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, 9 November 2015

Dear Princess Catherine... #myhero

Your Royal Highness,

I'm writing to tell you I think you're pretty fab. Always nice to get fan mail I'm sure. (Well, for me it is). I'm also writing to ask you if I can interview you for my blog; One Pink Toothbrush?
The blog is about being a mum; the fun and frustration involved, and how our mothering journeys are all different, but as mums, we can relate to one another and cheer each other along.

The title would be 'Mothering a Royal'. And that's where you come in, as not many of my other friends are members of the Royal Family.

I have so far interviewed a Mother of Many, a Mother of a Special Needs Child, and a Young Mother, to name a few. I'd love to hear how similar and how different it is, to mother a Royal.

Now, I'm also aware that you're busy, very busy. Not only are you a mum, but also a public figure, and a member of the Royal Family, so it may not be the done thing to be interviewed for a blog. However, there is also no harm in asking. So this is my ask.

The reason behind OnePinkToothbrush, (which has no sponsorship or advertising), was that I used to just be a mum of four boys, so mine was the only pink toothbrush. However, I have now added two princesses into the mix. (Princess in the loosest term of course).

My questions would be; 
* What is the best bit about being a mum?
* And the hardest?
* What does it take to raise a Royal? A Prince? A Princess?
* And what colour is your toothbrush? 

I hope you'll consider it. You seem such fun. I understand you may not be able to, and that is fine too. Of course I'd be sad for a week or two, and would write a blog post about it. I would carry on mothering mine, and you will carry on mothering yours. I'd see you in 'Hello' magazine from time to time, and no doubt you'd follow my blog.

Biggest thanks to you or your staff for reading this. I'm looking forward to hearing from you or them. Keep loving your man and your beautiful children, in the private places of home, as well as in the public arena.

Yours Sincerely.....

Monday, 2 November 2015

Spilt Milk

It was inset day today, which means a whole extra day of fun, added onto the end of half term, with my favourite little people. Sometimes, I genuinely mean that and sometimes I'm just being sarcastic. I'm not sure which one today was. I know inset days are special days for teachers; they get to be in their classrooms, with it all neat and tidy, in complete silence. 
I secretly hope they run down the corridors and jump off the house in the middle of the playground, just because they can. 

For me, I had some stuff to do. I wasn't going for neat and tidy. Let's not break the habit of a lifetime. But I was hoping for some space; some quiet undisturbed time to get a talk written. 

So, one was allowed on his brother's Kindle from very early, while the other three had a movie on at 7am. The baby seemed quiet in her room, so no need to disturb her. I ignored the fact that the one who has a dummy for sleeps, still had it safely plugged in. I may have even got her a blanket and her Woof Woof so she remained in that sleepy snuggled up mode. I put the toaster to good use, and served up everyone's favourite spread of choice, enough to not be asked for more. And I gave everyone a cup of milk with those famous, yet foolish mummy words, "Don't put the milk on the floor. It will get spilt, and spilt milk on a carpet has to be cleaned well, so it doesn't stink". (Why would I say that? I've been a mum for years...I know they only hear the last bit...something about putting milk on the floor...)

I closed the door to the lounge and sat at the kitchen table, and I breathed in the silence. In through the nose, out through the mouth.... And of course the kitchen door flung open and a boy walked in to get a tea towel, with the look of sheer unbelief, and even a shake of his head. I asked what might possibly have happened, and he explained how his brother had spilt his milk. The brother hadn't spilt their own cup of milk, no the brother had spilt the tea towel bearer's milk. Ah the 'whodunnit', the 'wasntme' syndrome which some of mine suffer from. I asked the boy with the tea towel in his hand, if he had indeed placed his own cup of milk on the floor. Yes he had, only for his brother to go and spill said milk. Ah how I love these little fun conversations. Eventually he conceded that even though his brother was the one to spill the milk, the milk may not have got spilt at all, if he had just listened to dear old mum and done what she had said, in the first place. 

That's a tricky one to learn though isn't it? I remember my mum saying to me that if I did pinch my brother, I was highly likely to get the whip of a wet tea towel across my legs in return. And even though I knew she was probably right, I still tempted fate many a time. She was right. Us mothers often are, when it comes to these things. 

I got up, got the wet dish cloth and the washing up liquid, and proceeded to wash the spilt milk out of carpet. My son said that he was going to do that, that's why he got the tea towel. I told him that it needed cleaning in a different way, to make sure there was no stench. And then that beautiful teaching moment came... 

We know God's advice, His perfect way of doing things, is right and good, but we want to try our own way first, and then hardly surprisingly, we get it wrong. We may even blame someone else for our mistake, our failing, our sin. Next we try and clean up our own mess; masking it, trying to do better, hoping to be good. But if we just do this, the stench of sin remains. We can't clean ourselves up. We can't be good in our own strength. Instead we need to be cleaned properly, not by Fairy Liquid, but by Jesus' blood. We need Jesus to forgive us and purify us, when we say sorry for going our own way again. He lovingly chose to do this for us at the cross, and continues to teach us about His righteousness, His goodness, on a daily basis. 

"We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil."

Hebrews 5v13

Monday, 5 October 2015

Left a Bit, Right a Bit.

My children try to balance on a fairly regular basis. Sometimes it's on big bits of wood in the garden, or on their dad's shoulders in the swimming pool, or it's on a spinny thing in the park, or maybe standing on top of something smaller than their foot, as high up as they can get. And sometimes it's just simply standing on one foot. The risk is usually increased if their dad or an uncle gets involved. 

They like to push themselves a bit; can they keep upright rather than fall to the right or the left, the front or the back? Arms out to the side, with the crucial element to any balance attempt - the sticking out of the tongue! 

Sometimes they get it right first time, and perfectly balance with a quick shout of "Muuuuum, look at me". And sometimes they get water up their nose or a scab on their face. Somehow mine have yet to break a bone or even an uncle. And as we know, there are always lessons to learn from the little people in our lives.

Last Monday, I had one of those non-stop days. It started off like any other day, getting six kids up and fed and dressed, wishing I was one of those mums who did the lunches the night before. Sent the biggest off on the bus, then it was the school run. Home to put the dishwasher and the washing machine on. A quick dash to the dentist for a crown, followed by the weekly Asda shop, and after that some heart wrenching baby immunisations, with a nearly three year old who had A LOT of questions for the nurse. Home to unpack the Asda shop, while giving the girls some lunch. Cleaning the kitchen, while pureeing a vegetable for the baby, putting the washed dishes away and the wet clothes on the dryer. Then it was the school run, and from that point on, the day is filled with listening to, feeding and separating the six little people as necessary. Oh and a dishwasher to re load, with the decision of whether or not to make sandwiches for the next day. I went to bed, under a pile of dry washing and felt satisfied but exhausted. 

Then it was Tuesday. Same start; six little people to get up and feed and get to school. And that was where the similarity ended. I built a pink den for my little bundle of stereotypical pinkness, and we drank tea and ate snacks. I was going to put my two favourite machines on, but didn't quite get round to it. I did fill up the tea bag jar, and that's about it. We watched far too many episodes about a pig called Peppa. Then we all had a nap, watched an explorer called Dora and then did the school run. We had a pizza tea in front of the tele, and the baby tried Quavers for the first time.

The two days were rather contrasting. The Monday looked pretty successful; clean dishes, clean sides, clean clothes, an immunised child, no spare minutes; busy, busy, busy. Tuesday looked like a bit of a fail in some senses; far too much tele, not the healthiest dinner, bowls of dried Weetabix still by the sink. (And once that stuff dries, you know you've had it!) And nothing greatly achieved.

What's the lesson to learn from the little people? Life requires balance. Maybe not the 'take a risk on a tall piece of wood' kind of balance. But some level of risk nonetheless. For some of us, we quite like the pink den days maybe a bit too much. Maybe it requires quite a push to not be lazy, and to aim for more productive days. For others, they may be all about the achieving and filling of every minute, and may not quite know how to have a slower paced or even restful day. And for most of us we have that 'Mother Guilt' whatever we're doing, or not doing...

My Monday, although successful in some ways, also left me feeling a bit bewildered and out of breath, frazzled and in need of space. My Tuesday was lovely; chilled time with the girls under a blanket of pink, but nothing got done which ultimately doesn't serve this family as yesterday's breakfast dishes become tomorrow's added chore! If all my days were Mondays, life wouldn't work for me. I'd be quite anxious and stressed to be honest. And as much as I hate to admit it, if all my days were Tuesdays, it just wouldn't work either. The house wouldn't get cleaned and therefore I'd probably be quite anxious and stressed, or maybe my family would instead. I need the balance in my life. I need the days when I get stuff done, including serving the husband and the kids. And I need the chilled days of rest, and time with my kids. Or I need both in the same day. 

Thankfully God designed us in His image. He is perfectly ordered and pro active. He also knows what it means to be rested. When He created the world, He had days of purpose and achieving, and He had a day to rest and look at the world around Him. Not only do I topple and fall if my week doesn't have balance, but my kids are looking on. Do they see laziness, or overworking? Do they see me striving to achieve, or not that bothered? And more importantly do they see me leaning on God on both my Mondays and my Tuesdays? Thankfully He is available to me everyday of the week. And He has great grace for me, whether I fall to the right or the left, the back or the front. 

So it's time to stick my tongue out and either go for a nap or bleach the loos. 

"But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me."
1 Corinthians 15v10

"By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work."
Genesis 2v2

Friday, 11 September 2015

Mothering Anorexia - A Daughter's Story (Part Two)

I never intended to be Anorexic - I was a Christian, in a loving Christian family, happy with myself. My Dad leads Gateway church, in Poole. I never doubted that God was real, my childhood was happy. I knew my family loved me and life was very free. No food was banned and my parents were always encouraging me, in my endeavours and in my appearance. But Anorexia sprang up in disguise, due to some unresolved insecurities in my heart. 

I started at an all girls grammar school and was cycling to school. I quickly got involved with many sporting clubs, which meant that my fitness levels went up. I went on a run with my dad and found it was fun whereas before I had found it really difficult; I had found my passion and soon it would be my downfall. As I grew better at running, I joined a club and increased the amount of times I ran. I read a book, which looked to find the answer to why Kenyans are such good runners. One of the theories was their simple diets, so I decided in order to be the best runner possible, I needed to cut out all ‘unhealthy’ foods, essentially snacks. But this quickly spiralled out of control with my fierce determination. 

Food became the centre; it changed what I did, what I said. The Bible warns against idolatry, as it can crop up from seemingly good things. But when anything takes God’s place it will only end in disaster. I’m not saying that running isn’t good, but when it became more important than God, I had a problem. 

I cut out all snacks and continued to improve in running. I thought this new ‘healthiness’ was the answer. I was eating 3 meals a day and replacing snacks with dried fruit. In reality, I was only improving because I was pushing myself really hard and still had some energy stores left. I was finding my whole purpose and identity in running and as I improved I kept restricting myself more. I thought this new diet was the answer. I took sandwich fillings out, had no snacks and stopped having anything like pudding. I used to lie in bed starving hungry, but not let myself eat, as I thought it would ruin my running ability, which was fast fading anyway. 

One day, my running stopped improving. Without realising, I had been losing weight and Anorexic patterns were taking over my mind. My body was just too weak to function let alone run. A thing about Anorexia is that you want to do better, or equal, what you did last time, so when I couldn’t complete a run, I grew really angry and confused and punished myself by eating less.

All this time I had been eating 3 meals, so had managed to deceive my parents, but they were tiny and my daily intake totalled about 700 calories, (which is less than your body needs to live). I was running 4 times a week and cycling to school. During this time, I was still attending church and reading my Bible, but my ill-functioning brain had become oblivious to the fact that my love for God had been replaced by an idol. With no energy, I withdrew from my friends and literally became a shadow of my former self; Anorexia had come upon me without me realising and it had me in its grip. 

Throughout my whole battle with the illness I knew in theory that I was doing something wrong and I prayed that God would give me wisdom, but getting an Anorexic to eat is like telling a smoker to quit; it’s not that easy. My worst time came in the Easter of 2013. My Dad went to America for 3 weeks and with my running not improving I grew more frustrated, cut out even more food and was exercising ridiculously. On an average day I was walking 8 miles, rollerblading 4 miles, cycling or running instead of walking. It is evident looking back that my running ability was not going to come back without enough fuel, but at that time I just couldn’t see it. My toes were constantly numb and I was entirely sapped of energy.

My parents had obviously realised something was wrong (school and church friends had been expressing their concern) and my parents had contacted loads of people asking them to pray for me. They gave me scriptures, one of which was; “Once you were dead because of your disobedience and many sins. But God so rich in mercy, loved us so much, that even though we were dead in our sin he raised Christ from the dead” Ephesians 2

That really broke me and I felt God’s love in a really powerful way. Later, I was at a running session with my friends and I was talking to them about what they ate before a session and got answers like pork pies and ice cream. Even with my brain locked into Anorexia I could see the stupidity of my actions and God broke in. I phoned my mum and she picked me up and took me to a prayer meeting that was happening at our church. 

I really felt God connect with me and I went home determined to eat something. I had yoghurt and this was a huge step; usually I would have punished myself for not doing a running session.

From that break through moment, I began to eat more normally again and had the energy to run. I became much happier, but my brain was still confused. I was maintaining weight because I was eating, but because I was running, I was not putting weight on. This meant that my body stood still at a very low weight and was putting strain on key organs. To cut many months short, we decided I should see an eating disorders nurse. It was upsetting me that my eating was very chaotic. Now I was allowing myself to eat, my starving body was going crazy, craving everything! We got a massive shock; I was so light I was literally a heart attack waiting to happen and my heart rate and blood pressure were sickeningly low. I was told I was not allowed to do any sport, let alone run. I was really upset, as I had just started to find joy in running again, rather than seeing it as a ritual. This is where God showed his hand straight away. Anorexics do not want to put weight on, but my goal had never been to lose weight and I knew I was ill, so I agreed and submitted to their eating plan. However it was far from plain sailing from there.

Although I wanted to get better, my learned default was to eat less when I didn’t run; the plan we had been given wasn’t very clear, so I lost more weight despite not running. This carried on for many weeks, until finally, the plan was clarified and I managed to put on some weight. I was ecstatic, which was definitely God again, as a typical Anorexic would have done anything to make sure the weight didn’t go on. Puffed up by the weight gain, we went on holiday and I did way more than I should have. I lost what I had put on and more, making me lighter than when I had first sought help. 

At this time, a deep sadness filled me and I felt so helpless; I really had been trying, but it was evident I was still not wise enough to know when I needed more. I was prescribed a wheel chair and was not even allowed to stand up to get a glass of water. As someone who has always loved to be outdoors, having all aspects of freedom stripped away was indescribable; watching my family go to school and play in the garden while I sat in my bedroom day in day out.

My family went to a Bible weekend but I couldn’t go, so my mum had to stay at home with me. I saw the tension this put on my family and hated myself for what I had done to make them so unhappy. I wanted to eat for enjoyment, because I was hungry, but to put weight on I had to eat a staggering amount on a full stomach. By this point my hair had begun falling out in great sheets and I was covered in a coating of hair, trying to counteract my internal cold. I had stopped reading by Bible after the holiday, as I couldn’t be bothered and (at my lowest week) thought it would be better to be dead. But God had not forgotten me. He kept me safe and stopped me from doing anything. When you are very underweight, your brain does not work properly and this meant, despite my drive to get better I did some stupid things like skipping snacks. I had forgotten Him, but he was there supporting and helping me.

Through God’s grace I started to put on weight consecutively (after my plan was upped again) and from then ‘til the end of my treatment I did not have another weight loss. This was definitely through God’s help; most anorexics fluctuate around weights and do not reach their goal weight for many years, if at all. I had managed to do it in less than a year! A turning point was October half term when I thought why prolong it?! I decided to do all I could from there. But it wasn’t easy- I still had some things to tackle in my mind and my family had to deal with my constant outbursts and questions. I had to conquer the associations of exercise with food and my fears about certain foods and I was only able to do this with the knowledge that opposing it would be sinful. 

I missed half a term of school, then I was allowed back for 3 days, then all week, then I did PE and then slowly started to run. My Nana had a word for me that God would restore everything and this really kept me going through the toughest times. A verse that I love from 1 peter 5, says “and after you have suffered a little while the God of all grace who has called you to his glory in Christ, will HIMSELF restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” All I can say is that He has been true to His word, every thing that was taken has been restored: my friends, health, joy, running and faith.

Anorexia is a selfish illness. It causes irrationality and the people you are closest to are pushed away. When I was in the thick of it, my non-existent energy was dedicated to running, so I completely withdrew from my friends and family. My sisters were pushed aside, as my parents concern completely centred on me. I know this must have been so hard on them and there have been resulting consequences, but God is good and He is healing the bonds that were broken. 

My friends have been fantastic. My quick recovery has meant that God has helped me to re-initiate friendships and I have been able to help others in similar situations. My parents have been brilliant; they have placed so much trust in me and life has largely returned to normal. I don’t feel watched. I have been allowed to resume every activity I once did without my motives being doubted. There are still moments when we are fearful and it causes tension, however God is working through them. Getting back into normal life was quite difficult and in places like church, where people know what happened, I do feel embarrassed and guilty at times with particular people. Yet I know God is bigger than guilt and that definitely helps!

Anorexia is a life long illness and the consequences will be with me forever, however I know they don’t have to have a hold on me anymore. Like a baby, I had to learn how to live again. Anorexia is completely contradictory to what God wants; HE wants to be guiding you and controlling every aspect of your life and running had taken that place. Now, I am running again and truly love it. I am so grateful that I really am healthy enough to do it, that I do it right and that I have been allowed to do it. I have been shown immense grace and I want to encourage people that recovery is possible; God pursued me, even when I was far away. 

His love is not dependant on performance and He is ready to embrace us, if we will turn to Him. Anorexia is a binding disease, but, through God, I can have complete freedom and need not fear. There are times when I mess up, but God is bigger and He has not let me down so far. This is one of my favourite verses;

“For I know the plans I have for you, says the lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Read Suzi's mum's story here; Mothering Anorexia (Part One)

Mothering Anorexia - Part One

I interviewed a friend of mine, whose daughter recently struggled with Anorexia, and the effects of it. Here is her account. It is part of the on-going Mothering series, which allows different mums to share the valuable stories they have.
I have been married to Matt, a church leader, for 20 years and God has blessed us with four amazing, strong and feisty daughters. They have grown up in a busy, loud and hospitable household. We have tried to encourage our girls that we are on a mission together as a family, but that it is important that they pursue a personal relationship with Jesus. Our house has often been a hub for meetings and food was, and is always an important part of this.
In September 2012, Suzi (our second eldest) started a new school and seemed to enjoy it immensely. She joined lots of clubs and seemed to be doing particularly well in netball. She also took up running and seemed to have a real talent for it. Matt and I were quite excited at the progress she was making and gave her lots of encouragement. 
The details become a little hazy, as to the time line of things, partly because through the mercy of God you forget the difficult details and partly because the illness Suzi suffered is insidious and sneaks up on you.

At some point between January and Easter 2013, I started to become aware that Suzi’s personality was changing. Her older sister was quicker to pick up on it than I was. There are elements of Suzi’s personality where she naturally works hard, is well organised and does things to a high standard, but she started to become obsessive about training and what she was eating. She became snappy with the family and angry if she didn’t perform well. She started to cut out food which she viewed as unhealthy and I noticed that she was starting to look thin. We did talk about it or rather we argued about it endlessly, but Suzi was very persuasive and her running results were still getting better.
Suzi started to be unable to finish her runs and it was making her really irrational and angry. Matt was away on a trip during the Easter holidays and I got quite frightened by her behaviour. I sat and calculated what I thought her calorie intake was and realised it was a third of what a child her age should eat, and that was not including all the exercise she was doing. I tried to talk to her about it but she would not listen, even when confronted with the maths of it all. We went swimming during the holidays and when I saw her in her costume, I burst into tears because I could not believe how thin she was and that I had not noticed.
I Googled Anorexia and was horrified that I could tick off each symptom. How was it possible that she was eating 3 times a day and losing so much weight? I called a good friend from church to come over to pray with me and she insisted that I go to the doctor and that he weigh her and refer us for professional help. So off we went. Suzi argued with me that I was fussing over nothing but he weighed her and agreed that she was a bit underweight. He referred us to a dietitian who gave us a food plan and said we could have help with the mental health aspects but he didn’t really explain what that meant.
I felt a bit ashamed about the need for a mental health check and felt it was a simple case of Suzi following a plan and submitting to God. So we tried to cope, but when I rang school to say I was concerned and to ask them to keep an eye on her, we found out that she was in the gym every lunch time on the rowing machine and was becoming withdrawn in lessons. There were endless screaming arguments at home and she tried to thump me on the way to the dietitian's meeting, which was frightening and totally out of character. In the end we decided that a mental health check might help and there was nothing to be lost by having an appointment.
I think our first appointment with Ypeds (Young Person’s Eating Disorder Service), was in early June. I realised within 30 seconds that the nurse knew exactly what was going on and we were going to get help with them. I thought this was a one off. I thought that maybe they’d say we didn’t need to be there too often. But Meryl, the nurse made it very clear that we were in trouble and would be seeing her every week. She took Suzi’s blood pressure and struggled to find a pulse (cue me crying again…was she really that sick?). Suzi was only willing to drop one running session. The nurse and the consultant discussed her situation, and dropped the bombshell – Suzi was to stop all exercise immediately and get an ECG as her heart rate was worryingly low. She was to take on a high calorie eating plan and if she dropped any more weight she would have to stop school and may need a wheelchair. It was all too much to take in so we went and sat overlooking the sea and cried together. This was the start of recovery.
PE at school stopped as did all sport at home but recovery was not straightforward. Suzi is an active girl and being made to sit still was unbearable. Her stomach was so shrunk that eating the amount they wanted was painful and it took us ages to realise that doing nothing means exactly that, doing nothing. As a result, she did too much on our family holiday over the summer and lost a load of weight. She was not allowed to go to Newday, a Christian youth event. We were both upset by that because I wanted her to meet with God more than anything. Then she couldn’t go to our church weekend away, because the nurse said she would get too cold. By the end of the holidays we were getting nowhere and she was told she could not go back to school and that she needed a wheelchair because walking used up too much energy. Suzi would not go in that chair so she was house bound. 
Summer 2014

In September two things happened at the same time: one, a group of ladies at church fasted and prayed for Suzi, and two, Suzi hit rock bottom. She decided she wanted to be hospitalised because she couldn’t cope any more.  I did fear she might die. Suzi hit her lowest weight and should have been hospitalised but the nurse we saw that day looked her in the eye and said she felt that was not the best option. “You are surrounded by people who love you, why are you fighting them? Let them help you.” the nurse said to Suzi. She also asked Suzi what she thought she needed to do now and she said “Obey my parents”.
About a week before she hit rock bottom, I had been crying out to God and knew the only way she could recover was if she chose to, but I also believed that God would not let go of her, and that he would use her for His glory because she loved Him even if she had lost her way. I also felt carried by the prayers of my friends and family.
From there the hard work of gaining weight began. She was signed off school, early summer. It then progressed to part time back at school, and she was not back in school full time until just before Christmas.  As she gained weight her mind improved dramatically, her hair stopped falling out and her moods improved. She was not allowed to do any sport for a while after that, but dealt with it all patiently. I am grateful that she recovered so quickly (I have since met many parents whose children have struggled for years and are still not free) and that we had so much support. I know that ultimately Suzi knew that she was not honouring Jesus and that her main motivation to recover was a desire to be free. We played a lot of songs about the Spirit of the Lord bringing freedom. 

Psalm 107 was a place I returned to in prayer several times;
 "Some were fools through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities suffered affliction; they loathed any kind of food, and they drew near to the gates of death. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress. He sent out His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction. Let them thank the Lord for His steadfast love, for His wondrous works of the children of man. And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of His deeds in songs of Joy".  There were times I couldn’t sleep and would just cry out to God for rescue. I am grateful for our church family. I can’t imagine how families cope without that level of support.
Suzi withdrew from everyone except me while she was very ill and we have had to work at rebuilding relationships over the past year. I have told her that I was sure God would restore everything that was lost and we have seen his faithfulness in this. Her school work is better than ever, friends she lost are restored and she is running again, which I don’t freak out about. God has given us opportunities to help others as well. We are not back where we were before, because an illness like that changes you. But we have learned that the grace and mercy of God never runs out and that His word is a rock and a lamp to our feet. We are still healing as a family, a year on. But God is faithful and I am so grateful that we avoided hospitalisation and that recovery has been relatively swift.

Read Suzi's account here; Mothering Anorexia - A Daughter's Story (Part Two)

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Live Hardcore

We have just got back from a wonderful family holiday in Spain. It took us seventeen hours to get there in the family minibus, and twenty hours to drive back. The bus was at full capacity. Full of kids, obviously. It would have been a major parenting "fail", if we'd left one behind, even if 'Home Alone' is one of our family's favourite films. I think that's purely because they're allowed to watch humorous, justifiable (it seems) violence to those pesky burglars! Although for one of them, Kevin may actually be living their dream...Home Alone with ice cream, sweets and pizza...instead of a crazy road trip with all their siblings...

In addition to kids, the bus was full of pillows, blankets, activity packs, magazines, sweets, water, juice, crisps, Brioche, Frozen colouring books, pink pens, Dot-to-Dots, chewing gum, electronic devises and anything else which could come under the 'bribery' or 'coping' title. And that's not even mentioning everything a 5month old baby might need, especially one which had runny nappies on the journey home. Such fun. I messaged a friend, when we got to Spain, with the quote from School of Rock, "You're not hardcore unless you live hardcore". 

The kids weren't allowed to ask if they were nearly there yet, as there were one thousand and thirty five miles to cover. Although one did had a chart to tick off every fifty miles. Some kids just like that kind of thing. The husband had recorded all of his tunes onto a stack of CDs, and as designated driver,(I did offer, but that got turned down for some reason) he alone was allowed to choose which music went on. Thankfully he saved Radiohead for the dead of the night when we were all attempting to sleep. 

It was great fun. It really was. Sure there were moments when we laughed hysterically, or when one of us adult types had to remind the other one that everything was OK, and that we would indeed survive this journey, the holiday itself and even the journey home. That we would make memories, one way or another... I got to sit in between the girls, when they were at their 'most tired, but not going to sleep' part of the journey. One of the boys had dutifully served his time, submitting to their 'dummy dropping' needs, and their high pitched shrieks of delight and boredom. So he got to sit up front with dad, and go through the tolls and have the iPad to himself. And I got to entertain the redhead and her sister, with stickers and my phone and milk, and hand holding, but hand holding in the right way or it caused tears, and blankets, but the right kind of blanket or it caused tears. 

There was a moment on the way home, when I was desperately trying to sleep. I couldn't ask the husband to turn his music down, as that was keeping him awake. I couldn't swap seats, because the other passengers were in car seats, in strategically placed positions. My hand was bent to an acceptable hand-holding angle. My bra had been removed, from its attempt in trying to kill me. (Female readers will understand). The Air Con was broken and of course, the baby was smelling a shade of green.

At this point, the husband said "wake up (ironically), look in front of you". I rubbed my eyes, sat forwards and peered out into the drizzle. There was the Eiffel Tower. He had decided we were making good time, so a trip around Paris was added into the journey. He explained it was definitely a Selfie moment. So I got a little more suitably dressed, and joined him outside the van, for a photo opportunity, as you do at 4am.

I was amusingly changing the baby's hideous green nappy and car seat on the edge of the road, while the husband had taken some tired, but willing minions to look at the Arc de Triomph, and I thought about how there is always more...

People joke with me that there is one more space in the minibus, for one more child. But actually its reserved for Kevin. (Sometimes the Minion version, sometimes the son's' friend version). But we could have taken more in the mini bus, its got a massive boot. 

There's always more we can take in, on the journey. I don't mean there is always more to do. That's a very different thing altogether. Sometimes, there just isn't anymore we can do, and that's okay. Some of us are still learning that it is indeed okay. What I mean, is that there is always more to take in...there is always more of God that we can take in. There is always more of His presence, His joy, His love that we can take in. There is always more of His beauty that we can take in. there is always more knowledge of Him for us to grasp. There is always more of Him to experience. And that doesn't mean you have to do something deemed as crazy, like an all-night journey to Spain with a million kids in tow. Not everyone does life that full on, and that's OK. But there is more for us to experience, whoever we are.

I was glad that the husband had added something else in, something spectacular. And I know he's that kind of character, but I believe it speaks to all kinds of characters. There are many times when I say "That's it, I've reached my limit, I'm overwhelmed." And I'm learning in those moments to come to the peace and provision and mercy of God. 

I need to live my life, knowing there is always more I can take in from Him. There is always more of His Grace that I can run into. There is always more of His love, I can rest in. There is always more of His Holy Spirit, I can be living in. There is always more of His truth I can be dwelling in. He just has so much more for me to take in. He wants to show me new things. He wants me to go on detours with Him, and He wants to show me wonderful things, whether I'm ready and asking for them, or sometimes as a complete surprise.

"...and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to all the measure of God. Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work in us". Ephesians 3v19-20

Friday, 4 September 2015


You go on Facebook, scroll away, look at some pictures, laugh at some things, shake your head at other things, like a few things, see who likes your things, throw in a comment or two, occasionally delete a comment before its too late, and you're into a discussion you don't want to be in, post a funny or cute picture now and then, (or all the time for some of us). And you can escape the humdrum of life or pass the time away quite nicely. 

Then you see a photo of a little boy, drowned on a Turkish beach. And you have a choice; scroll on or stop and take it in. I scrolled on. I didn't really want to take that image further into my conscience. I was on Facebook to have a little break, to escape a bit, not to dwell on bad stuff or have to think. Then I saw it again and again, and it became a bit blase....picture of a cat, a talent show link, that drowned boy, funny status from a friend, a baby photo. 

But then I gave in and clicked on the link, and I decided to read. That Syrian little boy was three years old, his name is Aylan Kurdi. Him, his five year old brother, Galip and their mother Rehan, drowned. The only one to survive, was their completely broken father and husband, Abdullah. 

They were trying to flee to relatives in Canada, via Greece. Isis have been terrorising Syrians; opening fire on everyone and anyone, setting off car bombs, blowing people and places up, kidnapping people, and other terrible things that we daren't even know about. Aylan's dad had paid 2,000 Euros to board an overcrowded boat, only for that boat to capsize, less than ten minutes into their hope for a better life. Aylan, then had to fight for his life in the sea, until he lost that fight and ended up washed ashore on a beach and on my news feed. His devastated dad told of the moment he had all three dead bodies in his arms, how dark and terrifying it was.

Then I stopped for a minute to relate this to me. I have a nearly three year old, and she has a six year old brother. And I know the husband would do anything in his power to protect us. Imagining that photo to be of a redheaded little girl, dressed in pink instead of a dark haired boy in a red t shirt and blue shorts, brought it home to me. 

And then I cried. I repented of my lack of care and compassion. I had to stop and tell God that I was sorry for being numb to such atrocities. I had to ask Him to help me to be more compassionate, which isn't a comfortable thing at all. But Jesus didn't live a comfortable life, did He? He was, and is full of compassion and love for the outcast, the broken, the foreigner, the orphan, the fearful, the abused, the abandoned, the widow, the downtrodden. He has compassion for me, a sinner. He has love for me, a hypocrite. He chose to die for me, that I may be forgiven and welcomed in to His family.

And the word of the Lord came again to Zechariah: “This is what the LordAlmighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’" Zechariah 7v8-10

There are many different opinions on whether refugees should be accepted into different countries, where they would be housed and cared for. Petitions can be signed on a global level, food and clothes can be gathered to help the masses. But I know that God is also personally interested in my heart, throughout it all. He saw my apathy. He saw my sin and lack of compassion. And if I am to be more like Him, then I need to be broken with the things that break His heart, and I need to check myself with what I become immune to. I need to say sorry to Him, and I need to personally show love and care towards the outcast and broken, and I need to teach my children to do the same. 

It is but by the grace of God, that I live in England, that I am safe, that my children are safe from daily fear and terror, that I do not have to make decisions based on life or death. That I had the privilege of coming through the Euro Tunnel from Calais, in our stocked, air conditioned car, from our wonderful family holiday, as a free woman, not fighting for my life, or my kids' lives. We went to the beach, to have fun and get a tan, not to escape terror, and find death. We spent our Euros on ice cream, and pancakes and Tapas, not on a robbed chance of freedom. 

I am thankful that God the compassionate Father, spent His son for me, for my kids, for Aylan. God have mercy on us all. And bring your peace. 

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

It's A New Day

We have just got home from Newday, a Christian Youth Festival. It is a wonderful mix of fun, tiredness, carbohydrates, God's presence, grubby kids, sweets, worship, friends, late nights and cups of tea. It can have a crazy start to it; one year we bought a car off of eBay for the husband's team to spray paint, as part of an obstacle course and we all came home in different vehicles. This year he travelled up first and left me a note of what to bring with me, which of course included slugs, lard and a pig's head. (I have noticed over the years, how God has given me certain grace for the man he put aside for me). 
The kids loved it; up late most evenings, running around the campsite in their onesies, with their buddies. Their two outfits they wore, covered in grass stains. (Still better than poo though....a friend had an interesting moment with her shorts). They especially enjoyed the Retro cafe; sweets, fun adults, Popcorn, pink ice cream and Disney movies. They visited the skate park and basketball court, and had a battle with their Dad in the Nerf arena. They queued for delicious milkshakes in the Cowshed and listened to some funky tunes in the Rhythm Factory. 

For the first time in many years, I had a reason to visit the pink Bar with my princess, where we got our nails done and had hair extensions put in. And every morning, they watched their dad encourage young teenagers to eat cricket fritters and pig's ears, cover themselves in lard and glitter and stuff their leotards with turkey stuffing ready for Christmas day. (There are no answers to the questions of Why? in the 12-14yr olds venue). 

Parenting is a funny one at Newday. The kids naturally have more freedom, but living in a caravan or tent means you naturally use a lowered voice to tell them off. (Albeit, stronger eye movements). The kids don't see much of their dad, so I allow them sugar on their cocopops. Their boundaries are extended...mine don't tend to be allowed into 'town' at 10pm, but everything feels a little safer. And their sleep patterns are late nights and ever so slight lay ins. Unless you take a baby or a two year old, then you're just distracting them with milk and dummies and silent songs until you deem it a reasonable hour for other people to hear them. 

The highlight has to be watching or hearing thousands of young people, make decisions to follow God, to worship Him, to make a stand for Him, to accept His love for them, to live in the light of His forgiveness of them, and to grasp more of who He is and what He has done for them. Whether I was in the big top in person, (kindly served by my friend who took on the Dawson kids for me) or if I was back at the campsite, feeling the bass line through the caravan walls, I knew God was doing something. I knew Aslan was roaring, calling people to Himself. And they were hearing and responding. I had a couple of those moments myself and I know some of my kids did too. 

And now we are home. I'm prone to the Holiday Blues, (whether Newday felt like a holiday or not), so I always have a little lull driving home. My poor girlie one sobbed for a good ten minutes as she said "goodbye caraban", "I've lost my caraban". But sleep and a McDonald's Happy Meal helped. The washing machine is continuously on, and the kids are in closer proximity to me and each other, which as you can imagine is a wonderful adaption. 

The mistake would now be to assume that I left God back in Norfolk, that I left His presence in the Big Top, that His righteousness can only be grasped if the band are on stage. It definitely felt easier to acknowledge Him at Newday, to step into His loving presence and worship Him every day. It's what we were all there for. But of course, that's exactly what we are all here for everyday. To acknowledge Him, to step into His loving presence and worship Him every day. Yes He was wonderfully and powerfully in the Big Top, in a showground in Norfolk. But He's also right here, with me, right now. The lion still roars, I may have to tune in more finely that's all. He's still speaking, I may have to be quiet enough to listen that's all. His presence is still wonderfully available, I may have to actively walk into it that's all. Each day is a New Day to spend with Him. 

Better is one day in your courts
    than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
    than dwell in the tents of the wicked.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Keep Calm & Party On

In the space of two weeks during July, we have celebrated three of our kids' birthdays. (We should have obviously spaced out our 'evenings in with a bottle of wine' during November and December over the last few years). We also hosted a Year 6 leavers' BBQ, which turned out to be pretty much a birthday party, just without the cake.

We have had games galore of course, being married to Mr Newday! (Newday is a youth event, which the husband helps to lead, inevitably making young people do ridiculous things in order to lose their pride and win a milkshake). We have thrown the wellie, and jumped over the wellie while its been spun around on a rope. We have eaten doughnuts off of string. We've done the classics; the three legged race and the wheel barrow race. We've bounced off each other in blown up zorbs, tipped water on our heads when the music stopped, and had various fun with tissue. Lots of fun! Lots of noise! And lots of people! We do like people, us Dawsons.

And then there was one party which wasn't as party-like as the others. One of our lads took a couple of mates bowling. There was orange squash. His brothers were invited in a 'Please come to my party, but not actually get involved. In fact, please just play Pool in the background' kind of way. It was quiet. We didn't even look at a wellie, let alone jump over one. And there was no water involved. 

We realised that as a family, we're quite 'people people'. Some may say a few of us are slight extroverts. But we've come to realise that just because we are from the same family, it does not mean we are from the same mold. This came as quite a surprise to us. We thought it was just how we all were. But then we had a son who didn't find eye contact as easy, and really doesn't need more than two people in his life at any one time. 

I think he stands to show just how different we actually all are. Our family has people who are ordered, and others who are not so. People who love the correct answers that maths gives you, and others who are creative and happy for any answer. People who take risks and those that play it slightly safer. People who like jeans and others who like joggers and now of course, ones that wear dresses. People who are savers, and others who are spenders. People who cry more easily and others who might shout. People who have teddies and others who don't see the point. People with wonderful imaginations and others who prefer scientific, structured play. People who like their music loud and will sing along as if they're on the stage. (Actually that's just the husband) and me who hears music as more of a background thing. People who have many words, and those who speak just a few. (I'll leave you to guess which one I am). People who like crazy parties and one who doesn't. We're a mixed bunch under the slightly loud surface of it all. 

I love that we are all made in God's image. Not one of us is the odd one out in that. God is beautifully creative and yet mind blowingly scientific. He is ever so ordered, and yet does not get flustered when order isn't present. He made the crashing seas to roar and yet calmly brings His peace. He is all powerful, and to be greatly feared yet He is gentle and kind. He can be extremely serious and yet wonderfully joyful...

The mixed bunch living under this roof, relate differently to each other too. There are the sparring pairs, the strong friendship pairs, the imaginative pairs, and the clashing pairs, to name a few. Some of the kids are easier for me to parent. Some, the husband finds easier. I'm sure some of my lot would prefer to talk things through with me, while others probably don't get me at all. We all need grace for one another.

A bit like the church really... we're all a bit different from each other, and have different views and different ways of doing things. And there are some we get along with more easily. Some, we maybe clash a little with. We're all wonderfully, and sometimes annoyingly unique, but we are all in the same family. And our Heavenly Father, fathers us all the same way, with His perfect love and His gentle forgiveness. 

Me and the husband often say, "It's different, not wrong", especially during Marriage Preparation, with other couples. It's quite easy to see our contrasts as wrong, because we don't understand them or like them. But if we are all made in God's image, if we are all in His family, if we have all received the same Grace from Him, then surely it's a good thing to take a moment and see the other person how God sees them. He made them unique for a reason. He made you unique for a reason. And we can usually learn more about His vast character if we see others how He sees them. It helps me too, to parent my mixed bunch better, and to see their unique giftings.

"Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.  If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever." 1 Peter 4v10-11