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.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Mothering Through Loss

I have asked my friend Becky to share her story of loss, grief & eternal hope, following on from the previous post in the mothering series. (Sharing different mothers' stories).

I am a mum of two sons. One on Earth and one in Heaven. Zach is 3 and Joel passed away in July of last year at 3 1/2 months old.

He seemed to be a normal and healthy baby until the weekend before he died. He started vomiting severely so we were admitted to hospital with a suspected gastric bug. In the middle of our second night in hospital I was unable to wake him and a CT scan showed that he had a very large brain tumour. We were transferred to a specialist hospital where they informed us that Joel was already brain dead and there was nothing they could do. A few hours later we turned off his life support and he died in mine and my husband's arms.

It has been 6 months since Joel passed away and they have without doubt been the hardest months of my life. 'How are you?' is now a very hard question to answer. Sometimes I don't want to answer. Sometimes I am not sure my answer is appropriate or know whether the person really wants to hear it. Sometimes I just don't really know and cannot put into words all that's going on in my heart and mind.

I know that I miss my son. I think about him every day, throughout the day. I also miss who he would be now and what he would be doing at 9 months old. I'm aching to hold him and kiss him again. Wishing he could share in all the new memories our family is making. Feeling somewhat unsettled and incomplete. Knowing that however big our family grows there will always be a Joel shaped hole in it.

I am so thankful that we were given Joel, even for such a short time. Despite the pain, despite seeing my husband's grief and Zach's confused sadness; those short, sweet months with my precious boy were worth it. I wouldn't swap the pain of today if it meant not having him for the time we did. But God has helped me to realise that it is for so much more. His short life here on Earth was only the beginning, of his life and of our time together. From his very conception Joel became an eternal being and he will now exist as long as I will. He is already getting to experience the reality of Heaven and being in the presence of his Father God and will enjoy eternity doing so. One day I will join him there and get to spend the rest of my days with him. Those days, which seem so distant and ethereal now, will be just as real as these days.

Not long after Joel died I read this verse:
"But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope." I Thessalonians 4:13
Since then I have prayed that God would show us what it means to grieve with hope and help us to do that.

As a Christian, the death of someone you love is no less painful than for anyone else. Your grief is no less real or raw. Sometimes my grief is overwhelming. The pain and anguish is so deep and strong I don't know what to do with myself. I still experience all the normal grief responses and feelings: fear, anger, questioning, guilt, sorrow, doubt. The difference is, under all that grief there is hope. I cling onto it and onto God. The hope that God is with us in our suffering, the hope that nothing can separate us from His love and the hope that death is not the end: Jesus has overcome death and we will spend all eternity with him in the new heavens and the new earth. A place more wonderful than we can comprehend.
These truths are more real and more important to me than ever before. In the daily struggles and low times I contemplate them, and Heaven and eternity in a way that I have not done before. Although there is still pain, they bring comfort and encouragement and hope.

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."
2 Corinthians 4:16-18

That doesn't mean it's easy. I am realising like never before my total dependence on and need for God. 

I am constantly trying, unsuccessfully, to do things in my own strength. A dear counsellor from our church helped me to recognise that I was trying to deal with my emotions and thoughts intellectually, attempting to rationalise them away rather than going to Jesus. Telling myself things like “You shouldn't be feeling fearful, trust God”. I realised I need to admit to how I feel and invite Jesus into those emotions and thoughts and into those broken parts of my heart. I need to ask him to reveal his truth to my heart and to help me. To reveal to me more of who he is. And I am thankful that He does. He is faithful.

"Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us."
 Psalm 62.8 

Zach, who is three, has been amazing through this whole thing. He brings us such joy. The loss of his little brother has brought sadness, but mainly confusion. He still comments on how he misses baby Joel. We talk about him fairly often and how we miss him, but how he is now in Heaven and with Jesus and that one day we will see him again. I love the simplicity of his understanding: it is so sad that baby Joel died, but it is so happy that he is now in Heaven with Jesus. 

I will continue to talk to Zach about Joel as he grows up and to any subsequent children we have. It is important to me that Joel will always be remembered as a part of our family. I hope that in doing so, it will also provoke them to grapple with the reality of pain, suffering and death, whilst also pointing them to Jesus, their creator, sustainer and Saviour and the eternal hope we have in him.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Fight for This Love

So my previous post, Fight the Good Fight, was all about those wonderful creatures I live with called boys, and the fact that they are such physical little beings. Physical little beings who constantly want to fight each other. In the words of Queen Elsa, I have learnt to 'let it go', when it comes to understanding these brotherly interactions. A mum of boys could literally spend 24hrs a day, 7 days a week, asking them to stop and trying to work out why they do it. And I just haven't got that kind of time or patience. So for the most part, I ignore it until one of them has had too much and needs my intervention. Other days, I send them out into the garden to do it, because I have double glazing and can't hear them. Then there are those hours/days when they are literally on a ban from touching each other, or even being in the same room as each other. 

With most parenting which goes on in this house, we aim to go for 'selfless not fair'. We want them to prefer one another, to put the other person's needs above their own. If they're going to fight for anything, we want them to fight to love one another, like it says in John's gospel. In fact, it doesn't just say it, it commands it.  “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." John 13v34

With anything you want for your kids, they will mostly learn how to do it, (or indeed not do it), firstly, from the example you set them and secondly, from constantly training them in it. As well as anything I say to my little lot, I know they are looking at my actions too. They are looking & listening to see how 'selfless not fair' I am with the husband and with others in my life. There's no point really in even teaching them to be selfless, if all they see modelled is selfishness. This can be really annoying or graciously humbling, (whichever way you choose to look at it), when you just really want your husband to put your needs first of course. But I have learnt along the way, that God does seem to use the little people in my life to point out some/all of my weaknesses.

One of the best things about the above verse, is that we are to love one another, because Christ first loved us. As a mum, I have to remember God's amazing selfless love for me, in order to love my kids better. His love is ever so patient, ever so kind, ever so pure. What an example we have!

And then comes the training...the drip, drip, drip of parenting. If you don't plant a seed, and cultivate it, how will it grow? At the moment, one of the ways we as a household are working on how we can love one another, is in the way we speak to each another. We have been working on it forever, and I presume we will continue with this little 'heart changing project' until....well, I can't see an end ever coming. But as Cheryl Cole would say, "Anything that's worth having, is sure enough worth fighting for". And I am fighting for my kids to love one another. (Hands up if you're singing along...we've gotta fight, fight, fight, fight, fight for this love...)

So we discussed phrases we use that others don't like, and phrases others use that upset us. Then we practised other ways of saying those things. My tone is a constant that I have to work on, as it can be naggy or impatient or snappy or grumpy...I could go on. So if we're all working on it together, that helps me and it helps them. It's especially humbling when they say, "Mum, I didn't really like your tone then". Of course, I want to pick them up and throw them out of the window at this point, but seeing as they follow the example I set them, they would just think I had initiated a bundle. 

The verse I went for, in training this is 
"Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity". Psalm 133v1
I want my boys to dwell in unity with one another. Are they going to stop bundling each other? I doubt it. But can I train their hearts to love one another? Well, I hope so.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Fight the Good Fight

I am a mum of boys. I have been a mum of boys for nearly eleven years. I love boys. They rock. I appreciate their strengths; (although I'm generalising, and many girls hold these qualities too)... I like their sense of adventure, their self confidence, their feeling of invincibility, and their need to discover and to work things out. I like how they strive to do better than their last attempt, I like their respect for goodies and baddies. I like their boldness and how they laugh at inappropriate things. And I've come to expect, if not totally understand their need for nakedness and shooting stuff. 

Very early on in my mothering journey, I came to realise just how physical boys are. And with the subsequent arrival of more boys in my life, that realisation just grew and grew. If they need to get from A to B, they see no need to just walk the route. They run, they climb, they 'Kapow' and 'Whoosh'. They jump onto, and into, and off of, anything. They drape and hang themselves; off of the sofa, off of the banister, off of me, off of anything actually. Recently my mum arrived, to one of her grandsons hanging upside down from a high tree branch, with a breezy "hello nanny". 

And then there's the physical relationship they have with each other. The bundles, the trip ups, the pinches, the wedgies, the punches, the grabs, the headlocks, the noogies, the kicks, the jumping on each other, and the outright fights. This is the bit I have learnt to expect and overlook, but not necessarily understand. I, like any little sister, enjoyed the odd pinch under my brother's arm, with the retaliation of a wet tea-towel whipping, but the constant desire to hurt one another, is a bit beyond me. And it really is constant. Neither does any of it mean that they don't like each other either. Apparently it's just in-built, and maybe even a sign of affection for one another. Sure you have to comment on some power plays or when one is more involved than the other, or when the angry face comes out. But most of the time, I just walk away, perhaps with a casual warning that I'm in the kitchen if anyone gets hurt. 

And they do get hurt, and sorrys are said. But when asked if the victim would like me to stop the game altogether, they often answer no and run back into it, topless and smiling, with fresh vigour. The testosterone build up after said bundle, means they struggle to just stop and calm it all afterwards...I've learnt that the 'cooling down' bit takes a bit of time and often some separation from each other. 'Tis all but a mystery to this mum. 

On a recent family trip to London, I decided to not comment on any rough, physical play. I left it to the husband and just took pictures of them instead. It was very releasing...well for me anyway! They can't help themselves...Any quiet moment, any waiting, any queueing, any standing near each other, any sitting next to each other...they're just like magnets drawn to each other, drawn to fight one another. (And the husband can't help but join in too). I was comforted by a French family in the museum queue. The little girl was reading the information booklet, while her two brothers grappled with each other. Their mum seemed to be ignoring them too. I felt like we were soul sisters. Maybe I should have hugged her...

So what's my point? I'm not sure I even have one, apart from to reach out to all mums of boys and say "I know. It's OK. They're normal. Keep going. Just train them in what is worth fighting for".

"But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith."
1 Timothy 6v11

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Be The Good Girl You Always Have To Be

So Christmas has been and gone. In our house, Christmas has been with us since the middle of October. I led a Christmas small group for ten weeks. We made Festive Wreathes, made and decorated Christmas cakes, went ice skating, stole presents from one another, drank Mulled Wine and generally stretched out the festive season for as long as we possibly could. It was hectic but a lot of fun, and the odd Christmas jumper or pair of earrings accompanied us along the way.

Two lyrical observations popped up for me over the Christmas period. The princess in our house got given the Frozen DVD, and so the household has been singing "Let it go" quite a lot. Although, the phrase has been a regular feature anyway, whenever someone is told to just 'let it go'... it usually starts the theatrical number off, which changes the mood of the house quite quickly. One could say it breaks the ice. But now we have the DVD and the dress so the frequency has naturally doubled. 

Elsa is of course, quite badly advised by her parents to keep her worries and fears to herself, to 'conceal it' rather than 'feel it'. This is an interesting parenting technique. Teaching your kids to bottle everything up, and not let anyone in, can only result in a breakdown at some point, resulting in the creation of a terrifying ice monster and a dramatic hair & dress makeover. I guess the King & Queen of Arendelle were parenting out of fear and anxiety, which all of us parents can relate to on some level. 

Elsa was also told to 'be the good girl she always has to be'. This leads me on to a carol I sang just before Christmastime. Once in Royal David's City, holds the lyrics 'Christian children all must be...Mild, obedient, good as He'. I looked at the husband at this point, but he did a very good job of ignoring me, and continued singing with gusto. Now I think as parents, we should definitely aim for excellence for our kids, and for ourselves. But just to be told to 'be good' doesn't help anyone. And it's the highest expectation ever. God Himself is good. He is Holy. He is something completely 'other' to us. To be fair, the song from the 1800s, does point us to follow Jesus' example and if Elsa's parents had done the same, the Disney classic may not have been a huge hit, and the story itself would have been pretty short, with less theatrical singing moments and no merchandise to get sucked into.

The most wonderful thing about God's standard of goodness, is that He knew we wouldn't be able to attain it. He knew we needed His help to be good. And He sent His son to rescue us from all the bad we get caught up in. Sometimes I forget this when I'm parenting. I want the kids to just be good, because it's easier for me. Sometimes it's an inconvenience to stop and train their hearts rather than their behaviour. Sometimes, I haven't got time to stop and be a godly example, I just want them to be the good kids they always have to be. Then I'm reminded of my Heavenly Father's patience towards me. He always has the time to train my heart, and to show me His love and His grace when I get it wrong. 

Do not remember the sins of my youth
    and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
    for you, Lord, are good.
Good and upright is the Lord;
    therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.
He guides the humble in what is right
    and teaches them his way.

Psalm 25v7-9

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

An Ode to Half Term

Today they went back
Hurrah they returned
To that place of education
That place where they learn

Not that we switch off
There was reading to do
Postcards to write
And how to spell 'who'

The week off was fun
We had lots to do
Museums & Poppies 
To name but a few

We had good family time
And the husband was here
To parent alongside me
And wipe the odd tear

There were fights and squabbles
The usual stuff
I have four boys
So it gets quite rough

I told them to shut up
I had a good moan
I only swore once
When I was all alone

We made alien dinner
They fed some ducks
We watched MacGyver
They rolled in muck

Some days I laughed
Some days I cried
Always a mixed bag
Oh and the hamster died

There were no school runs
That's the best bit 
Staying in my pjs
Until the lamp posts were lit

It was mostly loud
There was a quiet day
They spooked me out
With their happy play

Other times they were sent
Off to their rooms
Or I just hid in mine
To escape the doom

But its always like that
The Highs & the lows
Some moments are fab
Then there are blows

But today they went back
It was ever so nice
Back to the packed lunches
And combing for lice

Back to uniform
And keeping it clean
Back to the school run
Living the dream

Back to some head space
And quiet time too
Back to some 'me time'
And cleaning the loo

Back to a moment
All by myself
To thank God for my blessings
Such Riches & Wealth

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,

    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,

    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,

    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3v1-8

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Mothering without Mum

6 years ago, Jenni’s very healthy and active mum was diagnosed with cancer. Unfortunately it was a very rare and aggressive type that took her life very quickly. I asked Jenni if she would share her story of ‘Mothering without mum’, as part of the mothering series.

What were your dreams of being a mum, in relation to your own mum? 

Seeing my mum with my sisters and their children, I was thinking it would be fairly similar to that. She was such a great ‘hands on’ Grandma and I couldn't wait to have that relationship with my own kids and her. I looked forward to being pregnant, getting excited with her and for her to be there to answer my 'mum type questions', once I'd had a baby. I also looked forward to just hanging out with her and generally doing the next bit of life together, in the security of knowing she would be there to help if I needed a break or support.

Walk us through the life changes you quickly had to make... 

 I was recently engaged when mum was diagnosed, and we ended up bringing our wedding forward so that she could be there. After being in hospital, she had come home to be made more comfortable. All the family were gathered and one morning the Doctor told us that if we wanted her there for our wedding we needed to do it ASAP. So that evening we got married in my parent’s house, with my Mum upstairs in bed watching on a video feed. Some incredibly generous friends managed to put up a marquee in the garden, and completely transform the house, filling it with fairy lights and drapes in just 6 hours! It was beautiful and looked like something from the movie "Father of the bride".
4 days later my mum passed away, with her legacy surrounding her bedside, worshipping and thanking God through the tears, for her wonderful life.

When you fell pregnant, what thoughts did you have in regards to your mum not being there?
Me and my Husband had the happy surprise of finding out we were pregnant 3 months into married life! Although this was a little shock, we were extremely happy and knew that this was a perfectly timed, beautiful gift from God. I think if I had fallen pregnant years down the line, it would have always brought up the grief of not having Mum around. However seeing as it had only been a few months, it was all still so raw. Just like our wedding, it was a season full of joy, mixed in with sorrow and loss; there was going to be so many life experiences that I would not be able to share with my Mum.

How has mothering been, without mum around? 
We are very blessed to have such great family and friends around us. We both come from large families so it has always meant that we have had a great support network.

My Husband was (and still is) very supportive. Night or day, he was there to comfort me when I felt the loss the most. The times when mum would have been by first port of call, to ask her advice about the kids, or share something new they had done, were the toughest. My second child was in and out of hospital and I know that had she been there, she would have helped out in an instant. That was really difficult. I found it hard knowing that my sisters’ kids had a relationship with mum that mine couldn’t have. It was very hard not to be jealous of them and of my friends who had their own mums around. Still to this day, I have to go to God about it a lot. My family, although can’t replace her, have been a great support.

From having Pauline as your mum, w
hat have you learnt about being a mum yourself?
She has taught me (along with my Dad) about life. She loved me unconditionally, provided for me, and was always there for me when I needed her. She has taught me that I will make mistakes as a mum, as she did, because only God is the perfect parent. She modelled a Christian walk to me, with ups and downs, but to keep God at the centre, and to have Him as my solid rock; to go to Him with everything. My amazing Mum, – she was strong, full of life, laughed a lot, loved a lot, was servant hearted; a woman of God, a wife, mum to many, friend to many, hospitable to all, and I miss her every day.

What has God taught you through all of this? 
6 years on, I now have 3 children, and there are definitely times when it hits me harder than others. But over these years I have felt Gods Fathering; His steadfastness, sovereignty and unconditional love for me. Even though there has been loss and heartache, I have far more to be happy about. God has been so good to me, I don't know how people do life without Him. He has blessed and surprised me with such goodness in my life and I am truly thankful. Mum has given me the foundations to draw near to and press into God, to have my own relationship and adventure with him.

What verses have you held onto in regards to mothering without your mum? 
There are many, but I like are Psalm 139 

and Psalm 73v23-26 
"Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
 and afterward you will take me into glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
 And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
 but God is the strength of my heart
 and my portion forever."

Mothering series...

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Tired & Tearful

Mmm...four months without a blog post, that's not very good is it? What have I been doing with my time? Well I guess there is Baby Number six growing in my uterus, and there are those five other time consuming little beings in my life, and there is that house to clean, and those toys to put away, and that washing which needed sorting. Then there's Facebook to look at and that romantic novel which needed reading, about a chocolate shop in Paris. Oh and there was Newday, and I seem to have the distant memories of a family holiday somewhere back there too. 

These answers are all valid of course, but I think somewhere in the midst of it all, I was just tired, too tired to write or think. There was a day on holiday, where me and the husband took it in turns to be semi conscious near the kids. They watched five dvds that day. That's 7.5hours of visual overload, and they mainly ate snacks. They couldn't quite believe that every time they approached us with,
"muuuuuuum, can I eat....?", they got a yes. That was a good day, for all concerned. Praise God for rest!

Going to bed at 9pm, makes you not only feel as old as your grandma, (bring out the warmed milk and Ovaltine) but you feel a little out of touch with the world around you. If you go to sleep as soon as the oldest one is tucked up for the night, there's no head space, or 'me time', or rubbish TV to embrace. Especially if your day consisted of the usual mum fun; answering the million questions on life and of course, the unanswerable 'why?', watching re-runs of The Octonauts and Spider-man, sorting out brotherly love which got too physical, changing a nappy or two, wiping a nose, wiping a bum, wiping the kitchen side...(Different cloths were used for all wiping scenarios).  

And although you're a hormonal, ever-so-slightly tearful mess, you try fighting the husband, who is suggesting sleep as a radical new cure for tiredness. You want to stay up later than your kids. At least 'til 10pm. Yeah...rock & roll. Maybe have a glass of fizzy and something from the snack drawer... You want to exist as you, not just as mum, tired mum. But you end up crying at every TV programme you flick through, from house renovations to hotel inspectors. So you concede that the husband, who puts up with the tears and the hormones, and has done for each and every pregnancy (and there's been a few) is indeed right. You give in and climb once more into bed at 9pm.

And then you remember that wonderful book of encouragement on your bedside table; The Bible... And God reminds you of a couple of verses in it. "Do not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up". Galations 6v9
I had most definitely grown weary. Weary of the day-to-day mothering. Weary from carrying a baby. Weary of wiping and answering and crowd controlling. And God asks me not to grow weary in doing good. Why? So that I can reap a harvest. Mothering is good, parenting is good; a worthy thing to plough your time and energy in to. 
John Piper puts that verse like this, "Don't lose heart spending yourself through love". 

And just what harvest can I expect? Well, hopefully the security of my kids' eternal destination. Put like that, then yes I will keep on keeping on, even if it means tucking myself under the duvet at 9pm, ready to do it all again tomorrow. I want each one of them to know Jesus for themselves, to have a relationship with God, to know their sins are forgiven and their name is on the VIP list for that great place to be; Heaven. So whether I'm wiping them, disciplining them, feeding them or answering their many questions, I'm reminded that I'm shaping them and getting them ready for much more. And yes it's tiring, but 'spending yourself through love' is the best way to spend yourself surely?! And what's wonderful to know is that God's word, the Bible contains so much more encouragement for me...
  "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me". Philippians 4v13