One Pink Toothbrush

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

Monday, 26 December 2011

You're Not Invited

I asked my eldest to imagine it was his birthday already, rather than wait the six weeks he has to. I told him to imagine coming downstairs, to all the family having a party and giving each other presents and eating all the party food. I told him to imagine that we hadn't bothered inviting him to his birthday party because we wanted to celebrate it without him, and we didn't really think he was important enough to be invited. He said it was quite a sad thing to imagine. 
(I had to remind him that we were just imagining this scene, and that we wouldn't do this to him in six weeks time!)

I explained to him that this was how Christmas had been for lots of people. They will have eaten their Christmas dinner, and opened presents from each other. They may have even played a game of Charades too, but they won't have invited Jesus to the party. They will have celebrated His birthday, without Him. My son understood my point as we drove to Asda on Christmas Eve. And as I started to pray in the car, I think my son understood my tears too. He knew I was grateful that actually Jesus has invited us all to His birthday party. He has invited all to come and share with Him. And he has such fantastic gifts for us; gifts of salvation, forgiveness, and eternity in Heaven with Him, to name just a few.

Not everything related specifically to Jesus yesterday. The yellow and blue baby aliens that were thrown at my ceiling, didn't really point me to Jesus. Neither did the pigs in blankets, or Kung Fu Panda 2, and I'm not convinced that the Baileys or Pepsi made me think of Jesus either. But the giving of gifts and as Her Majesty put it, the essence of family and community, did point to Jesus. He gave the best present, Himself. And He did so to save us and bring us into God's family, adopted as His children.

"For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life."
                                                                                                       John 3v16

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Lost It

I seem to have misplaced my patience this week. Can't find it anywhere. A combination of 'end of term-itis'; everyone in the house is worn out and tired. Mix this with four boys at home for the Christmas holidays and lots of last minute things to do. Mix this with the 'too busy to pray' syndrome, and the husband busy at work. And finally throw in a carol service and preparation for family arriving, and it's the perfect recipe to test my patience. In all honesty, if it were a test, I would have failed! I have lost my patience. I have been snappy at the four little people in my life. I have used the 'you are putting me out, I've got stuff to do' tone with them. I have raised my voice, which is the nicer version of saying I have shouted. I have phoned the husband in one of those 'moments' to plead for help. I have not had a lot of fun with the boys. I have done things they've asked with a huff, some actual out loud huffs, like I did in my teenage years, and quite a few huffs inside my heart.

In short, I have sinned. I have sinned against my boys and against God, by this distinct lack of patience. I know it's not down to circumstances, although circumstances can alter the pressure gauge. It's not down to tiredness either, although this can cause the pressure gauge to tip slightly into the danger zone. But it's how I've dealt with the pressure, not the pressure itself which has shown my heart in it's honest state. It's all about my heart, my selfishness, my sin. The classic error, was of course allowing busyness and tiredness to tip the scales, rather than prayer and praise. I have not been walking in the good of the Holy Spirit's strength and help, and therefore I have not known the joy or the fruit of living in Him. I have not learned to be content in this situation. I have not cast my burden onto the Lord and I have not sung a new song unto the Lord. So seeing as I haven't been living in the truth of God's word, I decided to open the bible and look at 'patience'.

And straight away, what am I faced with? What is it that softens my heart and brings it back to a place of worship?

"but God was merciful to me in order that Christ Jesus might show his full patience in dealing with me, the worst of sinners, as an example for all those who would later believe in him and receive eternal life." 1 Timothy 1v16

God, my Heavenly Father shows me mercy through Jesus. Jesus shows His full patience in dealing with me. As a sinner, God's wrath was heading straight for me. But because of what Jesus did on the cross; because He stepped in and took that wrath instead of me, I now live in God's glorious mercy. If Jesus showed His full patience in dealing with me, enough to bring me salvation instead of wrath, then it is the same full patience He shows me today. It is the same full patience He shows me when I am impatient, when I am angry, when I am selfish, when I am sinful.

Oh what wonderful truth to dwell on. What a joyous revelation again of my Heavenly Father's long suffering with me. The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. How this causes me to say sorry to the boys and ask for God's help today as I remember He doesn't lose it with me. How this causes me to sing a new song, to worship and thank Him; to repent and receive His beautiful mercy.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Mary, Joseph and the Fire Breathing Dragon

So Christmas is nearly here. The Advent calendar is nearly empty and the freezer is nearly full. I've been to a couple of nativity performances to watch a shepherd, a king and a dancing Roman at war! But last night I watched the best nativity performance I have seen this year.

The setting was a castle in my four year old's bedroom. The cast was wonderfully inventive; Mary was played by a king. Joseph was played by a wizard. The shepherd was played by a knight on horseback, and like all good shepherds, he had a pet dragon. Baby Jesus was inside a Treasure Chest. Sully from Monsters Inc, was trying to get the baby Jesus. Mary, the king was worried about her baby. But Joseph, (or Jophes as referred to by my son) reassured her that the shepherd would protect the baby, and sure enough the shepherd's dragon breathed fire at Sully and the baby Jesus was safe! Sully unfortunately didn't make it to the end of the nativity story.

So it wasn't quite how Luke or Matthew had recorded it, but it was quite a passionate adaption. I asked my son why Jesus was in the Treasure Chest, hoping for something profound to come from his mouth. I wanted him to say that it's because Jesus is a wonderful treasure to be searched for and found: a treasure so valuable that you would give everything else up for it. A treasure which shouldn't be hidden: a treasure which is rich and glorious and generous, a treasure which can only be found by searching for a cross. But he's a four year old boy who hasn't yet got to grips with his theology. His response was that Jesus was in the treasure box because that's where his baby toys were, of course! I did try to tell him the above; about Jesus being a treasure for us to find, but he was back to rescuing Baby Jesus from the blue monster.

"The Kingdom of heaven is like this.
A man happens to find a treasure hidden in a field.
He covers it up again, and is so happy that he goes and sells everything he has,
 and then goes back and buys that field." Matthew 13v44-46

Thursday, 1 December 2011

And Behind Door Number One......

The wait is over!! A tiny little cardboard door will be opened, to reveal a tiny piece of cheap chocolate, in the tiny shape of something Christmassy! Yippee. Hurrah! And this will continue for the next 23 days. It may well be used as a bribe. It may well be used as a threat.

It may well be gobbled up by a naughty mummy in search of chocolate and replaced the next morning. But the countdown to Christmas is here. Good Morning to the First Day of Advent!!

I remember the day when you used to open a tiny door and it just revealed a tiny picture, and you were content with that  because you didn't realise other Advent calendars had chocolate inside. And I remember when our calendar at home progressed to 24 pockets...filled with bubble gums and chocolates and new rubbers and 20p pieces and Treasure Hunts. Mother dearest, I salute you!

Advent comes from the Latin word 'Adventus' meaning "coming". We celebrate the coming of the Messiah, as Baby Jesus. And we look forward to the second-coming of Jesus, when He will return to this Earth and judge every one of us, and those who have trusted in His name will go to be in Glory with Him. 

And to represent all of this,  we open tiny little doors and eat tiny chocolate reindeers and tiny chocolate holly. Well, actually the two don't quite add up do they? But a wise friend of mine has put together 24 verses which take us through the whole story, so we can share it with our children each day as they open their doors. We obviously want to open the doors of their hearts and their understanding, to give them knowledge, and the truth so they know what it is we celebrate and why. The verses start with some old testament prophecies, move through the christmas story, explain why Jesus came, and finish with His promised return. I asked her if she wanted me to credit her with it, but she pointed out that, "All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the truth, rebuking error, correcting faults, and giving instruction for right living" (2Timothy3v16) so she didn't think she could take the credit!!

1. John1 v 1-13
2. John 1 v14-17
3. Isaiah 7:14
4. Isaiah 40
5. Isiah 9 v 6-7
6. Micha 5v2
7. Luke 1v5-25
8. Luke 1:26-38
9. Luke 1:39-45
10. Luke 1:46-55
11. Luke 1 v57-66
12. Luke 1:67-79 
13. Matthew 1:18-25
14. Luke 2:1-7
15. Luke 2:15-20
16. Luke 2v25-40
17. Matthew 2:1-12
18. Matthew 2v13-23
19. John 3:16 -21
20.  1 Timothy 1:14-16 
21. 1 John 5v11-14
22.  Romans 8v28-39
23.  Romans 5v1-11
24.  Revelation 21v1-7

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Adaption of a Classic

A wife of noble character who can find? 
She is worth far more than Tiffany & Co.
Her husband has full confidence in her, 
He prizes her higher than the 'Extra Special' range.
She brings him food, and warmth, 
All the days of her life. 
She selects cereals from ASDA,
And works with Fairy soft hands.
She is like a working horse,
Bringing her trolley from afar.
She gets up while it is still night, 
To change a bed and dish out Calpol
She stocks the fridge with cheese strings,
And wishes she had female servants. 
She searches for reduced sticker items,
And sells old toys on EBay.
She sprays the Flash vigorously; 
Her arms are strong for her tasks. 
She tidies, she cleans, she texts a friend, 
She does another school run.
In her hand, she holds one smaller,
Whilst pushing the buggy along.
Her arms are full of carrier bags.
She opens her arms to the poor,
and extends her hands to the needy. 
When it's a snow day, she has no fear for her household; 
For all of them are clothed in Primark.
She makes her own and six other beds, 
She is clothed in creased garments, 
with unknown stains across her top.
Her husband is respected in his office,
Where he takes his seat outside the house.
She makes food for small group,
and supplies the new mum with a meal.
She is clothed with strength and dignity, 
She can laugh at the days to come. 
But not in a manic way.
She speaks with different tones,
And ignored advice is on her tongue. 
She watches over the affairs of her household 
And cuts the crust off the mouldy bread.
Her children arise and call her 'mummy, mummy, mummy, mummy'.
Her husband, he praises her;
There is meat on his plate.
Even with Dove care, beauty is fleeting, 
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. 
Thank her for all her hands have done, 
and let her works bring praise to the Lord.

Or read the classic; The Wife of Noble Character

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

A Pig And A Frog

'Opposites attract' is how the saying goes, and there are plenty of couples which support this theory; Kermit and Miss Piggy, Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam, Homer and Marge, Toula and Ian, Han Solo and Princess Leya, Jack and Rose, Madge and Harold, Belle and the Beast, Chandler and Monica, Gloria and Melman, the list goes on...

Maybe it's their looks which make them different, or their culture,  or their morals even. Maybe its their wealth which causes differences, or quite simply because one is a frog in love with a pig! I'm not sure which couple I'd like to compare myself and the husband with, but there are definite differences we have from one another. The biggest one is probably that God made the husband to be quite a tidy, ordered kind of a man, who likes to arrive places on time and likes everything to have a place. And God blessed that man with me. I'm probably more of the 'not so tidy, slightly late, can't find anything' type, which is why we go together so well.

One of the husband's ways of showing me continual grace, is by not mentioning the kitchen side to me, and by just tidying it himself.  Like I said, he likes there to be a place for everything, and everything to have a place. For me, the kitchen side is that place where I like to keep everything, which isn't quite what he means. So I looked at it this morning, and thought about just making it into one neat-ish pile (which apparently isn't tidying at all). But I knew that that wouldn't actually be me having the right heart to bless the husband, and I could tell that Peppa Pig's rocket wouldn't stack well. I know that it's an act of love to blitz the kitchen side. So I text a picture of it to a friend, who knows about the 'kitchen side' deal in our house, and she replied,

"Oh mate!!! I'd put some praise music on if I were you!!!"

I thought that was a great response. She could have told me to give up before I had even started or she could have empathised! But instead she encouraged me to praise God in the task ahead. I could serve and love the husband, by cleaning and tidying the kitchen side, and do it all for the glory of God. I could worship Him in the midst of such a mundane task. So the praise music went on, the side was cleared in my own non systematic way, Peppa's rocket took off to its rightful place, the bin was filled and the cleaning spray came out. (Now to keep it that way until the husband has returned home from work!)

"So, whether you eat or drink, (or tidy the kitchen side, or change a nappy, or drive the car, or make their lunch or serve the church, or do another load of washing, or clean the loo)
  or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."
                                               1 Corinthians 10v31l

Friday, 18 November 2011

Actions > Words

We have attempted to sign with the boys when they've been little, in order to help them with early language frustration. Our second son only learnt the signs he felt he needed in life; 'biscuit', 'milk' and 'please'.  And our littlest one pretty much just found signing and snorting 'pig' hilarious!

With all of them however, we did find it really helpful to teach them to sign 'sorry' from an early age. The sign for 'sorry' is a circular motion with their hand on their chest. Now instead of signing it on their own chest, my boys have tended to sign it on their brother's chest; that is the chest of the brother who is already annoyed by them, which has sometimes added to the annoyance as they are now getting pushed in a circular motion. But we still do it. We encourage the boys to say sorry quickly and to forgive quickly, with the action of a hug which can turn into a bundle, which makes us all laugh. So it's all done and dealt with!

I had to say sorry to someone this week, because I had brought something to them in a rude and blunt way. I apologised to them at church. I didn't sign it on mine or his chest, as I don't think that would have been altogether appropriate! I said sorry to the man and was quite taken back by his response. He forgave me quickly, which I did expect. After all, he is a wise, mature man of God. We did hug but he didn't bundle me, which I was grateful for. But what I didn't expect, was for him to quote the following scripture to me.

        "Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you;
                reprove a wise man, and he will love you."
                                                             Proverbs 9:8

He said that according to the bible if you bring something to a wise man, like I had done, he will love you. So he said he had gained a friend in what I had done. He didn't focus on the rude and blunt way I had brought something to him, instead he focused on his part in accepting it. He was humble, forgiving and knew what the bible said about such things. It was a blessing for me to say sorry to this man, and be forgiven by him.

We teach our boys to forgive quickly, to hug it out, simply because Jesus has forgiven us for so much. If we have repented, He has forgiven every single sin, wiped clean, start again, fresh mercy every morning. Yet sometimes I feel justified to hold on to some hurt, or I may say "I forgive you" with my words but not show it with my actions. And when people bring correction to me, or point things out to me, am I as humble as my dear friend to receive it like he did, and love them for doing so? Jesus never had to say sorry, He was completely innocent. He could have held onto hurt as He was unjustly punished for the world's sin, for my sin. Jesus didn't just forgive with His words, He died on the cross and rose again! His actions speak very loudly indeed.

Sunday, 6 November 2011


I went to Barcelona.
I went to Barcelona with the husband.
I went to Barcelona with the husband and with no children.

That in itself is a blog post!!

So I went to Barcelona for four days. How did I end up there? The husband took me out for dinner due to a deal on at Pizza Express and he asked me what I would like from our marriage. Thinking I would maybe say that I wanted him to reply to my texts in the middle of the day or to get home earlier, I actually said that I would like to go to European cities without the boys, just for a couple of days, until were old! So he took me to a church planting conference in Belfast last year (not sure that counts but it was with a wonderfully fun couple, and I did get new boots). And then he took me to Barcelona a few weeks ago. Brownie points for the husband.

It was of course amazing. No nappies or night time wees. No Cbeebies or Disney DVDs. No school runs or homework. No Cheddars or Fruit Shoots. No 7am breakfast of Cheerios, but instead an 11am breakfast of croissants, cake and omlette! Just four days in the sun, by the sea, with a Mojito or two and fried Calamari, with only the husband to share it with. Bliss. I think I lost a friend or two with every relaxed, fun photo I uploaded to Facebook, but it was worth it.

When we went to Belfast, the boys found presents under our bed for them. So when we told them we were going to Barcelona, they were already expecting to find presents again. My boys, just like me, love getting gifts. Whether it's the 'thing' itself, or the fun it brings, whether it means we've thought about them, or it's the anticipation, they do love presents. They weren't thinking about missing us because they were far too excited about the gifts. And I was excited about giving them. I had found cheap little things which individually I knew they would love.... play dough, a warrior polar bear, a compass set and a talking Mr Incredible! What's not to love in that list?

As much as I love giving my children gifts, my Heavenly Father loves to give gifts to His children so much more. He picks them out individually. He knows what we love and what we need. He is far more generous than me. And He loves it when we, His children, are expectant to get something from Him. He loves when we're excited to receive what He has for us. He has gifted me with so much; salvation and an eternal destiny for a start! He has also given me the husband and the boys. He has given me endless mercy and forgiveness. He also gave me the trip to Barcelona. He gave me the Sangria and sunshine. The list is endless, and the great thing is that He even encourages us to ask for gifts from Him. I have never asked Him for a warrior polar bear but I do appreciate all the gifts that He has given me, and I'm glad I don't need to look under the bed for them.

"...which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?
Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?
 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will your Father who is in heaven
 give good things to those who ask him!"
                                                                                     Matthew 7v9-11

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above..."
                                                                       James 1v17

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Mother Knows Best

My littlest boy is going through that wonderful phase of being two. He is trying to see if he knows best or if mother knows best. He is working out if he is in control of his life or if indeed  I am. He is trying to establish whether he is the authority in his life or if I am.

I don't think he has made his final decisions yet, so he is finding new ways to test his the above. I don't understand why he doesn't just look at his three older brothers, who have tried and tested these same theories before him and learn from their findings. But no, he has decided to find out for himself if he is the boss or if I am. I think he is beginning to understand that my 'No' holds more weight than his 'no', but he's not entirely convinced, so he still says it to see what happens. 

He has a lesser version of 'no' which is 'not yet' which is a softer and cuter way of saying it, but it's still disobedience. He has also started down the age old path of 'laying on the floor' to see if that achieves what he was setting out to do. He is working out whether he really does have to say 'sorry' when he is in the wrong or if he can just try the silent approach with me, and he is using his eyebrows a lot more to convey how he's feeling!

My boy doesn't yet understand that his mum and his dad are the God given authority placed in his life. He doesn't want to be told what to do, what not to do and he thinks that he knows what is best for his life. He doesn't want to obey our decisions, but he would like to see if he's got what it takes to go it alone. He wants to be in control and make his own choices. He doesn't yet realise that it is because of my love for him, that I tell him what to do and what not to do. He hasn't realised that it is out of a heart of love that I know what is actually best for him, and out of love that I protect, train and teach him. He doesn't understand that it is because I love him that I want him to obey me and because I love him that I discipline him. His heart is wrapped up in foolishness as the book of Proverbs points out.

As I thought about my boy wanting to be in charge, I was reminded of two things that Joel Virgo said in a recent preach at our church. He said that a lot of people say they don't believe in God because they need more evidence, but actually it is because they don't want Him to have a claim on their life. People don't want someone or something telling them what is best for their life. They may not be rejecting Jesus from a reasonable argument but from a heart that objects to God's will for them.

It seems similar to my son's lack of urgency to have me speak into his life and know what is best for him. My friends who so far have rejected God don't realise that it is out of a heart of love that He wants to be the authority in their life. It is because of His love that He wants to protect them and why He wants them to follow His perfect ways. My Heavenly Father is a loving tender God who wants the best for me, and wants the best for my friends who have rejected Him. He wants to bless us as we follow Him, because he loves us. He sent His son to die for us because He loves us. It is even out of a heart of love that He gives us free will, so we can choose whether to let Him lead us or not.

At the tender, malleable age of two, my boy needs to do what we determine is best for his life. As he grows older, he will have to acknowledge that we were placed in authority over his life, whilst submitting ourselves to God's best for him and for us. My boy will have to choose to let us continue to speak into his life or not, and he will also have to choose whether to let God be the ultimate authority in his life or whether he indeed knows best.

"Folly is bound up in the heart of a child,
but the rod of discipline drives it far from him
                                               Proverbs 22v15

"Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool,
but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered
                                               Proverbs 28v26

Monday, 31 October 2011

Dad Knows Best

We recently visited my brother and sister in law for a couple of days during half term. I was the designated driver, which is usually unheard of for any journey, especially a 3 hour journey. Usually that is the husband's role, because he man, me woman! (One of the changes that just happens after the wedding ring is on) But he had work to do, so he wanted to use the time to do some prep.

I sat in the driver's seat, driving at the speed I wanted to drive at, over-taking safely when I wanted to, and enjoying the time pretty much to myself whilst watching the husband out of the corner of my eye, with the tiniest of smiles on my face. Because the passenger seat isn't the easiest of seats to occupy. It comes with a price. You see, in the back of our car, we carry these four things which can disturb any intentions, let alone the intention to work. They are called children and they have a different take on a three hour journey.

So I watched in amusement, as the husband had to give out Cheddars, juice cartons, dried hoops and biscuits. As he picked up dropped toys and put music on, as he answered questions and looked for Ewoks, as he found a dummy and put blankets on, as he answered their cries of "daddy" when they didn't even want anything, and as he saw to the ultimate "wee on the hard shoulder" event! There were needs that had to be met, and some which the husband said no to. I just sat in the driver's seat, blissfully unable to do anything because I was the designated driver. On the return journey, the two year old stayed awake for the first hundred miles despite his father telling him it was time to sleep.

It made me think of how the Heavenly Father deals with us. Firstly, unlike even the best earthly father, he is NEVER too busy and NEVER feels disturbed by us, but patiently listens and loves us. He is generous and tells us to ask of Him, and He provides and gives abundantly. But sometimes I know I can ask Him for things just thinking about my own immediate needs, rather than realising it's a long journey I'm on with Him. Sometimes I forget that He knows what is best for me. Sometimes I ignore His wisdom of knowing when I need to rest. Sometimes I don't like his answer and I can spit my dummy out, or I may not understand His answer, so I keep asking in a self seeking way. Sometimes I may even come to the conclusion that He has stopped loving me, because He doesn't meet my demands or doesn't answer in the way I want. But I know this is untrue. I know that if the husband gave into every demand placed on him from our children, it would not be beneficial to them, regardless of what they thought about their needs. I know they need to trust that he knows best for them. And I know this is the same for me and my Heavenly Father.

"The LORD is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love."
                                                       Psalm 103v8

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Swimming With Phatfish

So I thought it would be a good idea to have a sneaky 'behind the scenes' peak at life in the world of Phatfish. And the best way to do that is to join the band! But I can't really see that happening, so maybe an interview with a couple of the wives will be a good route in. Rachel is married to Luke, the non-long-haired bass player, and Jenni is married to Jos, the really hot guitarist (his wife's words!) and she's the little sister of Lou who is married to Nathan, who is Luke's younger brother. Clear? Then let's begin.

What is the vision behind Phatfish?
Rachel;  to use music to bring revelation of God to people and to see Jesus made famous.
Jenni; to write theologically correct songs which equip, encourage and inspire worship in church, and to write songs aimed at the non believer.

And do you have a role to play?
Rachel; to support my husband, provide childcare, occasional backing vocals, and I make the bacon butties. 
Jenni; to support my husband, provide childcare for Lou and Nathan and to pray.

What is your favourite Phatfish song/album?
Jenni; "Higher" is definitely my favourite album, and all the songs my husband has written.
Rachel;  I love "Heavenbound" and "Nothing but the truth". But the new album "Higher" is my favourite.

What do your kids think about Phatfish?
Rachel; they are huge fans.  Lucy made her own t-shirt recently with Phatfish written on the front. Poppy has played the CDs at school and turned her class and teacher into fans. And even Audey who is 18 months is already singing along in the car. They do miss Daddy when he's away though.
Jenni; Caleb absolutely loves them. He dances and sings and plays on his guitar when he hears them.

If your hubby could perform anywhere with anyone...?
Jenni; Glastonbury with Coldplay.
Rachel; maybe Muse at Wembley.

What do we not know about Phatfish?
Rachel; Bertie (aka Mike) really doesn't like orange peel. Lou once posted a whole envelop full of it to him. Ben thinks he's Australian, whereas Lou actually is.
Jenni; Lou's new hair is actually Luke's old hair. Being Lou's youngest sister, all I will say is a perm plus hot red lipstick and NHS glasses was not a good look!

Is it Lou's hair, her shoes or her voice which carries most influence?
Jenni; you can't have one without the other.
Rachel; obviously her hair and shoes are striking and her style is unique but her singing is her true gift - and her passion for people and her generosity with all she has is very challenging.

Did the music change when Luke cut his hair?
Jenny; it got better.
Rachel;  yes - he's rubbish now. Can't play a note. He just mimes.

What do Phatfish eat?
Rachel; anything except fish..... that would just be wrong. They like bacon butties. And curry. They get a lot of lasagne when they gig. Ben doesn't like anything spicy!
Jenni; depends on how well the album sells.

What do Phatfish do to relax?
Jenni; boxsets. We do like a good series, the current one is aptly 'The Good Wife'.
Rachel;  fishes and wags like to eat food and listen to music and watch DVDs and go for walks and some play sports and ski and drink wine and most do kid related activities like the park and several wash and  a couple even belong to the national trust!!!

What would you like to plug?
Rachel; new album out - "Higher" honestly I'm so excited about it. The song writing is mature and the songs are so powerful. I'm so excited about what God is going to do with these songs. I am praying that as people listen they will meet God and have their lives changed.  Listen while you jog, wash up, drive, whatever - it will do you good I promise. It's got Pop moments and some weighty issues tackled and will have you moving and singing and worshiping. Seriously it's brilliant and I'm not just saying so b'cos I have to. And if you can then come along to the tour. Dates on the website. It's going to be powerful. And your attendance will stop our children from being homeless!

Jenni; Phatfish are currently touring. Come to The Komedia, Brighton on October 20th and buy their latest album "Higher".

For tour dates, album news and to purchase tickets visit 

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Feed The Birds

I had a nice healthy bowl of roast chicken soup for my lunch yesterday and decided to eat it as a Take Away. I put it on the banister at the top of the stairs, and as I carried the different piles of washing to the correct set of drawers, I had a mouthful each time I passed the bowl. A drive-thru of sorts.
It didn't take long for my littlest boy to realise that there was something worth following me for. So like a little chick in a nest, he opened his mouth every time I got to the banister. One spoonful for me, one spoonful for him, until the washing was put away and the soup was all gone.

It left me with a simple thought. My littlest knew there was good food on offer if he followed me and simply opened his mouth. I know that when I read the bible, when I feed on God's word, it doesn't just benefit me, but it benefits my children too. If I'm reading it and living by it, my children should see the benefits of it. I also know that there are times when we sit down and we feast on a meal, in the same way it is good to feast on the bible. But it is also helpful to feed on the go sometimes. I was able to eat and get the washing done, and occupy a little person. And I know that when I dwell on the word, while I'm still on the go, it blesses my day.

I learnt something else today, that birds can be loosely put into one of two types; Altricial or Precocial. The Precocial ones pretty much fend for themselves from birth, whereas the Altricial ones require nourishment and care for a long period of time. So my little chicks need Altricial care from me in lots of ways, they need me to care for their physical and emotional needs. But they also need me to nourish them with the things I learn from reading and feeding on God's word. I'm not about to chew up some worms and spit them into my boy's mouths, gross! But I do want them to learn from and be fed by what I am chewing on!

Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" Matthew 4:4

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Are We There Yet?

Me and the husband have very different approaches to a trip out with the boys. I like to enjoy it from the beginning; making the picnic lunch, getting the bags ready, and leisurely heading to wherever we are going for our day's fun, enjoying the journey on the way. The husband however, thinks that all that other stuff is periphery and the fun can only start once we are at the designated place. (The question 'Are we there yet?' from the back of the car, and from me, doesn't really help the husband on these journeys) Many an 'interesting' chat have we had about such different approaches to the journey.

I was amused yesterday at a journey I had with a friend. Our destination was to be a mum's prayer group. Sounds simple enough. But the journey to our destination actually didn't seem that simple. It was delayed by a hospital phone call, after the two school runs to drop off six children. There was a detour due to three fire engines and a house fire. There was an errand to run on the way. There was traffic. There was the beeping of horns and even a man dressed as a pizza who attempted to slow us down as he stepped in front of the car. There was a phone call from my friend's husband, a sleeping baby and time restraints, but also a lot of giggling especially as my friend told the pizza man off!

I was thinking about the journey today, rather than the destination, in regards to our walk with God. The destination is our main focus; a citizen of Heaven we shall be! But there is so much that happens on the journey itself. And that is the stuff that shapes us and causes us to grow. It depends of course, on which route we take, and how much we trust God to lead us. But it is all part of the training. It is what moulds us into who we are, and actually makes us more expectant of our final destination. With these thoughts, I decided to let the youngest two walk at their own pace on the lunchtime school run. It was sunny and I had no plans, and I wanted to see what the journey would look like and what it would teach me. It took thirty minutes instead of ten, which for someone a little on the unorganised side of life was a nice change from the last minute rush! 

The boys ran giggling, they stopped to pick up ants, they stopped to look at a brick, one of them tripped over, one of them needed discipline for disobedience, they climbed up a steep muddy bit while I stuck to the path, they went their own way, the same one tripped up again, they were scared by a dog, they rescued a baby snail, they walked up and rolled down a hill, they looked for woofs, they sat down, they climbed on a fence, they wandered aimlessly, and there was very nearly a dog poo incident!

My role in the walk seemed to be to lead them, to encourage them to keep walking, to ask them about their day, to take an interest in the baby snail and the ant, and to hold their hands near the roads, keeping them safe because I love them and don't want them to be in danger. I guess it made me think about how God keeps me safe, how He encourages me to keep going and how He leads the way for me to follow Him, how He takes an interest in my life and how He loves me dearly, but how He allows me to make my own choices. And sometimes that means I take the wrong path, sometimes I go the more difficult route, sometimes I need discipline, sometimes I get scared, sometimes I get distracted and sometimes I end up in dog poo. But just like I didn't leave my children to go it alone, my Heavenly Father doesn't leave me to go it alone either. And I know it shapes me as I journey on, trusting His ways. I guess I learnt from my two adventure-seeking giggly boys today to slow down a bit and enjoy it, rather than keep asking God if I'm there yet!

"But our citizenship is in heaven,
and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,
 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body,
by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself."
Philippians 3v20-21

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Interview With a Legend 2

Time for another interview with a legend. If I refer to her as the Bear Gryls of mums, that might give it away. Ladies and Gentlemen I give you the delightful Ashleigh Smyth.

So Ash, you became a Christian....when I was 15 during confirmation classes at a Presbyterian church with an amazing youth pastor called Rory Spence.

And you and Pete got together....when I was 16 & he was 18. We met at a Christian concert the first time I went to that Presby Youth Group after being saved. We were friends for about 18 months (liking each other alternately while the other liked someone else!) We went out for 5 years, all of which was long-distance (boarding school & separate universities).

Has he ever taken you for a Mr Darcy "turn about the room"? No, at our high school dances I loved dancing & he hated it. He rather annoyingly spent more time soul-winning than shaking his chassis! 

Ashleigh friends, my kids, Pete, our dogs, 'The Vicar of Dibley' and '24'.  Food. Cupcakes & ice cream & chocolate & puddings. Holidays by the sea, full body massages at the spa...

Currently you are reading....."Leave it to Psmith" by P.G Wodehouse (a delight) & "The Me I want to be" by John Ortberg.

So your role in life be Pete's wife, to love him, support him, be best friends with him, encourage him. And to raise, mother & train my 3 sons. I'm involved in Godfirst, with the key leaders and their wives. I travel a bit with him to visit other churches or conferences, which I love. I also teach swimming lessons at a nursery school in summer.

And your view of being a mum....I love being a mum. I love being able to be a full-time 'stay at home' mum for my boys. I'm so grateful not to work full-time. It's my best thing. And I'm so grateful for sons. I am one of 3 girls & wished I had a brother, so now love being surrounded by boys! I was a tomboy, so love the noise, activity & energy of boys. My parenting style is "Go outside & play" so I am very grateful not to have to dream up craft activities etc! I love being outside & doing outdoorsy stuff with my boys, anything from water-skiing to swimming the Midmar Mile to sliding down sand dunes. I love laughing with my boys, & cuddling with them (they all still cuddle!) And I'm very competitive & am finding it hard that they're starting to run faster, be fitter & beat me at things!!

How  did you share with the boys about Pete's cancer.....We explained that Dad had a type of cancer, which was bad, but that it was a 'good' kind of cancer in that the doctors were hopeful that chemo would get rid of it. We also said we were trusting God to heal him completely. We kept talking openly with them about their fears & questions, & regularly asked them how they were coping with it all.

And how were they coping with it all...They all did very well. We prayed a lot for them & they coped in different ways. The youngest (7 at the time) didn't fully understand, & would often just sob & say "It's the cancer making me sad". The middle one was a bit more stoic and needed to be asked how he was more than offering his feelings. The oldest talked a lot, he's good at expressing himself, & he took on a lot in a supportive role to me & his brothers.
The boys talked a lot with us, but at school after peoples' initial kindness & sympathy, they preferred people not to keep asking them how dad was as they struggled not to get tearful, & wanted things to be as normal as possible. We kept lines of communication open, but also tried to carry on with life as normally as possible. Whenever Pete could manage it, he went to watch a cricket or soccer match. When it was Jack's birthday party we asked some young guys from church to come, as Pete had no energy to engage, but was present. We were probably more emotionally sensitive to them during that time, but maintained normal behaviour & standards & discipline!

Can you share your first reaction of it all.....I was devastated when we first found out about Pete's cancer. I lost my mum to breast cancer as a child & I've fought my own battle fearing the same would happen to me. So it was a shock. I think the 'cancer' word is powerful & we hear it & think 'death' initially. I didn't want to lose my husband.

Your role must have changed......As Pete became sicker through the chemo, our roles shifted & I became more key in running the family. I was the primary parent, the primary presence, often the only decision-maker, & often the leader. For one who has a husband who is a strong & brilliant leader, this may have been a shock! But it was amazing how God enabled me -I hardly ever thought 'I just can't do this'. It was only when Pete started to get better & our roles slowly started to change back, that we realised how much they'd shifted. We often look at people who are suffering through something difficult & think 'I couldn't cope with that' but God really does come to you in suffering & enable you to do all that is needed.

And your support of Pete through this time......

And at home.....I accommodated myself & the boys & our household to him. He became quite reclusive at times, feeling too sick to even sit through family meals, so I learned when to shield him from people (even the kids). And the kids & I learnt to get on without relying on him being there. Sometimes I needed to encourage him strongly to keep his faith up, sometimes I had to help him sleep. Occasionally I got overwhelmed & he had to comfort & encourage me!

The worst part.....fighting the fear of losing Pete. How would I live without him? Who would father my boys? How would I support our family? My prayers swung between confident claiming of healing for him, & begging God to have mercy on me & my children & give him back to us. Also, it was very hard seeing him constantly feeling terrible, getting sicker, & feeling like he'd never be well again. We had a particularly difficult December (last month of chemo) when Pete was in hospital twice for different things & thought he might well die, & we came under quite severe emotional attack. That period almost finished us both off.

And your faith throughout....I never questioned God or said, "why us?". I was so grateful that God was sovereign, that we had medical aid to pay bills, that we had great support & friends walking alongside us, great oncologist & doctors etc. And we knew God's help, comfort & strength all the time.

You kept going, relationship with Jesus kept me going, & my love for Pete. Keeping the family going as normally as possible and being part of a church kept me going. We had one particular couple who walked very closely with us throughout & I met with her nearly every week & poured out how we all were. They were very wise, understanding & hugely supportive in everything from bringing food to us at chemo, and flying to Durban to bring us all home when Pete went into hospital. Also, I learnt what my limitations were in that period. I had very little emotional buffer, so only did things that didn't require much from me. I didn't do any church ministry, & only met with supportive friends, & I cut my activities down to a minimum, mainly centred around Pete & the boys' school & sports.

Worship encouragement.....Chris Tomlin's albums were wonderful for me, & Pete found Lou Fellingham's album so helpful.

You have learnt along the way.....that God really is God, & is all that he says He is. I've learnt that he helps us to go through what we imagined was impossible to cope with, & that I'm stronger than I thought I was. I've learnt that I love Pete very deeply, in sickness & health, for better or for worse. Our marriage stood up very well through the ordeal & we remained close & very in love. I've learnt that my boys are fantastic & there's more to them than meets the eye. I've learnt how different friends provide different blessings or meet different needs. I have deeper respect & compassion for families who are suffering or living through trials. And I've learnt that there can still be great joy in the midst of great sadness & difficulty.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

It's Not About Me

Today started with me having a prayerful sleepy moment on the sofa. Thanking God that today was all about Him and not all about me. And asking Him to remind me of this fact throughout the day, because I sensed I was going to forget. I then crawled back into bed for five minutes and suggested that the husband prayed for me too. The husband wisely suggested that I didn't do too much today (he can see my crazed tired state a mile off) and thankfully he was able to do the school run with the older two, so the morning's pace was less crazy.

I attempted a shower as the youngest two were happily being babysat by the Zingzillas. My hair was full of soap as the four year old informed me that the two year old had removed his nappy, and he wasnt going to put it in the bin because it was full of poo and that was disgusting. A minute later with the soap out of my hair, I found said nappy with no poo, and I'm hoping still to this point in the day, that the four year old was mistaken by the contents of the nappy!?

The four year old went off to his second day of big school, slightly reluctant as he thought he had "done school yesterday", not quite realising that this was an everyday occurance for the next eleven years of his life. So it was just me and the clean nappied two year old. I put a chicken carcass and some stock on to boil, did a quick hoover, a dishwasher load, a high chair wipe down, a toy tidy, and sat down with a cuppa, in order to 'not do too much today' like the husband had suggested.

I put some worship on and just watched my little boy dance to the music. He clapped out of time, abandoned and free, with skipping, and pointy fingers and sticky out tongue. He smiled, and hopped and rolled on the floor with his legs up high, and threw Smurfs in the air. The perfect way to worship!  (Abandoned and free, rather than the use of Smurfs!)  Every few minutes he said that he wanted to pray. So we paused the song and he copied my prayer, "Dear God, dear god, Thank you, thank you, You love me, love me, Amen, amen." We repeated this about ten times. I sat and listened to the words of songs written to encourage us that its all about God, not all about me. And realised how powerfully true our simple prayer was.

"For God so loved the world
that He gave His one and only son,
 that whoever believes in Him
shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3v16

Sunday, 18 September 2011

I'm No Moses

The other book I have been reading lately is “Faithful Women and their Extraordinary God” by Noel Piper. No one is on horseback and Mr Darcy is nowhere to be seen. (See True Romance post). Noel Piper shows us some real life Proverbs 31 women in this book.  Women, whose lives and deeds are set before us, as examples of what it means to be faithful to God's calling on their lives and women who have made a difference.

One of the women in the book is Gladys Aylward. She has amazed me as she set off to China with no qualifications and after being rejected from the Chinese mission board. She knew that a ‘No’ from people sitting on a committee, didn’t necessarily mean a ‘No’ from God. She persevered instead, and remained open to God guiding her. She adapted to the Chinese culture, even realising that she had stopped growing at 4ft 10, in order to fit in perfectly in China! She was considered small and weak in the natural. But with God, she was bold, courageous and determined. She knew that God was her ultimate authority, so she wasn’t afraid to challenge authority which went against God’s will. She went through terrible seasons, illness and the terror of war.

One part in particular made me cry as I was aware of my own thinking. Gladys was in the process of leading about a hundred children through the mountains to safety during the war, as you do, when she reached an impossible river to cross. She was suffering with ill health and understandably a weakness of faith. One of the children simply asked Gladys why God couldn’t just open the waters like He did for Moses, when he had to cross the Red Sea. Her wearied reply was simply, “I am not Moses”.

The child’s wonderful rebuke however, was to answer this mother figure with the amazing truth that “God is always God”. And by God's amazing provision, they did indeed get across the river.

I know what it is to feel weak and not able, and compare myself with another mum or an inspiring bible hero. But I know that inspiring bible heroes are inspiring because of the all powerful God of the bible who uses the weak and lacking, not because of who they are. And I also know that if you teach your children about the wonderful life giving power of God, then their faith may well encourage you like this child’s faith did for Gladys.

I recently had a moment  which wasn't as terrifying as Gladys', but it was me at the end of me. I found myself crying on the lounge floor. A bit of a heap. One by one, the boys stood round me and prayed. How they comforted me in that moment. How their faith stirred me, to run to Jesus and ask Him for His great help. I might not feel as amazing as Gladys Aylward, and she didn't feel as amazing as Moses. But our God is the same God. The great heroes of the bible are only amazing because of the amazing God they serve. Any of my great mum moments, are only great because of God. And on my weakest days, when there is an emotional river to cross or a mountain of washing to climb, I may not be Moses or Gladys but God is always God.  

"Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today." Exodus 14v13

Friday, 16 September 2011

True Romance

I have recently been reading two books, which are quite different in genre. Both books can be pretty much summed up by their titles. One is called ‘Faithful Women and their Extraordinary God’ by Noel piper and the other ‘A weekend with Mr Darcy’ by Victoria Connelly. One is encouraging, thought provoking, challenging and faith stirring and one is about a boy who gets the girl, loses the girl and gets the girl back (Sorry if I’ve spoilt it!).

I enjoyed reading ‘A Weekend with Mr Darcy’. It took two days and it was like watching a movie for a couple of days, a nice bit of escapism and girlie-ness. I was especially amused by a line from a disgruntled boyfriend in the book;
“I know you women-you don’t care who the man is as long as he’s on a horse. Put Jabba the Hutt on a horse and you’d all be swooning over him”.

I enjoyed the book immensely but was very aware of the caricature of men throughout. They were pretty much brandished as losers, cheats and liars, apart from the handsome, funny, sensitive and romantic heroes of course.

 As I read the book, I was reminded of a blog I had read recently, it was interestingly titled “Beware Romantic Pornography”, written by Betsy Hart for The Gospel Coalition. She describes romantic comedies as stories which usually involve a wonderful woman and an idiotic man. The idiotic man does not realise how romantic he is until the wonderful woman shows him and he starts to talk about his feelings and as she quite rightly observes, it usually involves a fountain at some point.

 The title of the article is quite striking, but she is wanting to voice her opinion clearly and dramatically, as she says;
“Sexual pornography twists an understanding for men about real women’s bodies and sexual appetites, so romantic pornography twists the perception for women about real men and how they ‘ought’ to behave toward women, which tends to amount to… behaving like a woman”.

She makes such a valid point, and it was an interesting read. As a mum to my boys, I know I have a duty to teach them how to treat women but also to be secure in their masculinity, and not be feminised by the culture or the girls they meet. As a wife, I need to remember that the husband is made in the image of God. I’m not expecting the husband to arrive home on horseback this evening, however delightful and also amusing that might be, but I may well have let other incorrect expectations of him creep in from one too many romance novels. I need to let him be the man that God has made him to be, as well as keeping my eyes fixed on the ultimate husband Jesus Christ to captivate my heart, care for me and rescue me.

"So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them."
Genesis 1v27