Sugar free January??? No chance

Everything on my news feeds at the moment is about clean eating, getting fit, ‘new year new you’, sugar free, dry January. I read them with my chocolate bar open next to me, and take them with a pinch of salt! There’s no chance, not for me this year! With sleep still a constant battle, and worries every which way I turn these types of resolutions are a battle I can’t take on (even if I wanted to – and actually I don’t, chocolate & I are good friends!). I haven’t made any resolutions at all really. I guess I’m in survival mode most of the time, taking each day (or on a bad day, each 5 mins) at a time.

If I did sit here for a moment (my first moment like this in a while, Christmas has been (mostly) wonderfully full on as usual) with time to reflect and dream what would my resolutions be I wonder?

There are many things I would like to improve in family life, or sort out in the home. Yes my diet (and over reliance on chocolate) does need an overhaul – despite Andrew’s best efforts to get me eating good, home cooked, balanced meals in the evenings. And my hair & skin need a fairy godmother! But are these the things I want to resolve to focus on this year? Probably not.

I would love to remember more than I forget that God’s presence is with me – all the time, in every minute of the day & night. I believe he’s with me; Emmanuel – God dwelling with us; yet somehow in the middle of family life’s complicated and stressful day to day it’s something that seems to slip my mind and I don’t want it to! I believe his presence is with me and that I don’t have to work hard, or shout loudly to conjure it up. It’s his promise to me as someone who trusts and loves him. He’s here, right here, closer to me than the breath I take in. His loving, under-girding, kind, powerful, gentle, wise, leading presence is here ready to help and save, comfort and restore.

Oh yes, people of Zion, citizens of Jerusalem, your time of tears is over. Cry for help and you’ll find it’s grace and more grace. The moment he hears, he’ll answer. Just as the Master kept you alive during the hard times, he’ll keep your teacher alive and present among you. Your teacher will be right there, local and on the job, urging you on whenever you wander left or right: “This is the right road. Walk down this road.” (Isaiah 30:21 The Message)

I’m an open book to you;
even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking.
You know when I leave and when I get back;
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 139:1-6 The Message)

“I’m telling you these things while I’m still living with you. The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught. (John 14:26 The Message)

Maybe I’ll draw out these verses and put them in places I will see as I go about my everyday here in this house.

I need reminding, I’ve been far too good at forgetting, I am not alone.

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Looking at it it seems a rather simple resolution. But I have a feeling that if I were to succeed it could change pretty much everything else – my perspective, my responses, my feelings. So my prayer for myself for 2019 is simply this, ‘my Father God, open my eyes and heart up to your presence even more as we walk through each day of this new year together…’

 

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fun memory verse ideas

We are very caught up in revision at the moment, right in the middle of exams for B.

There are a lot of things to remember – not my best skill! (thank you long term sleep deprivation & anxiety) – formulas in science, definitions, quotes in English and RE. B actually has a really really good memory, and if she is engaged in the learning – if focused, definite, clear cut things get stuck so quickly.

Yesterday we were praying before leading our junior age church club, Blast, and listening to T beeping the numbers on the church key safe to help by getting the keys to open the main doors. She’d been allowed to do the code once before a few days previously and of course, yes, she could do it. The number sequence was at her fingertips. To me that kind of memory seems like a superpower! I simply cannot remember number sequences at all, and am pretty hopeless at recalling definite factual information from memory.

For me, remembering and being able to bring to mind verses from the Bible effort has to be intentionally put in. I know I want to. I know it’s not going to come easily. I know I have to put in the work. With all the focus on revision though at the moment, I am questioning whether I am sharing that hope and expectation about Bible verses. Do B, A & T even think about why or if its important to know verses and be able to bring them to mind? Am I sharing with testimony with them, of times when verses have powerfully changed a situation or strengthened me or someone else? They are naturally gifted with the ability to remember, am I encouraging them to remember the Bible?

I remember a season with A when he was facing night after night of nightmares which were vivid and difficult to move on from and find rest again. We taught him a tiny snippet of scripture;

‘…perfect love drives out fear…’ (1John 4:18)

thinking together about who we knew who was perfect love, and how strong a word ‘drives out’ is. Over a stretch of nights we spoke it before sleep, and when the nightmares came showed him how to speak it out and cling onto Jesus who is perfect love. We imagined Jesus like a superhero/ninja standing tall and kicking his fears out of the door, down the stairs and out into the driveway. We imagined him coming back into A’s room and standing guard till his angels took over again. Sometimes we actively did the kicking alongside Jesus, kicking his fears out of the room as we reminded each other that Jesus, perfect love, was with him fighting for him. We learnt it to the point when some nights we simply spoke out ‘perfect love’ as we sat with him, welcoming Jesus in and waiting for sleep to come again. It reminds me how precious scripture is for our children, how much I want them to delight in it and know it.

So some fun ideas to learn memory verses:

  • love this idea from #flamecreativekids of a dice race… who can be first to roll the dice and be able to say the verse in order.
  • of course, I’m immediately reaching for doodling and colouring… my latest colouring verse was designed for a friend leading an after school club wanting a verse to reflect on.

 

  • following #godventure on social media means I now have the yummy idea in my head of icing parts of a memory verse onto different cupcakes so they can be arranged, remembered and eaten! Love the symbolism of that.2016-06-11 10.19.17
  • using lego, bricks or playing jenga with words from the verse on the blocks.
  • Making up actions to go with the words.
  • Enjoying a song that uses the words, T would be wanting to dance too.
  • Making a nature or magazine collage of the verse together and pinning it up in the kitchen.
  • playing charades to find the words
  • a treasure hunt for the words
  • make bunting or a set of decorations that can display the verse. IMG_20180602_232001_387
  • using different voices, or accents (both T & A find this funny)
  • use fabric pens and design a T-shirt or a tote bag with the verse on.
  • challenge each other to see who can use the verse in everyday conversation!

Please do comment with your favourite ideas for fun memory verse learning!

make do & mend

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For some time now our curtains in the sitting room have been embarrassingly saggy, hanging in a lop-sided and disheveled way. One of those things that has been niggling and annoying but every time we’ve looked at them it’s felt like a huge job so we’ve put off doing anything about it.

Last week though Andrew came home with new curtain poles and reminded me that he’d already made sure we had new curtain tape! So I guess I wasn’t surprised when he woke up this morning ‘eager’ to sort these curtains out on his day off… I on the other hand was rather reluctant!

Its been a long, tiring week. Challenging behaviour, lots of extras to the usual week’s work, Andrew was away at the beginning of the week, and of course there was a dentist appointment thrown in for good measure – there just had to be, it was that kind of week. I woke up simply beyond tired, a fiddly job like sewing new curtain tape onto 2 sets of curtains was probably the last thing I wanted to do!! I did get some rest time this morning after the school run – but then the job began. You know when you are going about things really slowly, stopping and starting, complaining inside, already imagining the absolute worst outcome & already regretting the time and energy I hadn’t yet invested in this make do & mend job…. well that was me…

why am I doing this?

I don’t want to do it right now.

I’m no good at this anyway, it’s going to look awful.

I haven’t got the energy for this today.

The curtain tape will probably run out half way.

Goodness these curtains are so old, I’m not convinced new tape will revive them.

Oh help, here goes with the scissors. Hope I don’t wreck them. I’m bound to make a mess of this.

We didn’t even buy them for this room, one set isn’t even the right size, no wonder they look so tatty.

Why can’t we just buy new ones??

Truth is we could of course have spent a lovely day choosing new curtains. We’d have both enjoyed that together, and we may even have found something that would have looked great in our sitting room (these are fine, but I don’t think either of us look at them with any sense of ‘wow, I love those in here’, they’re functional.), and sometimes for other things we do choose to buy new. But with these curtains we wanted to stick with the make do & mend principle, there’s potentially a lot of life left in them (assuming I didn’t make such a mess of the job in hand that is!). It matters to both of us that we weigh up even seemingly little decisions and get a balance we are content with between buying new and trying to make things last. There’s no escaping the knowledge that what we do with our ‘stuff’, and what we do with the ‘waste’ that we produce as a family has a much bigger impact on the earth, and it’s people than we can get our head around.  I wonder also if those actions and decisions we make about our ‘stuff’ have a bigger impact on our hearts and well-being than we can get our head around either.

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it..

(Ps 24:1 NIV)

Caring for the earth, and the people in it – all loved, cherished & delighted in by God matters to us as a family. And that inevitably means that the little things, the make do & mend curtain jobs matter. But I needed encouragement today, and the accountability of my Andrew to face the job that seemed huge in the midst of tiredness. It was a small thing, an everyday, family life, mundane thing but it reminded me that discipleship is the long haul and often it means pushing through in those inner battles about taking the easier, more comfortable and convenient way.

You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally.

(1 Cor 9:25 MSG)

With Andrew’s encouragement and help the job was done… the curtains back up, and yes they do look better, and no I didn’t wreck them, and yes they’ll be great in the sitting room for quite some time to come! So we didn’t need to buy new this time. That’s resources saved, potential waste reduced, and so I trust that’s God’s earth and God’s people impacted for good in some unseen way through our make do & mend curtains. I also trust it’s another small victory in the everyday life of this (very often tired) disciple, a reminder to keep at it and to keep on recognizing that with God all the small things count!

 

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!

 

 

fascinating distractions!

It all began with eggs ‘n’ bacon! (Sorry Andrew not the eating kind.)

Everything is suddenly growing very fast, and in between the grass cutting our lawn is becoming a meadow full of beautiful wildflowers. I took T for a carry round the garden last night waiting for baking to finish, we needed a distraction – even though the baking was a distraction in itself from a stressful spiraling conversation about her not accepting why she couldn’t go ahead & do something that she really wanted to do… anyway, between the showers there was a moment of warm sun in the garden, and of course the birds were out in force because the rain had stirred up the insects and worms! The grass was wet hence the carry – shoes couldn’t be chosen, but she was not wanting to touch the grass – strange how sometimes she can’t get enough of the sensation of wet grassy feet, other times it’s a definite no!

We stood for a long while watching (with T’s finger on my lips – a permanent reminder of the rule that to birdwatch we need to stay super quiet!) a mummy blackbird catching worms in the newly dug veg patch, watching carefully where she went in the hedge behind the shed and listening for baby bird chirping. Then daddy blackbird came along, and we wondered (in whispers) together how many worms a baby bird might need each day?? T -‘one for breakfast, one for lunch and then now before bed I think (serious face)’ – ‘and at night time?’ – ‘no mummy, then its time to sleep.’ (silently pleased she knows the concept at least – night is for sleeping!) All of a sudden the pair of blackbirds started to shout loudly, and flew up… there was a magpie. We watched as they defended their nest noisily, eventually sending the magpie away. T found it sad to think of a big bird trying to steal and eat a smaller bird’s eggs so we talked about that for a while.

As we walked I spotted a wildflower growing that we’d not seen there before so we stopped to have a look (mind the feet nr the grass Mummy!!), ‘I called this eggs ‘n’ bacon when I was little, isn’t it lovely’ – ‘eggs and bacon??’ – ‘yes, probably because it has lovely dark red flower buds look, and then the flowers are deep yellow like egg yolks’ – ‘Oh, that’s strange, how funny!’… ‘what’s this one’s name?’, T said looking at the speedwell next to it. We wandered along the edge of the garden talking about their names, speedwell meaning grows well not meaning super fast; cow’s parsley because it’s leaves look similar to parsley but it’s not ok for us to eat, just ok for cows; that got us remembering seeing cowslips, ‘are they like cow’s lips?’, ‘no I think they were called that because they grow in fields near cow’s splatty poos, the poos used to be called slips’ – giggling; buttercups, ‘look if you pick them and hold them under your chin your chin shines yellow, it looks like a cup full of golden butter doesn’t it?’ – ‘not really Mummy’; foxgloves, because the flowers look like little slippers for fox size feet?? ‘but foxes don’t need slippers do they Mummy?!’; dandilion clocks, how many times do you have to blow to blow away all the seeds? does it tell you the time? ‘no Mummy, that’s silly.’ Etymology is going to be a fascinating puzzle to explore with her if she stays interested. Anyway, we spent a very happy and fascinated 20 mins or so looking, spotting and wondering. Thankfully the cake was ready when we got back, and then tea (thankful for TV to get us through that next 20 mins of waiting), a quick chat with our neighbours taking them some cake – and then relax (ish) bedtime… (and what a bedtime it turned out to be… but that’s another story!)

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what a lovely juxtoposition!