Friday, 28 September 2012

Confidence and perseverance

Hebrews 10:36-37
'So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.' 
Lord, this same passage has found me via four - no - five different routes over the past week. I'm starting to think you're trying to tell me something.

I catch on quick. 

I'm just not sure quite what to make of it, though.  I sometimes wish you'd be a bit more obvious about your messages. I worry that I'll miss it completely, or if I do catch the general drift, that I won't pick up on the proper significance of what you're telling me. I don't think I'm the sharpest tool in the box when it comes to nuance. I could do with the neon finger writing in the sky but that's not your style, is it?

So. What confidence am I throwing away?  The context of the verse is that Paul (assuming it was Paul who wrote the book of Hebrews - people seem to be squabbling over who the author might be - was it Paul?) is writing to the persecuted church and telling them to hang on to their faith even when it's hard, because in God's own time (in this life or the next?) there will be a great reward. When the race is run, as Paul said elsewhere, good things will happen, because you don't break your promises. I know that you don't.

So. I'm not considering abandoning my faith. What if 'confidence' means what I usually take it to mean and you're telling me not lose confidence? Don't be discouraged. This would be good, because I've been feeling discouraged lately. I'm sure you've noticed that I've been feeling a bit droopy recently.

Here's the thing. I wish your timing was the same as mine. I've had a few plans mapped out in the last few months and I thought you were on board. Or rather, ahem, I thought I was on board your Plan.  I thought we were of one mind. And yet, if we'd been singing from the same hymn sheet, ha ha, things would have happened by now. Or at least I thought they would. When things don't seem to be going the way I think they should I start to doubt that I understood you right in the first place, or whether I'm up to the job I think you have for me, or whether any of all this is worth bothering with in the first place. 

'So don't throw away your confidence...'  Are you telling me that it's all in hand?  Are you telling me to wait and see, sit tight, just keep on keeping on even though things aren't the way I thought they'd be?  

Alright. I trust you. I know that I can't get anywhere under my own strength. I know that even when from my perspective, opportunities are drying up and possibilities are diminishing, this is not necessarily how you're seeing things. Your timing is perfect and you never, ever, arrive late or mess things up. 

So if you're telling me to stick with the programme, that's fine with me. I'm down with that, as they say. I'll take every bit of encouragement you've got, because sometimes it's a hard thing to stay optimistic when this world is telling me that it'll never happen...who am I to imagine...?  
'You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.'
This is a bit less confusing. Don't give up. Heard that before. There are times when those words energise and inspire me and times when they just depress me. Keep hoping. Keep plodding. Keep trying. Keep going. Even when I'd rather just take the line of least resistance and climb under the duvet. 

Persevere. 

Persist, carry on, continue, keep going, struggle on, hammer away, be persistent, be determined, see something through, keep at it, press on, be tenacious, stand one's ground, stand firm, hold on, go the distance, stay the course, soldier on, hang in there. Don't you love the thesaurus?

Antonym: give up.

So, don't give up. 

Don't give up when people don't understand and when they criticise and when they mock. When people think I should be doing other things and don't approve of what I do instead. When I focus on you and other people are jumping up and down and waving their arms in an attempt to distract me. When I do what you tell me to do even when it makes me unpopular. Keep going when I get it spectacularly wrong and come crashing down; keep going when I'm not sure what to do next. Keep asking for enough light for the next step. Always the next step. The next step is enough, though I so want to see the whole way to where we're going. 

Maybe it's better that I don't...

I need to trust where you're leading me, even if it's not where I thought we were going. Even when it's not where I wanted to go. It's a bit scary. Will you take another look at my plan?

Promises. Because you never break them. If you make a promise, you pay out. You don't change the goalposts and you don't welsh on the deal. If you promise, I can take it to the bank. 

I like the sound of receiving what you've promised me.  I hold in my heart some pretty specific promises (if I've understood them properly; can we talk this through sometime, please?) and I am so looking forward to the day when I get my promises.  Still a bit blurry about this world or the next, but I'm hoping for this.

So I am going to hold onto my confidence. My confidence, not in me, in what I can do, but in you. I am fully confident that you are God; that you are in control, that your timing is perfect, and that you never ever go back on a deal.

I'm going to keep going because you told me to. Because I want to follow you, and you're leading me somewhere. I'm going to trust that you know the way better than I do. I'm going to keep trying.

Thankyou. For being there. For a word of encouragement just when I need it. And for making sure that I didn't miss it by sending it five times.

You do know me, don't you?


Wednesday, 26 September 2012

What a faithful God have I

Lord, I know you made this day like all the others, and here am I telling you that I'm not as keen on this  one as I am on some of your other masterpieces. 

This one is dark, dreary, wet and cold. Everyone is depressed. I've had text messages from people who are down in the mouth today and I'm not immediately coming up with encouraging, upbeat things to text back. 

I wanted to stay in bed today. I put the alarm on snooze three times. I could hear rain heavy on the roof and I could see that it was dark outside. The children were still asleep and I maintain after all these years of trying to get the children to sleep and stay asleep, to wake them in the morning is against nature. I was warm and comfy in my little duvet-nest. 

But no. Not to be.

Rainy day.
I've been reading about positive thinking, recently. Not the self-help mantra type positive thinking, but the need that I have to fill my mind with something positive first thing in a morning. It makes a difference. I used to check the news headlines on my phone app but came out of that more often than not worried and miserable about the state of the country and the world. I used to check my email - but that's an emotional lucky dip and more often than not my mind just started making 'To Do' lists before my eyes had even properly focused. I used to post on Facebook each morning but realised two things:  my first-thing-in-the-morning posts were never among the most positive and upbeat status reports and by writing them I just solidified my own grumpy feelings and was therefore hardly likely to encourage or uplift anyone else.

Now and again, on a particularly tired and disgruntled morning one of these posts still slips through the net, I have to confess. 

I don't want the tone of my day to be set before I even put a foot out of bed. I don't want to stand in the shower with my eyes still shut thinking about who's hurt who, who's in prison for violence or fraud, who's fighting about what. I don't want to brush my teeth gazing in the mirror at the person who just reinforced her negative outlook by posting it on social networking sites for everyone to comment about. 

'Today's going to be a bad day.'

I'm thinking that's probably a self-fulfilling prophecy.

'Please can I stay in bed?' 

Just the same. I don't want to engage with today, no matter what wonderful things you have planned for me. I don't trust you to bless me today. I'd rather stay here with my head under the covers and avoid today completely.

Hmm.

So I've been thinking about what I put in my head in those first few minutes as I'm waking up.  War and murder and crime and recession (BBC headlines)? No. Dissatisfaction and complaining and self pity (first-thing-in-the-morning Facebook status)?  Nope. Even if there is occasionally a sort of strange satisfaction in having a moan. 

I want you

First thing in a morning I want the tone of my day to be set by you. 

I want to stand in the shower with my eyes closed and your words in my head. I want to look in the mirror at a woman who has already had a chat with the Creator of the Universe (who happens to be her friend) even though the toast isn't even on for breakfast yet. I want to be a woman who responds to the children with a smile and an even tone of voice rather than a snarl and a shout when they crash through the bedroom door in the middle of some squabble or other; and I know - I know - that I am completely one hundred percent unable to be that woman unless I've met with you first thing. 

Today I didn't feel like waking up. I didn't want to get up. I didn't want to pull back the curtains and let in the faint and watery daylight. I didn't want to haul myself up to sitting and reach for my journal. You helped me, and I did. 

Ok, if I'm honest, I had a moan. A little one, as time was moving on, but I told you that I didn't like the look of this day too much, thank you and sorry about that. I also told you about something I had on my mind in the night and an ongoing thing that's been worrying me. There's a problem that I have that I thought was sorted out and now I'm no longer sure that it is. I told you about it. Again. 

Listen, God, I tried. I said: 

'This is the day that you have made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.'  I will. I-will-I-will-I-will. 
Psalm 118:24

I got in the shower and turned the water up hot. 

On the way to school, Elizabeth was a delight. She wants to own a sweetshop when she grows up and she was talking about which sweets she'd have, and what the shop would be called. There's going to be an ice cream stall outside, apparently. It's going to be lovely. She skipped in and out of puddles under her Winne-the-Pooh umbrella and she laughed and her little face was lit up as she dreamed about sweets and independence and ice cream and painted shop signs with her name on. The rainy walk to school wasn't bad at all. After I dropped Lizzie at the gates I put some music on and selected a random track from a random playlist. As I tucked the second earpiece in place I heard your voice. It was a little word from you. 
'What a faithful God have I; what a faithful God
What a faithful God have I; faithful in every way'
(What a Faithful God, Robert Critchley, 1989 Thankyou Music) 

You are faithful. You promise; you deliver. You say, 'I'll take care of it'; you do. The thing I thought was sorted is still sorted. You said you would sort it and you will. It's just that your timing is not like mine. It's in your hands. I keep taking it back from you and thinking that it's down to me, or to someone else, but no, it's in your hands. 
'Lord, I come before your throne of grace
I find rest in your presence, and fullness of joy...'
I did. I only had a few minutes but I came, just as I was, tired and reluctant, but you are endlessly patient and when I give you such a little, you give me back so much. Rest for my anxious heart and the joy of my little girl splashing in the puddles on a morning when there didn't seem to be much to be joyful about. 

I need to remember this. I need to make time to come before your throne of grace even when I have to drag myself there because the voices in my head are saying 'press snooze again. Go on, just one more time...' and 'you can't be bothered today, God won't mind...' No, the chances are that you won't mind. You don't hold it against me when I don't drop in for a few days. It's me that misses out. It's my day that is the worse for it. The days when I miss my five minutes with you are the days that I miss the splashes of silver in the muddy puddles and the pink-cheeked joy of the seven year old jumping in them. I miss the messages and the gifts that are just for me. It's me that doesn't hear the voice of my God, and I don't hear because I'm not listening.
'Lord of mercy you have heard my cryThrough the storm, you're the beaconMy song in the nightIn the shelter of your wings hear my heart's replySinging what a faithful God have I'
You heard me. You heard what I said and what I didn't say. You can hear my heart. 

You're right there when it's raining as you are when it's sunny. You're there as we slip into Autumn and  my heart is heavy because I hate the dark and the dank and the cold. This is the day you made; my job is to be glad in it. 

When I'm worried that I can't see what the future holds, you are the beacon. All is in darkness but you alone shine. You're all there is to see; I just need to keep my eyes fixed on you. 

When I wake in the night and I wonder what's going on, when I get anxious about losing control, being uncertain and fearful, you are my song. What a faithful God have I? He is faithful in every way. Don't doubt him. 

Ah, Lord. In the shelter of your wings. Yes, please. If I were tucked under your wings I would be warm and dry and safe. Held tight against your body I can feel your warmth and hear your heartbeat. Where you go, I go. I am protected - I am in the only safe place. I am loved. I am in the shelter of your wings.

And my heart does indeed sing to you, on this dark, dismal day, as I sit here with cold fingers and half a cold cup of coffee:
'What a faithful God have I; what a faithful God
What a faithful God have I; faithful in every way'.
Amen. Ain't that the truth. 






Sunday, 23 September 2012

Sofa time

Hello, God.

Headachey on this dismal, rainy day. Really needing a nap but not enough time before school pickup, and after it, not enough quiet. 

So here I am with coffee (decaf) and half a packet of biscuits. Where is the other half? I think you know. 

I'm not feeling very cheerful. Not feeling positive. Feeling blurred and full of yawns. This morning I had coffee with friends and it was very pleasant but the things that stick in my mind are the bad things, the hurty things. A loved one with cancer. Abnormalities detected at a 32 week scan. A marriage in trouble. Shocking things on the news. It's all very depressing.

So I'm going to do that thing where I praise you from the depths of feeling not very worshippy. 

I am sitting here and I am warm on the sofa and there are flames in the fire and the rain is beating on the window. There are two robins in the garden, not minding the rain. The orangey-red of their breasts is bright against the grey and brown and dark green. On the table are a vase of lilies; sumptuous, sensual fragrance filling this room. It's quiet and cosy. Katy's Scruffy Barney sits on the window sill where she places him each morning so that he can look out and welcome her home. The lamp is on; the light is yellow. You're sitting next to me and there's beauty everywhere.

We're just sitting in companionable silence. 

Listen. There's rain on the window. Smell the lilies. See the little red-breasted birds with heads on one side listening for worms. Feel the softness of the cushions and the little dimple on the home keys. Afternoons like this are why the word 'soporific' was invented. 

Beautiful.
Where's the spider?
There are two ways to look at everything. Last week there was a morning where the children's bloodcurdling shrieks awoke me far too early because of a spider in Katy's bedroom. Yesterday morning I pulled back my curtains and spanning the open of the window was a beautiful spider's lit up by the sunrise and in sparkling silver relief against a dark tree. Both the girls wanted to climb onto the window sill to see and we marvelled at its fragility. (I didn't like to point out that if there was a web across the window opening, the spider might be outside, or... but that's not the point.) 

Thankyou, Father. 

For the climate that we live in where we have rain to make things grow, and sunshine, occasionally, too. Thankyou for the myriad of blessings that I take so much for granted; for living rooms and lilies and the miracle of the Internet which means that I can connect with beautiful people with new haircuts on the other side of the world and check out the way they see life. I can't get my head around it. 

Thankyou for quiet. And thankyou in advance for noise as well, when my girls get home. I suspect I might forget to thank you at that point. Thankyou as much in the grey as in the yellow and blue. As much in the rain as the sunshine. As much with a headache as when feeling fine. Thankyou when I'm hemmed in with bad news as when things are all tickety-boo in my world. 

Thankyou with half-open eyes and feet up and again in half an hour's time when I'll be clutching a raincoat closed and waiting outside the school. 

I praise you for company and for solitude. For robins and biscuits and vases of flowers. For sunrises and spiders. For time, you and me, sitting here with a third of a packet of biscuits. 

You don't fancy going to collect the children from school while I have forty winks, do you?


Thursday, 20 September 2012

Sisterhood and suspicion

Dear God,

I was reading something someone had written about women and friendship. It was a beautiful post about sisterhood and support and encouragement and the sort of connection that only women can have. About the special bond that is found in a group of female friends.

You know what came into my head? 

'That's not true.'

Where did that come from? 

I realise that it came from somewhere deep inside me, back through the years and comes from somewhere that I thought I'd sorted out, even if not forgotten about. I read the article with narrowed eyes and looked at the pictures of smiling women with their arms around each other and you know what? I don't believe it. All that perfect-friendship stuff. I looked at those pictures with a suspicion and cynicism that shocked me.
Sisters.

Until the last few years, I've never had a close female friend. As I was growing up, I had a few female 'friends', but those friendships weren't what they should have been. They were full of hurt and betrayal and unhappiness and they took from me a lot of confidence. In later years I've had some friends who I still value, but they've somehow stopped short of true intimacy. There's been a holding back; a superficiality. I think it comes from them, but maybe it's been me. I don't know. 

This is a minefield. God, I don't know what you're doing here. This is a big thing for me. Here are some things that are flooding through my mind at the moment: 

I've always said, 'It takes me a long time to get to know someone.' That's because I'm so wary. 

I've always said, 'Men are more straightforward than women.'  I've always done better with boyfriends than girlfriends.  From late teens onwards I usually had a boyfriend, but after a few very painful friendships, no special friend of my own sex.

I worry for my small daughters about friendships in the playground. I so want them to find a true and trustworthy friend to do life with, and I long for them to find it way, way before I did.  Already, at the ripe old age of seven, Elizabeth's experienced girls who've said they were her friend and then hurt her badly, and it presses all my buttons. Makes me anxious. Makes me want to scoop her up and tell her not to worry, it'll be OK. I wonder if that's why she plays with the boys more than the girls? 

Oh dear. 

The thing is, I do know what friendship is, now. It's taken me this long. I'm in my early forties and I have a friend who is a true and beautiful gift from God. She is a woman the author of that article had in mind as she celebrated friendship.  She accepts me as I am.  I don't have to tidy my house when she comes round. I don't worry if my mascara smudges when I'm talking to her. I trust her implicitly. She keeps my secrets, she holds me when I cry and eats cheesecake with me until we both feel sick. She knows me. She comforts me, inspires me, encourages me and talks sense to me when I don't have any of my own. I don't have to put up barriers. She sees me as I am and she still wants to be with me.

We do this for each other. It's not all one way. She accepts my friendship; she values it. She doesn't throw it back at me or look at it with contempt. 

She is my friend. The friend I didn't have when I was seven, or eleven, or twenty, or thirty. I've never been solitary, don't get me wrong, but I've never trusted as I do now. I've never received so much, or given so much. 

So I read the article about the miracle of women and the power that we have to build each other up and until recently I have only seen the power we have to bring each other down. When I walk into a roomful of women I am immediately intimidated. I assume that they're looking at me and criticising what I'm wearing, my make up, my face, my words. They're noticing every flaw that I've tried so hard to hide, physical and emotional. My bad hair day, the spot on my chin, the fact that my jeans are a bit tighter than they were last month, my confusion and diffidence. They look at me when I walk in and they talk about me when I leave. I don't think about it any more, because I realise that I've come to expect it. Something inside me is programmed to believe that other women do this to me. To each other. 

I am afraid of women. Women can destroy each other's confidence with a look, a remark, an expression. Sometimes, the wounds go very deep indeed. 

One day, she'd be my friend, the next, she wouldn't talk to me. On the way to school I would never know which today would be. On the off days she'd tell other girls mean things about me. On the good days, she'd link arms with me and all would be well. I just let it happen. It doesn't do much for my self esteem that I just let it happen. 

She would tell me that I was fat and ungainly and she'd tell me who I should avoid standing next to as they were so much slimmer/prettier than me that it made me look worse. She told me I'd never get anywhere, be anyone. She criticised the way I walked and the way I laughed. She chose a seat at lunchtime at a table without space for me, so I'd be standing there with my tray of food, but nowhere to sit. She laughed at me. 

Another she, a grown-up she, years later, told me that someone had said things about me but wouldn't tell me who, or what, but it wasn't nice, and it wasn't true either. I looked around at the people I shared the lecture room with in a different way because of her. I didn't trust anyone, and until then I'd been having a nice time. I thought I had friends. She told me that I had no integrity, that there was something wrong with my character. That there was something wrong with me

My beautiful girl
Other shes weren't there when I needed them, let me down at key moments, didn't turn up, drifted away, moved away.

I could name names, Lord, but there's no reason to; you know the people I mean. From my childhood and adulthood. I'm sure they didn't know the impact they were having. I'm glad that they didn't. 

So we women do have power indeed. Oh, we do. A fearsome power. We can crush. We may not do it with our muscles but the devastation is complete.

A group of girls in the playground; is there anything more lethal than that? A couple of girls took my daughter's woolly hat on a cold day and threw it in a puddle. A girl told her that her new coat made her look silly. A girl told her that she was too tall to be a girl so she must be a boy. The girls that are friends one day and the next they won't let her play.

She went to play with the boys. More straightforward, see? Only now at seven the boys start to do that thing where they don't want to play with girls, even tall ones. She must try again with the girls. New term, new school, new friends.

Oh God, hold her close. It's so complicated and I don't have the skills to help her. I'm terrified that the only stuff I can impart won't help at all but will make things worse. Keep the mean girls away from her, will you? Don't let them wound her. And don't, please don't, let her insecurities grow and overflow so that she becomes a mean girl. Bring her a friend, or (is it too much to ask?) a couple of friends that she can trust, have fun with, grow up with, will you? Please, please, don't have her wait until she's forty to find a woman who is a soulmate. 

Someone who will bring out the best in her, not diminish her.

My beautiful girl
I realise that even though I'm supposed to have dealt with all this, there's still a gaping wound that needs healing. I can feel tears behind my eyes even as I'm talking to you, now.

Today I was reading of the bond that a woman can have with another woman and finally, I know what that's about. I assumed that such friendships were for other people - not for me, but now I know that it's not true. I can trust someone who is trustworthy. I know that she wants what is good for me. We're not in competition. She lifts me up. She prays for me. She isn't afraid to tell me that I'm wrong, that I need to think differently. She's right there with me.

She loves me. She loves you

God, I bet there are so many people out there like me. Who haven't experienced the joyful, wonderful feminine sisterhood, but the darker side of women. The cold and hurting side. The bit that chips away and undermines and leaves you defensive and wary. 

Lord, I know that it's not too late. I know that you can heal and make new. Father, will you reach down into the depths of me and mend the bits that are broken? Is that what you're doing? And maybe one day I can help someone else. Women should stick together, shouldn't they? Not pull each other apart and walk on the pieces. 

Thankyou for my friends, Lord God. For soulmates and sisters to celebrate and grieve with. Who walk alongside, accepting and supporting, passing tissues and eating cheesecake. 

Father, for the girls that are now women whose names we both know; may their lives now be so much happier that the bitterness and nastiness that spilled over and soaked me through is no more. I'm supposed to pray for them, aren't I? It's hard to hand them over to you, Lord, but I know that they are your daughters too. Bless them. Next time I say that I'll try to do it without the gritted teeth.

Help me to open my hands and drop the memories that I realise that I've never thrown away. The remembered misery and fear and the knot in my stomach. The loneliness and mistrust. The wariness. The feeling that other women are not potential friends, but threats. Help me to leave it with you. 

To forgive. Even if I have to keep on forgiving. I didn't realise until this morning that I hadn't.

As the healing power of a God-given friendship starts to seep into my consciousness, help me to let it go to all those places where the cynicism and suspicion still linger. Melt the parts of me that are cold and wake me up to the miracle of restoration that you are doing in me. I don't have to accept that part of me was damaged when I was a child. I don't have to tell the story of the bullies and the spiralling self-esteem and finish it with a shrug, and a 'That's how I am.'  I don't have to settle for wounds that won't heal.

I've only just realised that. Only just. And I'm supposed to be all grown up. 

So, Father. I know that we women do indeed have power. Power to change the lives of those around us. Lord, let me only bless other women and not harm them. How many women, like me, assume that they are nothing more than the sum of their negative experiences? How many women lick the wounds inflicted when friendships hurt and fail and then hide them away without realising that healing is possible?

Help me to reach out, to touch, to support and encourage, not discourage, undermine or damage. I want to make a positive difference. 

I've been hurt and you're putting me back together. 

Thankyou.

..........

Oh. Lord, I've got a postscript. School run, this evening. I was walking to school and I slipped in my headphones (as I do; it's not too far, about two-and-a-half songs) and pressed 'shuffle'. You chose a song for me.


'Rise up women of the Truth
Stand and sing to broken hearts
Who can know the healing power
Of our awesome King of Love?' *

Lord, I've been hurt and you're putting me back together again.

I know the healing power of our awesome King of Love. And I shall sing.

Thankyou.


*(Shout to the North and the South, Martin Smith, 1995 Curious? Music UK)






Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Shark teeth and bravery

Lord, I want to tell you about my little girl being very brave indeed. You must have been proud. I know that I was.

As you know, my little Lizzie (7) had a loose front tooth. For ages.  Lizzie is the only child in the world who hates to wiggle her loose teeth. She's too squeamish - they sort of need to work loose on their own, preferably, and then drop out, untouched by human hand. This one was a bit of a problem, as it was the first of her big top front teeth to become loose, but also because the new, grown-up tooth was emerging behind it. Apparently it's called a 'shark tooth' when the new one comes in at the same time like this.

(Speaking of sharks, I've got a bone to pick with you about teeth. Why can't we just regenerate new teeth when the old ones fall out or become troublesome like sharks do? Wouldn't that be so much easier than all this dentistry anguish?  Any thoughts?)

Anyway. Lizzie's tooth was in the way. The new one needed prime position and to save her a jaunt with orthodontics when she's a bit older, the baby tooth needed to make way for the new one.  She wiggled (sort of) and we cajoled and she cried and we reasoned and we bribed and she worried and eventually she decided all on her own that while she was at the dentist anyway, maybe he could pull out the old tooth. So he did. With remarkably little fuss from my little girl.

I was so, so proud of Elizabeth. She hasn't got a great track record for bravery (like mother like daughter, perhaps) and yet she managed an injection of local anaesthetic and the extraction of a front tooth with barely a tear.

And yet, as she climbed into the big chair, she was terrified. She was afraid, but she was brave. It's no good claiming courage when something doesn't frighten you, and I think that anticipating having a tooth pulled out is worthy of a degree of nervousness. If you're seven, and you've never had any dental problems until then, more than a degree of nervousness. So I was so proud of my girl. She was brave.

I wanted to thank you for my little girl and for being right there with her holding her hand as she had a little whimper when the dentist reached for his pliers, or whatever that scary-looking instrument is that he uses to extract teeth. Thankyou for a dentist who is worth his weight in gold (doesn't it say somewhere in the Bible that a good dentist is worth more than rubies, or something? Well, it should.)
Thankyou for being there with me as I juggled Katy (her turn for a check-up was straight after Lizzie and she was watching everything with wide eyes) and also tried to reassure and comfort the afflicted one in the big reclining chair.

Thankyou that we live lives where an awkward baby tooth is deserving of comment. I know that there are seven year olds and their mums in this world that have much more serious things to worry about than 'shark teeth'.

Just wanted to tell you about it. Milestone in our house. Lizzie was very proud of herself and for hours (no, days) afterwards kept asking if she'd been brave. After all Katy's operations and blood tests and hospital appointments last year I think Lizzie had cast herself in the role of non-brave-sister, and you know what? It's really boosted her self-esteem to have come through this little dentist's appointment with a well-deserved 'I was brave' sticker. She basked in the glory for ages and I haven't got tired of telling her how well she did.

Good out of troubles, hey?

Thankyou.

I have my eye on the other, wobbly front tooth now. It's sticking out a bit at an angle as if the new tooth is behind it. She won't wobble it.

Lord... let's not do this all again, please? 

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The Lord is near


Morning, God.

Somebody said something to me ages ago; maybe a year ago. It's been sitting in my head ever since. The other day, I read this same thing again and had one of those 'Oh' moments. You know, one of those times where my eyes stop in their tracks when I'm reading and I just sit and stare for a bit while the penny drops. 

One of my favourite bits of the Bible is the book of Philippians. Upbeat, encouraging, reassuring.  All about living as a Christian in a non-Christian world. I like that Paul isn't very deep or theological in this book, but he knows that the Philippians are finding things hard and he wants to lift them up. Of the book of Philippians, one of my favourite bits is the bit about not worrying. As you are well aware, Lord, this bit could have been written just for me; indeed I think it probably was. You had me in mind when you had Paul write it down. 
'Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.'Philippians 4: 6-7
I like it. I'm not very good at it, but I think that because of you, I'm better at it than I was. Not as good as I will be - with your help I'm going to crack this, more or less, this side of heaven. Maybe. But that's not the point. 

The point is that I need not be anxious because you are for me. You are looking after me. You know what I need, and you want me to trust you with all my anxieties. You want me to come to you and talk to you. Offload. Communicate. And in exchange for me dumping my worries on you, you'll give me peace; a peace that the world doesn't know about, something that we can't imagine or understand. You will wrap me in this peace and keep me safe. 

Sounds like I get the best of that deal. I give you the rubbish, you give me peace. Why don't I have peace? Because I don't give you the rubbish. I just cart it round myself, now and again show it to you, maybe even push it your way, but I fail to leave it with you. As a result, I am not particularly peaceful. 

So right now, here it is. My bag of anxieties. The stuff you know about. The stuff that's in my head, worrying me, dragging me down, making me feel heavy of heart and furrowed of brow. You know how all these situations turn out, Father God, don't you? Sometimes things are in my control and I need you to help me sort them out, but more often than not the stuff that wakes me in the night are things that I have no control over at all. I cannot be responsible for other people's decisions and how they affect others. I cannot make people do what I want. 
'Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.'Philippians 4:6
So I present my requests to you. I try to be thankful. I am getting better at noticing you in my life - in each day you are there; I get glimpses. I know that you don't come and go - nipping down to say hello in this morning's spectacular rainbow and then disappearing off for an appointment elsewhere. I know that you're there all the time - here right now - I just need the eyes to see. If my eyes are always focused on my problems, my troubles, the sackful of anxiety that I lug around with me, then I miss you so often; I miss you so much. 

If I could see you as much in the recycling and cooking and shopping and laundry as I see you in the rainbow and the dew on a spider's web and the golden sunrise, I might be freer, less anxious. More Saint-Paul-content-whatever-life-throws-at-me. Sorry if that sounded a bit flippant. 

The Lord is near.
So this is where the stop in my tracks moment came in. Philippians 4:6 is everywhere, isn't it? Don't worry. Pray. And God will give you his peace. Good advice. The best. I have it on a bookmark and it's in my journal and I have it on a little prayer card in my Bible. But you know what I found out about this? It's always been there but unobservant me missed it. 

The verse right before this wonderful passage is:
'The Lord is near.'Philippians 4:5b
The Lord is near. Then, 'Don't be anxious...' 

I've often wondered how amazing it was to be one of your followers, Lord Jesus. How it seems to me, with the benefit of hindsight and a million explanatory works of literature and a local church and so on, that it must have been so much easier to understand what you said, so much easier to look to you as an example, when you were Right Here. If you were sitting next to me right now I'd have so many questions for you. After you help me up off the floor, and after we'd made a coffee, I would love a long, long chat. And if you'd then come with me all the places I need to go, the phone calls I need to make, the people I need to see, the daily stuff that I have to do - then how much easier would it be? How much more confident I'd be. How empowered would I be if you were right next to me? If every time I falter or start to get anxious you whisper in my ear?

I'm here. Don't worry.

I've always thought I'd love to have been with you for those three years when you did your thing. I like to think I'd have poured my perfume on your feet. I'd like to think I'd have baked a cake for you and sat and listened to what you had to say as well. I'd be Mary and Martha and the woman at the well and the one who touched your cloak and the one who was devoted enough to find your tomb at first light to take care of you, only to find you risen.  I'd like to think you'd have had my heart in that way. In reality, I don't know. It must have been pretty scary back then. 

So, suddenly, it struck me. The 'don't be anxious about anything' is one of the hardest battles I fight in my life, and through two people, a year or so apart, you've reminded me that you are right here. You're walking alongside me. You're there. You're near. And in that context, don't be anxious. 

'I'm here. Don't worry.'

When my daughters wake in the night with a bad dream and shout for Mummy. I gather them up and I hold them close and I say, 'It's alright. I'm here.'
'The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything...'
It's alright. You're here. 

I want you to be here. I don't want to be strong. I don't want to have to make decisions. I don't want to be brave and independent and all those things. And here you tell me that I don't have to do any of it by myself. You're near. And that's why I shouldn't worry. 

It makes a difference to me. It makes a difference to how I read this incredibly familiar passage. I know that there are other ways of thinking about these two sentences; that 'The Lord is near' might be a reminder to the Philippians that they should behave well towards others because you are soon to return, is another interpretation, but I'm not going into all the theology. I don't know very much. What I do know is that something has changed for me.

If you are here, near, then it's easier not to be anxious. If you were sitting next to me right now, I'd be in the safest place in the world. 

And you are. 

The Lord is near. 

You're never far away. The rainbow, the vase of lilies in front of me, the joy of my little girl as she danced down the road this morning with her Winnie-the-Pooh umbrella. You're in all those things, but you're in the empty room and the sound of the tumble dryer and the rain on the window as well. 

So, thankyou to the two wise ladies that drew my attention to these few words. Thankyou for lighting them up so that I can see, even when my eyes are half closed. 

Thankyou for the rain and the sun and the rainbows. Thankyou for coffee and words from friends, even friends-across-the-sea that I've never met, but who reach out with wisdom that you use so powerfully. Thankyou for a handful of Bibles and the freedom to read them, where St Paul and the Philippians were being persecuted for living as Christians and so many still are, today.

Most of all, thankyou for being right here, right now. 

Let's swap, as you suggest. Here's my worry. No, really, here it is. 

Can I have the peace now? 










Friday, 14 September 2012

Come, let us worship

Morning, God.

I'm feeling a bit rushed today. It's been a bit of a frustrating week as I've wanted to spend more time with you to catch up a bit but circumstances seem to have conspired to prevent it from happening. 

Now, there's a sentence that begs to be deconstructed, don't you think? Immediately I said that I realised a few things:

1) Feeling rushed is a state of mind. Actually, I have just less than an hour before I need to be somewhere else, which is plenty of time unless I try to squeeze too much into it. I need to have lunch, do a supermarket shop, dust the living room (someone clever wrote their initials in the dust on top of the DVD player) and, oh, come and chat with you. Hmm. 

2)  The week has been frustrating because I've constantly been trying to get something out of the way so that I could do something else. I've been thinking a lot about Living In The Moment recently rather than wishing time away either looking back or looking forward, so I have not been getting it right. This is Not It At All. 

3)  I've wanted to spend more time with you - then why haven't I?  Well, because I've said yes when I should have said no (and I've just done it again! Help! Got to untangle another self-made mess... but that's a stress for another day, not got time right now...rush rush). Also because I've been unutterably tired so evenings have been written off, and also because I am the mistress of distraction. If I was a bit more Mary-esque and less Martha-like I might do better with this one. 

4)  Circumstances. Me, yes, and also the usual stuff that gets kicked up by a normal life with two children. The day to day things that need dealing with. Domestic crises. Tantrums. Spiders to be removed from bedrooms and nightmares to be soothed away. 

Arthur. Turned him out of Katy's bedroom.
He showed up in the sink. 
So, on this Friday morning, a week and a bit into the new term, I resolve to:

1)  Stop rushing so much. Dust less often (hahahahaha).

2)  Live In The Moment. Stop to see the flowers more.

3)  Stop and think occasionally. Especially in meetings when everyone is looking at me.

4)  Stop being surprised when my plans are derailed. It's life. 

Does that sound reasonable? Or are you chuckling as you listen to me? After all, you know me pretty well. 

Before I disappear in a cloud of shopping lists and hairspray (haircut this afternoon, please bless that appointment, Lord. I'm in great need of a miracle) I wanted to say thankyou for a couple of things. 

1)  A couple of days ago I was awoken by a piercing scream. I galloped to Elizabeth's bedroom very early in the morning to find her in tears because of a bad dream. Something about a giant slug. I stroked and soothed and glanced at the clock to find that it was only an hour or so until alarm-clock time, which is bad news from the perspective of trying to convince a seven year old to go back to sleep. 

Back in bed, was just relaxing into the warm again when another piercing scream. This time a duet. Galloped back across the landing to find both girls huddled on Katy's bed (clearly Lizzie had decided sleep was not on the agenda and had gone to find Kate). Spider of mammoth proportions in the middle of the floor. I nearly trod on it as I stumbled through the door. Of course, I had to go and find my glasses, a glass and a coaster to trap the spider and as I located the necessary items I could hear from the shrieks that the beast was on the move. He was eventually tracked down with much moving of furniture and hopping about lest a spider the size of Denmark made a run for my pyjama leg. I trapped him, we admired him, I deposited him outside the back door. 
This doesn't do you justice.

Since I had to walk past the kettle on my way back upstairs it seemed only sensible to right off the remainder of the pre-alarm clock time. We were all well awake. An abrupt start to the day. Grr. 

I pulled back the bedroom curtains and found your present right outside. Waiting for me. 

The most spectacular golden sunrise. Red and orange and sheets of beaten gold across the sky. Just for those of us who'd been catapulted into the day ridiculously early because of slugs and spiders. 

Thankyou. 

We had a moment or two, then, didn't we? Me and you. It made a real difference to my day. Me and you, first thing. The glory of you shining through my bedroom window. If it hadn't been for the slug-dream and Spidergate, I'd have missed it. In fact, within the hour, a bank of cloud had obliterated the sun and we didn't see it again that day, which made that morning glimpse all the more wonderful.

2)  Later that same day, it rained. Just in time for the school gallop, the rain came. Pelting. One of those showers where it starts as I leave the house, stops when I put the key in the door and leaves a wet line around my jeans where my coat finishes. It was a strange thing, though. I'm enjoying the round trip to the girls' two school and on this occasion as I went to fetch Elizabeth I had my umbrella up so that the rain was coming at me vertically from underneath, it was so heavy, and I had my headphones in with a song played loudly. 
Picture taken the following day,
when the rain had stopped.

It was YFriday's 'Come, let us Worship'. 

'He made the heavens and they shine his glory
He moves the sun across the sky
So incomparable the star of morning
Radiant in light'

As I set off in the rain it reminded me of the sunrise at the crack of dawn that morning. The golden streaks across a sky that was dark and heavy with rainclouds by 3pm. It made me smile. It made me smile because there wasn't much that was radiant about the day at that moment. The noise of the rain on my umbrella and the the sound of it beating down was competition for the music.

'He made the world and all its countless wonder
Composed the song creation cries
Our God incredible, immortal Saviour
Jesus Christ'

I rounded a corner and there was a single sunflower, drooping with the rain, against a dark fence. Nothing else around, just a bright yellow face looking at me through the grey of the afternoon. Just as I was hearing about Creation's song, there it was, singing. As I disappeared down a little shortcut path a rose was poking through another fence. In the drenching rain where I huddled under an umbrella and plodded through puddles, eyes fixed on the splashing at my feet, there was breathtaking colour. Standing out even more because of the backdrop of grey. 

'Come, let us worship
Come, let us bow down...'

So here I am, just wanting to tell you that I noticed. That it was a couple of days ago, but I've been holding this in my heart ready for a chance to tell you that I haven't forgotten. I want to mark it down and remember it. Tell people about it. It was a grey, dark, threatening day where the rain came down heavily, but that sunflower was all the more beautiful for the beads of water. The rose stood out all the more against the dark wood. They were there to see. Thankyou that you gave me words in my ear to draw attention to them, Father; if my umbrella had been any lower I'd have missed them. You brought it together perfectly. To see and to worship. 

So, the dusting will have to wait. Again. I'll find something in the freezer for tea. The haircut can't wait, though, it's an emergency - but I have liked this bit of time you and me. 

Thankyou for slugs and spiders and sunrises. For rainclouds and sunflowers and pink roses. 

For your endless patience and gentleness in showing me your treasures. 

'Come, let us worship
Come, let us bow down
Come, let us sing of all the Lord has done'

Amen.





(YFriday, from 'Great and Glorious', 2009, Kingsway)

Monday, 10 September 2012

Going where other people don't want to go

I'm thinking about courage, God. Bravery. How some people seem to have it in buckets.

A few things have happened lately that have made me think about courage. It seems to be coming at me from all angles. I'm not quite sure what it is you're trying to teach me, but there's something.

I'd like to be brave. I'd like for people to think of me as brave, but - hang on - I've been bitten before and now I'm shy of coming to you like this. I once asked for patience and you gave me two small children to look after and opportunities to develop patience coming out of my ears. That wasn't quite what I wanted; I was hoping I'd just wake up one day and feel incredibly patient. So, if that's what you might do I'm not going to ask you for courage...

On holiday we visited a Lifeboat station by the sea (and before you say it, I know Lifeboat stations are usually by the sea) and we had the chance to see a great big orange lifeboat poised for action on a frame by the slipway, and also to look around at the plaques on the walls detailing each outing for the Lifeboats from this station, which vessel they helped and how many lives were saved. Over and over again, these men scrambled into the boats and launched into the sea to rescue those in trouble. Photographs showed waves the size of buildings washing over promenades and battering cliffs; the sea a swell in which a large boat might disappear, and yet the lifeboatmen risked their lives to save others. That's courage.

They went where other people didn't want to go.

When most people were battening down the hatches and closing the curtains on a rough, stormy night, these people were climbing into boats to go exactly there the danger was.

One man was commemorated more than anyone else at this particular station. A man named Henry Blogg. He was a lifeboatman. He rescued people; pulled them from the sea when they were in trouble. A memorial was on the wall with his name on it. The inscription read:

'His gallant crew rescued 873 lives during 55 years of service. 
"One of the bravest men who ever lived."'

Wow. And now there's a window with Mr Blogg's name in it, and a commemorative plaque with this inscription, and a list of the vessels that he rescued. A local hero indeed.

The same evening that we'd visited the Lifeboat station I watched a documentary about the soldiers in Afghanistan. Men only just out of school trying to find hidden bombs before they explode and kill or maim. The footage that was shown was breathtaking; cameras on their helmets as they went out on patrol showed some of the reality of life on a tour of duty out there. The risk of placing one foot on the ground in front of another. The consequences of a step the wrong way. Don't ask me about the morality of war, or the justification of our troops in these places because I don't know. What I do know is that they are brave, brave men and women.

One soldier, a medic, was on patrol and had the responsibility of detecting the explosive devices so that his colleagues could declare an area safe for the locals to re-inhabit. He was walking carefully with a metal detector when there was an enormous explosion elsewhere and a shout that a man was down. He knew that someone needed medical attention urgently and he knew that he was the medic. He ran across unexplored ground and across a small bridge - an obvious place to put a bomb - in order to treat the man who had his legs blown off in the explosion because he knew that time was of the essence. Courage. Of a kind I find hard to fathom.

Both these people had immense courage, and with it a selflessness and sense of duty that is amazing to me. I live in a world where self-preservation and one's own comfort is everything and to put your own life on the line for someone else like that leaves me in awe. Saving lives. Going where most people are afraid to go.

It goes on. Since our holiday at the seaside the Paralympic Games have begun. Every time I turn on the TV I see another person who inspires and amazes me with their tenacity and strength of spirit. A lady who lost her legs in a bomb attack in London in 2005 is now in the Olympic Volleyball team. Those with terrible injuries fight back with determination and amazing courage to achieve sporting prowess at the highest level. Individuals with defects from birth overcome their seeming limitations to be faster, higher, stronger than people like me can dream.

An Olympic commentator interviewed a Paralympian who had just won a gold medal in his event, 'Has it been a lifetime dream to win a Paralympic medal?'  The man looked at her levelly and replied, 'Not when I had my legs, no.'

Ouch.

Courage? Certainly. Courage not to be defeated by evil or compromise or changed circumstances. Courage not to give up. Courage not to give in to a world that can't see past a disability and might view you as damaged or substandard. Courage to maintain dignity when confronted by halfwitted interviewers. Courage to keep going, keep trying.

So this thing, courage. Bravery. What is it? Do we all have it?  Surely we're not all programmed for bravery, as I know that amazing acts of cowardice happen all over the place, every day. I do know that you can only be brave if you're scared in the first place. If you're not scared, you don't need courage. Courage is keeping on despite fear. Courage seems to be determination and perseverance and then... the extra thing that makes you run to save a man's life even though you risk your own.

It's made me think of my little life. No rough seas round here; at least, only metaphorical ones. No unexploded bombs on the school run - though on occasion the mums in the playground are pretty scary.  I have all the advantages of four limbs that work, more or less, and I am grateful that my body gets me through each day. I am aware, though, that I could do with a bit more courage, of the everyday get-on-with-it kind.

Lord, I complain and I grumble and I am full of self-pity and dissatisfaction and it's all pretty meaningless. Blessings are piled up around me and I still find stuff to whinge about. I know that you are a God who cares about the small stuff and I know that you are endlessly patient with my daily gripes and anxieties, but do you ever just sigh heavily when I'm in the middle of my latest complaint and wish that I'd get on with living with a bit less fuss?

I wouldn't blame you if you did.

You know what? I think maybe there are two types of bravery. There's the sort where someone fetches out a very special kind of courage just at the time when something amazing is needed. A soldier sprints across a battlefield to help his friend even when he might be shot at or step on a device that might maim him. That's the dramatic sort of bravery. The VC sort of bravery. And then there's a day-to-day sort of courage where a widow keeps getting up in a morning and taking care of her family even when her heart is broken. Where someone makes a quiet decision not to be defeated and keeps on going when life is hard. And I don't mean my sort of hard, which is not hard at all. I mean when life is hard. The sort of hard which happens when someone is ill with no prospect of getting better. Someone needs care and always will. Someone who knows that life might not get any better than this and yet finds the gold thread running through the black often enough to keep on going, through ill health or misery or rejection or pain or seeming hopelessness.

That sort of bravery doesn't win many awards. It doesn't make the news, and in our world quiet stoicism and day-in-day-out courage are often overlooked, but I know that you don't miss a thing. I don't know much about treasure in heaven, Father, but I am quite sure that those people whose lives are spent keeping on keeping on; I think they must have a special place in your heart.

That sort of courage is going where other people don't want to go, too. Who chooses to live life like that? Maybe courage is having a hope and hanging everything else from it. And when our hope is you, Lord Jesus, we know that the thread of that hope is endlessly strong. Much stronger than I am.

That's what I want, Father. I want the hope that I have to go ahead of me so that I can fix my eyes upon it and keep following, not a hope stuck in my back pocket that I fetch out when I remember that it's there. I want the day-in-day-out sort of courage that means that I'm not knocked over when things get difficult. I want a higher threshold for difficult, please. I want to learn to take the small things in my stride more. The tantrums, the messes, the stresses and the flaring of the temper.

I don't know if I'll ever be called upon to do something truly brave. If my children were in danger I hope that I'd put my life on the line to protect them. I hope that my instincts would kick in and I too would be dashing across the minefield. I hope I never find out, but if I do, Lord, give me what I need, because I'd like to be the one who steps up to the mark when necessary. The one who goes where nobody wants to go because it's the right thing to do.

Maybe more use to me and my family right now would be for me to be the person who with quiet determination just keeps going. Each day, each ache, each morning routine and each bathtime battle, just keep going without the endless complaining that I give in to all the time. If you could inject a generous measure of good humour and patience, Father, that'd be even better.

Blimey, there I go with the patience request again.

You'd think I'd have learned.














Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Growing up

Peace.  Ah. 

Right now, everything is quiet apart from the taptaptapping at the keyboard. Outside the sun is shining in a blue sky, the trees and the washing are blowing in the breeze and I have coffee.  Just discovered a new type of Colombian coffee that is just wonderful and I have a cup right here. It's sitting next to me in my new Olympic London 2012 souvenir mug. 

All is well in my world. 

Which is quite an achievement really, considering that it's the first day back at school for both my girls; Elizabeth started Junior School yesterday so it's day two for her, but Katy started in Year One today for the first time. I won't go into the 'how fast they grow up' thing; I imagine you know that. It's all a blink of an eye for you, isn't it?

So it's been a strange sort of week. After the long summer holiday where I have, I confess, on occasion longed for the start of school, by the time it comes to pack them up with book bags, snacks, dinner money, water bottles, PE kits and so on, it sort of feels as if I got used to them being at home and I'll miss them. 

Sort of feels like that. Felt like it for a brief moment, perhaps. Right now with my coffee and the view from the window and the quiet I think that school's probably a good thing. 

Junior School. Grown up girl. 
Did you see them, Lord?  Elizabeth in her new uniform, so proud, standing so straight, having laboured over tying her tie with the tip of her tongue sticking out in concentration, never happy until both ends are level when she pulls it up to her collar (where did she get that streak of perfectionism from? Oh dear.)  She organised matching hair bobbles, put on her shiny shoes and did her 'I can't wait' dance before we set off. I was so proud. Proud not only of how beautiful and smart she looked but also of the enthusiasm and optimism and confidence. Thankyou, Father, for that, from the bottom of my heart. New schools can be a source of anxiety and fear and yet my little girl, so often vulnerable and needy and timid was hopping about in eager anticipation.  

Long may it last. She's only seven. Another eleven years to go yet.

And Katy. Looking gorgeous in her new dress and not caring in the slightest that it used to be Lizzie's. Spinning round so that the skirt would fly out and keen to get to school and see her new classroom, built on to the extended school over the summer. New class, new teacher, new classmates, new experience of school without Big Sister. At times in the holiday she had a fret about it, a cry now and then, but today she was all excitement. 

Proud. We have had many tears about school and I'm sure they're not over, but it's a real blessing to have started this year off, these last two days, without trauma. Thankyou, thankyou, thankyou. 

Katy in Year One. Another Grown Up Girl
So new school for Liz, new class for Kate - what's my trauma? You knew there'd be one, didn't you? Because you know me. Well, for me it's a double school run in the morning now. 

Getting Lizzie to one school for 8.45am and then back to Katy's school (ten minutes walk away) for 8.50am. Of course, with my inbuilt Mummy-Warp-Speed button this is no problem until Elizabeth needs a bit of extra settling as she doesn't yet know where her peg is, or where her water bottle should go, or where we should hand in payment for school trips and so on (yes, were you amazed too? On the first day of the school year, they came home with a request for money for a day out?) 

Back to the school run.

So if I could waft past one school, tenderly patting daughter no 1 in the right direction but not breaking stride on my way to the school of daughter no 2, I might be ok. As it is, there is confusion at both ends and so this morning I arrived at Katy's school red in the face and panting heavily. 'Hello, Katy's new teacher, I'm Katy's mum. I'm mostly going to look like this in a morning.'

So, positives:
  1. When we're all used to it, it will get easier. So I'm told.
  2. Getting up half an hour earlier in the mornings has meant for two days so far that I get to spend a few minutes with you before the day descends on me. It makes so much difference.
  3. With a twenty-five minute gallop each morning and again at pick up time, my jeans might get looser as term progresses. 
  4. The last two days have been bright and sunny and the walk has been a pleasure (sort of).
  5. I get to chat to Lizzie going to school and Katy on the way to pick up Elizabeth, then both of them on the way home.
  6. When we got in, ice lollies all round seemed a necessity, not a treat.
  7. Both my girls are happy at school (at this point. One day in for Liz and a mere two hours for Kate; I'm hoping so).
[Post script: all well in Katy's world today at school. She got a sticker for listening nicely and there were sausages for lunch. That makes it a Good Day. Thankyou.]

Negatives:
  1. Until we're all used to it, I am Sweaty-Heavy-Breathing-Mum as I arrive at Katy's school in the morning. Not good for greeting the intimidating Headmistress on my way in. 
  2. Getting up half an hour earlier in the mornings mean I am getting half an hour less sleep. There is no positive spin on this.
  3. With a twenty-five minute gallop each morning one knee, both hips and my left thumb ache. (I know the thumb isn't directly involved in a school run but I threw it in anyway in case you were in a healing mood).
  4. No idea how this arrangement will pan out in torrential rain or snow and ice. Can't wait.
Still. Good is outweighing the bad. This is good. 

One day at a time, sweet Jesus - isn't that how the song goes? Well, I'm a routine girl and as soon as I can establish a routine the better. I feel safer with predictability. I'm setting out uniform at night and I'm going to try and write cheques and deal with school correspondence and so on the night before so that I can manage the mornings with less screechiness. It's all about organisation (she says, confidently).

Ha. 

So, I give you my new mornings. From twenty-five past eight until nine o'clock I am a blur. Before that, from getting up time until departure time, I am efficiency personified. Contradict me at your peril.

Thankyou for my beautiful girls. Thankyou for their enthusiasm and thankyou that we have local schools that can engender such happy anticipation in little ones. I don't remember it that way from my childhood, and so it amazes and delights me. To be back in my old infant and junior schools as a parent is a strange thing indeed, and I want to be careful not to transfer any of my old attitudes or emotions to squash their enjoyment. Bless their teachers with patience and skill and compassion and perception, Father God. I entrust my precious daughters to these women every day for hours and I ask you that they would show my girls how to live well. 

Keep my little girls safe, Father. Safe from over-confidence or crushing disappointment. Give them each a Good Friend to do school with. Someone they can trust, who'll help them and who they can help. Someone who will be kind and positive, making them more themselves, not less. Let them not be bullied, or bully. May they feel safe and welcome and know how precious and valued they are, just for being the unique and wonderful creations that they are. 

There's something else, Lord. Something struck me as wonderful. When Katy found out who her teacher would be this year, Elizabeth immediately commented, 'Oh, she's lovely. She hasn't got a cross voice.'

What a wonderful thing to say. What a wonderful reputation to have. Katy told a friend of mine this anecdote the other day and my friend said, 'Just like your mummy!' Kate looked confused for a second and looked up at me, and when she saw that I was laughing, she laughed too. 

Hmm. 

Not really a laughing matter. 

What if Mummy could lose her cross voice, maybe just for the mornings, (start small) - before school. Maybe by a feat of organisation and first thing quiet moments I could make those mornings go more smoothly? I'd like to try, because sometimes school morning breakfast times in our house take place under a huge oppressive black cloud of grumpiness that emanates largely from me. 

They're growing up; maybe I could grow up too. There's an idea.

Is it possible? All things are possible for you, Lord, but this is a tough one. 

What do you reckon?





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