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.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Yes Sir, Yes Sir, Three Bags Full

With all this sheep talk recently, I have been thinking about how Jesus charges me to be a shepherd to my own flock, like He is the Good Shepherd to me. As a mum, I tend to four lambs. I tend to their needs, keeping them warm and safe. I feed them with food from Asda, rather than grass from a field. I don't lead them to a river to drink, but I do show them where the tap is. I call them and they know my voice and they come running straight away...mmm occasionally! They don't ever fall into ravines, but I do help them when they're stuck up a tree. I'm not allowed to shear them as I once did a terrible job of that, but the husband has taken on this role.I know each of them by name, although I do mix them up, much to their amusement. I aim to guide my lambs, care for them and love them. This is what shepherds do.

I also aim to protect them. Maybe I'm not protecting them from wolves and predators, like a shepherd would, but from other things which are dangerous for them. Things that will make them fearful or feel scared, things which will cause nightmares or take away their innocence, things which may even lead them to death.

So for instance, me or the husband, will watch new films with them. If it has a scary or sad scene, we may skip it for them or get them to look away or walk away until it has finished. Or we may talk through the scene with them. We know it is important to protect them at times, by preventing them from seeing or hearing or knowing certain things. But we mustn't wrap our children up in cotton wool. Sometimes our protection comes in the form of allowing them to see something and explaining why it is harmful and teaching them how to guard their own hearts and live godly lives. If we hear the news in the car, we turn the radio down because the content is often too adult for their young ears. But other times we talk to them about things in the news and pray with them about it.

We also protect their hearts by teaching them about sin and about God's enemy and his tactics.

"The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy.
 My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life." John 10v10

Our boys need to know that they will be tempted to sin. We want them to be prepared to protect themselves, and understand why they need to do it. So our six year old will now tell us when he thinks a dvd is too scary for him, and our seven year old will turn the news off when it comes on the TV. We want them to learn to protect themselves from temptation, whether it's temptation to vandalise property and disrespect authority, or whether its a sexual temptation. We want them to protect themselves from sin, and point them towards Jesus' protection, by making godly choices and following The Good Shepherd for themselves.

"Direct your children onto the right path,
and when they are older, they will not leave it."
Proverbs 22v6

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Have You Any Wool?

Due to the two year old's new love for all things Baa, I am aware of sheep again and again. I recently read John 10, and thought about Jesus' description of us as his sheep. (As I mentioned in my last post). He talks about thieves who come to steal the sheep, and why He cares for the sheep, and the fact that there are some sheep still to be found. It's hard to remember that he is talking about us as he refers to sheep, but He is. He talks about the sheep having eternal life and never being snatched from Him. He talks about Himself as the shepherd, the good shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep. But He also talks about Himself as the gate, which to be honest I haven't always understood.

I read something recently, which helped me understand it better. I read A Slice of Infinity, which is a daily reading from the Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM). It is written by a lady called Jill Carattini. She explained parts of John 10 in her daily reading, which was new to me, so I thought I would share her thoughts here;

As Jesus was standing in the temple preaching, He would have been surrounded by real "baaing" sheep. Sheep which were being bought and sold,  and then led through a door into the temple, in order to be used as a sacrifice. There was a gate on the north of the city of Jerusalem which the sheep were led through. It was fittingly called the Sheep Gate. When the sheep were inside the city, inside the temple, there was no way out. An entrance for the sheep, but no exit. They were then sacrificed for the sins of men and women. Jill Carattini writes "For first-century hearers of Jesus' words about sheep, such knowledge added to the shock of Christ's words: "I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep.... I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.""

The hearers of Jesus' words would have known that the sheep had no way out, that they were heading for death. For Jesus to say that He was the gate for the sheep, He was declaring that there was a way out for the sheep. And we remember that Jesus refers to us when He talks about sheep. So He was saying He was and is the way out from death for us. If we come to God through Jesus, we are rescued from death and given life. This is wonderful news for us, and a reminder that those who don't yet know Jesus as their rescuer and saviour are still heading for death, and we need to point them in the right direction, towards the gate, towards Jesus.

"I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
 I am the Good Shepherd" John 10v11

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Baa Baa Black Sheep

My two year old has started to appreciate all things Baa, (as in the animal). So every time we see a sheep or a cow, or a haystack for that matter, he shouts "Baa". Even as I write this, there is a Baa on Bob the Builder this morning. So he is making his point loud and clear with full animal noise and facial expression.

There are some fields we pass on our way home. One field is home to sheep, one to cows and one to haystacks, so for quite a long stretch of road he says Baa, and I have to say it back to him in acknowledgement of the Baas!

It has got me thinking recently about one of my favourite verses;

"He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young." Isaiah 40v11

'Tends his flock' is not a phrase that we use a lot, mainly because we are not shepherds. But to a shepherd, it would mean that he protects his flock from wolves and predators. He looks after his flock, caring for them, feeding them, guiding them, watching over them, leading them to fresh water, and searching for the lost ones. 'Tends to' can also be described as cherish, serves and cares for.  

I love this verse and take it personally. Jesus is my shepherd and I am part of His flock, one of His sheep. I am happy to be a Baa, because it means Jesus tends to me, cherishes me, serves me and cares for me. He feeds me, watches over me and guides me. He gathers me in His arms and carries me close to His heart. What a wonderful place to be. The verse also says that Jesus gently leads those who have young. I have young, four young lambs which I myself tend to. So Jesus is gently leading me as I look after them. Sometimes He leads me through rough terrain, and sometimes through luscious grassy areas. But He is always leading me, while protecting me and tending to me. I am close to the Shepherd's heart, close to Jesus' heart.


Sunday, 21 August 2011

Keep Smiling!

I have noticed that mums have a look on their face that other mums totally understand. It is a smile of sorts, but not a natural smile. It's more of a strained smile; a tight, closed mouth smile which lifts both corners of the mouth up high to uncomfortable levels, and it is usually accompanied with a nod or head tilt or very wide eyes, or all three. Someone may look at that smile and think the lady was bordering on insanity or struggling with constipation, but another mum would look at that smile and she would just know.

She would know that that smile is trying to communicate an intense positive thought process, such as "I am rising above the current stresses", with maybe a touch of "I am carrying on regardless", and a slight hint of "This will not beat me." While inside she is silently screaming, "I'm a mother, get me outta here!!" You notice this look in the supermarket, on the school run, at church, and coming in and out of caravans at Newday.
And as a mum, there is a look that you give back. It is a smaller smile, a more natural one. Not as intense as the manic/constipated look described earlier.  It communicates to that other mum, "I understand" and it lets you know that you are going to be okay and that you will survive! Because in that moment, you want someone else to understand the stress or gritted teeth joy that you are experiencing.

I saw this understanding look as I was in the chemist at 10pm buying worm medicine. What a totally gross and embarrassing medicine to have to stand at a counter and ask for. The reassuring look came from the mum standing to the left of me not quite at this point, but when the pharmacist asked if there was anything else I needed apart from the worm medicine for my kids, and my hushed reply was "a bottle of head lice treatment please"...that's when the smile came. A comforting, "been there, done it" smile. She understood that the last thing I wanted to be doing that evening was buying these particular products, let alone having to admit that I needed them, revealing some of the secret horrors of motherhood. And then having to part with cash for the joy of owning such products. She also knew that that meant my following morning would be one of hair combing and linen washing! But she would also know that that is what you do as a parent, you care for your kids and help them, in all sorts of ways!

I was comforted by that lady's smile. And it caused me to smile too. I realised how I simply needed someone to understand my plight at 10pm that evening. No talk about it needed, just an understanding smile was enough. Its a tedious link, but I know My Heavenly Father understands my plight. He sees all and knows all. He knows what my groans are, the big heavy groans and the lighthearted almost comical ones. And He makes all grace abound to me because I am His daughter, so He knows what it is to love His kids, to love me. He knows I need looking after, and help and care when I get myself into a mess. And I know that the messes I get myself into are far worse than nits and worms!

 "And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work." 2 Corinthians 9v8

Friday, 12 August 2011

A Helping Hand

At a recent baby shower, we were asked to give the mum-to-be a word of advice. My piece of advice was that she should ask for help, and accept the help offered. Sounds like a simple bit of information to give someone, but it actually proves quite hard to do. That familiar sin called pride stops us from admitting we need help, asking for it and then accepting it.

I'm reminded of a recent Sunday after church. Sundays can be a little on the difficult side at times, as I have to get four boys from their Cogs groups, the husband usually has to talk to someone about something, the boys are tired and hungry and I have to get them to the car to wait for the husband. So on a Sunday like this, I crossed the road with the tribe and walked them towards the hot car. They weren't being altogether helpful. The baby's hunger and tiredness had evolved into relentless screeching and I couldn't find the magical dummy which brings peace to all mankind. There was silliness and hot and bothered, non brotherly love going on. So quite loudly I demanded some quiet and tried to get them all in their seats with their belts on.

Then it happened, I spotted the wife of an elder at our church, coming towards us, a loving caring lady, who would be happy to help me. So did I approach her? No I ducked down and hid behind a green van next to our car! I said "Oh God, please help me". And then I started laughing. How ridiculous! God actually helped me by pointing out my pride; scared of what she might think and not asking for the help she would gladly offer.

We say to our boys that it's good to do things on our own at times, but if were doing it on our own, because we're worried what people think, or because we think we know better or because we don't want to admit that we're weak, or incase we put people out, then that's just pride! But there I was hiding behind a van in case this kind lady thought I was weak and needed help!

The worst kind of pride is when we don't ask God for His help, we don't admit that we are weak or in need and we try to do it all in our own strength. Instead we hide behind a green van, or money, or a relationship, or working harder, or looking better, or  our own self worth. How much better would it have been for me to ask the elder's wife for a helping hand? And how willingly she would have given it to me! How much better is it for me to ask God for His help and how willing is He to give it to me? His words are strong in regards to our pride. He has offered us His help and a relationship with Him through His own son. He knows that I am weak and need His help, His strength, His joy, His peace, His salvation, His forgiveness, His guidance, His care...But it is a choice to seek Him or have no room for Him.

     "In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God." Psalm 10v4

"Though the LORD is on high, he looks upon the lowly, but the proud he knows from afar." Psalm 138v6

Thursday, 4 August 2011

The Young People of Today

This week I have been blown away by people's willingness to just help. I am at Newday, a Christian youth event with my boys, occasionally with the husband, some folk from our church and about 6000 young people.
As I sat in a marquee with our church's youth for my breakfast, one of the leaders came in and said he needed five guys to help with the slop buckets. Straight away some lads stood up to volunteer and followed the leader out to do this gross job. 
Later on I approached one of our youth leaders and asked him if he would help me get my coats out of my car. He was completely willing and in the pouring rain, he set out to find my car and get our family's coats for me.
I had help from a lovely teenage girl who went and got two of my boys from the children's work. She didn't even need to think about it. Her heart was just willing to serve me.

And I managed to get to an unexpected seminar because three of our youth offered to watch all four boys, and even treated them out of their own money.
I was encouraged because all of the people who I have observed helping have been under twenty. Why are they so willing? Why would they go out of their way in the rain? Or do the non glorious jobs? Because our young people are following examples. Whether it's the example of their parents, or by men and women in our church, or elders and their wives, or the examples of their youth leaders lives. Or the example of Jesus Himself.
Jesus loved his disciples and showed this by washing their feet. He wanted to make it clear that He had come to serve not to be served. He gave his life in place of our's to pay the price for our sin. The ultimate act of a servant, selfless heart.
We need to continue to be an example to our young people in how we serve. Would I have been willing to do the slop buckets? Or go out in the rain for someone? Or sacrifice a seminar so someone else could go? I hope I would. 
The next generation coming through often carries with it, a bad reputation.  But I wonder if they have had any examples to follow? Who has shown them the right way? Who has taught them to serve and respect? Are we willing to serve this next generation? Are we willing to be an example for them to follow? Especially those young people who have not had any good examples? Or do we expect to see it, without any part in it? 
So today, I'm honouring this next generation, especially the youth I have been served by this week.