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.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

From One Princess to Another

A year ago today I blogged about a letter I sent to my second favourite Royal - Princess Catherine. I asked her if she wanted to be interviewed for the ol' Pink Toothbrush, and I think as much as she wanted to, protocol caused her to decline my offer. Apparently, "it would be unfair to single out a few (replies)". Personally, I don't think it would be unfair, (for me anyway) and in our house we don't even do fair! But as much as The Duchess of Cambridge probably wants to be my BFF, she has to be seen to love everyone equally. And I respect her for that, nearly as much as I respect her immaculate hair and outfit choices.

In my letter I asked her what colour her toothbrush was, as well as what it's like to raise a Royal, because not many of my other friends are having that kind of experience. We may be raising many things, but an heir to the throne isn't one of them. Can you imagine the pressure? It's hard enough getting them to sit still, fully clothed, in a restaurant, let alone meet diplomats from another country. There was a recent picture of dear old Kate, giving little George what looked like 'one of those chats'. Oh, how I felt for the woman. I've given that look, the 'gritted teeth, make everything look totally under control look'. And it just made me love her a little bit more. We are with you Katherine. Cue dramatic music and Katniss Evergreen salute!

The thing with us mums, is that in some way or another we're all the same. Maybe completely different stories, backgrounds, views, parenting styles etc, but there's a certain something that unites us on our mothering journey. And I don't just mean that completely knackered look we have, or the wine we may consume, or the dried-on, unknown substance we wear on our sleeve. I mean something of depth and significance. 
We are raising, nurturing, training the next generation. How they deal with life, and what it throws their way, how they deal with each other is largely down to what we put in. That's an intimidating thought, but also one of excitement and challenge. Some days, I'm happy if mine are just fed and the majority of them are clothed, but there are other days where I want to input so much more. Where I know I have truth to stand them in, mercy to show them and unconditional love for them to relish in.

I actually disagree with my own earlier point. I said I didn't know of anyone raising a Royal. You see, If I am loved by the King of Kings, if He says I can called Him 'Father', then that makes me His daughter, and that makes not only myself an heir to the throne, but my kids must be too. 

Romans 8v14-17 spells it out for us..."For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons (and daughters) of God.  For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him."

Not everything in that verse is easy to understand, but the gist says that we are not slaves, living a life of fear, but we are God's kids. That's how He loves me, and it's also how He loves my children too, and that love is also available to my mum friends who don't even know of God and His abounding love. I don't always feel like an heir to God's throne. Some days I feel like I'm not even worthy to clean the throne, let alone be the one who gets to approach it. But those are the days where I need to fall on the truth that I am indeed a daughter of the King, rather than wait for my feelings to catch up. 
So unfortunately no,  I haven't got Princess Catherine's inside view on raising an heir to the throne. But I have got my own view, the Bible's view on raising an heir to a throne that will last forever. And it's not easy. But thankfully my Heavenly Father never has to grit His teeth with me, and He is actually completely in control. 

Saturday, 5 November 2016

I Want It Now!

The smallest member of our house was a bit on the poorly side, and threw up in her cot, which meant there was sick on her beloved duvet, her panda and of course, in her hair. So poorly baby had to have a distressing bath-shower in order to rinse the lumps away, and make her smell a little less offensive. And the beloved duvet and panda had to have their own bath-shower on a quick rinse cycle. 

My sad little baby stood at the washing machine pleading with me in her non verbal, but very vocal way. She needed the comfort of that duvet. She knew I knew that, and yet I wouldn't give it to her. My explanation that it smelt and was dirty was not easily understood by the little being whose understanding currently sits with one syllable words, signs and animal noises.

She tapped me on the leg, cried and signed 'please' but it was still a no. That's where it got a little more intense. With the lack of comfort she could get from her duvet and panda, she signed 'milk' to me. Now there's certain rules in life; you can't go out to play if you've been off school, and you can't have milk if you've been sick. So again I said no to her desperate request. This resulted in her volume button being pushed up, and dramatic rolling on the floor. I tried to explain why she couldn't have all her comforts. But she was beyond reason at this point. 

The husband picked her up and tried to cuddle her, but she fought him off and even threw her dummy on the floor. If she couldn't have the comfort she wanted, she didn't accept any comfort. This carried on for some time, until a big brother stepped in. He suggested a cuddle and a few episodes of Peppa Pig. She got up from her carpet moment, grabbed her dummy and put her arms up to her big bro. Peace resumed in the house, and the duvet was able to be transferred into the dryer without anyone seeing. 

I was very aware of God's prompting throughout this. And I got to wondering what my duvet, panda and milk are;  my 'go to comforts' so to speak. Food, friends and Facebook are mine! All good things in their own place. But can easily be things that I go to when I'm sad or when I have sick in my hair. 

I know I have a Heavenly Father who wants to be my comfort and bring peace to me, pick me up and cuddle me. But I sometimes go to those other things first. 
And they may help for a bit, but they can't love me, help me and guide me. They just fill a gap for a while. And of course, sometimes The One who wants to be my comfort is also The One who has said no to me in the first place, and it's hard to know what to do with that. That's where trust has to kick in. And 'bigger picture' perspective. But it's hard to see the bigger picture when your duvet is covered in sick!

Because my little Peppa Pig fan can't yet verbalise how she's feeling, it comes out in an emotional outburst. Whereas we're trying to teach the others to say, "I feel disappointed about...", "I felt cross when you...".

The thing is God accepts both; when we come to Him in a measured way and tell Him how we're feeling and when we have a tantrum on the floor and demand He gives us what we want. He knows what we need. He has endless episodes of Peppa Pig for us, (stick with the metaphor, rather than how annoying that would actually be) a cleansing bath, and a warm clean duvet in the form of His love. We just need to give in and put our arms up, so we can get to His lap.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."
2 Corinthians 1v3-5

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Push On & Push Up

My friend Pete, is currently on Day 49 of a 22 day challenge. That's 27 days longer than the allotted time for the challenge. The challenge is to do 22 press ups every day for 22 days, but he couldn't do 22 press ups, so instead he has posted videos of his adapted challenge; to do do as many press ups every day until he reaches the goal of 22. (The challenge is to raise awareness of Mental Health issues, especially for veterans).

This has become quite intense viewing as a family, as we watch each new video and count the press up total. (He is currently hovering around the 18/19 mark). And of course, with most things in this house, it has become an excellent teaching tool. 

In life, we all like to do things that we are good at, rather than attempt things that we're not sure we can do, or we might be seen to fail at, and this is why I love these videos. They show a man humble enough to show what he technically 'can't do' 
(22 press ups in one go) and we get to follow his journey of commitment, perseverance, fun, and hard work. 

One of my lads didn't do too well in a Rugby match and one was nervous to join a Boxing club, as he didn't know if he'd be any good at it. He was concerned that he would be embarrassed. And one of my lads was just having a tough time with something else. 

I used Pete and his push ups to teach into each one of these things. To encourage them to press on, and to explain to them that embarrassment and pride will be a real stumbling block for them in life, preventing them from doing stuff, especially from doing the right thing at times. I'm sure Pete may have wondered what people would have thought of him, and if he had stopped there...that would have been it. No perseverance, no example of humility for four self-assured boys, no 49 days of challenge, no videos for us to watch, no growth, no mental health awareness, no achievement. 
What a waste. Thankfully Pete didn't do that.

God's word, is full of weak people doing great things for God. They pushed through and trusted God when it was tough, when they felt like giving up, when they discounted themselves, when they had nothing left to give, when they were too old, too young, when they tried something new, when it was too hard, when it was impossible, when they got laughed at, or worse, when they went for it, when they didn't go for it, when people were at their lowest or even their greatest. God is in the habit of using our weaknesses to show His greatness.

And the beauty of the gospel is when we realise God is our strength. He alone can get us through the battles. But the challenge is admitting we need Him and actually letting Him strengthen us.

We are looking forward to the day Pete reaches 22 press ups, we really are!! I'm sure Pete will celebrate. But we're already so proud of him. He has done loads of press ups, and the bits he thought he couldn't get through, he now does with ease. I am personally grateful that there are strong bearded men for my boys to look at, who are willing to walk in humility. We are wonderfully loved by God when we've got nothing to bring. And even though it brings Him glory, He doesn't love us any more when we do well. 
He's already proud of us. And that alone should push us on to do great things.

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me"
Philippians 4v13

Thursday, 13 October 2016


When the husband decided he wanted to 'drive around Europe on a motorbike for a couple of weeks', as a Bucket list type adventure, we all went on the journey with him, so to speak. As he started to look at bikes, and began to speak about bikes, and dream about bikes, we gave him our attention and asked suitable questions, and we were as interested as he could hope for us to be....most days.

The husband and the boys watched 'The Long Way Down', a documentary following Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman, travelling from Scotland to Cape Town, via Europe and Africa, on their BMW GS R1200s. (I had to look it up but the husband will appreciate the detail). And the day came, where he went off to his driving test, all of us hopeful and wishing him well and we excitedly hoped for the best, waiting to hear the good news, which didn't quite come. He hadn't done it. Dad, who can pretty much do anything didn't pass his bike test. 
Instead, we had to all deal with the disappointment. He was sad. I was sad and the lads were sad too. We had put high hopes in him passing. 

However, the day came for the husband to go off for the test once more. Hope restored. Fresh excitement in the house. Until of course, the second 'fail' was given. Oh man, that was tough for him, tough for them, and tough for me. Probably toughest for him, I expect.

In the midst of the house's disappointment, I decided to use it as a teaching moment. 
I personally think it was good for the boys to see their dad 'fail', as a lot of the time he is of course, their hero.  It was a great chance to talk into disappointments, which we all live with, explaining to the boys that "suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character and character produces hope". It is important for the boys to see that dad isn't a perfect standard. Anything which teaches them that we, their parents, are fallible, just like they are, has to be a good perspective producer for the kids. We then get to point them to the One whose standard is perfect and who never fails.

The husband just loved hearing me tell the boys that daddy's character was being shaped and that he was learning what to do with disappointment. He was deciding whether or not that disappointment was going to rule him. Was it going to define him? How was it going to shape him? He got to make those decisions with four sets of eyes watching him, and with a wife teaching into it all. The boys' dad had to hand even a failed motorbike test over to God. He knew he couldn't sit in it and wallow, although the temptation was great. 

There is a verse in Proverbs which says; "Hope deferred makes the heart sick".  Disappointment can literally leave our hearts feeling sick. And it can come in any form; a failed motorebike test, expectations which weren't met, someone let us down, promises which seem unfulfilled. We do have a choice to sit in the midst of the disappoinment, or try to climb out of it. Sometimes it feels nice to sit in that pit for a while, and throw a little pity party for ourselves. Thankfully Jesus came to sit in the pit with us, listen to us, and then drag us out of the pit, if we reach our arm out to Him of course. 

One of the hardest things about parenting is walking out what I believe the Bible says. I can teach them stuff every day, all day, about all kinds of things, but unless I'm facing things honestly with them, talking about my own failings and disappointments, and walking them through it the other end, via the cross, my words are pretty empty. They learn more from what I do, than what I say. I wish it were the other way round.

A few weeks later, one of the boys felt they had failed a test they were sitting at school, and the husband, possibly with slightly gritted teeth, got to talk to him about what is important in life and how the things we go through do indeed shape us. I smiled sweetly at the husband as he got to share his disappointments with our boy. A learning curve for us all. How we need to go through disappointments and even fails, in order to realise that our standing in God never changes, even when we fail Him, or let Him down. 

The husband would no doubt like me to add that he did go on to pass his motorbike test, buy said precious beaut, and indeed travel around Europe on it, looking uber cool of course. 

"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us." Romans 5v3-5

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Socks And Sabers

Socks! We go through quite a few pairs in my house. I haven't yet solved the mystery of why the boys' socks always get a hole at the ball of the foot. Always! I understand the tip of the toe sock holes, especially if the brakes on their bikes aren't working, because this hole rather expensively matches their trainers. We try to enforce the 'Don't climb trees in just your socks' rule, the 'Don't ride a bike in just your socks' rule, the 'Don't tackle a lion in just your socks' rule. But it's a losing battle. 

One of my boys has an unhealthy relationship with socks anyway. He lives in them. He only isn't wearing them when he is in the bath, and as soon as he gets out he puts them back on. He puts warm, sometimes moist socks back on after a bath! If we do get round to challenging it, he will put clean socks on instead. He can't bear to go to bed without socks on. Aaarrrggghhhhh claustrophobic feet! I personally don't get it as I rarely wear socks, but he wears them all year round.

Occasionally, like every day, we run out of socks. They are somewhere 'in the system'. The system being in the wash basket, in the washing machine, in the dryer, in a different wash basket, in a pile on my bed, in a pile on my floor, in a wash basket, and the very rare, (usually because I have bribed some small person) in the sock drawer. The challenge of course, is to find two of the same colour, the same size, for six kids, not 'nearly the same', but 'the actual same'. This is something of great importance to the husband. 

But every so often, there are none to be found in the system. Usually this happens just before the school run, like most elements of any family's calm start to the day. The sock crisis calls for extreme measures. This is where I have to go find these wandering socks, and my search site; under and down the sides of  boys' beds. Many are found in my quest. Never a full set, but many many socks are recovered in this process. And the best tool for the job has to be the Light saber. It reaches beyond the Nerf guns and hidden teddies, and it can prod from the top to the bottom of bunk beds. 

On my recent mission, I actually thought to myself, 'I wonder what Luke Skywalker would make of how this powerful weapon is being used'. And then I had to laugh at myself, because I realised it had happened; the combining of the worlds of reality and fantasy. I expect Yoda would be fine with it. He's all about the wise apprenticing of younglings. Yoda had a tough job training Luke because he didn't know what he was called to do.

Sometimes, as a mum, I forget that my job isn't just to wash socks. It is in fact to train the next generation, to teach them God's ways, to reveal the Bible to them. The ground work I'm putting in day to day, is for a much bigger purpose. I don't want them to be used for the wrong things. 
I want them to know their purpose in life; to enjoy God, to live for His glory, to worship Him, to tell of the power of the cross, to help the poor...

I want them to be a powerful weapon to be reckoned with, powerful in love, in selflessness, in grace, powerful in their understanding of the gospel, powerful in peace and forgiveness. I need to recognise that there are giftings in my children which will cause them to be and do different things from what I have done. God has great purposes for their lives, with individual talents along the way. Sure a light saber is good for fishing out socks, but it is much better for tackling the evil in the world. 

"But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the Earth". Exodus 9v16

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Haters Gonna Hate

My son: "I hate Chuggington".
Me: "You can't hate Chuggington".
My son: "Why not??
Me: "Because it has no worth to it, and therefore isn't worth hating".
My son: "But I do hate it".
Me: "You may dislike it, or it may not be your preference, but you cannot hate it. Hate is a really strong word for really strong things".
My son: "Like what?"

Me: "Like Oppression. You can hate oppression. Like Racism. You can hate Racism. Like Sin. You can hate sin. But you can't hate Chuggington. Not because you have to like Chuggington, but because it doesn't have the worth connected to it, to hate it".
My son: "What is oppression?" 
Me (pressing sons face into sofa, making him giggle): Oppression is pressing someone down. Keeping them down. Imagine my hand is the weight of these words being pressed down on you. 'You're worthless. You're rubbish. You're no good. You'll never do any better'. That is oppression, with a lot less giggling. With no giggling at all. You can hate oppression.

My son: "What is Racism?"
Me: "Racism is preferring someone because of the colour of their skin. Or rejecting someone because of the colour of their skin. Usually it means you pick the person most like you, and you reject the person not like you. You can hate racism".

My son: "Sin is everything we do wrong. So you hate everything we do wrong?"
Me: "Sin is not choosing God's way. God doesn't hate you, He loves you. But He doesn't like the naughty things you do. He hates sin. Because sin separates us from Him, and He doesn't want that. He loves you, and he loves me, but not what we do. And as your mum, my view is the same.

My son: Does God love the devil?"
Me: "No".
My son: Does God hate the devil?"
Me: "Yes. He is the opposite of what God is".
My son: "What if the devil says sorry?"
Me: "No he's different to us. We can say sorry and be forgiven. the devil can't".
My son: "And the devil hates us even when we do what he wants us to do?"
Me: Yes, he hates us when we're good, he hates us when we're bad".
My son: "But God loves us when we're good and He loves us when we're bad".
Me: Yes exactly".

My son: "So, I cant hate Chuggington, because it's just a cartoon?"
Me: "Yep, it's not big enough to hate. Hate isn't good for us. But some things are to be hated".
My son: "Why isn't hate good for us?" 
Me: "Roll yourself up into a ball, and hold onto yourself as hard as you can".
My son: (Muffled grunting noises, and more giggling, as he holds on tightly to himself).
Me: "You're all tied up, holding on. You can't breathe properly. You can't do anything. Hate does that, it ties you up, takes your breath away, stops you from living and being and doing. If you hate the wrong things, you get into this state. It makes you very bitter."

My son: "What is bitter?"
Me: "Bitter is when you can't let go of something and you can't forgive or move on, like how you are physically now. Now release yourself and relax".
My son: "Ahhhhh...." (as he unfolds himself and stretches out).
Me: "Now you're free to breathe, not holding on to anything, free to be you, free to do stuff and it feels much nicer. You've let go. That's what happens when we 'Let It Go' as Elsa would say. When you forgive someone, You are free".
My son: "Okay. Chuggington is a bit boring, but it's okay.
My daughter: "Boring is a rude word".
Me: "I think we've done enough for today".

"Love must be completely sincere. Hate what is evil, hold on to what is good".
Romans 12v9

Friday, 9 September 2016

Digging for Gems

One blog a month seems to be the rate at which we are going this year. Good job I've got some loyal followers, and my mum always ready to read the next one. So what's my excuse this time? Last time it was finding out that I wasn't Wonder Woman. Well, this time, August felt a bit hard wearing to be honest, but there is always stuff to learn and stuff to reflect on. Hindsight is a wonderful, humbling, slightly annoying thing.  

One of the little people in my life was poorly for the whole of August, and my role of course, was to look after her, to comfort her, to check on her, to sit with her, to be concerned for her, to feed her, to play with her and to Calpol her. This was quite tiring in the midst of parenting a few others, a youth camp, a family wedding, a family holiday, the six weeks summer holidays and a hospital trip. But it was also a bit lonely. I'm known for having a few strong urges towards being an extrovert, as does the one who was poorly. So we went for it wholeheartedly anytime lovely people visited us. I was very grateful for those visits, especially through a caravan window. 

Nearing the end of the summer, and when said poorly one was on the mend, I got a bit low for a few days. As well as the extrovert thing, I tend to fall in the 'glass half full' bunch of people too. (Especially if it's a wine glass). So it was a bit unusual for me. As I sat in hospital, and had a mini break from the hundredth episode of Peppa Pig, I read some of Andrew and Rachel Wilson's book, 'The Life you've never expected', and I was greatly encouraged and challenged. Comparison is never healthy, but their struggles are far greater than what I was going through. 

Having said that, Struggles are indeed struggles. And thankfully God is indeed God! The Wilson challenge was to find joy in it all. Actually to find 'Joy in God', in it all. Our number one priority in life, is to 'Be Happy in God'. And not some weird, fake, 'smiling like you're constipated' happy, but real happy. We can find Joy in God's word, the Bible. We can find it in people, in celebrating, and by being and speaking positively. We find joy when we remember the goodness of God, and in the discipline of doing these things regularly. I personally find Joy in taking photos and capturing moments. I'm sure the rest of the Wilson's book is wonderful, but I'm stuck reading this chapter for a while. It's good for the soul. And I'm capturing the moment. 

Funnily enough, while I was reading it, a friend who is having a really tough time at the moment, text me and said, "you've just got to look for the positives, in among the sh**", and I thought that was a fairly honest snapshot of what the Wilsons were trying to convey. It reminded me of my little one who was in hospital. She had found an old, dried piece of dirty play dough, but she was so excited because there was a gem in it. She dug at it until she got to that gem, and she was so pleased about it. 

We drew a picture of what was hard about being poorly in hospital; not seeing daddy, the cannula which made her arm sore, feeling hot and sad, and being sick. And then we drew the good things; the free play dough (brand new not just the skanky bit I mentioned), painting in bed, nice nurses, sleepover with mummy, Peppa Pig on repeat (I would have maybe put that in the other column), medicine to go in the cannula, the sick bowls which we could draw on, getting a new doll for being brave, friends visiting, the giant animal puzzle, the man who bought the Custard Creams, and God's love being wherever we go. (I added the Chinese Takeaway that was delivered by a friend, the coffee, Dairy Milk, the McDonald's dinner and the NHS...all definite Joy givers). 

It was important to teach my little one to find joy, to be thankful, and to stop and look for the gems even when they seem out of reach. Or maybe she taught me that one...

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again; Rejoice". Philippians 4v4

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Wonder Woman...I Wish

So one blog a month over the last few months, what's that about? Well, as hard as it is to admit, it turns out I'm not actually Wonder Woman. I can't actually do it all. I started a childminding course, and something had to go. Either that 'something' was the husband, the six intrepid explorers I live with, the housework, my church, my people, Facebook or the Blog.... So out with the blog and in with the coursework.

It's not been as easy as I had hoped. I'm quite a 'Big Capacity' person so I thought it would just slot in with the rest of life. But it turns out, you don't get more hours added to your day, when you take something else on. You have to find those hours from somewhere else. Usually there is a cost, and it takes wisdom to not make that cost in the wrong place. I managed this at times, and failed at other times. Doing coursework instead of Facebook, is the cost of a few likes and cat videos. Doing coursework instead of reading the Bible is only going to make me think I can do it in my own strength. Doing coursework instead of cooking my own children's dinner is more of a compromise of the cereal kind. Doing coursework instead of housework, is a wonderful excuse.

At first, I thought the best time to start on the study would be when all the little people were in bed, but I had forgotten about 'mum syndrome' where the clock turns 8:30pm, a little person is still awake with phantom ailments, and you sit down at a computer screen and physically cannot function. Sure you can scroll up and 'like'. You can drink wine. You can snore, but you can't actually 'do' anything. You can't read or compute. You can't study or retain any information whatsoever. There's a slim chance you can load the dishwasher but even that's a push.

So I tried when the kids were playing. I was researching how important it is to a child's overall development for an adult to play alongside them, asking them open ended questions to enhance their learning and help them grow their skill sets. I researched these wonderful ideas on childcare while repeating the phrase "please go and play with your sister, so I don't have to" and asking the classic, "would you like another episode of Peppa Pig on?" until the dreaded "no" comes. (It does come after an extensive period of time, and it's probably best that there is a limit).

Eventually through shipping my own kids out, working late, grabbing an hour here and there, utilising that beautiful hour and a half where the big girl is at nursery, the baby asleep, the boys at school, and no one needs me...I did it. I handed it all in. I swallowed my pride, and re-did the assignments that came back incompetent. I gave examples of how to look after a baby, a three year old and a six year old all at the same time, whilst attempting to do it in practise. I gave the detailed description of how to make a Formula bottle, while feeding the baby Wotsits. I shed a tear or two, text a friend or two, questioned why I was doing it. Got scarily interviewed by Ofsted, which caused my house to be epically tidy. (Think the husband wishes Ofsted were coming every day) And it got done. Phew!

Maybe Wonder Woman will be part of my advertising, as I defend the weak, seek justice, truth, and love for the new little people in my house. As I engage in battle to bring peace, fearlessly focussed on my objectives of Play Dough, glitter and cup cake making. Stretching the analogy only slightly too far, I didn't have superhuman powers given to me by my Father Zeus, but I desperately needed the strength given to me by my Father in Heaven. I needed His help and His perspective, as well as His provision of people around me. I needed my own Justice League; friends who I could actually ask for help from, rather than fail alone. My very own Batman and Superman. My very own Green Lantern, Aqua Man, Manhunter and Flash. I'll leave my friends to fight out who they are...

I may not have the knee length boots, but I do have the t.shirt, the pants and other assets... as well as an All Powerful Father who gives me strength to conquer.

"I lift my eyes to the hills - where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the maker of Heaven and Earth. Indeed He who watches over Israel will neither sleep nor slumber". Psalm 121

Saturday, 18 June 2016

What Are You Fighting For?

One of my kids this week had to go and knock on a friend's door and apologise for hurting their feelings. Did they want to? No not really. It was embarrassing and they had to swallow some pride. But they had hurt their friend. It took a lot of guts to admit they were wrong and say sorry, and hope for forgiveness and reconciliation. But we went together and they did it. Why did they go through with it? Well for two reasons; they wanted to mend their friendship and because loving people is a really big deal. I could have listened to my child's, "I don't really want to go, it feels hard" comments, but I want more for my kids than an easy cop out. I want them to fight hard for peace, for love, for reconciliation,  and for restoration. 

This week the news has been awful. A hideous shooting in a gay nightclub, left 49 dead and 53 injured. A young MP, mother of two was brutally murdered. 50 people were mercilessly killed in an explosion in Syria. It has been shockingly sad. This makes it even more clear as to why I want my kids to fight hard for peace, for love, for reconciliation, and for restoration. It's what we should all be fighting for.

Kids annoy each other. It's like an inbuilt thing. I used to annoy my brother and he was a pain. My kids get annoyed when one of their siblings look at them, don't look at them, breathe near them, sing at them, walk in their room, walk out their room, take their stuff, give them stuff, change the TV channel, sit next to them and so on and so on and so on...

I spend most of my day stopping them, and asking them to love the other one more than they love themselves. Literally, this is the thing I say the most. And it may seem pretty harmless some of the stuff they do, but I want them to grow up loving others more than they love themselves, so I start with the slightly pathetic "he breathed near me" complaints, so their hearts are trained to love and accept, no matter what they feel. 

When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, He said to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, your mind, and your strength". He went on to say "Love your neighbour as you love yourself"
So after loving God, He wants us to love others. That's His heart. 

I have many different 'neighbours', many different friends. Some of them are just like me. Some are different to me. Some are Christians, some are not Christians, some are Atheists. Some are single, some married, some divorced, some widowed. Some of my friends are gay, some are black, some are Muslims, some are Welsh. Some are highly educated, some didn't finish school. Some of my friends are voting to stay in Europe, and some are voting out. And I am asked by the one who loves all, to love them all. So I will fight to train my kids to love others, no matter what. Otherwise I do fear for their generation, as I'm saddened by the lack of love towards others, in mine.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Eyebrow Shaping

Tomorrow, one of my sons will start a week of SATs tests. This hasn’t been an easy ride for him. He was worried he might not get a job if he fails them. He called himself stupid, compared himself with others and there have been some tears along the way.

It’s hard, watching someone you love doubt themselves. You just want to fix everything and make it all right. But I know I can’t protect him from all that life throws at him along the way. And I simply shouldn’t. We all grow through the tougher seasons. I can teach him, and comfort him. I can encourage him and build him up. But ultimately he needs to find his security in who God has made him to be, the purposes God has for His life, and to trust God with what lies ahead.

God has made this son of mine to be wonderfully creative. If the SATs paper was on cartoon drawing he would ace it. But it’s not. And the journey over the last few months has been to let him know that that is okay. Maybe he will ace his SATs, and maybe he won’t. But my love for him won’t change. God’s plans for his life won’t change either.

This son of mine doesn’t worry what people think of him, a brilliant quality a lot of adults would like. He is selfless and sensitive. He is a faithful friend, an excellent swimmer, and has intricate design ideas when it comes to Lego. He has an expertise in Marvel knowledge. None of these things are tested on a SATs paper. 

As an analogy, if I looked at my son as a whole body, the SATs prep and indeed the SATs test are the equivalent of eyebrow shaping, and even then, the shaping of one eyebrow. Sure you put some effort in, but in the blink of an eye, life goes back to normal. When this week of tests finish, he will hopefully go back to whatever was normal for him. (Plus a new Lego model for getting through!)

I drew a person, (not as well as he could draw one, but that's okay because we're different). I put 'Literacy' and 'Maths' as eyebrows. We then filled in the rest of his body with his hobbies, his strengths, his likes, his God-given identity, just so we could see that Literacy and Maths are important, but they don't make him who he is. The last few months have been teaching him that SATs do not define him. Tests do not define him. School does not define him, and actually I do not define him either. God has designed him, and the cross defines him. He is a forgiven sinner, saved by grace. He will also come to see that some of his weaknesses/failings play a part in shaping him. Or rather how he learns to deal with those weaknesses/failings, but who he is in God, and who he is to me, that's already cemented in. That can't be re shaped.

The challenge for me is to know that I too am a forgiven sinner, saved by grace. What do I allow to define me? My abilities, my roles, my responsibilities, what I’m good at or bad at, what I should or shouldn’t do, comparison with others? Or do I allow the cross to define me? Do I base God’s love for me on what I’m acing at, what I'm failing at? Or on God’s UNCONDITIONAL  love for me? Am I free to be who He has called me to be? It’s one thing teaching your child all this when it comes to exams and tests, but it’s another thing living in the truth of it for myself, in every day life and the tests it throws at me!

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well”. Psalm 139v13-14

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Woman On A Mission

There are four different versions to the Asda shop for me. There's the on line version, which takes a bit of prep and you don't get to see or feel stuff, so that usually rules that one out for me.

There's the usual one where I have one or two of the girls with me. I am a Woman on a Mission, and this shopping success rate is based on the tiredness of the girls and how well they cope with the trolley seating arrangement. (Being in close proximity to a sibling can cause one's child to simply overload and explode it seems). It also depends on whether I have brought a dummy with me, whether anyone needs a wee or does a poo, and where along the route I give into the many requests of "Can I have...?" If I peak too early, then they think they can ask for everything and get it. If I peak too late, there is potential for another overload and explosion, resulting in screams at the checkout. And they're not fun for anyone. We've all see or heard these in action, where Wasabi peas or chewing gum is flung at the child in a desperate plea for peace. 

The rarer, and less preferred option, is when for some reason I have to take all six kids with me. Crazy Woman on a Mission! Yeah. Rock and Roll. Move out the way. Clear the aisles. This shopping success rate is based on two questions towards the end of the excursion; 'Have I still got the right six kids with me?' and 'Is there some food, any food in the trolley?' 
If the answer is yes, then it is a win.

I've worked at this one, because otherwise I'm setting us all up to fail. I add £5 to the budget. They all have £1 each to spend. Call it 'Positive Reinforcement' or bribery, I don't care. It works. It can't all be spent on sweets and it can't be spent on alcohol. Me and the oldest take a list each, split the fighting pairs up and start the mission. This one has come to an abrupt standstill before, because some lady's 'bus load of kids' opened the Fire Escape doors and set all the alarms off! 

The third beautiful option, is where I go alone. Ah it's always a success, right from the start even as I drive there. I listen in the van; nothing. I wander aimlessly up to George clothing, and look at clothes which aren't even on the sale rail. Might even choose an item. (After all, what comes out of the Asda budget, stays in the Asda budget). I plan the week's meals as I go along; What looks tasty? What's on offer? I wander down each aisle I choose. I usually buy myself a treat somewhere along the unplanned route. I eat it right there and then, in public, not rustling away in secret. There's no one to hide it from, and no one to share it with. Mwahahahahaha! I usually buy wine. Seems a fitting finish to this Spa type excursion. I cannot use the wine as the 'treat along the way' though.
 (My mission is to time this particular shop so the kids are already in bed before I get home). 

I added a new mission in my head this last time. I put everything through the Self Scan. I pretended I wasn't playing shops, and carefully bagged it all. My mission was to have no 'unidentified items in the bagging area'. I hate unidentified items in the bagging area so much. And I did it. Go me. I didn't have the Asda person come over, with their special lanyard, not even once. This mumma was winning on her mission. 

With parenting, and maybe just with life, I've come to accept that there are days, or hours, maybe just minutes when you're a woman on a mission, and you're just winning at it. And there's days where you don't even know where your hairbrush is, let alone what mission you're on. 

The thing is with the word mission, it's actually as much about the trip, the commission, the journey, the expedition as it is about an end goal as such. And if it's a journey, then you can rest along the way, you can take different routes, you can stock up in the different aisles, you can have others walk alongside you, you can slow your pace down, or pick it up even. You may even gather some unidentified baggage along the way, but you can ask someone to carry the load for you. I'm pretty secure of my Final Destination, I know I'm going to my Father's House, where He has many rooms and a great feast waiting for me. And I know that because of Jesus, I'm always winning, no matter what the mission.

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world". John 16v33

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Because My Baby Cried

I'm squashed inside a toddler bed
Because my baby cried.
I didn't want her to be alone,
So in this space, I climbed.

I'm weeping inside this toddler bed
Because my baby cried.
Tears are rolling down my cheek,
Another friend's baby has died.

I'm thinking inside this toddler bed
Because my baby cried,
Of the grief and of the heartache,
My friend is carrying inside.

As I lay inside this toddler bed
Because my baby cried,
I can't not cry for my friend
In sisterhood, come alongside.

It's not comfortable inside this bed
Because my baby cried.
I remember my own lost child.
In my Heavenly Father, I confide.

Still tearful inside this bed
Because my baby cried.
I name each baby who I know,
In Heaven, now abides.

I hold my squirmer in her bed
Because my baby cried.
I find myself asking why,
To my comforter and my guide.

My heart it wrestles inside this bed
Because my baby cried.
No answer comes But I know I'm heard.
In Him I can abide.

I smile from inside this bed.
My baby no longer cries.
I'm just grateful she woke me up,
So I can lay by her side.

"The Lord is close to the broken hearted,
And saves those who are crushed in spirit".
Psalm 34v18

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Happily Ever After

Today is World Book Day. So a lot of mums, (and dads) plan in advance, bringing their child's favourite book character to life, carefully sewing an outfit together. Other mums scramble around the night before (or even the morning of), whipping up a costume based on what face paint colours they have, or what is in the dressing up box, hoping there is a character in a book which loosely relates. Then the kids get sent off to school or nursery and the photo gets uploaded to Facebook. I love it.

There's always that parent who has dressed their kid up as a character that no one else has heard of. 
And there's usually some princesses and a Batman close by. 
We had a reluctant Cinderella, in the dress the mice made, because I found a pink dress this morning, not a blue one! My favourites this year were a Pink crayon and Katniss Everdeen, as well as every teacher and teaching assistant that goes all out. 

It seemed fitting to read some books to the reluctant Cinderella, so I started with Superworm. I got about one sentence in and her questions and observations started. Why this? Why that? Look at this. Look at that. I answered her questions as quickly as possible and carried on with the story, especially when she broke in mid rhyme. The husband had to remind me that I may not even get to the end of the story and that what she was doing was the best way to do it. I know all children's authors everywhere would shudder at me just pushing on, rather than using the book as the tool it was designed for. A tool for quality time together, a tool for learning and asking, a tool to start the love of books. So we sat and chatted about the worm, and the beetle, and the frog, and the bug, and the soil and so much more. It was of course lovely, as reading a story to a child just is. 

I was reminded how we are all a different character in one big story, Jesus' story. 
I sometimes think He is part of my story. How it's all about when I became a Christian, and when I need Him. But the truth is that we are part of His story. His story of rescue and love. His story of adventure and risk. His story of Good overcoming evil. His story of a battle which provided hope. His story of Redemption, with of course, a Happily Ever After. 

How wonderfully patient He is when I stop to look at something or ask a question or get distracted. He knows I'm learning along the way. He doesn't rush me on because He already knows how the story ends.

 "He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen." Revelation 22v20-21