the votes are in

love joy peace

I vividly remember my first ever vote. Walking in to the Polling Station with my Dad, who took me to the desk and proudly announced to everyone and anyone that it was my first time to vote. We registered, went to the booth to cast our vote, posted it into the black box and went home! I don’t know who felt more proud, Dad or me – I certainly remember the feeling of the sheer privilege of it, and the weightiness of the process of reading up, carefully considering, praying & voting.

The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can [all] be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live. (1 Tim 2: 1-4 MSG)

We grew up discussing together. Questioning, discovering and finding out for ourselves. Matters of faith, ethics, the big questions of life were mulled over. Sermons were discussed at Sunday lunch. Politics was also a significant part of family conversation. We knew (or at least I’m fairly sure we knew) how Mum & Dad probably voted, but they modeled a way of weighing up policies from different parties, holding them up against the Bible and our experience and knowledge of our faith, questioning them and ourselves. They modeled a sense of responsibility to take each opportunity to vote seriously, showed us in their attitudes and actions the ways that policies were not simply academic but affected people. We were not told which party we should vote for, we were shown how to vote. I’m so grateful for their lives of faith and the example they gave us. I’m thankful too that over the years they have made room for our questions, our doubts, our naivety, our simplistic thinking. That they did not belittle but encouraged.

So today I have thought a lot about that first experience of voting, and how my parents made space for us to grow and discover for ourselves – and how that spurs me on to keep intentionally making that same safe space for mine as they grow. I have, as usual, missed my Dad’s voice and encouragement in the run up to today. We have definitely not stopped the big discussions, not stopped asking the difficult questions whenever we get the chance to all be together – and the older ones in the next generation are getting into the swing of it very ably too now – but it is one of those parts of life where it still feels very stark that his voice and his wisdom is not in the mix anymore since he died!

What would he be reminding us of now that the votes are in, and the counting begins? Whatever tomorrow brings I think Dad would be reminding me of my calling to Christ-likeness, in my loving and living, in my choices and my thinking. So I am reminding myself of Jesus’ ‘manifesto’ – and praying for more grace! (so much more needed as always!)

When he stood up to read, he was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll, he found the place where it was written,

God’s Spirit is on me;
    he’s chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor,
Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and
    recovery of sight to the blind,
To set the burdened and battered free,
    to announce, “This is God’s year to act!”

 

He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the assistant, and sat down. Every eye in the place was on him, intent.  (Lk 4:17-19 MSG)

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A change is as good as a rest?

Holiday time!

We have visited family on the south coast, not far from Torquay. It’s been our first visit here… (the thought of which, I must admit, made me feel very anxious and tired in advance of going!)

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Travelling

It was a long journey, we prepared a large bag of snacks, drinks, and each had a bag of distractions. So thankful for an Andrew who willingly drives (I haven’t been able to drive for quite a few years but that’s another story for another blog!), for music, our ancient in-car DVD player; for princesses, cartoons, and colouring; for books and imagination. Also very thankful for baby wipes, child locks for the back doors, for seatbelts, & calmingly snuggly soft toys…

Needless to say, despite all of the above we were relieved to get there! (frustrations and near-meltdowns are very loud and intense in a car) There was a wonderful welcome & cup of tea (the joys of visiting family), swiftly followed by a very very bracing walk along the beach front before supper – much needed!

Activities & outings

We were only a couple of minutes away from the beach so we had a number of walks there, shell collecting, a visit to the pier, and the play-park.

Before we went we had looked at what places we might visit & had planned and prepared for a visit to the zoo (carefully looking at the website, all the animals’ pictures, the map, the type of food available etc) so that was a whole day – quite an achievement for us – so often a day out is only sustainable for a couple of hours.

There was an afternoon visit to the nearby model village, which I remember visiting as a child. There was a trail to follow with particular characters to find on the way round which helped a great deal (apart from the difficulty of some of them not being in the same place as they were in the photo, or the one not quite matching the colours of the printing… distract, distract, distract!!)

We spent another afternoon exploring Torquay just a little; a girls outing choosing & trying on clothes (only possible because of Aunty M… don’t think I’ve ever managed that!), and a boys adventure in a big book shop and meeting up for coffee.

Food

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I always feel guilty staying with people, even relatives who I’m sure love us & accept us – we’re just not at all straight forward or easy around food! I always worry about offending our hosts when food is refused, or pushed around the plate. And it’s impossible not to feel stressed out by the stressy behaviour we routinely have around the meal table, watching it being endured by others!! But that said, the food was amazing as always, and apart from the above hiccups I think our hosts will recover given a rest! (…and hopefully we’ll be allowed back again! It’s simply an amazing gift to us that we are cooked for & tidied up after – it means we can both get a bit of a breather from the norm.)

It was just warm enough for picnics (all layered up and in hats) on our days out. Never easy but marginally easier than finding nothing that can be eaten happily in a restaurant/cafe or worse, finding that the food that’s usually acceptable is imperceptibly but very definitely different (meaning wrong). We coped ok at the model village despite a dog at the next picnic table, but the zoo visit was a tricky one – understandably really once a seagull had landed on my head (thank you God; don’t think we’d have coped if it had been anyone elses!) & stolen my sandwich!!  Let’s just say anxieties were running extremely high, for a while we tried Andrew standing guard but in the end we had to pack up & go and find an indoor spot (difficult in other ways, noisy and a funny smell – but the reminder of seagulls kept us there long enough to eat just enough – and we got a hot drink into the bargain!).

Sleep

…there’s really nothing to say… holidays don’t come with sleep in our family… there is always far less than usual… we had T in our room (that should say bed really) with us, the other 2 in their own spaces. But with a different routine, in a different place, with different smells and sounds sleep doesn’t come easily (even with melatonin, there’s just too much adrenaline) and when it does it’s always much more restless whenever we are away.

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So, now we are home again… the washing machine is on permanently, collected shells are drying (outside, they smell more of the beach than a walk on the beach does!) and being back in routine is just within sight… can’t wait, I’m shattered!

 

 

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!

 

 

full to overflowing

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We have reached our limit for plums!!

There is a wonderful plum tree in the garden here, and this year it has been heavy with plums. The freezer is full; we have had to reinforce the cupboard shelf to hold the number of jars of jam, syrups, jellies & chutneys (including some beautiful bottled plums still there from last year!); the ice-cream has been made; curd is stored in the fridge; and cakes have been made, eaten and frozen! It’s been a good harvest!

I have loved the days when Andrew & I have gone out and worked together to pick and sort the plums, with a ladder and bowls (and A sent hurriedly for saucepans & bags when bowls were exhausted), and intrigued hens pottering round our feet.

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I love the way our glut of plums gave T & I an excuse to go and chat with the neighbours here, and to spend time finding out how they are. Andrew has also taken plums a bit further, to friends in church.

The (seemingly endless) task of cutting and cleaning plums for jamming has given me times standing chatting with B; rather orange fingers if I’ve done too many all in one go; and quite a few giggles with my girls whenever we found a wriggling pink grub inside one!

It has been fun to search out new recipes – and to taste test some – the plum syrup is pretty good in a fruit salad, and yes it is good on pancakes. B & I have also enjoyed naming some adapted recipes – my favourite this harvest ‘plumentine marmajam’ (perfect name for a chunky, just sweet enough clementine & plum jam).

I am loving the fact that we have now reached our limit of picking and storing too! Now over to the birds, the insects, bats & hedgehogs to forage and harvest. And we will gather in the last few ripening blackberries, elderberries, and hazlenuts – and hopefully a butternut squash when it is ready & a few late corgettes.

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Can’t help but feel very keenly just how full to overflowing our store cupboard is, especially in the light of watching the news with B, A & T this morning finding out a bit more about how the convoy of aid trucks was bombed on its way through the fragile ceasefire to those besieged & desperate in the cities of Syria. And reading about the growing food crisis in Sudan, and the affects on families of the troubles in Yemen. The material I am preparing this half term for our pre-school sunday group is ‘God made enough’ – so I can… share, be careful with all he gives me, trust him, have all I need…

B & I read tonight:

Do you know how God likes to be introduced?

His name is the Lord … Father to the fatherless, defender of widows (Psalm 68:4,5 NLT)

Our Almighty God who sifted stars through his fingers, stands not with kings and princes, but with the weak, the powerless, the poor…

He hears their cries. He fights for them and defends them.

(from ‘God’s title’, out of Thoughts to make your heart sing, Sally Lloyd & Jago)

And I find myself singing this prayer quietly as I wait for her to get to sleep:

Oh God, help me to keep our eyes and hearts open, to see the ways you fill our lives to overflowing so that it can flow out to others. Spirit help me to keep us feeling the compassion and love of the Father’s heart who hears the cries of the hungry, lost & forgotten. Help me Lord, to live generously and open heartedly; to model the opposites of ‘grabbiness’ and ‘looking after myself first’ for my children as we all grow in faith, learning life driven by faith and hope, not fear or despair.

For you are the God of the broken, the friend of the weak. You wash the feet of the weary, embrace the ones in need. I want to be like you Jesus, to have this heart in me. You are the God of the humble, you are the humble king.