After my somewhat melancholy post last week I thought I’d step into a more joy-filled sphere and share what we’ve been up to.

Christopher has been home for a few weeks, whilst waiting for his new job to start. It’s been absolutely wonderful having him home. He’s been an enormous help with all the big jobs on the land and he’s just been a joy to have around. He’s 21 now and it seems that maturity has really begun to take a hold. He’s thankful, polite, kind, helpful and everything I pray my children grow up to be. It gives me such hope, because he was a really challenging child, full of energy and very difficult to engage with schoolwork. It’s so good to see all that energy being put to good use helping us and also when he’s working on the farm where he’s now employed. God had a great plan when he gave us our little whirlwind, but we didn’t know that on the tough days when his frustration would wear us all out.

Jonathan and Christopher recently climbed Scarfell Pike, another opportunity to use their boundless energy. Jonathan was on his way back from a trip to Scotland, as part of his degree, and Christopher met up with him, so that they could meet the challenge of climbing England’s highest mountain. They took a very difficult route, in the snow and with 80 mile an hour winds, but they made it and built a deeper friendship with one another in the process.

Madeleine is loving college and is now home for Easter. A couple of days ago, Jonathan was on his way back from Portsmouth and he spontaneously decided to pick Madeleine up from college and he took her out for dinner. These are the moments that warm this mother’s heart and give me strength to keep going. To know that my children are friends with one another means so much and fills me with joy.

Elizabeth and Madeleine chose to go shopping together today. It’s interesting seeing their different styles emerging and watching them banter over whose style is best! In all the jokes over town versus country style, they still seem to enjoy each other’s company.

Matthew, Hannah and Stephen are busy making a film with some of their home educating friends. Together they have written a script and are busy making costumes, props and learning editing skills. This is all on top of their schoolwork, but seems to be teaching them a huge amount, all without my input, it’s a win win.

Michael, Katie and Timothy are currently into den building and love making dens out of cushions. Now the weather is warming up they are all going outside to play a lot more (I’m always relieved when Spring arrives). Katie and Michael use our driveway as we used to use our street, riding their bikes up and down, without me needing to watch them every second. I’m so grateful for God’s provision of our drive, and land, which gives the children the freedom they need to thrive. Timothy has recently made firm friends with the sheep, who have taken up residence in the field behind our house. Everyone in the family takes it in turns to take him outside, so that he can watch his ‘baas’ (he can’t say sheep yet!).

Phil and I are as ever very busy, but knowing we are doing what God has called us to gives us both peace, even in the storms. We are a team and together, with God at the centre, each day seems to work out. God is good.

I asked the children if I’d ever done anything to help with the process of them becoming friends and one thing did stand out. I’ve always taught the children to appreciate the unique gifts each of us has and to work together as a team. If we can embrace the differences and work with them, we can get lots more done and find value in each and every person. It’s a work in progress and sometimes the differences spark frustration, but on the whole I think this approach has considerable merit. The other thing I do consistently is pray. I pray for each of them to become friends, to value their differences, to love each other and for each of them to put Christ first in their lives. None of us can really get along with awkward people unless Jesus helps us and there is often no one more awkward than siblings. With all these different personalities, it is Jesus who becomes the most essential family member, to keep the peace and by His spirit to help us all to love one another.

Raising our large family is a huge blessing and one I never expected, it’s a daily challenge, but I’d have it no other way. With Jesus at the heart of all we do, it’s a blessed life and a brilliant adventure.

I like it keep it real and I could mention, children squabbling, endless washing, never enough time and yet those things really aren’t important. When we look at the big picture it’s really beautiful and the difficulties we experience add character to the canvas of our lives. If I had my choice, I would do it all again in a heartbeat. I thank God for giving us the faith and the strength to do what He has called us to do.

Sending blessings to you all, Vicki

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It’s been a while since I last wrote, as I find some things must be thought and not communicated, thus the silence from my pen. Thoughts have been whirling round my mind, permeating my heart, some breaking it and others healing. Matthew (aged 13) often reminds me, when he’s tidying, that you have to break the egg before you make the omelette, and that’s never truer than when you are unpicking the strands of the past.

Sometimes memories open up and perhaps, to continue the metaphor, we need to allow God to make the omelette in order to see why he allowed them to break out of their shell in the first place.

I personally find memories locked away far less troublesome than ones which spill out and whisk around my mind. And yet…I’m beginning to see God forming something beautiful from the broken past I’ve recalled. Our God wastes nothing, and there’s nothing we have done, or been through, which he won’t ultimately use for our good and his glory.

One of the difficulties I have had, which I feel able to share, has been with my name. Vicki. Victoria Charlotte. It’s a pleasant enough name, but I was struggling to take ownership of it and I couldn’t fathom why. Phil calls me Sweetheart, to the children I’m Mum or Mummy, to my sister I’m Vicks and to my dad I was Wix. The last person, who really loved me, to regularly use my name was my mum. That was over 30 years ago, before she passed away. Vicki was important to her, loved and wanted, and yet when she died, so, in some ways, at least by name, did Vicki. It seems here lay the root of my issue. Mum and I were a very attached pair. I have the sweetest memories of sitting in bed with her, as her illness progressed, just cuddling. I loved those last months in many ways, she was finally not busy and had time to just be. It’s a lesson I try and remember when I’m running round after the children, they don’t need me to be super mum, they just need me to be present and full of love.

Realising that this problem with my name needed fixing, I asked God to help me embrace the name I was given, for God says, in Isaiah 43, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine.

My parents may have chosen my name, but in His sovereignty, God guided their choices. So in many ways this is God’s name for me. It was only after research that I discovered the real meaning behind my name, Victoria Charlotte. It means, victorious free woman. I love that. In Corinthians God says that we have, ‘the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’, and then in in Galatians 5 we are reminded that, ‘It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.’ Yes, I am free in Christ from sin and all the consequences of it, both my own sin and the sins of those who have sinned against me. I am also victorious, because in Jesus we have victory over sin, both past, present and future.

What is it that damages each of us? It’s sin, it’s the consequences of living in a fallen world. Death, sickness and emotional pain are all consequences of the Fall. Even those who have had an idyllic childhood are not immune to the effects of sin. The wonderful news is that Christ is the antidote. By handing over everything, past, present and future to Him, we can be free. All pain, physical, emotional or mental won’t necessarily disappear, but we will have the grace to no longer be slaves to it, we need no longer, ‘be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.’ (Galatians 5:1).

As I have navigated my way through these stormy memories I have constantly felt God’s presence at the helm and finally I think I might have spotted land ahead, a green and pleasant land.

I have found hope, and like the hope of Spring, it is not a vague hope, but a certainty that brighter days are ahead.

I do love hearing from you all, so please feel free to share whatever you feel led to, I know it will be a blessing to each of us.

Sending blessings to each of you, Vicki

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