One Pink Toothbrush

Welcome to One Pink Toothbrush, where I will be posting moments from my days as a mum and as a wife. Funny moments, messy moments, thoughtful moments, teary moments.... and hopefully using each moment to see what God might be saying.

Monday, 26 October 2020

Trick or Treat

I have been asked to put pen to paper, or fingers to keypad, in relation to Halloween. I think I have steered clear of blogging about it in the past, because on the estate where I live, it's celebrated and enjoyed by most people. It's a real bringing together of the community, with houses decked out, hundreds of Trick or Treaters and amazing make up (see my friends in the below photo). I wouldn't want to offend my local friends. But hopefully they know me, and trust that I'm not trying to spook them (see what I did there), or ram my views down their throats, I'm just putting my views out there, because another mum has asked. 

The Bible is very clear about avoiding witchcraft, and mediums, and occult activity, but it doesn't say. "Thou shalt not carve a pumpkin". The Bible is very clear that there is a spiritual world; forces of evil and good. But the Bible doesn't say, "thou shalt not collect candy, wearing a pointy hat". 

For us, we teach our kids that there is Good in the world and there is evil, and we want to steer clear of evil.  People quite like to believe that there may be angels, but not so much the darker side of things The Bible describes the evil one as prowling around, looking to destroy. If there was an actual animal, like a lion prowling down my street, wanting to destory my kids, I would do everything in my power to protect them from it. And I want to do the same for them, spiritually. 

Christians have differing views on Halloween, and that's okay as long as we don't 'allow our own convictions about a holiday to cause division in the body of Christ, nor can we use our freedom to cause others to stumble in their faith. We are to do all things as to the Lord'. (Quote from GotQuestions.Org) Growing up, we didn't have anything to do with Halloween. We didn't answer the door to Trick or Treaters, and that's ok. That's how my parents wanted to deal with it, and it really taught me that the darker side of life, should be avoided. Others embrace the full dress up, in a fun, less spooky way. 

With my own kids, we have varied what we have done over the years. They don't go Trick or Treating, and at school they can opt out of activities if they want to, knowing that colouring in a Pumpkin isn't going to kill them. But based on the starting paragraph, we have tended to want to bless our community. Everyone is coming to our front door, and we know God doesn't turn people away, so we have wanted to show this in our actions. We have given out a good treat, and stuck a verse on it; God being the light of the world, or Jesus coming to save us. I'm not convinced anyone has come to know Jesus because of it, but it's our way of sticking to what we feel is right, and loving our friends and our community.

We've tried to explain that the Halloween holiday is different culturally for some people and countires. And we aim to be non judgemental no matter what others views are. We teach into the history of the holiday; the day after being All Hallows Day, when people would pray for past christians that had died. (Seems a little pointless, if they were already dead, but that's for another day...) And the imagery was that the goblins and witches would come out the night before to hinder those prayers. And trick or treating came from the poor asking to exchange food for prayers for the dead. I mean, there's a whole load of stuff in there?! We aim with our kids, to teach into magic, darkness, things designed to cause fear, and where the line between good and evil isn't very clear. (For example in regards to Harry Potter, but again, that's for another day...) 

We want them to live as children of the light in a world of darkness, believing that Jesus came to be that light. He came to protect us from the evil one who wants to destroy us. He would literally give the prowling lion a kicking, so that it wouldn't be able to get to my kids. 

If you show a child (and let them eat) a slice of cake or pie, explaining that the 'thin end of the wedge', is just the very start of the slice, but how tempting the wide bit of the cake or pie can relate that to what seems like the 'harmless' bits of Halloween; the dressing up and eating sweets, in relation to an enemy who wants to destroy them. Kids do remember teaching more if they can see, feel and especially taste it. Mmm I fancy some pumpkin pie now. (This is a not so subtle hint to my friend who makes them!!)

So we've tried to teach into these areas when we watch films, programmes and see things around. We had to also underline with one very literal child, that he wasn't to shout "Halloween, turn it off" whenever he saw a pumpkin, skeleton or a spider on the TV, and remind him that God did make spiders, skeletons and pumpkins, and we're not to fear the pumpkin!

Mainly, my kids don't want to miss out on sweets! So we make sure they have sweets or treats to enjoy, explaining that God loves to give and He says to taste and see that He is good. We've not allowed our younger children to go to the door to give out treats, simply because the faces and masks can be super scary, and I don't want to expose them to things that will scare them, or numb them to what is actually scary. Sometimes we have celebrated light, during what can be a bit of a darker evening, simply with light up balloons and glow sticks, but mainly they just want the sweets! 

"For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them". Ephesians 5v8-11

My friend has designed a Halloween Activity Sheet, if you'd like to purchase the printable. And this 3minute spoken word from Glen Scrivener, is a great watch.

Saturday, 24 October 2020

We're All In This Together

It feels like quite a big deal to open the laptop, and attempt to put my thoughts on paper. I don't know about you, but the longer I go into this Pandemic, the more some things seem quite free to leave, (which is a bit ironic as so many people aren't actually free to leave). I've watched creativity leave, closely followed by effort, energy, writing skills, new ideas, the ability to focus, and the desire to see people, just slowly up and leave. I didn't even try to stop them. I literally opened the door, and let them walk right out. The ability to stay awake, literally legged it as soon as it knew it could wander off.

So, time for a blog because I'm reminded that mums need to know that other mums feel the same, otherwise we assume everyone is doing better than we are and then the mum guilt, life guilt kicks in...Afterall, we're all in this together, as the new slogan goes.

And not just mums, it seems like the whole world is tired. 2020 is quite the year isn't it?! Disappointments, redundancies, cancellations, changes, 'the new normal', mask wearing, social distancing, plastic screens, Government changes, the Rule of 6 as a House of 8, Zoom meetings, and online life, as well as the normal hardships that life throws our way.

I miss church so much. I think I have realised just how much I relied on

church. I was encouraged by an interview I recently watched, with Andrew and Rachel Wilson. They said that it is right amd expected to find the lack of in-person church, spiritually exhausting. We were designed to be together. But I think I may have relied on church for my own spiritual journey, my own walk with God, and without it, I've found that really hard too. 

I'm so impressed with what has gone into making online church happen. From churches that have hardly any resources or people, to ones that can do a bit more, go a bit further. There is no lack of what you can find online, with Daily Devotions, kids worship albums, quizes, Kids Tv, Zooms, worship, Small Groups, and Alpha, as well as church services. I know it's not the same, we all know it's not the same, it's very different, but the resource is wonderful, and the effort people have put in is amazing. I'm pretty sure that when the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, with huge walls of water either side of them, a few may have said, 'well this is different'. 

I do find Sunday mornings quite hard. I think I'm desperate to worship, hear a preach, with my own church community, but the kids are kids, and don't seem to have the same desire in the same way, and the husband is often on screen rather than watching it with us. And funnily enough, when my attitude is better, it does go better. The Bible encourages us to 'go and make disciples', and this is an ongoing action with our children, not just a Sunday morning activity. Likewise for me and God, my walk with Him can't just be dependant on a Sunday morning's input. Thankfully He's available, every day of the week. He came to us, entered our world, to save us, to love on us, to demonstrate that He is with us, that we are all indeed in this together. Now that is a resourse! 

I thought I'd share some helpful tips from myself and others, which may encourage your Sunday mornings, your online church engagement, with kids. I haven't done all of these, (advice is much easier than practise), and those I have done, I have found a range of success and failure in. And probably best to state here, for comparison's sake, that I have passionately shouted, on a Sunday morning, "Would you all just shut up so I can worship", at my darling children. 


*Set and manage your own expectations/attitude. (Easier said than done, in this current season, but God hasn't changed and He promises to strengthen us). 

*Pray beforehand. Go 'expectant' of God to speak to and through you and your kids. (Who could we bless as a family? Who could we pray for? Leave a voice memo prayer for someone. This can help with just 'watching/consuming' church and actively doing church).

*Teach into 'an enemy who wants to destroy' and distract, from church involvement.

*Teach into the importance of church, church community, (committment and serving too) kids ministry, youth work. And acknowledge the difficulties of this season.

*Research beforehand what your children can do/watch/be part of. (If your church isn't doing something, find a church that is. Support what your church is doing, but feel free to add to it).

*No screens before church (So their first screen engagement is church, and there's not a battle to get them off).

*Plan to Sabbath well... what yummy food could you eat during or after church? Even bake with the kids on the Saturday. (But not something that adds stress to the morning). Make it the best hour of their week, your week.

*Colouring books, notebooks for doodles during preaches. (Effective for adults too).

*Do what works best for your family? ....A song and your own teaching, or an online resource all involved as a family...Kids doing something in another room while you do church/zoom... 'do' the service later when kids are in bed...make toys available, like Lego or colouring whilst you engage....all be in for church and talk through it tune into their church whilst Facetiming other kids from get their teddies to be part of the some ironing while watching, so kids are less likely to bother you (If you sit, kids will want your attention. Just happens).

*Keep going. Try again. Forgive them. Give yourself grace. Talk to God. Repeat next week.

"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Hebrews 10v24-25

Saturday, 15 August 2020

Fruit Picking

I live in Sussex, whis is famous for it's 'Downs'; the beautiful, green rolling hills. I have driven to the Downs many a time for a walk with the family, or to meet another family. I see local Brighton people post pictures of the Downs. But yet it came as a bit of a surprise when I recently found myself on the Downs, after walking not very far from my house. I took our puppy for a walk, and found a field, which led to another field....and on mentioning this to my sister in law, she laughed and said I had found the famous Sussex Downs, after living in Brighton about twenty years. I just assumed they were further away, a drive away... and they are, but they start extremely close to my front door. 

Anyway, on my newly found Sussex countryside walk, the grass was dry, the land was dry, and the blackberry bushes were seasonally not ready yet. But on closer inspection, although most of the buds were colourless, some of the very end stems held a beautiful dark blackberry. I picked a couple and had a taste. They were juicy and perfect. I was quite pleasantly surprised that even though it wasn't the right season just yet, the fruit that had managed to grow, was just as good as when it is full on blackberry picking, crumble making season. I also thought that by the time the rest of the buds had changed into fruit, these first fruits would have gone past their perfect juicy stage. It felt like a bit of a sneaky treat to have found them.

It made me dwell on this whole lockdown season. Although in some ways this season has been quite full; full of restrictions, my house has felt very full (like the book 'A Squash and a Squeeze'), the online learning has felt pretty full-on, and the amount of times I have been asked for snacks, felt fuller than a full thing...there has also been a lot of lack; less food in the cupboards, less pasta in the store, less people to see, as well as personal disappointments and rapid changes. It has felt for me, quite a fruitless season; not much growing going on. 

Thinking about these tasty, juicy blackberries made me wonder if maybe some fruit in my life has indeed grown, but I just haven't noticed it yet. When it's blackberry picking season, you take a tub to collect it all, you're expecting there to be fruit. You don't have to go looking for it, it's everywhere, and you already know what you're going to do with the fruit you collect. 

Maybe I should take a moment to stop and look for the fruit in this dry season, before it passes me by. Maybe it is there, really close by, but because of the quantity of dry grass and fruitless buds, it's harder to recognise it. Maybe it's a bit like driving to find some beautiful Sussex countryside, and not realising that it is actually a lot closer than you think. You just couldn't see it for a while, or for years even, but looking back over the fields, you see all that was growing along the way, and the seeds that had to die for better fruit to grow. Nothing is wasted with God. He uses it all, and He sees the fruit right at the end of the stem, and it is good fruit, because He is the one who has been tending to it.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 

Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit....

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." John 15

Thursday, 23 July 2020

The High Low of Parenting

Parenting is a real mix of highs and lows, throughout any given day, or even hour. 
You can plan for highs, and they can still become lows, and you can be in the middle of a low, and it can turn out to be a high. Many a time a discipline moment, has resulted in us all laughing. Even this morning, I was about to launch into the same old Playstation chat after an argument had broken out, but someone had left the stairgate open, so the puppy jumped on the bed rather excitedly and peace was resumed because of that. And nice moments, which have taken preparation and even a budget, can turn out not so well in the end. 
(Oh those ones are hard to get past sometimes). 
And quite annoyingly, a lot of it can be down to how mum reacts in any given situation... 

Why's it mostly based on my reactions? Thats a bit unfair, and we don't even do fair! What if I'm not in the mood to turn it around, or put the effort in?! What if I'm tired, or grouchy, or I'm 4months into a weird Lockdown season, due to a horrible virus, which has caused disappointments, and now it's the Summer Holidays?! (Hypothetically speaking of course).

So yesterday was one of those days for me. The day, or I, or both, just felt a bit bleurgh. I wanted the kids to get along nicely, not need me, find their own ideas to combat boredom, cope on their own, feed themselves, have no disagreements, (or if they did disagree, to work it out beautifully together with love and selflessness, maybe even with a prayer together. Is that too much to ask?!) I wanted to do nothing, but I was also fully aware that 'nothing' wouldn't serve them or me well in the end. There has to be a 'something'. 

Then there's the parenting decisions which revolve around the 'something'; plan a fun activity and put my all into it, or admit I need a break and ask cBeebies if she will babysit for me, or the middle ground type of decision which I went for. (It usually matters more what my attitude is, rather than what the thing is. But hey...) So we went to a park. But, we went to the right park; the park which meant I didn't have to get too involved. (In other words, swings were out of the way). I counted the cost of parking, a Cappucino and two bottles of Fanta, and then I sat pretty much for two hours in the sunshine while two girls went and had their own fun. It was what I needed, and they benefitted from it. They stopped play only for toilet breaks, refills of water for an inpromptu water fight, to tell me what they'd been up to and to ask for one push of a roundabout. 

It did us all well. Kids can be easily pleased with the smallest of efforts. I took a photo or two, as I tend to do. I am wanting to take at least a photo a day for the whole of summer. Just taking a picture of a 'something', reminding myself that there was a choice made, there was something to be grateful for. I'll put them on Instagram, knowing that one picture doesn't let you into the whole day, but into a moment at least. I hope other mums remember that as they scroll past too. Maybe the photos will all look different, depending on the day, the energy, the amount of kids around, the sleep had, the various moods, the sunshine, or lack of... but so much of mumming feels the same that maybe they will have a similarity to them.

What I do know is that my Heavenly Father never has to weigh up His attitude towards me. He made His choice to love and accept me when He sent His son to die in my place, for all my non worthy choices. And additionally to that, He chooses to delight in me. Every day. His thoughts about me bring Him delight. I wonder which moments He chooses to remember.

"He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me".
Psalm 18v19

Friday, 17 July 2020

School's Out for the Summer

Today feels quite the milestone! My last boy, my fourth, is having his last day at Primary School. 

It just happens to be his last day of Primary School during a global pandemic, so I'm very grateful that he was able to have this last day, as the semi-last day when schools closed a few months ago, was a sad and weird one. 

We've been at this school twelve years now, since the biggest one was four. We've gone through the ups and downs of local school life; the school having a name change, uniform change, different head teachers, different staff, (and one or two who have been there forever), being part of the governing body, watching it go through Ofsted inspections and seeing it finally become a 'GOOD' school (an emotional moment).

We moved to this quaint little village, I mean wonderful vibrant estate, around fifteen years ago. We felt God say to us, to send our kids to this school, which at the time didn't have a great track record. We trusted God with our boys. I remember my eldest, one year, having twenty one different teachers! That was a bit of a hard year, for us but also for the friends we had come to make in this community. We mentioned it a lot, got people to pray for the school and the community, and convinced some student teachers to take placements at the school, and further jobs. 

We've been to the Christmas fayres, the summer fayres, the book fayres. We've bought the fundraising cakes, and sponsored the non-uniform days. We've dressed them up as book characters. (And yes there was that time when I sent them to school as pirates, a week before it was pirate day). We've been to the assemblies, the nativities, the shows, the ear-piercing musical invitations, the Paragon events, the parents' evenings, the sports days (when it wasn't competitive and when it was). We've supported the 'maths with cups' initiative, and the ipad phase. We watched the Reception area get built, and the playgrounds change. We've had the awkward chats with other parents when our kid has been in the wrong, or their kid has. 

We've lost jumpers, gained jumpers, raided the lost property for jumpers. We've sent them or accompanied them on school trips, we've sent them to after school clubs, we've picked them up when they've had head injuries or been sick. I've signed them in late a couple of times. (This may be a slight understatement, and I feel like the office staff know me far too well). We've managed to avoid the PTA but supported them and all they do, and of course, the signing in of new parent governors. 

We've made a lot of friends along the way, other school mums and dads and grannies, who you do life with every day; some just a nod over the years and some more than that. Deep chats, tears and laughter with some, clubbing with others, Facebook banter with lots, Wetherspoons with a few, church with some, coffee with others, Prosecco with anyone willing, Lazerzone with a couple, sadly a graveside with one, but a friendship with many. 

And now I'm all nostalgic, which is a bit silly because the girls are still there. So I'll be at the school for another six years. Eighteen years I will actually do at this school gate, that's quite something. This school has a bit of a special place in my heart, so today I'll be nostalgic, maybe I'll even be emotional as I hand over the thankyou bottles and collect my latest baby to leave. 

It's not perfect this school, but it represents so much of what I love, in this quaint little village of Whitehawk.  

And those who know your name, put their trust in you, 
for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you. Psalm 9v10

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

A Squash and a Squeeze

"Wise old man, won't you help me please?
My house is a Squash and a Squeeze".

"Take in your youngest two," said the government man.
"Take in my youngest two? What a curious plan."

Well the youngest ones were excited to be at home.
But then missed their teachers, and started to moan.

"Take in the middle two" said the government man.
"Take in my middle two? What a curious plan."

Well the middle two had so much energy to burn.
They had to learn once more, how to take turns.

"Take in your oldest two" said the government man.
"Take in the oldest two? What a curious plan.

"But they will miss their exams, and even a prom".
That will be the least of their worries, with what's going on.

"Take in the husband. His office is closed".
He will now hold Zoom meetings next to a pile of your clothes.

So in the house, all eight of them were.
Then the husband surprised them with a friend made of fur. 

The middle ones only wanted to learn maths,
and one of the others took a long time to faff.

The oldest one had nothing to aim for,
And for some, home learning was really a bore.

The youngest one, needed support with her phonics
and mum realised she needed to be Bionic.

The food all got eaten, they just wanted more.
The time just went, the house doubled its chores.

Screens had to be shared, new work spaces made.
Mum had to teach, without getting paid.

People filled every inch of the home,
But with a garden to use, one shouldn't moan.

"Mum can you help me", interupted every hour. 
No space was given, not even in the shower.

Relationships strengthened, and some took the strain.
Every day repeated; the same again. And again.

Home learning, sharing screens, and working out with Joe.
Some garden visits, but no one in the house would go.

The 42 year old lady manically laughed, "At least we're now never late,
this house, it does feel full with eight.
Im tearing my hair out, Im down on my knees.
My house is a squash and a squeeze.

"Send the year six kid back, so he finishes Primary school".

He's fairly easy, but the house does seem less full.

"Send the oldest out to do manual work in a garden".

He's the helpful one, but yes feels less of a burden.

"Send that quieter one to serve, in the church media suite".

Ah yes the house can breathe, feels like a treat.

"Send the baby one back, to sit on her socially distanced spot".

Yes four down, feels like less than a lot.

"Send the husband back out. His office no longer is closed".

Might actually get round to sorting that pile of my clothes.

Thankful at times, for this bizarre opportunity,

to stay home, to stay well, and be locked down with my family.
While others go out, putting themselves in harm's way,
And some would have loved to have had such loud days.

There's no need to grumble and there's no need to grouse.
There's plenty of room in my house.

And now she's tired, but full of frolics and fiddle-de-dees.

It isn't a squash and it isn't a squeeze.
Yes she's full of frolics and fiddle-de-dees.
It isn't a squash or a squeeze. 
(Until dinner time when they're all back,
But for now, she will enjoy the lack).

For the Storytime version on Youtube, click here.

Friday, 22 May 2020

Hug in a Mug

Last night, we had an on-line church prayer meeting, and I cried afterwards. 

I cried because I miss my church family, I cried because it was nice to worship, I cried because I was tired, I cried because I was done, I cried because I needed to cry. A friend from church messaged me jokingly to say that I looked like I wasn't enjoying myself. Darn it Zoom. I messaged back to say that I was in fact enjoying the worship but close to tears. She offered to call me and pray for me, over the phone. Part of me wanted to jump at the chance, and part of me wanted to fob her off and say it was unnesscessary. I waited a bit, and then text her back with a Yes, hoping she wouldn't see the text as it was quite late. 
But she called, prayed, didn't ask questions and then hung up. I cried and felt a huge relief, and realised that was just what I had needed.

It's funny, the emotions that are thrown up in this Lockdown; some fear, some anger, some joy, some hilarity, some stress, some peace, some laughter, some doubt. My littlest girl has an online lesson with her teacher, and the teacher asks her to draw a face of how she's feeling. So far, she has only drawn a sad face, which is sad. She's actually doing very well, and happy a lot of the time. But the on-line lesson makes her miss her teacher. 

A couple of weeks ago, we did a Science experiment in our house. We wanted to test the theory; 'people feel better after drinking hot chocolate'. My Instagram friends got involved, sharing pictures of their hot chocolates, and how they felt after drinking them. It turns out you don't feel better if you've just eaten a whole Roast dinner! Or if your mum has pulled you off Fortnite to drink hot chocolate and talk about your feelings. But on the whole, we proved the theory to be true. 

As well as getting a hot chocolate out of it, and the kids enjoying Science, I loved the chat we had about how we were feeling. We wrote down what was sad or hard about our current situation; not seeing friends, staying in the house, not being at school, (even school dinners got a mention), not going to church, or friends' houses, not going to restaurants, not going to Youth, not playing football with friends, the virus, the deaths, missing the playground, and cafes with Daddy. 

Then we read Philippians 4v11-13
"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength".

I have read the last part of this verse many times before, but for some reason it really struck me this time. I think I sometimes want to add, 'except this' to it. I can do all things, except this. 

We chatted through the meaning of contentment. And it's quite the challenge when you're looking into it, and having to explain it to little people. You have to be honest too, and say where you find it hard. It's good for them to know you're in the same boat as them, and it's only God that is 'other/separate' from us. I explained that thankfulness is a really good way to help us to be more content. So we listed the things we were thankful for; the NHS, a garden, people in the house with us, binmen, Joe Wicks, ice cream, daddy in every evening, screens, films, flour, Facetime, and of course, hot chocolate. 

I'm pretty sure the exercise did me just as much good as it did the kids, and we've stuck the 'Content' picture up in our kitchen, so we can remember what were thankful for. Because we can do all things through Christ, who gives us strength, even this.