of our explorations here in a previous post ‘can you hear me?’.