Father’s Day this year will be bittersweet. I am delighted to share it with Phil, thanking God for the amazing dad he is. We’ll eat yummy food, share cards and make him lots of cups of tea. Marzipan will feature highly, as that’s his favourite, along with lots of hugs. Phil is everything a father should be, loving, patient, kind and a great example to us all of a faithful man living out his God-given calling of fatherhood.
I’ll reflect on the amazing gift of a relationship with my Heavenly Father. He is steadfast, merciful and ever loving. Without my Heavenly Father I couldn’t do what I do, I would just be a shell. I know there have been many times when the Devil has whispered in my ear how I’m not worth it, I should just be invisible, it comes from a place of painful childhood memories, but then God….He tells me of His love for me, He tells me He created me, ‘For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb’ Psalm 139:13. He reminds me He had called me for a purpose and He tells me I am His masterpiece, ‘For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago’ Ephesians 2:10. He rescues me when I start to sink into that valley of lies which draws me in, the lies whispered in the darkness. I only have to turn to Him and He’s there.
This year I’ll give an extra prayer of thanks for my father-in-law. He’s a steady, faithful man who loves me as his own and continues to support us as a family.
This year will throw up strange emotions. Never have I had a Father’s Day without Dad. Earlier this week I realised it was Father’s Day this Sunday, and after working out what we would do for Phil I started thinking what I should give Dad. Then I remembered. Dad’s not here, he doesn’t need a present, a card, a phone call or a visit. He’s happier than ever, our Heavenly Father has him safely in His hands. Dad loved gifts, they were his love language. He had so much stuff I struggled to think of what other item of clutter I could bless him with! Whatever I bought he was happy though, he just loved to know I’d thought of him. He never let me forget a particular Father’s Day when I was four years old. I had told him, a few days before the day, that we had bought him a surprise pair of trousers! His gift may not have been a surprise when Father’s Day came round, but the humour of the gaff made him giggle for decades to come.
Losing a parent is never easy. The yearly celebrations always throw up memories, there are birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas, Easter, the anniversary of their death. These days punctuate the year preventing me from ever completely letting go, burying the pain (I know that’s not right) and moving on. I can almost pretend most days that he’s still here. I sadly was rarely able to see him, but I knew he was only a phone call away. I often think to call him, when we have family news to share, and then I remember he’s no longer here. The realisation steals my breath, tears well, but I move forwards, grief hurts too much. I bury it before the pain consumes me and sucks me down. If I dwell on it I start to remember Mum too and then thoughts of childhood, painful memories, insecurities all surface. The children will see and ask questions, I don’t have the energy for gut wrenching tears, a shoulder shuddering snot fest of memories is not scheduled in my day and so I hold it and hand it to God.
How do you grieve when you’re busy? I’m not sure there’s a right way. I’ve been working through grief for 30 years and I’m no expert. I do know that God sees my pain and He heals.
This Father’s Day will be a celebration. We’ll spoil Phil and remind him how much he’s loved. I will remember that Dad is now at peace and I will focus on the joy of his last minute salvation. I’ll choose joy, as there is so much to be joyful about.
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Several years ago I was struggling with anxiety and low mood. I knew there was a deep seated reason and yet I couldn’t quite put my finger on the problem. God had already begun to help me with some of my anxiety issues, which I have written about in https://www.lifeinallitsfullness.blog/blog/faith/why-do-i-wear-a-headcovering but there was still a churning in my stomach that needed settling and so I prayed.
God led me to a book called ‘Unexpected Healing’ by a lady called Jennifer Rees Larcombe. I would highly recommend her books to anyone, but this particular one was the one I needed to read at that moment. This beautiful Christian woman had been through deep trauma, she had raised a large family and had found Jesus in the depths of her darkness. I knew there was much I could learn from her.
I love to fill my mind with testimonies from Christians who have walked the hard roads before me. I always see that it is in the darkness they seem to find they are closest to the Lord. It’s these testimonies, which are to me like a continuation of the Acts of the Apostles, they are the modern stories of what God is doing today.
Our God is very much alive and active and wants to be involved in our lives, on the good days and in the depths of our pain. Sometimes we need to find ourselves, like Jeremiah in the bottom of a well, or like Jonah in the belly of the big fish, in order to realise we need God above everything.
So how did the book help me? Well, other than it being a hugely encouraging read, it led me to the healing ministry of https://www.beautyfromashes.co.uk/ . I contacted them and arranged to visit them for the morning.
What a treat it is for a busy mum to take time out to just be with the Lord. Phil dropped me off and then took all the children to a local National Trust property, leaving me wondering why the Lord had called me here and what he planned to show me?
It was a lovely peaceful home and I was welcomed in and offered a drink whilst I waited. This ministry, maybe a little like our home here, is a place of sanctuary for those who need a rest and who want to take time away from the crowds, to just be with God.
I had asked if I could receive some prayer ministry and so a couple of lovely ladies took me into a quiet room and they helped me to dig deeper and uncover the deeper reasons for my anxieties. They encouraged me to picture myself in the bottom of a well and then to ask the Lord how I might get out of it. The well represented my pain and as I sought the Lord I received a picture of the well and when I looked harder, I could see diamonds embedded in the sides of the walls. Those diamonds were God’s light and the footholds and handholds I needed to escape the darkness. As I took hold of the diamonds I heaved myself out from the depths of the well and I found myself released into the light.
The diamonds were also a timely reminder that God’s help is there, we just have to stop panicking long enough to see it. Diamonds are also a reminder that beauty is often created when we are under pressure. God knows exactly how much pressure to apply to refine us, but he never breaks us, the pressure also strengthens us, as we learn to lean on God. I’d like to say that was the end of that and I have felt better every day since. There is some truth in that, but it was also just another step on the journey to finding Christ on a deeper level.
There were many tears that morning as we prayed through painful memories, but the tears were needed to begin my healing. Memories were churned up which I had long since buried (something I have a gift for) and once out in the open I could ask God to heal the pain those memories brought.
I have a great ability to look fine. When asked how am I am, in the same way as many of us do, I say I’m fine, but it’s not always true, is it? Many of us aren’t fine, many of us are in pain, that churning pain of stress, anxiety and depression. Mental health issues are now acceptable to be spoken about in our society, but secular answers are only part of the solutions.
We have a God who wants to enter into our pain with us and help us through it. He’s not a distant God who sits on his throne watching us suffer, he is love and he cares about the pain we are in. I do believe that prayer is the key to unlocking the pain trapped inside many of us. Sometimes that prayer is more easily done with someone else supporting us, whether through counselling or through a friend, but it’s well worth prioritising it, both for our peace and for our relationship with God.
The more I share, speak openly and pray through the challenges I have walked through, the nearer I feel God is. It’s like the barrier between God and me is one I build when I lock away my pain, rather than taking that pain to him.
I would really encourage anyone reading this, who is struggling, to find someone to begin that journey of prayer with. If there is no one, pray anyway, God will hear you and he will show you how to find his diamonds of his love in those dark places.
Sendings prayers and blessings to our readers both near and far.
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Community is something we have learnt to treasure more in a post lockdown world. The Amish community are put on a pedestal by many, an ideal that many people aspire to emulate. In reality none of us really want to live without electricity and a car. I am also aware that the picture postcard version of the Amish is not the whole story, but I do feel there are some lessons we can learn from them.
I’ve recently enjoyed watching a documentary series about some eager Brits who tried their hand at Amish living. I felt quite inspired by their community spirit and the massive achievements made when people pull together as a team. Some people even think we’re Amish, but let me clarify that we aren’t!
We’re simply Christians trying to live in the way God has called us to live. I believe God has a plan for each of his children and it is unique to them. There are Biblical principals though which help us to live a joyful life. One of those is the church community supporting one another and that is something the Amish seem particularly good at.
With that in mind I came up with an idea to develop relationships within the church community whilst helping our vegetable garden to grow. With the help of the children, I have managed to keep on top of growing the seedlings and the greenhouse, but planting them out, digging in the muck and weeding was way beyond my physical resources. So I asked my more physically able friends if they would enjoy an afternoon gardening followed by a barbecue, which I could manage to pull together. Lots of friends came along and we had such a lovely afternoon, full of nourishing conversations and much work was accomplished. The children ran and played, whilst the teenagers and the adults worked together. I was shattered afterwards, but a lot was achieved and it’s definitely something we’ll do more often. When the apple harvest comes we’ll need enthusiastic pickers and juicers and then then they’ll be the muck spreading later in the year. I’m sure I can come up with many working parties to draw us all together 😊.
Since then we have also been blessed to have visitors to stay with us. This week we have 7 friends staying and they are such a huge blessing to us. Again our vegetable garden is thriving due to their hard work and our children are having a fantastic time as they run around with one another, under the watchful eye of a particularly gifted young helper.
God clearly knew I needed the rest and has sent me so many wonderful helpers. I’m really not a very gifted vegetable gardener, and Phil is too busy with the animals, the building project and his full time job to get digging. The children help to a great extent, but the older ones are busy with schoolwork and jobs away from home and so that leaves us somewhat short on muscle power. Without friends we would sink, but then God knew that and made us part of his body, one which I am privileged to see working.
The Amish know the value of teamwork and it’s something our culture has lost. Most people live in relative isolation, exacerbated by the lockdowns of the previous two years. The gift of community has been eclipsed in a world of individualism and fear. It didn’t happen intentionally, but small changes in society have gradually stolen the old ways of working together.
We don’t have any plans to run a commune here, but we can embrace aspects of community living, and in doing so draw people together in a world that is falling apart.
We pray that God may continue to use our home for his glory and we delight in those moments when we see the vision he gave to us, of people working here together, unfold.
Sending blessings to all our readers near and far.
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This photo of Matthew and I was taken when I was 35.
I’ve had 3 babies in my 20s, 5 in my 30s and now I am pregnant with our 10th baby conceived in my mid 40s. Some of my pregnancies have been straightforward and some of them have been eclipsed by SPD, or more simply, pain and mobility issues.
At just 24 I found out I was pregnant with our first baby. It had taken a few months to conceive him and I had genuinely wondered if I would ever be able to conceive. During my teenage years I suffered with eating disorders and my periods were either absent or very irregular until I was 19. I wondered if I had damaged my body and would pay the price with my fertility. Thankfully God doesn’t delight in punishing us, but he does delight in giving us his gifts, ‘Behold, children are a gift of the LORD’. Psalm 127:3.
That first positive test was the start of the best journey of my life, a journey where God has grown me as he has encouraged me to lean into him and to trust him, even when it’s hard, to give me what he knows is best for me.
We never planned on having so many children. I had it all sorted, I would have four children with small gaps and then they could all grow up together and do the same sort of things at the same time. God had other ideas! After Christopher, which was a fairly easy pregnancy, we decided to have another and God blessed us with another boy, I was 27. I was so tired raising these 2 little men and thought I couldn’t do it again, but once I had lifted my head from the fog of sleep deprivation I thought maybe I could do it just once more.
At 29 I was pregnant again and fit and well, but with a few months I had become fairly immobile and I discovered I had a condition known as SPD (symphysis pubis disjunction). I found myself struggling to move more than a few steps without pain and spent much of the pregnancy sitting down reading stories and doing puzzles with 2 busy boys. In order for them to get exercise I would drive to the park and shuffle over to the park bench where I would sit whilst they climbed on the equipment. I asked my midwife for advice and was sent to the physio who gave me a belt to wear around my pelvis. This was of little comfort as my pelvis was so far out of alignment. At 39 weeks our first daughter came into the world with her hand by her head and the cord tight around her neck. I wondered if my misaligned pelvis caused her to settle in to a bad position, but praise God she was born safely.
At 31 we felt brave enough to try for one more baby, maybe we would be blessed with a sister for Madeleine, completing our family with 2 boys and 2 girls. After the pain of the previous pregnancy I had done some research into SPD and found that chiropractic adjustment may well be the key to a more mobile pregnancy.
Just 12 weeks into the next pregnancy I felt the pain in my bones as I pushed the pushchair to school (we were still doing the school run then). The more I pushed, the more it hurt, so I prayed. The Lord inspired a lovely neighbour to walk our boys to school each day, along with her children. I also started seeing a chiropractor and these 2 changes made a huge difference. I also used the belt I had been given in my last pregnancy and this time, with a realigned pelvis, it kept everything fairly stable. I was able to walk around the house pain free but after a couple of weeks I would find the pain would return and another adjustment was needed. The less I did physically, the less pain I would experience and so I learnt to parent from a sitting position whenever possible. I would gather the children into one room with me and sit on the sofa and read, chat, encourage, mediate disputes and play long imaginary games. Thankfully I didn’t go crazy and God’s grace got me through that season.
Elizabeth was born safely and thankfully without complication. My pelvis had been adjusted shortly before birth, allowing her to descend comfortably into an optimal birthing position. I continued to receive occasional adjustment from the chiropractor for the next year, as my pelvis still occasionally hurt, but at the end of that year I was fully recovered and we felt ready to consider opening our hearts to another blessing, but was that really a good idea?
How would my body handle another pregnancy? Were we being foolish? I just felt so convicted that God could be trusted. What was Phil thinking though? Surely he wanted to protect me from any further pain? He wrestled for some time between trusting God and trusting the wisdom of this world. He knew that, ‘the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God’, 1 Corinthians 3:19. God’s given us a mind though, shouldn’t we use it? These questions went through his head more than mine, as I tend to be fairly led by my emotions and Phil by his reasoning. I think if it had taken us months to conceive we may have both chickened out, but after an impetuous night we both found God had made up our minds for us.
After 2 pain filled pregnancies I really wondered what I had in store and I waited for the pain to kick in. And I waited and I waited. Nine months later I hadn’t felt a single twinge of discomfort and our 5th child, Matthew, was safely born without a moment of complication.
God was so kind. Matthew’s pregnancy was the first when we really trusted God and he made it so easy for us.
Stepping out again was easier this time after God had so graciously led us through our first big step of faith. Hannah’s pregnancy was a wake up call though, this was a tough one. From the moment I conceived until I gave birth I felt sick, tired and dizzy. My SPD didn’t rear it’s head again for several months, but then at 33 weeks it came on with gusto. I found myself unable to even walk to the toilet. Crawling up the stairs and using furniture to support myself, I made it round the house until I managed to get to the chiropractor’s. After the first appointment I was much better and fortnightly appointments got me through the final few weeks with minimal pain.
Now I was beginning to wonder why my body reacted so badly to some pregnancies and not to others? Was I prepared to go through that again, to take that risk? Somehow through the blurry mist of post natal anxiety, which hit me badly after Hannah’s birth, I started to see a way forward. Trusting God seemed the only path of sense. I knew that we could stop at any point, God would not condemn us, but that wasn’t the point. I wanted to go deeper, to find God in the suffering and not just avoid all pain. I didn’t delight in suffering but I knew God was using it to shape me and I felt compelled to go on discovering more of his will for my life. I was learning that God’s will is not always for my earthly comfort, but it is always for my good. If I could continue to surrender to his plans for me I might uncover the diamonds of his love, hidden in dark places. It’s often only it the darkness that we seek his light and I was beginning to understand that my weakness was the key to unlocking his strength.
So we stepped out again and God’s gift to us came in the form of Stephen, our bundle of fun and energy. Not for one day in his pregnancy did I feel unwell or in pain. At 39 weeks I danced the ceilidh, I was astounded to feel the power of God’s grace.
Michael soon followed, our 8th baby. His pregnancy was trouble free and without any SPD pain. I really didn’t know why my body was thriving, having struggled through several other pregnancies, but I was grateful for the reprieve.
Then came Katie, our ninth blessing. After an uneventful first and second trimester , the pain of SPD returned again at about 30 weeks. The chiropractor once again set me straight and helped me to stay mobile for the final few weeks. Katie arrived straight into Daddy’s arms in a beautiful speedy and unassisted home birth (the midwife didn’t make it in time).
And so, that brings us onto baby number ten. At 15 weeks I felt the first twinges of pain in my pelvis and then again and 18 weeks. By 20 weeks I decided that I needed to see a chiropractor, if I was going to stay mobile. So far so good, the pain has settled and I’m still walking, although I’m consciously taking care to treat my body with care and long walks are definitely out of the question.
It seems to be the case that up until now, all my ‘SPD pregnancies’ have been the girls. Will this be another girl? We’ll have to wait and see, as I don’t ever find until birth, it will be a surprise for us too.
Looking back it seems that the challenges I’ve had with pregnancy haven’t really been age related. I’ve had one hard pregnancy at 29, and yet an easy one at 39. It appears that my discomforts may be hormone related, as the girl pregnancies seem to have been more difficult that the boys.
At 44 I now have more willing and capable helpers and so my job is less physical than it was even 5 years ago. Now my job seems to involve more emotional support, as I learn to raise teenagers. These teens are happy to help be clean up or cook or play with a sibling, but they also need me to help them sort through their emotions and to be there as a listening ear. Thankfully I can do all that whilst pregnant, although sometimes I get overwhelmed with so many people’s feelings and I have to go and off load onto God’s broad shoulders.
Teenage emotions are still a new challenge for me, and I actively seek out the advice of other wiser people. I do though have lots of experience with SPD in pregnancy and so I have put together a few ideas for those who are suffering, as I just want to offer some hope. No two pregnancies are the same and even when pain bites there are solutions. My top tips are:
Sleep with a thin pillow between your legs.
Get in and out of bed and the car with two legs together.
See a chiropractor and then wear a support belt .
Don’t cross your legs.
Rest as much as possible.
Remember this is just for a season and your baby will soon be here and the pain will be worth it.
SPD is a fairly hidden and misunderstood pregnancy condition. I have sadly found little support from GPs or even midwives, who seem to offer paracetamol and exercise sheets, which are of little help. please don’t suffer in silence, there are solutions. Please drop me a comment if I can be of any help, even if it’s just for prayer.
I am so grateful that I didn’t stop having babies at the end of my 20s, when SPD first reared its ugly head. I’m grateful for God’s grace, the help of friends and the wise counsel of women who have walked this path before me. I also give thanks that this is not a life threatening condition, it is harmless for the baby and it will pass.
I’ll try and keep up to date on the blog and let you know a bit more about the animals and vegetables growing, not just the growing baby!
In the meantime, sending blessings to you all.
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The day was cold and dry, much as any other winter’s day. The children were playing downstairs, but upstairs by emotions were churning as I realised that my cycle was due, but there were no signs of its arrival. I had a pack of pregnancy tests idling quietly in my bedside drawer, I dithered over whether to use one. I was startlingly aware of my increasing age and the likelihood that at 44 any pregnancy might end quickly, should I therefore even bother to find out? Should I wait a week and just see what happened? It would hurt less if I lost a baby before I even knew they were there. I wanted to protect my heart, but I also wanted to know, had God blessed us, even just for an hour or a day?
With trepidation I used the familiar test and then waited, not really believing that I would see even a hint of 2 pink lines. But there they were staring me in the face, filling me with an awareness of what could be ahead. A thousand thoughts raced through my mind, but mostly I was in denial. I struggled to believe the test was even working. So I took 2 more! After 3 positives I hesitantly crept into Phil’s office with my test hidden from view. Waiting quietly for him to finish his call I pondered over the news I had just received. We’ve been here nine times before, in our experience a positive test has led to breathtaking births, tempestuous toddlers and turbulent teens. Would Phil be delighted, or had we both moved on, a new home and a new chapter? I placed the test before his eyes and stood back examining his face for his first response. A grin spread widely across his face, he had no fears, ever the optimist, he beamed with the certain knowledge that God had chosen once again to bless us with an eternal gift.
I spent the next few weeks checking every time I used the bathroom, thinking the worst may well come. I’d swallowed the world’s negativity surrounding older motherhood and failed to remember the God who had given Elizabeth and Sarah babies when they were far older than me. After about 8 weeks I started to accept that one way or another I was going to give birth to this little one, maybe it would be imminent, or maybe I would be blessed beyond measure and carry this tiny gift to term. The fear of miscarriage hovered over my head, fearing haemorrhaging, as a friend had at 7 weeks, and knowing we now lived 40 minutes from the hospital. I had to find peace and that came through trusting the One who had placed this little baby in my womb, knowing exactly where we live and our circumstances. Slowly I started to embrace the joy of our blessing.
By 11 weeks my belly was beginning to swell and one of the children pointed out my increasing girth. This seemed the moment to pull together a family meeting to share the news. The following night we gathered the children around the table and I presented each child with an envelope containing a letter. Each child curiously opened their envelope and pulled out the contents laying them on the table, creating a random word ‘nbobtyean’. I encouraged them to rearrange them to create a word which would solve the mystery. They soon discovered the secret we had been keeping for so many weeks, as they saw they letters before them stating, ‘baby no. 10’. Their reactions were priceless. Each one of them was delighted but it was Christopher’s response which will stay strongest in my memory. My tough farmer boy, my eldest, the one who has heard this news more than any of our other children, didn’t respond with the nonchalance others may show, but with tears of joy. His reaction was so precious, his obvious delight and his joy when he exclaimed that he would be the eldest of ten siblings!
My cautious fears rose to the surface again as I became aware that if anything happened to this tiny child it wouldn’t just be my heart which would break, but my children’s too. Maybe my fears stem from the pain I felt when I lost Mum at 14, I don’t know, but I do have a tendency to wrap my heart in cotton wool to protect it from pain. I also never want to cause my children pain and yet, this wasn’t just my choice, this wasn’t just Phil’s and my will, this was a gift from God for all of us. I determined again to put my trust in God and to not focus on my fears.
Weeks passed and I started to feel tiny flutters. Along with my ever increasing size I began to grow in confidence. Without the reassurance of a scan I was evermore dependent on God to give me the peace that I needed.
We have chosen, with the last few pregnancies, not to have scans until nearer the end. Having met many women who were given doom-filled predictions about their baby during scans, who then went on to have healthy babies, I felt convicted to leave knowledge of this little one in the Lord’s hands, as He is the One who is, ‘knitting them together in the secret place’.
And so we wait…I grow…and I learn to trust. Today I am twenty weeks into this journey, a huge milestone to cross, halfway there. I’m finding joy in the little kicks and sharing those movements with our children. Do I still fear? Not often anymore, I am at peace, that is, until I look at Google! What have I learnt? God has reminded me that he is sovereign over all things, including the development of our baby, my health, the birth, the spacing of our children and the world we will bring them into. I could fear, but I choose faith and faith brings hope and in hope we find peace and joy.
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I recently found this article I wrote for a magazine, several years ago, when we had six children. I found it interesting to reflect back on how life has or hasn’t changed since then. We still follow the same jobs system that I talk about in the article, although since moving house my whiteboard is still yet to go up, so I use a piece of paper instead. Otherwise, I can honestly say that this system has been a life changer. Thanks to the Lord for the hard days which push us to find new solutions.
‘Let me paint a picture of an average moment in my life a year ago. Lunch finishes and children scatter, all five to different parts of the house where each creates a mess a tornado could be proud of. When boredom sets in, they change to another room producing more tornado like behaviour! Before I know it, my post lunch cup of tea has led to 10 messes spread throughout the whole house. All manner of disasters from toddler doodles on the walls, little girls’ dresses all over the bedroom floor, and boys experiments with water leading to a bathroom flood! I’m left with a kitchen to clean up and mess in every other room. Aghh!
I asked God for help and strength but as I still had my human strength I tended to rely on that. The tidy up begins and as quickly as I tidy they made another mess. With five little whirl- winds I could never keep up. It suddenly struck me I was doing it all, all the cleaning, and all the tidying. Then a thought came to me. If I should find myself expecting again I would have to toughen up a bit and get them helping, but how?
It was soon necessary to start figuring out an answer as baby number six was now on the way! Within days of finding out I was pregnant the exhaustion set in. There wasn’t a moment in the day for the next eight months when I didn’t want to crawl into bed, plus enduring the dizziness and nausea. God had me right where he wanted me, for when I am weak He is strong.
I asked God again for help and it came through a friend at church who gave me an old portable whiteboard. This whiteboard and my rocking chair became “household HQ.” After every meal I would write up all the little messes I could see around me. I broke them down into child-size pieces and they could choose which to clean up. We had a system to make it fair. The youngest three got to choose the easiest jobs first and the two eldest would take it in turns to pick a job off the list. I put their initial next to the job and they crossed if off when completed. It included tasks such as: clear table, wipe side, laundry on, empty tumble drier, pick up five toys, empty bottom of the dishwasher etc.
The key elements of this system were small jobs, choice for the children, and consistency. Ironically, my exhaustion was the best thing that happened to me as now my children know how to clean up after themselves. I had no choice but to step back and let them learn.
Now, the scene in our house after lunch is much prettier. The children are keen to choose their jobs and get them done, then it’s free time. If they didn’t want to work, they would get an extra job. This kept them motivated!
I used to wonder how I could keep up with lots of children while pregnant, but God showed me that when I am weak He is strong. To my friend, it was just an unused whiteboard, but God used it to answer my prayer for help.’
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Is it possible, is it necessary? Is it selfish or an opportunity to use the gifts God’s given us? Should we feel guilty taking time away from our families? What’s the best way to rejuvenate? These are the questions that I have asked myself as I have wrestled with my personal needs over the years. I may not have found a perfect balance, but I am content for now.
There is a school of thought, a fairly puritanical one, which would suggest me time is a selfish pursuit and one avoided until our families need us less. The opposing viewpoint is that mum’s need space away from their children, in order to recharge, and deserve some time out. I try to take a balanced view. Despite popular opinion, my views aren’t so conservative that I would banish womankind to a life of slavery to the kitchen sink and their husband’s will. I wholeheartedly believe that we are all created for a purpose and until we fulfil that we will forever feel unsatisfied and in need of ‘me time’.
I am immensely grateful that God has given me the opportunity to be be me, in every sense of the word. I was created to care, to love, to write, to communicate and to glorify God through my life. Fulfilling my created purpose takes away the need for me to escape my life in order to ‘find myself’. I believe one of the greatest gifts we can give to our children is the chance to discover who they are created to be. It is a gift to ourselves and our families when we are content in the knowledge that we are doing what God created us to do.
How does this all work out in reality? How do I find time to write and to devote time to seeking an ever deepening relationship with my Saviour? My priorities are God first, husband second, children third and then other people and activities. By putting these priorities in place I find things largely fall into place with less stress.
On waking I pray before I open my eyes. I give thanks and then bring our day before the Lord. I follow this with Bible reading which the children join in if they come into my room. I nourish my deeper relationship with God on a moment by moment basis. Much as Brother Lawrence, the seventeenth century monk found, as he worked in the kitchens, prayer is more than words, it is an inward turning of our thoughts to God. In every moment we have the choice, to go it alone or to go into that situation with the knowledge that God is with us. When we choose to take this attitude, everything changes, as we walk in His strength, not in our own.
The children’s needs are often obvious, as they are in front of my eyes, but Phil’s needs are easier to ignore, so I go out of my way to meet them, knowing he will rarely ask me for much. We try to catch moments together, a cup of tea in the sunshine, walking the dog up the drive, or cuddling on the sofa in the late evening. We also have ‘date night’ at least once a week. We chat and eat together and normally end up watching TV for an hour. It’s not easy, but if we don’t intentionally make the time, we can find that level of intimacy we once shared becomes less natural and our relationship could easily become one of simply meeting the family’s practical needs.
I meet the children’s needs firstly through quiet observation. Something I learned at Norland, where I trained to care for children, was to first observe, and I guess that has stuck with me. Through observation I work out where their needs lie and then in prayer, I work out how to meet them. By doing this I am able to focus my energy where it is most needed.
How though do I meet my own needs? Those needs which aren’t purely spiritual? It’s easy to forget to eat lunch or drink enough, rest enough, shower or even run to the loo when you are caring for everyone. Is this the example we want our children to learn though? By meeting our own needs we are ‘putting on our oxygen mask first’. It’s a lesson I’m still learning, but I couldn’t have mothered for 20 years without meeting my own physical needs. Practically speaking, I used to shower the night before, when the children were in bed and I would bulk cook meals at the weekend. I now find that I don’t need to do this, as I have older children as well, but this approach did get me through the first 10 years of motherhood. I now find my evenings are often busier, being a taxi service or chatting to the the older children, but during the day there are moments that I grab that were never there when I just had littles.
As the children have grown I have found it easier to find time to write or sew, not often, but enough to ‘scratch the itch’. There are of course seasons, after the new baby comes I suspect writing will be harder to do, but we’ll see. I find the older children play with the little ones and this buys me a few precious moments.
At this moment in time, it’s 3pm on a Sunday afternoon. Madeleine is making samosas and the sampling of these delights is engaging many little hands. Some of the other children are in the garden and so I’ve grabbed the moment to write this blog.
Mums with just littles, can I encourage you. Hold on, it does get easier. You won’t always have little ones crowding round you, expecting you to be their everything. The older children grow and enjoy helping out and thus giving you that much dreamed of 5 minutes peace.
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Phil and I have taken on more than we ever imagined we could. When I was younger and I would think what my life would look like, this was never the picture I had. Sure I liked children and the concept of the good life was appealing, but it was never something that I would attach to my future reality.
Before I met Phil I had thoughts of missionary life. I knew I wanted to serve God and care for children, but I didn’t consider they’d be my own, I couldn’t build myself up for that kind of disappointment, my heart would be too easily crushed if for whatever reason that had not been possible.
The call of missionary service, to share the gospel with others and to serve God wholeheartedly is something we can do as mothers, but it took me a while to understand that. We chose fairly early on in our marriage to trust God with everything, our money, home and family size. As I once heard said, ‘God gives the best to those who leave the choice to him’. For me he chose motherhood and I see it as a calling, not a distraction to any other work. Mothers often choose to leave the calling of motherhood for a vocation in Christian service, believing that to be a higher calling. Is the mission field really of greater service to God though? As Charles Spurgeon famously said,
Some women may well be called to place their children in another’s care in order to serve God, as with the parents of Eric Liddell, but many will never leave the mission field of their homes. How can we serve God with the faith of a missionary and the evangelical mind of a missionary in our homes? Let me first tell you a bit about what inspires me to serve God in this way.
Before I really knew about any famous Christians, I felt the call on my heart to give my all to Christ. As the hymn we sing in church goes, ‘I give you my life, I give you my all,’ I still can’t sing it without considering if there are any other aspects of life I need to hand over to God. It has been those Christian women who stepped out in faith and gave God their all who have inspired my journey to follow Jesus into the adventure of motherhood, without fear, to listen to his still small voice and obey him without hesitation. I have filled my heart and mind with true stories of courage and bravery in the face of adversity and it has built up my spiritual muscles as I have read about the amazing God we serve and how he continues to help his children today.
Elizabeth Elliot is one such woman. She went back into the jungle, with her toddler in tow, to share the gospel with the very people who had killed her husband. The courage that took was something only God could have given and the subsequent success of her loving evangelism was proof of God’s leading. The world would have probably considered her to be crazy, on a death mission, putting both her and her daughter’s life in jeopardy, but she ignored the world’s call and followed after the One whom she trusted above all.
Katie Davis Majors is another young woman of courage. At 19 years of age she travelled from America to Africa, giving up her western lifestyle and singlehandedly adopted and raised 13 daughters. Wow! Her God is our God and he has the strength for her and for each of us.
Gladys Aylward travelled to China, against the odds, and took 100 children to safety during WW2, travelling by foot through the mountains of China. God performed many miracles to facilitate her journeys and the same God can, if we ask him, help us today.
Looking to the Bible I have always been inspired by Moses’ mother. I can only imagine the terror she must have felt as she hid her baby for months before making his basket and letting him go into the care of God alone. What a wonderful God we serve, he gave her baby back to her and paid her to care for him! I love that story.
Helen Roseveare, Narcissa Whitman, the pilgrim mothers, Mary Slessor, Perpetua, Amy Carmichael, Katharina Luther, Corrie Ten Boom and Susanna Wesley are just some of the other women who have laid down everything for Christ and inspired me on my journey with Christ.
What do these women have in common, and what can we learn from them which would help us as we try to wholeheartedly follow God?
Above all, these are of women of faith, they trust God more than they trust the wisdom of this world, ‘For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight’, 1 Corinthians 3:19. They look to God and his Word as they consider what to do next.
How can we apply this to the arena of motherhood? Everyday we are assaulted with challenges, what to say to a discouraged teenager, how to juggle schoolwork, washing and mealtimes. Are these areas God would help us in? Absolutely! The work of a missionary isn’t all about sharing the gospel, it is often about the nitty gritty of every day life and God meets us there and grows us there. Sharing the gospel is of course one of our most important tasks as missionary minded mothers. We share it with our children, other mothers, friends, people who stop by for hospitality, people in shops, postmen, absolutely anyone! I love to share the gospel first and foremost through my behaviour, as love is the way to reach people’s hearts. I aim to start every conversation with an arrow prayer, ‘God please speak through me today and help me to love as Jesus would.’ I am always amazed at the opportunities he puts on my doorstep. One of my favourite memories was regular visits from 2 Jehovah’s Witnesses who would challenge us all to dig into Scripture to back up our viewpoint. The children would stand on the doorstep with Bibles in hand, ready to find the verses to prove Jesus was God made flesh. It grew their faith and sowed seeds into the minds of the ladies who spoke with us.
The children’s faith has grown as we have trusted God with our money. There have been times when, instead of buying a new pair of shoes for each child, we have prayed for God’s provision. We once prayed for a pair of size 5 trainers and 45 minutes later a friend turned up on our doorstep with 2 pairs of size 5 trainers (we hadn’t told her). It’s that kind of answer to prayer which helps us to show our children our God who is alive and active and thus grow their faith. God was so kind to say yes to that prayer, he often makes us wait, but we have never forgotten that moment.
As we followed God to our new home in Shropshire we could never have imagined what he had in store, but day by day he is revealing to us that our missionary journey is not over. We see more and more that we are called to share our home with others and to continue to trust in our God who has never let us down. I’d love to hear who inspires you?
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Please excuse my slowness to produce a blog over the last few weeks, I keep meaning to write, but life, as it does, has got in the way. Anyway, I thought I’d just best get on with it; my tendency towards perfectionism means I sometimes would rather write nothing instead of giving you a window into our imperfect everyday lives, which is actually the point of this blog.
We’ve been keeping busy with more building work. The second half of the house is making good progress. The first fix bathrooms and electrics are complete and yesterday the plasterers began their work. The transformation in the hallway has been wonderful, I hadn’t realised how sick I had become of looking at dull, grey breeze blocks. The pictures below show the process, with the last one revealing the beautiful beam in the eaves which will have hidden uplighting to enhance it. Once the plasterers are done we’ll move onto second fix electric, bathroom fittings, painting, flooring and finally furnishing the rooms. We’re hoping to be done within 3 months (including drying time for the plaster).
It’s been ok living in a building site, because we now have a kitchen, lounge and 4 upstairs bedrooms. The only real challenge has been toilets. We have only one finished bathroom and then a downstairs toilet with no electricity in it. If you want to use that loo in the evening then you have to take a torch! It also has a rather open plan feel, as a wall has been knocked down and round the corner there is no wall, meaning you could be disturbed by little visitors 😉.
With the limitations of toilets, I have been reluctant to embark on my next challenge, toilet training Katie, but I finally built up the courage last Monday. I’d bought her a tiny toilet, as she would probably not make it past the builders to the other toilets, and I thought it might make her feel grown up.
Anyway, whatever I did worked and she’s been dry from day one. She’ll turn 3 at the end of this month and I suspect she has been ready for a little while, but I hadn’t been feeling brave enough to tackle the potential mess. What a relief it’s been, I feel like I’ve a dodged a major bullet, having had mixed success in how long it’s taken me to toilet train the other children. All of the children have been dry before 3, but it’s certainly never been as easy as it’s been with Katie. Clearly God knows my limits!
The season of Lent is upon us. Lent is often looked upon as a Catholic practice, but having been in Anglican churches for most of our lives, we have always practiced this season of fasting, as we prepare for Easter. We find it a really helpful time to reflect on Jesus’ time of fasting in the wilderness and we spend more time drawing closer to God and less time focusing on worldly pleasures or at least that’s the goal. Do you ever give things up things for Lent?
We always try and give up something for Lent and generally it’s sugar. The guidelines are, no sugary puddings, biscuits, sweets or chocolate in the house, but if you are given them at a party or church for example, you can eat them, as we don’t want to be rude or make the children feel resentful. We do take Sundays off, as God knows we are but flesh. The children generally get creative and bake lots of honey filled, or date based puddings, so the deprivation feels fairly minimal, but it does increase their creativity. Here’s one of Stephen’s honey and blueberry muffins.
I gave up almost all sugar and 7 years ago and so I don’t partake in the sugar fast, but I did feel led to give up something. I don’t use a mobile phone or computer, but I do use an IPad and find myself distracted during the day by news articles or messages, so I decided that I would give that up during the daytime. It’s been such a blessing. For the last 2 days my brain has been more focused (thus the reason I can write again) and I’ve been more present in my everyday activities. It’s so easy to turn technology from our servant into our master and giving it up, or setting boundaries is a great way to put it back in its right place. I’ve given it up several times over the years for Lent and I’ve always been blessed by the extra time it’s given me, to pray and simply be fully present in the moment. Why do I ever return to it? I guess it’s human nature, but I pray this time I will learn from my experience. Life here is so full on that I really have no extra time or mental energy to take on the worries of the world, through the media, whilst caring for my children. There’s a time and place for looking at all that and I’ve put it back where it belongs, in my evening time.
I’m putting in a picture of these seeds for accountability, as I will now have to plant them! Phil bought them a week ago and ever since then they have sat on my window ledge making me feel guiltiest as the days go on that I am missing my window for sowing. I’ll aim to post some pictures in another blog when the seedlings thriving. Nothing like a bit of pressure to make me move.
I have many ideas for other blog posts. I was thinking about a few ‘how did we do that?’ posts, about the early days with many little children. Posts on sleeping, weaning, toilet training and behaviour management were some of the ideas I had. I know many of you won’t have young children and so it may not be of interest, but I thought you could pass it on or you may just be curious about how life looks with 6 children 10 and under. I also thought it may well be of use to my children when they are new parents and I wanted to write it down before I forget what I did. Please let me know if there is anything you would like to see on the blog.
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Our house is ever changing. Walls being knocked down and new ones being built. Frankly it looks a mess. We’ve peeled wallpaper, ripped down ceilings, taken up floorboards and taken the house back to its bare bones. We have a vision for the beautiful home it will be, but right now it’s hard to see that. Part of the house is seemingly finished, but still it is a work in progress. There are always pictures to go up, curtains to hang and finishing touches to add. With 11 people living here we also make a mess and create dust, it all requires constant work.
All this stripping back got me thinking. It’s rather like what God does in our lives. He allows us to go through tough times, times when it feels as if we are so raw, when the pain is so deep it feels like you can barely catch your breath. How can our loving Father allow us to go through that?
I know He isn’t distant from our pain, for His Word explains how He feels it too. I was meandering through Acts recently when I came across fresh ‘manna’ for the day. Saul had famously met with Jesus on the road to Damascus and Jesus called out, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ I wondered why he said that when Saul was killing Christians, not Christ? I realised that when something is causing pain to one of God’s children, they are causing pain to the body of Christ and thus to Him. Upon reading this verse I was taken aback as I contemplated the level of pain that Christ must feel each day as He carries our burdens. Pain is no longer ours to bear alone. Christ really does carry it for us.
How in reality can we give our pain to God? It is a question I have been asking of late. Phil has a gift, he lives in the moment and let’s go of the past, or just forgets it. I don’t find it so easy. I have the memory of an elephant and I never have an empty mind, generally I am like a computer with too many tabs open. The tabs have recently been overwhelming me, as many of them were too painful to open. I asked God to show me how to let go and gradually I’m learning. I am choosing to follow the advice given in Philippians 4:8, ‘Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things’. I realised that much of my time was being spent focusing on the wrong things. I was focusing on my sadness and the grief and in doing so was finding myself anxious and low. If I am to truly to heal, I need to follow God’s advice and be careful what I think of.
I am so much happier this week having spent my days listening to gentle music, reading the Bible to myself and the children, knitting, sewing and writing. In some ways it just feels like the self care the world would administer, but God thought of it first. God knows our human frailties and has an answer for each of them. The answer to leaving our troubles in God’s hands? Turn away from thinking about them constantly and fill our minds with pure and lovely things and watch Him melt away the pain, as He takes it from us.
One day I won’t feel so raw and I will have strength to think about Dad’s death, but for today I need a break and God, in His goodness, has shown me how to find one.
I wasn’t sure what I would write tonight, only that writing was what I must do. I hope that someone somewhere needed to hear these words. If I can help in any way, please feel free to drop me a message.
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