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, 31 May 2012

When The Darkness Closes In

Miscarriage; My friend Hayley shares her story...
We started trying for a family after three years of marriage. I was disappointed every month that I didn’t fall pregnant. After five months of trying, I fell pregnant and I couldn’t have been more excited! I couldn’t believe my time had really come. I was going to be a mum and have a family. I remember the moment I did the test. I was buzzing with excitement and it felt so wonderful! I wanted it so much, I was so happy about the news, but then I started to worry that it could all go wrong, and I could lose this precious baby somehow. I spent a lot of time worrying during the early weeks. I asked close friends to pray with me through my worries, and I spent time praying on my own and I also asked Pete to pray with me often. I still don’t know why I feared miscarriage so much during that first pregnancy. Perhaps it is because I wanted the baby so much, and I honestly could not bear the thought of losing him/her.

When I was 9 weeks pregnant, I started to bleed. I was scanned, only to find that the baby hadn’t developed past 5 weeks. I then miscarried naturally at home. Nothing could have prepared me for the following year. I fell pregnant again about 5 months later. My doctor booked an early scan at 6 weeks due to my fears and worries. Pete and I saw the baby’s heartbeat and I remember walking home with my scan picture in my pocket, amazed that that this baby seemed to be ok. I didn’t worry about miscarriage after seeing the baby alive on the screen. I believed the baby to be safe and developing well, even at that early stage, the heartbeat gave me hope. At 7 weeks I started to bleed again. I miscarried at home, and a scan confirmed that I had lost this baby too.

How did this sad start to family life affect you?
I was completely devastated. I was in shock for a while, totally consumed by grief. I had to just allow it to happen; feeling helpless and unable to do anything to stop my body from failing me in such a massive and life changing way. I was going to be a mum, and all of a sudden that was taken from me.

I remember waking up every morning still crying from the night before. I spent hours and hours crying at home, either on my own, with Pete, with family and with friends. It took me a very long time to stop crying. The pain of losing my babies was unbearable. I remember going into work a week later thinking I would be fine to teach for the day. I got as far as opening my classroom cupboard door and collapsed in tears as I remembered that I was pregnant in that room a week beforehand, and now my baby was gone. Everywhere I went and everything I did reminded me of my loss.

What effect did this have on your marriage?
To be honest with you, it was a massive negative turning point in our marriage. I was so consumed with my grief that I was barely functioning a lot of the time. Giving any attention to Pete or his needs was not even something I thought of. I went through the motions of being a wife. I was just so upset and Pete was angry. Looking back we can both see that we didn’t really share the experience. I shut myself down, and so did Pete.

Were you able to ‘do life’ and see people? No I didn’t want to go out. I didn’t want to socialise. When we did, I was closed off from our friends, again going through the motions of friendship but often feeling distant and remote. Looking back I can now see how patient our friends were with us. Pete and I are so blessed to have friends that stuck by us during that challenging year. They were so gracious and loving. I barely went to church during that year. I was so fearful of crying at church, and I knew if I brought my pain to God, it would hurt and I would cry. I didn’t want to cry anymore, I didn’t enjoy crying and I wanted to ignore God. I questioned God. I wanted to know why He had let this happen to me. I felt that the one thing I wanted in life, He could have given me but instead I felt He’d chosen to offer it to me, then snatch it away. I just could not understand what good could come from my suffering.

What happened in relation to trying again for a baby?
After my two miscarriages I waited for my cycle to begin again, not really knowing what I wanted. My whole world had fallen apart, I had lost not only my babies, but I felt I had lost my future as a mum. I had no hope left at all. After waiting a few weeks my cycle didn’t start, and so I braced myself and did a pregnancy test. It was positive and I remember phoning my mum sobbing, because I felt I couldn’t cope with it. I remember saying “I can’t go through it all again.” I felt I couldn’t get myself through yet another miscarriage. In my heart I assumed this pregnancy would end in the same way as my previous pregnancies, and I wasn’t ready to go through the whole ordeal again. I was still grieving for my second baby. But after 9 very long and worrying months my beautiful baby girl was born!

Looking back, how has this painful experience shaped you and your marriage? Before miscarrying I had never really suffered in any real way. Pete and I stumbled upon massive marriage problems, mostly due to the way we both dealt with our loss, and I learnt that God is a faithful God. I thought I was losing my marriage, even though I had gained a wonderful daughter, so I prayed every day. I trusted God’s faithfulness because I never wanted to return to the solitude and hopelessness that I felt when I suffered the miscarriages and didn’t trust God. I now believed that even if everything beneath me was swept away, God would still hold me up in his loving, secure, faithful arms. And needless to say, He did. And in a strange way, I am glad it all happened. I now know the pain of loss, and I learnt how not to deal with difficult times.
What changed in your marriage?
It was a very gradual process. God allowed us to take the time we needed. He put some couples in our life who would ask us how we were really doing. They allowed us time, were patient with us and prayed with us and for us. If we had done it alone, I’m not sure what would have happened to us. I had got to the place where I desperately didn’t want to lose our marriage and I trusted God. I prayed every day. Pete wasn’t in a place where he could lead us in coming to God, because he simply didn't trust God anymore, but I asked Pete to do a bible study with me once a week and he agreed. He was willing for God to change our marriage, even if he couldn’t take the lead in it. We started to spend time with God as a couple, which we had never really done before, and we started to spend time with God individually. Gradually, we drew closer to Him and to each other again.

What did you learn about God’s character?
I have learnt that God is so faithful and I can trust Him. I realised that God has plans for Pete and I that are different to my own plans. It’s so wonderful to look back and now see God’s goodness in my life, even looking back on my loss and my darkest times. He most definitely carried me through that time. The frustrating thing is that at the time I didn’t know it, and I didn’t trust Him! I have learnt to trust God through even the most painful experiences.

I remember two particular songs teaching me a lot about God’s character… “Blessed be your name” by Matt Redman and ‘Hard Pressed” by Lou Fellingham. I learnt that God will not abandon me, that He has a plan, even when I feel pulled to pieces and my world is caving in. I learnt that I can worship and praise my God even when there is pain in the offering. I am so sure of His goodness now.

Anything you would like to add...
Our journey has been such an amazing blessed one! I cannot contain my love for God when I think of what he has brought us from. We were a young married couple in a desperate situation, and now Pete is leading our family of five as we live for God. We have just finished running an Alpha course together in our home, which in itself shows how far God has brought us. We know that our hope is in God and our future is in His hands. I consider it a privilege and a sign of God’s love for us that he allowed us to go through what we did, and that He was willing to teach us.

What an amazing God that steps down from the heavens and is willing to change us. I am so grateful to Him for allowing us to go on this (at times) painful, yet rich and joyful journey  with Him. It makes me so excited to think where he might take us next and what he might change in us next. I’m so glad we have now put our marriage and our children in the hands of a God who loves us, and I know it’s not through our own doing. It’s all been God’s willingness to teach us, to lead us, and show us grace and unconditional love every step of the way. Thank you Lord!

O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you;my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you,in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
    Hayley's verse - 
Psalm 63v1-5

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Pete's verse - Romans 8v38-39

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

A Snail's Pace

Today I spent some precious time with my youngest in our garden. We sat in the sun and collected, watched and talked to snails, much to the dismay of my friend who has three girlie girls. She said her girls would have screamed and run away, in case they got slime on them and died! I love how different our worlds can be.

My son pulled each of the happily sleeping snails off the wall and put them all together in a group on the grass. The snails stayed safely in their shells for quite a while. But then they foolishly peered out to see if the excited boy had gone away. He hadn't. He was ready and waiting. As they slowly started to crawl away, he would pick them up, chat to them and show them to me. I laid on the grass next to him; watching him, chatting to the snails as they were introduced to me and simply enjoyed our slow-paced moment together. Our lovely moment lasted quite a while, until the snails eventually got to go for a wild ride in a yellow tipper truck. Unfortunately one of the snails didn't quite make it to tell his friends all about his high speed adventures, may he rest in pieces...

3 o'clock arrived and the three older brothers returned from school, and quadrupled the amount of testosterone in the house. Whilst I got dinner on the go, kept up with the potty training and divided and conquered when needed, my precious snail moment drifted from my mind. My sweet snail-loving boy changed into being the slightly bugging younger brother, and slightly disobedient and tantrummy youngest son.

I tried hard to think back to our snail moment, and realised that it seemed easier to love my boy in the precious, slow-paced, and uninterrupted moments rather than in the real-life, busy and chaotic moments. And straight away I was thankful that God doesn't deal with me like that. He loves me when I give Him my undivided attention, appreciate His creation and talk freely to Him. He also loves me just as much when I'm bugging others, disobeying Him and tantrumming. I therefore made a choice to love my boy during his not so loveable moments, knowing that God loves me during mine.

"Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another."
                                                                                                          1 John 4v8&11

Monday, 21 May 2012

You Get What You Deserve

Last night I told my four year old that if he wasn't in bed with his book by the time I came upstairs that I wouldn't read it to him. I got upstairs and he wasn't in bed with his book. I asked him what the consequence was and he explained that he couldn't have a story because he hadn't done what I had asked. I explained that I was going to use what had happened to show him what grace looks like. (We didn't get into the theology of grace also being the discipline side of things during this little chat but we've got all his life to cover that one too).

I explained that grace was getting what we do not deserve. I explained that he didn't deserve to have the story read to him, but that I was going to read it to him anyway because I wanted him to have what he didn't deserve. I explained that we have all been naughty and sinned, and that we deserve a big telling off from God. I explained that instead of God telling us off in the way we deserve, He chose to tell Jesus off instead, who had never done anything wrong. I said that the telling off was for Jesus to die on a cross, and we got to go free. This is grace, I explained to my little one.

I think some things landed and we read his book, Toy Story. We looked at Andy, the really nice boy in the story and we looked at Sid, the not so nice boy who lived next door. My boy said that we should be more like Andy than Sid, and although he is right, I decided to go in for another little teaching moment. I tried to explain that actually in comparison with Jesus' goodness and purity, Andy and Sid were pretty similar. They were both sinners. They both had selfish hearts. They were both like me and my son. Whether the sin is seen as clearly as in Sid's character or whether it's a bit more hidden like Andy's, it's still there. Andy, Sid, me and my boy all need to know of God's loving grace, and His forgiveness. We all need what we don't deserve.

We of course, ended up praying for Toy Story's Andy and we also prayed  for Auntie Nai's dog who happens to be called Grace. We will hit the topics of grace and goodness again because new opportunities arrive all the time in our house, to teach into these two subjects.

If we claim to be without sin, we decieve ourselves, and the truth is not in us. We confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:8, 9

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Wandering in the Wilderness

Sometimes being a mum feels like you're wandering around in the desert or the wilderness. It can be so monotonous; day in, day out, you can feel like you're still not sure what you're doing or where you're going! And it's not like your little charges regularly stop what they're doing and say, "Mum, I just want to thank you for all the hard work you put into parenting me." There is the temptation to feel like you want to give up. On Sunday, just before church, this wandering mother snapped and gave up. She shouted at one of her sons and felt pretty justified about the shout. She'd had enough of the attitude, the answering back, the disobedience, and the winding up. She even threw in a slammed door.

Then she went to church! And there she felt quite annoyed by the preach! Joel Virgo was continuing his series in 1 Samuel. It's been one of those series that have felt wonderfully encouraging, but with a challenging kick to it. And this week he was going on about us being in the wilderness, and the wilderness being a place of training.
He explained how many great characters in the bible spent a season, a decade, or forty years even, in the wilderness and it was in order to train them. Even Jesus Himself spent 40 days in the wilderness. Joel explained that it's how we respond in the wilderness which is so vitally important. Do we continue to trust God or do we decide to bury our heads and give up? Joel went on to say that being meek is trusting God, humbling ourselves to let Him be in control. He also said that we're not meant to stay in the wilderness but that we're to walk through it. If we give up, we stay there and die in the wilderness. Whereas if we grow and learn through the training, trusting God completely, we come out the other side a little more like Jesus and a little more ready to take on what God has called us to do! 

But God has called me to be a mother! And that's tough at times... Ah I started to see what God was saying to me through Joel's word. God is training me, as I train my little ones. And as I get it wrong with my little ones. Joel ended of course, with Jesus; saying that we needed to hold onto who Jesus was. Hold onto His past faithfulness, and hold onto His steadfastness.  Hold onto the fact that He showed mercy to the me, an ungrateful child. Hold onto the fact that He blesses and provides security and love to me, regardless of how I respond. Hold on to the fact that He continually serves me, regardless of how undeserving I am.

I apologised to my son and sought his forgiveness for shouting at him and we prayed together. I thanked God that we we are both sinners saved by grace. I thanked God that He shows both of us undeserved grace and forgiveness. I thanked God that He never shouts at us or slams a door. I thanked God for the wilderness training. I thanked Him again for loving us, His children so perfectly.

"Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.  
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled. 
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.  
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.  
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God."
Matthew 5v5-9

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Breakdown Recovery

Last Thursday, after the grand organising of child care (calling in the parents) me and the husband set off for a church conference in Nottingham. Leaving the house took a shocking two minutes, instead of the usual long-haul of getting four boys out the door. We chatted freely on the journey, I dozed off now and then and no one needed our attention, or snacks or a wee stop.

It was a great journey, the husband was happy that we were doing well for time and that we were going to actually arrive early, going against our family's tradition. All of a sudden, all the dashboard dials went to zero and back again. We pulled into the middle lane, and then into the slow lane as the dials went to zero again and stayed there. We made it onto the hard shoulder and sat in silence for a few moments. (You learn after nearly ten years of marriage to not say anything during these moments!)

After the husband had explained that we didn't have any breakdown cover, we  bought some and awaited the AA man. He arrived quite promptly and checked out the car. He stuck his hand into the engine and quite obviously got an electric shock. Thankfully he recovered and we didn't have to call out for another man to come and replace the one we had electrocuted on the road side. He towed us to a service station and had a fiddle with the engine. He decided our old girl had passed her best years. At 207000 miles, our Chrysler Voyager had driven her last journey. Sad times. We decided to get towed to Nottingham rather than back home. Our AA man could only tow us so far, and then we had to wait at another service station for another AA man, who towed us to the conference. Always fun to arrive at these things on a pick up truck! We scrapped the old girl while we were there.

The journey got me thinking about our journey with God; sometimes smooth sailing and you seem to get quite far along quite quickly, sometimes you face difficulties along the way, sometimes you feel like you come to a stand-still, sometimes it costs you, sometimes you need someone to help you, sometimes you have to make decisions to change the way you're travelling, and sometimes you're simply humbled as you travel.

But you do end up getting nearer to your destination; more like Jesus and closer to eternity with Him. And the great thing is that He isn't just waiting for us to finally get to Him as we arrive at our final destination. He travels with us along the way, like the best possible AA man, with all the tools and help we need along the way. Sometimes we foolishly try to journey along without asking Him for His help, and we realise we simply can't. Therefore we end up sitting on the hard shoulder for a while, until we realise He's patiently waiting for us to call on Him for some breakdown recovery.

"Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence,
so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."
Hebrews 4v16

Thursday, 3 May 2012

The Perfect Parent

The perfect parent; kind and loving all the time, always patient with their children, available to listen whenever needed, continually long suffering, forever self-sacrificial and abundantly lavish too! Even though their children are demanding and self seeking, they seem to be able to love them unconditionally, delight in them consistently and never ever tire of them. Have you met one of these parents?

Well, actually have you met Him? There is only one parent like this; Our Heavenly Father. He is perfect and treats me with such undeserved grace, patience and long-suffering as I continually demand my own selfish ways. I am not like Him.... I am made in His image, so when there are glimmers of goodness in my parenting it's all down to Him. However, some of the time my boys would vouch for the fact that I'm not always oozing with perpetual patience.

Last night for example, I killed off Peppa Pig. Harsh I know. But we were reading about her fun trip to the swimming pool, again. We had already read it twice in five minutes, as requested by my youngest son. And it's not like he was even really listening; he was instead finding it funny to roll off the sofa onto the book and laugh in that over-tired kind of way that a two year old does at 8pm. But when I tried to put it down, due to his lack of interest, he was most put out. So third time round as I read it, some of the words and activities seem to change in this much loved book. Instead of a fun meeting with Rebecca Rabbit and her mum, and all the usual fun splashes from George Pig and Richard Rabbit, an unexpected event occurred. Poor Peppa unfortunately came to quite a sad ending at the bottom of the pool, with her so-called friend Rebecca not even diving in to help. The book was closed, my son looked at me to see if he had heard right, he was kissed on the forehead and tucked into bed.

So today, I am just so grateful that the perfect parent does exist and that He fathers me so wonderfully well, forever patient with me. I'm grateful for mercies which are consistently renewed each morning, and I'm quite thankful too that I'm not Peppa Pig. Maybe I'll show her a bit more mercy tomorrow.

Parents, I pray that you would be "strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light." Colossians 1v11