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, 16 September 2017

Ten Out of Ten


This week me and the husband celebrated fifteen years of marriage. Well let's just say we reached fifteen years of marriage. We didn't exactly celebrate. This photo was taken with a Lemsip in hand for Him and in between frequent visits to the loo for me. We managed a smile, and a laugh. We didn't go in for a kiss. Marriage may be about sharing, but he didn't want what I had! We were in bed for 9pm, for nothing other than hoods up, bed socks on and asleep by 9:30pm. Living the dream. 

Last year, we celebrated in Rome! The husband often asks me what 'number out of ten' do I think our marriage is at, right now? It's a brave question. I mean, if I've cried that day and it was possibly his fault, or he was just vaguely to blame, then that number is going to be low. And if I've had a cup of tea in bed that morning, I might go way high. There's nothing to base my answer on apart from just how I feel in the moment. And he knows that about me. He then asks me, "what would get it to a ten?" This particular time, instead of the answer he may have been expecting like, "text me back in the day/change more nappies", I said "take me to European cities, without the kids". Short and simple. 

So that's what we have been doing, when we can arrange the military operation that is the babysitting of 6 kids. (Thank you to all who have taken part in this operation #grandparents #church #friends #schoolmums. You know I appreciate you). It's now in our budget planning, as is family holidaying.


The husband rarely changes what would make it a 10 for him, (when I'm brave enough to ask the question back). He wants more sex, more respect and more words of affirmation. Repeat.


The first time we went anywhere, was Barcelona, 5 years ago. Love that city, and sad for its recent pain. We realised once more, how wonderfully different God has made us to be. The husband is the 'let's do lots of things and see lots of things and go to lots of places, with a timed 
schedule' kind of person, and I'm more of the 'Mojito in one hand, on the beach, what's a schedule?' kind of person. Ah Barcelona, the first time I ever swore at my husband. In short, there had been a 'miscommunication' about a market, so I swore at him. Oh I was so angry. We were on hire bikes at the times, so after my first (of still a few) swears at the love of my life, I cycled off in a triumphant huff. Except that I was in a different city, and didn't know my way round, so I had to cycle just far enough in front, to make sure he was still close behind me.  


So Rome was last year. We hired segways and went on a tour of Rome to find out interesting things about the city, which one of us was really interested in. The husband of course, nailed it on his first try and I embarrassingly just went backwards with the tour guide telling me to thrust my hips forward. 

So our fourteenth year seemed more of a celebration than our fifteenth year. But that's what marriage is like; walking the ups and downs with each other, the highs and the lows, the tears and the joy. 
The longer we are married, the more different we realise we are. The husband is ever so focussed, methodical, tidy, good at time keeping, scheduled, ordered, you know the type who like the Tupperware lids to match the Tupperware boxes, with no spares required. And I'm more the 'so there isn't a lid which fits, let's use cling film, and wrap it in a carrier bag' type. I do not understand his ways, although I see the  benefits and he does not understand mine. And as we tell any couple we meet with, it's a different way of doing things not a wrong way. 

Also the longer we are married, the more we have a glimpse of what this 'mystery of marriage' is all about. In short, it's about living selflessly, giving to the other, loving unconditionally, putting them first, leaning into their preference, putting their needs above your own, whilst encouraging them, spurring them on, and forgiving quickly. It is of course an image of the gospel. Jesus came to Earth, to love and to serve, to rescue and to save, to deny Himself in order to put us first. Was it easy? Loving us definitely was, and is. But I don't think dying on a cross, and being separated from His father was easy. It was a sacrifice. It literally took blood, sweat and tears. He didn't just step out of His comfort zone, He stepped out of Heaven, humbled Himself, to put us first. 

And that is what marriage is meant to be a reflection of. Bit of a challenge if you ask me. I get a miffed when the husband doesn't put me first. I hear my kids say what I'm literally thinking, "muuuum he's not being selfless to me". My tantrums just come out a bit differently; a slightly slammed drawer (although ours have that annoying soft close effect), a stoney silence, a raised eyebrow, a huff, a shake of the head. Maybe for some, it's a shout, a swear or a walk out. We see our kids tantrums for what they are, but ignore our own because they're usually a bit more civilised than rolling on the floor screaming. (For some of us anyway).

I said earlier that marriage was about sharing. I don't actually believe that. Marriage isn't about give & take or being fair, or 50:50. It's actually about loving the other person with a gospel love. And that takes hard work, a lot of forgiving, and a daily reliance on God to help. Sometimes marriage requires other people to speak into it. We've had to meet with another couple before, when we're not able to see past hurt or bickering. It's humbling but well worth it for the strengthening of our marriage, and for the benefit of our kids, and ultimately strong marriages are a blessing to the church, and the community.

I can now see when the husband secretly wants to throttle me, but chooses love instead. And hopefully he can see when I'm putting him first, albeit through teeth. We haven't nailed or perfected marriage. Maybe ten out of ten happens after 60years or something, but we do enjoy marriage immensely, and laugh at each other a lot. So here's to the next fifteen... 

"This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband".

Monday, 7 August 2017

The Thing About Newday is....

The thing about Newday is that it is just such a different week; different to the norm, different to every day day life, different to what you expect or even plan for it to be.

The thing about Newday is that it makes you feel like you're living out Ground Hog Day. Didn't we just do all of this a year ago? 

The thing about Newday is that you reunite with your 'once a year' friends, and realise again how wonderful these people are, as they serve the next generation.

The thing about Newday is that you see people working in their gifting, and it's a fantastic thing to see. 

The thing about Newday is the epic cafes, even though the youth have been fed by fantastic church catering teams.

The thing about Newday is that you eat more carbs than you've ever solely eaten in one week, in a room which is louder than any room you've eaten in before.

The thing about Newday is the amazing cleaning team, who have to deal with all sorts of nasties, and they're always smiling!

The thing about Newday is the exhaustion you feel; maybe it's the camping, the carbs, the emotions, the hours, the people...maybe your lilo went down, or maybe it's the walking, or the toddler not napping, or the serving, maybe it's all of the above.

The thing about Newday is that someone is always doing a job, which you just couldn't do, or wouldn't want to do, or wouldn't know how to do.

The thing about Newday is the Health & Safety team saying yes to the fighting, trapezing dinosaurs and the kids covered in gunge. 

The thing about Newday is that you can doubt yourself or compare yourself; maybe they make it to more meetings than you, maybe they get to go to less, maybe they're up front and you'd like that, or maybe they are never seen, and perhaps that is the dream.

The thing about Newday is that you can't quite see how putting your excited, 'out of routine', feral child back into a caravan bed for three hours is really adding anything to the event.

The thing about Newday is that more than three times a day, you do not know where said feral child is, but usually someone else does.

The thing about Newday is the amazing clouds which seem more intense in Norfolk, and the rainbows of promise.

The thing about Newday is the diversity; whether it be through rap or through strings, through pancakes or jerk chicken, through inner city London or the beaches of cornwall.

The thing about Newday is when your youth come and visit, and you act all breezy when you're just so pleased to see them, and to hear that one of them has even showered.

The thing about Newday is you hit a wall, you throw your hands up, and slump down on a flat lilo or a grassy cushion and you have a bit of a cry.

The thing about Newday is the kids work full of friendly faces, welcoming the sad or happy little ones.

The thing about Newday is the copious amounts of sugar which can be consumed. Every day is sweetie day.

The thing about Newday is the neighbours; you just have to put up with them! And the poo stories, and the laughter.

The thing about Newday is the damp, smelly clothes which live in the corner of a tent, growing their own vegetation.

The thing about Newday is that there are young people everywhere, and they stay up really late, whereas babies and children wake up really early. It's a fun combination!

The thing about Newday is that some people are in a seminar learning stuff, or in a prayer meeting hearing from God, and you're walking around a campsite pushing a buggy, feeding the occupant some snacks.

The thing about Newday is dancing outrageously in worship, or standing quietly still while everyone else dances to the beat.

The thing about Newday is catching the wow moments; your child falls asleep on the floor of the big top, and you hear the preach, or the testimonies. Or maybe your child is awake, and clearly meeting with God, or a friend prays for you, or just understands where you're at.


The thing about Newday is when an eleven year old boy, gives his heart to Jesus, and so does the next and the next and the next, until one hundred and fourteen young teens suddenly realise what Jesus has done for them, and make a stand to follow Him. 

The thing about Newday is watching the team your husband works so closely with, (for this crazy week), bawl their eyes out because of this. Because this is what they are here for.

The thing about Newday is hearing the 308 who have found God's love and forgiveness for the first time, and more who have been reminded, and have found His love for the second time, or even third, or fourth...

The thing about Newday is hearing the hundreds of young people who have been healed from physical and mental illnesses, and those that have been set free from other things which have bound their young lives for too long.

The thing about Newday is the perspective, the bigger picture. It's the putting aside of the hard bits, and seeing why this event is put on, why it's important to equip the next generation to live a life which glorifies God, confident in Him always having their back.

The thing about Newday is watching young people experience forgiveness and be inspired to make a difference, to take the gospel of Christ to others and to live the adventure He wants for them.

The thing about Newday is that it is worth it. It's just so worth it. 

"For the Lord is good, and His love endures forever;his faithfulness continues through all generations". Psalm 100v5

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Panning for Gold

Some of the things I encourage my kids about, seem pretty small, almost insignificant. At the moment, we're on our final potty training season. It seems to be going a little easier this time round. Maybe when you have six kids, the last one just kind of gets the memo, and self trains.

The little dimpled pink one, takes herself to the potty, does a wee, Facetimes someone to tell them her achievement and the best bit, she doesn't even ask for her sweetie; her positive reinforcement, her bribe. At least one of the others worked out how to do his wee in stages so that he would get multiple mini marshmallows... but not this one. She does her business, and we all do the 'wee wee dance', and then she's happy. She hasn't nailed number twos yet, so they are found in the swimming costume or the knick-knicks. We've yet to have a trouser leg incident, or as one of mine did, the 'Bob the Builder incident', where we found them substituting one thing for another, and using their trucks to scoop up the 'mud'...

Anyway, I digress. It's so important to praise the little things, just as it is to recognise the huge things that they do. Sometimes I find myself saying, "well done", and clapping, when they eat one spoonful of dinner without whining. Sometimes in a slightly more sarcastic tone, it's a well done for finding a shoe, sometimes it's something they're explaining to me, and I have no real understanding of what it is that they're saying, but they're really pleased with themselves, so I go along with the excitement. 
Sometimes I hear the husband 'fake wowing' to a child's piece of junk modelling, usually followed by, "how long have we got to keep this?" (The husband does however refuse to 'let them win' at races with him, or bundles, because when they actually do nail him for the first time, he wants them to really know it was a win. And enjoy it. Many years of annoyance and tears for this one point he wants to make).
panning for gold
I especially encourage anything I see which feels gospel-based, or Jesus-like. When one of them is selfless to their sibling, without coercion, prodding, teaching or nudging, it's just the best. When one of them is kind, or empathises with a hurt sibling, oh it's such a beautiful thing. When they stand up for someone at school, or stand up for a belief that we have as a family, when they tell the truth, oh it's so precious. These little gems feel quite rare; there is a lot of digging and sieving to pan for the gold, but when you find it, it's priceless. The gold makes all the digging worthwhile. The constant training of kids in the way they should go, is worth it. Sometimes the husband or a friend has to point these gems out to me, when I feel like I'm just digging with little or no reward. And these moments encourage me, they make me feel like I'm doing an okay job raising my kids. 

Jesus spent His time on Earth spotting the gems in sinners' lives. When the religious leaders who pretended to be perfect, saw fault, especially in the women of the day, Jesus saw their hearts instead. I'm encouraged by this, because I know Jesus sees my heart and finds the gems in my own life, when I'm not sure how I'm doing. He sees a gem and shines it, and says "well done". Sometimes as mums, we just get so tired, that our head stays in the sand and we forget that God is panning for gold in us. He uses all kinds of things, including our kids to bring these nuggets of gold to the surface. He is our Heavenly Father who loves us and is proud of us. 


"The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16v7

Friday, 16 June 2017

#nitgate

Sometimes verses in the Bible hold a stronger image for me, than at other times. For example, when I was in Rwanda, the verses about farming and seed planting seemed to make more of an impact than when I was back home in England. "He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully", this meant more to me when I saw the farmers sowing seeds and talking us through how best to cultivate a good crop, than when I just walk around Asda with no real idea as to the work which goes into sowing and reaping. I wouldn't even know which season is best for what, because Asda is 24hours a day, seven days a week...

And when I'm at a wedding where the wine is flowing, it's always fun to remember that Jesus' first miracle, was turning water into the best wine ever tasted, not the two for £6 at Mulberry's.

At this very moment, the verse which keeps running over in my head is, "...there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother". Proverbs 18v24 


And for what wonderful godly reason, is this image sticking with me? Because I'm in the Head lice cycle. And those little suckers are sticking around for longer than I care to mention. Three of my kids' hair is beautifully soft, because we are in the 'conditioner - comb out' stage. They also smell of Tea Tree oil, not so good, because then everyone knows what you're currently dealing with. Well, every mum knows. The kids are about to smell of Vosene, which is an even worse smell, but it's the next recommendation I'm going with. Two of my kids never get them, and one pretends he has them because he loves physical touch and the thought of me stroking his hair is a delight to him.

When I just had boys, I'm sure this whole thing consisted of hair shaving or at least a good old trim. But now I have little females in my life, with thick luscious hair. And I have to comb the little suckers out of that hair, day after day it seems, week after week, I don't know, it feels like year after year at the moment. I have to find their favourite programme on the tele, so they sit still long enough, and then bribe them with anything I can find! And as soon as I even start, my own head starts the nervous itch. Some of you reading, are wanting to have a scratch right now! 

So I'm struck by this verse that there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Some of my 'brother combinations' are as thick as thieves, and other pairings, not so much. But the Bible talks of a friend who sticks closer. The Bible describes Jesus as a friend of sinners, one who will never leave us. 

So my encouragement at the moment, is that Jesus sticks closer than even a nit on a strand of hair. And no matter what I do to try and shake Him off, get rid of Him even, he still chooses to stick by me. Of course the analogy falls down in many ways, like Jesus doesn't drive me to despair, and I wouldn't even able to live if He ever left me, whereas I think I'll literally celebrate when I get rid of the nits, maybe with a little trip to Mulberry's...

But right now I'm embracing the notion, with my hair up in a ponytail, that He is sticking with me no matter what.

(One bonus of #nitgate is that there has finally been a use for the hundreds of loom bands lying around the floor).

Monday, 29 May 2017

Sugar & Spice & All Things Nice

I'm a mum to boys and a mum to girls. Some of it is exactly the same, and some is different. One of the differences has to be just simply the smell. Sure all nappies smell the same, and each sticker-giving deposit in the potty. But apart from that, boys seem to have a certain whiff about them which I'm sure girls don't have. Maybe I'm just biased. After all, us girls smell of sugar and spice, and all things nice. It's hard to pinpoint the origin of the 'boy smell', maybe it's a combination of things. The boys have cans of Lynx which they spray around their rooms, which beautifully adds to the freshness. 

Another difference is that the girls in my house watch me. They watch me put deodorant on. They watch me moisturise. They watch me put make up on. They watch me put my earrings in. The boys do not notice these things. That may be a stereotype, but that's literally the truth in my house. They watch me re-fill the snack drawer! This week, one of my daughters watched me put some perfume on, and she asked if she could have some. I told her to spray her neck and her wrists, rub them together and then smell them. She said it was a pretty smell. 

I told her there was perfume in the Bible, and my daughter looked quizzically at me. 

"A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them". 

I explained, as best I could to a four year old, that when this lady poured perfume on Jesus, she was actually worshipping him. My daughter thought that worship was just singing, and even as an adult I sometimes still get caught up in this thinking. I explained that worship was actually how we live our lives, and that any choice we make which is a God choice, is worship. 

Whether or not she fully understood, doesn't actually matter, because I have all her days in my house to speak into her life. I asked her who she could be kind to today, and I said that being kind to people was like spraying perfume on them. Kindness is a godly choice and therefore it was worship to Him, especially if she was kind to people who didn't deserve it. 
At this point, she chose a sibling she could be kind to. Obviously the 'not deserving it' bit struck a chord with her.

It was a great visual throughout the day, for her to be reminded of. And a nicer tactic for me to use, rather than the normal, 'stop winding your brother up'. She continued to smell the perfume on her wrists. The only problem was that the visual stuck with me. Any time I was a bit snappy with the kids or grumbly towards the husband, I just had a little nudge as to whether I was spraying perfume on the people in my house, or indeed throwing a whole other smell at them; whether I was bringing worship to God with my actions, or in fact not.

Mmm...tricky with this training malarkey, because the little people in my life, don't just watch me put perfume on, they watch to see if I live a life of pleasing aroma to God; a life of worship.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Piles

Earlier this week, my mum and dad came down for a visit. This usually means they arrive around lunchtime, and dad will quickly say, “I could die of thirst here”, which is sarcastic code for ‘make me a cup of tea’. I let him off, partly because I'm pretty used to it now, and also because him and mum take me and their granddaughters out for lunch. We went out for cake, and then down to the beach, where it’s customary to throw pebbles in the sea.

I found myself finding a few small, smooth pebbles to bring home. A couple of days later, I read my friend’s blog which happened to mention two men building a ‘pile of stones’ as a witness to their agreement. Of course the stones, weren’t actually a ‘witness’, they didn’t have Googly Eyes on them, as funny as that would be. But they were symbolic of remembering something. A symbol of something known between them, and seen by God.

I decided to put my new little pile of stones on the kitchen windowsill, to remind me in the midst of my busy life that they were symbolic of what is seen and known between me and God, and because they looked kind of cute. As I took a picture of them, I was struck by what was in the background of the picture; all the other ‘stuff’ on my windowsill and then I took another picture of the windowsill in its own little place in my kitchen. And my brain went into overdrive.

There it all was, my life as a mum, captured in one shot: Piles!

There was a box of plasters, a bottle of Calpol, a Basil plant, a home-made money box in the shape of a heart, a small screw driver for battery replacement, Superglue, a thank you card, Sunflower seeds growing in a 4year old’s painted pot, a home-made lady bird, a small plastic thing which looked important enough to not throw away, a plate of painted pebbles, stained Cricket whites, breakfast bowls, a Minion mug, a dish cloth, antibacterial hand wash, pink paint and a paintbrush. Oh and a giant lemon vase filled with shot glasses, a candle, a sticky man, a dummy, a stretchy exercise band and a home-made candle.

I think I’m quite a visual person, and that helps me teach my kids, about God and what His Bible means for us. The Bible itself often has imagery for us to paint a picture in our minds, although we do need someone who has studied it, to help us get to the writer’s meaning.

From my windowsill, I could teach my little people that God binds up the broken hearted, that he came to heal the sick, that he cares about our money, that he does have the ability to fix our problems, although he may instead work on our heart. Also, that we need replenishing, that God sticks close by us haha, that it’s good to be grateful, lots of things about how He grows us, and creativity. I could teach into the sin & stains in our life, and how Jesus’ death has made us white as snow. Maybe how God feeds us and that we need to feed those who are hungry. Also that Jesus is the light of the world, that He brings us comfort, that there is power in the Spirit. About how we should exercise our giftings and look after our bodies. I would have to stretch the imagery, or use Google as a companion, to bring a teaching point out of the Basil, maybe something about flavour. And as for the Minion, my little people would just keep saying "bottom" and we wouldn't get much further than that.

The home-made stuff is a reminder for me, of how they and I were lovingly made and formed by God, and that what I teach them in this household is what they are made of as they grow up and live their own lives.

“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise”Deuteronomy 6v6-7


I’m sure the husband would rather I just tidy it all up, and chuck all the home-made stuff in the bin. Maybe I could take this symbolism even further and give him a really good reason as to why the Tupperware drawer looks like a Bric a Brac table at a Jumble sale.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

It's Gone Viral

Every so often, something goes viral. In my house at the moment, it's Chicken Pox. Someone gets it, then it spirals until everyone gets it. There's just no stopping it. 
My daughter was pleased that she caught it from her best friend, so they could be Chicken Pox twins. (That's a real thing, for sure). Then there's the Internet.... People tweet something, someone else shares it on social media, it's talked about, people Youtube it, it's re-shared and it's an instant hit. The best one recently was of course, Professor Robert E Kelly. He was interrupted by his children while he was live on air, in a BBC interview about South Korean politics. 

Everything about the video is brilliant; the sassy way the little girl walks into the room, followed by the expert navigating of a baby in a walker, and then of course the dramatic entrance from the mum....Ninja Mum who had one job, one massive job; 'entertain two kids while dad has his important interview, and do not let them enter the spare bedroom where he is trying to look professional'. 
And it doesn't end there...then comes the scuffle of mum, sassy girl and baby walker leaving the room, in a panicked, crying, flustered, bumpy way, followed by mum's final reach from the ground to close the door.

Hahaha I loved it! I watched it numerous times, feeling dad's embarrassment, and mum's sheer panic. I love how dad takes a breath and closes his eyes, knowing there's nothing he can do, and I love the physical comedy from mum. Why do I love it so much? Because it is so real, and I just feel for them. I presume most parents can relate to them. It's messy. It's not as it should be. It's an honest look into parenting. I feel that the video should be shown to every NCT class...'This is you, trying to get on with your life...and this will be your reality'. 
I think it would do wonders for new parents and their expectations.

Parenting is wonderful. It is a true blessing. But it's hard work. And it interferes with your life. It challenges your heart, your wants, your needs. It tests your patience like nothing else. It makes you question who you are. It makes you realise how selfish you are. At the same time, it makes you realise how you'd give up anything for the little people in your life. It can be painful, embarrassing, confusing, stressful, repetitive and sooooo tiring.

Sometimes you have to stop and remember the wonderful blessing that it is.

The thing about this video is that it is just a 40 second snapshot. Whereas, parenting is a life long deal. The current magnitude of this viral hit, is actually a blink in the timeline of this couple's parenting. Yes it will be a well told one. 'Remember that time dad went viral on the internet?'. But the thing about parenting, is that we hopefully have hours and hours, weeks, months and years. This could be daunting, or it could be encouraging. 

If we got it wrong in the last 5 minutes, we can make it right in the next 5 minutes. If we said things we regret last week, we can say sorry and aim to use words which build up this week. If we felt stressed about that problem last month, we can look at the month ahead with new hope even if the problem hasn't changed. If we're tired and covered in Calamine lotion today, maybe next week it'll all scab over! If the kids interrupted dad on that important BBC interview yesterday, we can laugh about it today. Sometimes our kids may well be interrupting our life, our priorities for the day. But our parenting of them has to be a top priority. We have to let them swing open the door of our lives, and walk confidently in.

There is a passage in the Bible, which talks about there being a "time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;" Ecclesiastes 3v3-4

This is so encouraging for parenting. I sometimes feel like I've got the hang of something to do with my kids, and then they change or it doesn't work with the next child, or it's as if I never had a hang of it at all. And then there will be a huge problem that I have no idea how to handle, but the season changes and I can cope with it better or the child responds well. Or maybe a friend brings perspective, or God's word brings new hope. It's all a mystery this parenting malarkey. But surely we're in it for the long haul, so we go again tomorrow. We accept the fleeting bits as fleeting, and we accept the long haul bits as they are, while showing and receiving God's grace along the way. He after all, is the perfect parent. We're not, and that's OK. 

We can walk into our Father's presence, with all the sass in the world, confidently approaching His throne of Grace and equally we can scramble into His presence in a complete panic. We take time to weep about it all, time to laugh about it all, and we ask God to help us find His strength, His mercy, and His guidance for tomorrow or at least for the next two minutes.