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.

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Little Girl

“Heavenly Father…”
Oh wait a minute, I’m being called. She calls me because she needs a wee. I ask her if she needs my help. She says no. I leave the bathroom. She asks me to stay. She asks me if I need a wee. I say I don’t. She says I could try. We could wee together. I do a wee. We sing the weewee song. I wonder if other people know our song. Mums must know it. She says her wee was yellow. She asks about mine. I say yellow too. We wash our hands. She wants to stay and wash her’s for longer.
I leave the bathroom.

“Heavenly Father...”
Oh wait a minute, I’m being called. She needs me to turn the tap off. She asks me where the water comes from. I explain pipes. She asks where the pipes go next. I say they’re underground. I realise there’s stuff I don’t really know, or ask. She heads off to her room.
I put the kettle on.

“Heavenly Father...”
Oh wait a minute, I’m being called. She can’t make the microphone work. I show her the wire and the switch. The one I showed her yesterday. She asks me to sit on the bed and listen to her song. I don’t really want to. I listen to her song. Not sure what the lyrics are. I don’t think she minds. She says it is my turn. I really don’t want to. The microphone is wet.
I sing a song into the microphone. She likes my song.

“Heavenly Father, thank you for today...”
Oh wait a minute, I’m being called. She says she needs a plaster. I ask her why. I know it doesn’t matter. This will only end in her getting a plaster. She says her knee is bleeding. It’s not. She fell over. It was four months ago. I go get a plaster. She calls down the stairs. You’re not getting my plaster. I don’t call back. Sometimes it’s easier that way. I give her a plaster. I’m sorry about her sore knee. She gives her head-tilt. She’s thankful for the care. I suggest she plays with ponies. She plays with Barbies. I go down seven steps. She calls me.
I breathe. Or was it a sigh? She wants to know the pony’s name. I suggest a name. It’s the wrong name. She suggests a different name. It’s the right name.

I gather the washing from room to room. But not her room. I don’t want to disturb her. I head downstairs. Wet washing transferred to the dryer. Dry washing into the machine. I put the kettle on. I clear away the cereal boxes. I clear away the breakfast bowls. Someone has left their lunch behind. I unload the dishwasher. I re-load the dishwasher.

“Heavenly Father, thank you for today...”
She asks me what I’m doing. I said I’m talking to God and I’m cleaning the kitchen. She says she is so hungry. I ask her if she wants an orange. She doesn’t. I ask her if she wants toast. She doesn’t. I ask her what she wants. She doesn’t know. She suggests crisps. I say no. She says she’s so hungry. I say it’s not lunchtime. I suggest an orange. She says toast. I say please. She says please. She offers to help me. I breathe. Or was it a sigh? When she helps, it takes longer. I say of course. She drags the chair across the floor. She’s done this before. I hand her the bread. She pops it in the hole. We press the lever down. I put the kettle on. We wait for it to pop. Up it pops.

I put it on her plate. I reach for the butter. She says her can do it myself. She moves the knife over the toast. But not the butter. It doesn’t spread. She says my can’t do it. I say we’ll do it together.

She says I don’t love you mummy. I know what she means. She wants my shocked face with a follow-up tickle. I do my shocked face and the follow-up tickle. She leaves the kitchen with her plate. I make a cup of tea. I wonder if re-boiling does change the taste. I sweep the kitchen floor. I dustpan and brush the kitchen floor. I pick out a hair bobble. A Lego man. A marble. I put them on the side. I empty the black bag into the outside bin. I put out the recycling. The recycling bin needs squashing down. I wonder which days it gets picked up. I see a missed call from the school. One of them has left his lunch. One of them has bumped his head. I say I’ll bring the lunch. I spray the sugary kitchen table. I wonder about the solidity of Weetabix. I grab the bleach. I bleach the loo. I put the loo rolls in the bin. There’s no black bag. They’ve all gone. I put a make-shift carrier bag in the bin. The kids will all miss the bag. I make a mental shopping list. We need toothpaste. I should write it down. I breath.
Or was it a sigh?

“Heavenly Father, thank you for today…”
Silence. She doesn’t call me. Where is she? Why is it so quiet? I should check on her. No she will be fine. But it is quiet. I have a look in the lounge. She’s found her dummy. She’s hiding behind the curtain. She’s found the iPad. She’s locked out of it for seven minutes. I say she needs to ask to use the iPad. I remind her about her toast. She doesn’t want toast. She wants crisps. I wonder when the dummy will go. I tell myself I’ll make the call soon. I laugh at myself. No I won’t. It brings me peace. I mean her. It brings her peace. I don’t know where all the other dummies are. I’ll add two to the list. I need wipes too. I should do an on-line shop. What else am I getting? Black bags. I ask if she wants her bin lorry. She does want her bin lorry. I get her bin lorry. I gather washing from her room. I should have added it to that wash. I’ll stick it in the washing basket. What is that smell? It’s coming from the washing basket. I’ll do another wash later.

“Heavenly Father, thank you for today…”
Silence. She doesn’t call me. I grab my tea. It’s cold. I put it in the microwave.

“Heavenly Father, I’m sorry. I don’t think I remember how to pray”.
“That’s okay, precious daughter. I never sigh when you call my name. I love when you call my name. Even if you only get round to just calling my name. I also know your real name, not the name you’re called by. By the way, I made wee yellow. I know all the names of the ponies, real and plastic. I know where the water comes from, every-day water and living water. I always want to hear you sing. I sing over you. I delight in you. I know where you’re hurting. I care.
I’m with you in the every-day. In the mundane. I’m with you, even when you think you’re capable of doing life without me. Even when you can do it all by yourself. I’m just waiting for you to ask me. You can even ask me for crisps. I’m patient with you. I can soften hardened elements which need purifying in you. I can clear up the mess. I can feed you. Even when you don’t love me. Even when you’re silent towards me. I’m still here. I know where you’re hiding. Sometimes you lock me out. I know the code. I can wait. I know what you need. I am your peace.

One last thing, I made tea!”

Photo Credit: Her

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

5 A Day

I was reminded recently about my 'Fruits of the Spirit' Instagram stories, from a while back. Last week, a different friend asked me how my 'word for the year' was going.  And this morning two of my boys fed back to me about the 'Fruits of the Spirit' which they learnt about in their different Youth groups. My word for the year is 'intentionaI', and I don't think I've been very intentional lately, so I appreciated the nudge to be so. And as a result, I've remembered this blog post which I was meant to be intentionally writing! 

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." (Galatians 5v22-23) 

The fruit of the Spirit, is a bit of an odd thing to say isn't it?! It is basically the result of the Holy Spirit’s presence in the life of a Christian. The Holy Spirit makes us more like Jesus. The Holy Spirit produces types of fruit in us, that reflect His nature. If we're spending time with, and allowing God to shape us to be more like His son Jesus, then we will show these fruits in our lives.

I don't know about you, but I sometimes remember things better, or find it easier to teach something if I have a visual representing it. Even better if I have a taste to go along with it. So I got out some pens and paper with the kids, and a load of fruit. We listened to the Fruit song, and then I asked my children which Fruits of the Spirit they felt they showed a fair amount of, and which ones were lacking. We shared fruit, or drawings and some vulnerability with each other.

One of the younger ones said they were good at drawing, (missing the point a little) it was encouraging to see her brother point out to her, that actually she was really good at showing the fruit of love, because she showed love to their younger sister when she didn't deserve it. It even prompted him to say that he wasn't very good at that one, because he struggles to show love to younger siblings when 'it's not fair'. It was wonderful to hear that self reflection, which is hard for adults, let alone a child sometimes.

I took the plunge, and asked them which fruits they thought I was showing in my life, and which I could ask God for more of. They said I was very good at patience, which I struggled to not be shocked at, but I could do better at peace; an interesting one I thought, so I asked in what way. They said that when I raise my voice or shout, it takes the peace away. It was challenging but I think really helpful for me to hear how things affect them. It's helpful too for them to see that I'm also in the category of 'sinner saved by grace', someone who has also 'fallen short of God's perfect ways'. Yes I'm mum, so I have more wisdom and experience than them. I assume I know more Biblical truth than them, but when it comes to sin, I'm in the same camp as them. And when it comes to 'Fruits of the Spirit', again we're in the same camp. We can expect the same things in our lives, the more Jesus-like we become. 

I went forward for prayer at church Sunday just gone, and the lady prayed for a Spirit of Repentance to be upon me; meaning I'd be quick to see and know when I've fallen short, when I've got it wrong, when I've lived for me not Jesus, and I'd be quick to say sorry, accept forgiveness, and therefore get ready to go again. 
I thought that was scary, as I'd most likely be more aware of how often I live by the flesh, want I want, instead of the Holy Spirit, what He wants (and knows is best for me) but I also thought that would be really helpful, to not get tied down to the sin but set free from it. Because in Jesus, I am free, accepted, forgiven, loved, cherished, delighted in, redeemed and more if I  have repented, said sorry, for when I do fall short which is often. 

The Fruit of the Spirit is a helpful check to see if I need to repent. Let's look at the first of the nine fruits... Have I been loving? Could I have been more loving? Did I with-hold love? Well, what is love? "Love is Patient, Love is Kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs". (1 Corinthians 13v4-7) Mmm... so yeah that's really easily attained, isn't it?! No!! Ah this is why we need God's help. This is why we can't rely on trying harder, doing better (although actually it is good to aspire to be like Jesus, and therefore put the effort in). We need to intentionally ask for God's help, we need to ask for the Holy Spirit to help us and our kids, be more like Jesus. 

Although the activity I did with the kids was a great starting point, there's just so many layers in addition to it, and that's why we need to keep modelling it to our kids, teaching them, understanding it for ourselves, asking about the bits we don't know, showing them scripture, sharing with them when it links to something previous, encouraging them to listen to the Biblical truths in their kids' work at church, and so on. That could feel daunting or a great challenge, depending on the day, your mood, your character, your kids etc, but for me it helps me on one hand step up and be more intentional, and on the other hand to rely more on God, because I simply can't do it without Him, and neither can they. If we can aim to eat 5 fruits a day, for our health then surely we can aim for these 9 fruits for spiritual health too.

Monday, 14 May 2018

What's For Dinner?

As we continue through the Jesus Story Book Bible, we find ourselves at a slightly tricky chapter, a hard one to explain to little children; Abraham sacrificing his son. We must be wise in how we tell Bible stories, but we must tell them. I've spent far too long as an adult falling back to the New Testament, the gospels where Jesus is in all His splendour, rather than searching for Him in the Old Testament as well. I want to teach my kids to find Him everywhere. A friend of mine says that it can be like playing 'Where's Wally?' You have to really search for him. But when you do, when something is made clear about Him, the penny really drops and your eyes are open to seeing Him more and more. 

So tonight we told the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac, and we discussed what the story meant to us. My son had a realisation as I read the words, "Many years later, another Son would climb another hill, carrying wood on His back. Like Isaac, He would trust His father and do what His father asked. He wouldn't struggle or run away". (pg69 JSBB
My wide-eyed son simply said, "it's the exact same story". He had found Jesus in the story.

After reading, we went into the kitchen where I had acted out the scene on the dinner table, using tonight's dinner. My kids had asked the infamous question earlier, "What's for dinner?" And I had simply replied sausages. (I know they ask me this to gauge whether they're going to like it or loathe it). 

Sometimes my kids barely bat an eyelid anymore, but they were amused and grabbed a plate. One of them suggested that I should have put ketchup all over the Ram roll of bread, to show where it had been killed. But I reminded them that they have little sisters, and that may not have been appetising. (Obviously I could have gone for a lamb joint, but that's an expensive dinner to spread all over the table!!) 

I asked how the story had spoken to them. One of my boys said that it was hard to sacrifice what you want for someone else, one said that he was coming to realise that we, his parents, want what is best for him, even when he can't see it. (I just nodded along, gently, humbly rather than fist pumping the air and shouting rather smugly, "finally!!")

My example was that I had recently felt the cost, the sacrifice of leaving one church site for another, and how I had to trust that it was God's best for me, for my family, and for both those church sites. One boy said that sometimes giving away what you want, actually means you get something better instead, and sometimes it doesn't. My little girl tearfully added that she had to trust God with her best friend moving to another country, even though it was sad and she didn't understand. I was just shocked that she had grasped an element of what I was teaching, on a really personal level. And the three year old was cross with me that I had stuck her Playmobile people in the savoury rice!

It was good to remember at the end of chatting and sharing, what God had sacrificed for each of us; His only son that He loved dearly, because of His vast never-ending love for us. Someone said to me yesterday that they wondered when Jesus' death on the cross had hit home, was it when He hung there and died? Was it when He carried the cross up the hill? Or was it when Him and His Father made that hill in the first place?! 
What an eye opening moment that was!

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

He Made Me Do It

As a family we have started reading The Jesus StoryBook Bible, again, and as I explained in my last post 'You are what you eat', we're attempting to link the stories with dinner, or pudding, or a snack, to help the teaching sink in more visually and more tastily! The world on a pizza took a while, with a comment from my oldest of "Maybe a little too much Pesto". He may have had a point, but it was for artistic purposes. He was on the phone to his friend, before he arrived at our house for a sleepover and he said to his buddy, "you may wanna eat before you get here". Rude!

"The Terrible Lie" (pg 28-37) was a great discussion for us. The older ones have to think of a way the story relates to them personally, or how it talks to them practically where they're at in life. The younger ones talk about what they liked, or ask questions. The three year old just asks for the apple, makes snake noises if engaged at all, or just grumpily says, "that's my Barbie", snatching her back and pulling off the Parsley modesty leaves, thus exposing Eve, and causing giggles throughout the family. Anyway, we plough on. They tasted the organic carrot cake nakd bar; two in favour, four not so much. 

One of the topics which comes up is of course disobedience. We talk about how Adam and Eve were not allowed just one thing, whereas it was a yes to everything else, and the disobedience was actually A&E not trusting God. 
They gave in to the temptation that they knew better than God, they gave in to the lie that God's best for them wasn't actually the best for them. It's such a great parenting topic, not to become all law-based, and use it as mum ammunition, but to teach our kids that we have their best interest at heart. Of course, with the humble admittance that we may well get it wrong, and the wonderful truth that God doesn't. His best for us is His best for us. No mistakes.

Our kids know that if we can trust them, their world gets bigger (boundaries stretched, independence upped) and if they break that trust, their world gets smaller. There's plenty of stuff I didn't understand as a kid about my parents wanting the best for me, because it didn't look like that at the time, but some teaching only comes into fruition when you're an adult; that's a long time for a mum to wait for fruit!

Another topic which came up was of course nakedness. Standard. The boys actually tried not to burst into hysterics, when it was mentioned; just sly looks at each other and a smirk. (As a side note, our kids aren't allowed to tell each other about sex, until the husband has individually taken them on a little camping trip, explained everything, and only then the older ones can talk to the younger ones about it. It's like a coming of age. It involves a library book, a campfire, and being able to laugh at a Sperm Whales. I'll get him to write a guest post on it! All the boys have had this chat so smirks are allowed...

We talked about the nakedness in Adam and Eve's story, and how it represented shame. We just thought for a moment how shame felt, and we understood why A&E wanted to cover up and hide. It was a great chat, with one boy really sharing about temptation in an area of his life, and another boy seeing how vulnerable his brother had been in sharing it. It's important that the Bible has application for us as adults, and for kids to grasp too. There's reasons for the Bible stories. They're not Fairy Tales or just moral teaching. And that's what The Jesus Story Book does so well; pointing everything to Jesus.

We all laughed at Adam's, "She made me do it". I sometimes say to a child, "I'm really sorry for shouting, you just made me snap". That's not an apology, and neither is it a taking of responsibility for my own actions. It may well be true! But one of the fruits of the spirit is 'self-control' no matter which kid pushes my buttons! (This is a life long lesson for me I'm sure). And the kids had to admit, that they all do throw the "he made me do it" excuse out into the justification speech. It may not be as clearly said as that, more like, 
"well we were both.... and then I....."

It was good to remind them that God has an enemy, and therefore they do also, and we shouldn't be fearful of the serpent, but we should remember that he is always whispering, "does God really love you? Do your parents really love you? Does God really want what's best for you"? Because if they learn to recognise their enemy's voice, with God's help they'll learn to ignore it, dismiss it, refuse it. Instead they can tune into God's voice telling them they are; 
chosen John 15v16,
loved Ps 86v15 
created Ps 139v13-14
 forgiven Ps 103v10-12
 loved some more Romans 8v37-39
righteous Romans 5v1
 protected Psalm 46v1
  blessed Ephesians 1v3
 and loved even more John 3v16 

Adam and Eve's garden story ends with God's compassion, God's love for them, even in the midst of their discipline, even in the midst of their sin, and their shame. Our story begins in sin and shame, but God's compassion, God's love for us had a great rescue plan attached to it; Jesus. A terrible lie outweighed by a tremendous truth.

You Are What You Eat

In my morning Bible reading, I've been looking at the building of the Tabernacle, (the place where God's presence rested) and I have been struck by what the different people bring to the making of it; some people bring gold, some silver, some bronze, some scarlet yarns, some Acacia wood, some goatskins, and some precious stones. Then there are others who bring oil, some who bring spice for the oil, and some who bring goat's hair.

I really like where it says, 
"Whoever is of a generous heart, let him bring the Lord's contribution". Exodus 35v5

You could be led to think that surely the person who contributed Gold, contributed a better, more worthy substance to this Holy build, than the person who contributed goat's hair or oil. But as always with God, He's interested in the state of our heart, rather than the stuff.

Yesterday I arrived at church, and headed straight for the coffee; standard behaviour for any mum! I was offered instant instead of filter coffee, because the lady knew me, she knew my preference. That felt like a generous heart towards me. And although not as many hours went into the refreshment set up, as it did the preach prep, her servant heart added to the building of church that morning. 

A few weeks ago, I was making the world on a pizza, while the husband was editing himself gagging on a bowl of peas, and I got the giggles. It seems that our own unique creative ways of adding to the building of the Tabernacle, could be considered more like goat's hair than gold. But it's our hearts that God is interested in, not our contribution. 
I know the husband's heart is for young people to have a place to find good, clean, fun, godly content on the internet. (Check out his Youtube channel Jibflik). And my heart is to encourage and spur on mums. 

The verses I'm reading in the morning, seem to be attaching themselves to different points during my day or week. I have a couple of friends who really look for moments in their week to see where God is bringing that point home more heavily, and I'm trying to do the same, rather than just read it and tick it off. The Bible is meant to impact our life, our daily choices, our ups and downs, not just be mere words to read. We have tried various ways over the years to keep our kids engaged in Bible reading, because we want them to be reminded of, and changed by what they hear & read. We want it to sink in today, but also in ten years time, because parenting isn't just about today, it's for shaping them for their whole life. (Which helps me breathe a sigh of relief if I get today wrong). 

We have been better with it in some seasons than in others... mornings don't work for us now due to teens leaving early and childminding kids arriving. We aim for some dinner times as a family now. The older ones and us two are attempting to go through the New Testament at our own bedtimes. I've dropped the ball on that one recently, so the teens may have too. Need to get back on that. The girls have a Bible story read to them each night, one from The Rhyme Bible, with me reading the sentence and her finding the last word which completes the rhyme. And one from My First Bible. I have to admit I'm sometimes grateful when they forget to ask, as I'm pretty spent by bedtime. But they tend not to forget because it's become a habit, and of all the habits kids can stick to (like the boy who puts socks on after a bath, so he's ready for bed) I'm most pleased with this habit. My 8 year old has just borrowed Diary of a Disciple as his bedtime reading, after completing The Action Bible.

But what comes around again and again is The Jesus Story Book Bible. Oh it's so good. It's helped me hear truths when I've struggled, it's helped in leading a few of my kids to become Christians, it's a great book to give non-christian friends. It just goes on and on about God's never ending, never breaking, unstoppable love for us, and that's what I want my children to soak in. 

So our new little family venture is to read a story from it, alongside having made a dinner, pudding, or snack to go along with it! (Hence the 'World on a Pizza' from earlier). Some of them are easier than others, and I've recruited help from slightly more creative friends at times. The teens have thrown in some suggestions when it comes to John the Baptist and his diet of locusts and honey! Mmm... can't wait for that one. But I'd love you to join me in it, and show me photos of your own Bible Dinner Inspirations. Have a look on Instagram 'jesusstorybookfood_onepink, after all "man cannot live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God". Matthew 4v4

Friday, 13 April 2018

Mothering Autism

Due to April being 'Autism Awareness Month', and to link in with the ongoing mothering series, I interviewed a mum who has two children with Autism. I'm very grateful for her honest answers...

A brief background…
We have two Autistic children. Our son is 9 and was diagnosed two years ago. Our daughter is 11 and was given a diagnosis in January 2018. Both our kids were initially referred at a young age (our son at 3 and our daughter at 5), but both of those assessments proved inconclusive, which means the process has taken a long time in both cases. Getting a diagnosis is just the beginning of a very long journey, but I feel like we’ve been in the ‘diagnostic’ stage for the past six years!

How does Autism show itself in your children?
They both have something called ‘social communication difficulties’ which means they don’t socialise in the same way non-autistic children do; they find it hard to understand social cues and all the ‘obvious/unsaid’ things that everyone else picks up on naturally. Our son also seems to have some cognitive processing delay (he can take a while to formulate sentences and answer questions) and his learning is quite delayed in some aspects. Our daughter is very high- functioning academically but struggles to understand implied meaning. Both of them are very rigid, literal thinkers, and show some form of ‘stimming’ behaviour (repetitive actions autistic people do to calm down or use as a thinking strategy). Our son paces/walks in circles when he’s thinking aloud. Our daughter at times does finger-flicking or rubs her knuckles together when she’s a bit stressed.

Both of them withdraw when overwhelmed and do a lot of self-talk, often repeating snippets of things they’ve read or heard (another calming strategy). A favourite movie can be repeated for days on end – I’m well and truly sick of Captain Underpants! Our daughter also has very poor organisational skills so she’s always losing things, doesn’t know what she’s meant to do between steps in a process and needs LOTS of reminders. You can see both our kids at times gazing at a fixed spot or standing still because they’ve zoned out or aren’t sure what to do next.

What’s the hardest/saddest thing about having a child with Autism?
I'm sure it changes, but at the moment it's the sense of missed opportunity, and how things might have been different. I'm still at the point where there's a growing sense of the battle ahead and as yet things being somewhat undefined. We’re now in the midst of applying for an EHCP (a Statement) for our youngest, and thinking about whether he can remain in mainstream education for secondary – a decision we can’t even begin to fathom. At the same time, we’re working out the transition process for our eldest from primary to secondary, trying to get to know a whole new Special Needs team in a completely different setting. I’ve joined parent groups/mailing lists/research projects and the paperwork is endless.

What’s the best thing?
The two of them. Who they are. It’s a common paradox that you wish they didn’t have the difficulties they have, but if they weren’t Autistic they wouldn’t be them. And they’re awesome kids.

Are there any funny moments?
All. The. Time. They’re odd kids. In a really good way.

How do you pray about Autism?
I don't. I pray for their needs. We pray that God will help them with the things they find hard, and encourage the kids to do that. My boy asks Jesus to help him with his learning like he helped Daniel, and he asks God to help him to stay calm when he doesn't understand what's happening. My girl struggles to pray at the moment, but I pray she will learn coping mechanisms to improve her focus and that God will deepen good friendships and help her relate to others. She's at a tricky point as she knows he brother is Autistic, and is beginning to recognise the things that make her 'different' from others. She mostly loves being 'weird and wonderful' but there are days when she really struggles with 'not getting it' and in her words, 'feeling like an alien'. It's heartbreaking.

Are there any verses/songs which help you carry Autism whilst having a relationship with God?
Funnily enough, the soundtrack to the movie The Greatest Showman. "This is Me" is a corker of an acceptance song, and "Tightrope" is a fabulous affirmation of a couple’s commitment to live a life on the edge, and walk it together. It helps me when I’m feeling wobbly! Our daughter’s big journey has been with disclosing her diagnosis to friends (she’s fully aware of what Autism is) and walking that line of accepting who she is as well as learning strategies to live and function amongst the rest of the world.
Lou & Nathan Fellingham recently wrote a song, adapted from the Hymn ''He Giveth More Grace" and Psalm 139 especially with the communication stuff; "before a word is on my tongue/you discern my thoughts from afar". God 'gets' my kids absolutely. Even when nobody else does. Even when they can't help anyone else understand them and can't articulate who they are. God gets them. They're not locked in by this thing. They're known deeply and loved deeply by Him. I don't know how my kids will fare through life with Autism. But I know that God knows, it's part of who He's made them to be, and He is their keeper, their provider and ultimately their rescuer.

Are you/have you been cross with God about it?
Heck yeah. And I'm sorry every time.

How does having a relationship with God help you as a mum?
It gives me an ultimate place of rest, even if it takes me a lot of scrabbling around in the dark to get there. It means there's reason in this. And a purpose beyond what I see and battle with in the day to day.

What is the best/worst thing people can say/do to help or make it worse?
Best is to just take us as we are if you can hack it. I think social isolation is one the worst. Our kids have very few close friends and social gatherings can be tricky, but the two of them long for connectedness and company, even if it takes a bit of supervision, and training for them. There are a few people who love us so well and pray for us and seek us out and seek our kids' company out. It's a balm to the soul because we (and they) don't get that on a day to day basis.
My pet hate, is when people say “I don’t know how you do it.” I understand where the sentiment comes from, and on a good day it IS encouraging to hear. On those days I can laugh and say “Neither do I!” The bottom line is, as with any form of adversity, we do it because there’s no other choice. We keep going because there’s nothing else to do. It’s not a compliment to say “I couldn’t do what you do” because actually if you had to do it, you would – end of.

Anything you want to add that I may have missed?
Most Autism parents are not experts. They, like all parents, learn on the job, constantly have to readjust, rethink, start over every day and do the best they can in the circumstances. They're not superheroes. Or intrepid pioneers carving out some new path. They're just people, by God's grace, doing the job at hand to the best of their ability. And they need to know they and their kids are accepted and loved as they are. That they don't need to make excuses. Or huge statements. That they don't have to exemplify some neat picture of 'walking with God' through Autism.

It's just life as it comes and some days we cope, and some days we don't. I look around at so many people with varying challenges and think, everyone has tough things they have to cope with. The challenge with something like Autism is that it's a constant thing. It's not a one-off moment of adversity. So even when it's "mild" (as might be my kids' case relatively speaking) there's no let-up. There are better and worse days, but it's an inherent part of life. And I'm sure I'll have lots of wisdom to impart once my kids reach adulthood. But this is it for now.

Monday, 9 April 2018

Now You See Me, Now You Don't

In the last blog, I looked at Hagar and how she was seen by God. I read a blog post a couple of years ago, called Nobody Saw You. It's about being a mum, and how a lot of what mums do isn't seen....the nose and bum wiping, the repeated story reads, the sleepless nights, the tantrum training, the losing it and apologising, the vomit clearing, the nursery rhyming, the bag holding, the gospel truthing, the tired crying etc 
(**The F word appears in it once, just a little warning). 

I remember crying as I read the blog post, because I resonated with it. I had a one year old, and a three year old, as well as the boy ones, and I was touched by it. Mummying can leave you a bit isolated, and feeling a bit invisible. You kind of want someone to see all the little bits that you have done, and give you a 'well done'. But a lot of those little bits aren't seen, and sometimes the house can look exactly how it looked at the start of the day, and the child can sound exactly how they sounded at the start of the day, and you can feel exactly how you felt at the beginning of the day. 

So much actually goes on, in the life of a mum, whether it's noticeable or not. 
The blog post, says at one point,

"Nobody sees you sometimes
but you are building something
that will never be torn down
a love that cannot be removed".

It speaks of a mother's love for her child, the building and training of that little person; a powerful thing indeed. 

"Train up a child in the way he should go; 
even when he is old he will not depart from it". Proverbs 22v6

The blog is written for a friend of the blogger, but I think it resonates with any mum. Like I said, it touched me personally. But also it gave me the challenge to make sure mums felt seen. So I bought some little bars of chocolate, some little bottles of wine, and some name tags. I simply wrote, "You are seen".  And I asked a few other mums to do it too. 

I stopped the car, and got out to give a mum of twins, a toddler and a dog my little goodies, and she was touched. I wanted her to know she was seen. I left a bottle of Gin outside a friend's house, who was and still is in a battle, letting her know she was seen. One of the mums I asked to help me, gave her little treat to a school mum whose son had been quite ill. She put a link to my blog, the above blog and their church details on the label. The mum burst out crying, and accepted a hug and the encouragement. And someone left a mini bottle of Prosecco out for me, which even though I had planted the idea, it actually really blessed me. 

So my challenge to all you mums is to bless another mum this week; a mum you know and maybe one you don't know. Could be a little bar of chocolate, could be a voucher, could be just a card, but let her know she is seen. Maybe you're a mum who longs to be seen, and known. Well this is the week to receive by giving.  Let her know she is seen by another mum, who understands. But more than that, she's seen by God, and loved dearly by Him. I'd love to know how it goes for you! 

"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, 
just as in fact you are doing". 1 Thessalonians 5v11