So I haven’t written a blog post for weeks, there’s a good reason for this. Timothy doesn’t sleep in the evenings and the other children don’t leave me alone all. day. long. I love looking after them all, but it can get quite intense when you don’t have a minute to yourself.
Anyway I’ve managed to carve out a few minutes and so I thought I’d squeeze in a quick update.
Last week Phil, Timothy and I went down to London to support Jonathan who, along with his team mates, had got through to the finals of a Dragon’s Den style competition. The finals took place at Mansion House in the City of London (The Lord Mayor’s House). We were invited to support him and so Super Nana and Super Papa looked after the other children whilst Phil and I were away.
I was unsure whether Timothy would be allowed to join us and so I emailed ahead, asking whether I could bring him. They welcomed him with open arms and he was a bit of a star. He had a mention in the speeches, and the Lady Mayoress came up specifically to meet him. He was a great conversation starter, and Phil and I got quite adept at holding a baby, a glass of wine whilst feeding each other canapés!
One lady commented that I was being very brave and inclusive bringing my breastfed baby. I think I ticked their inclusivity box for the night 😁. People were just so delighted to see a baby and it made me think that perhaps we hide babies away?
A breastfeeding baby, carried in a sling can be so easy to take out, depending on their personality. Timothy is just the right age to travel with, as he’s old enough to not be exhausting, but young enough to not be crawling. Anyway, it was a wonderful night away and Phil and I had chance to talk and eat out without chatter from the older children. Four hours each way in the car, with a sleeping baby, was a huge luxury in terms of quiet time together.
This week we’ve got a couple of birthdays coming up and so I’m busy planning parties and presents. We make a fuss of the children on their birthdays, making them each feel really special. They choose all their meals and they can choose how they want to celebrate. We have a birthday budget for a party and a present, and then they decide what they want to do. They often choose to take a couple of friends to a trampoline park or the younger ones might go to soft play. They each have a meal in the evening with just Phil and I, which is always very special.
Elizabeth has recently started at school, in year 9, as she would like to take GCSEs at school, as a couple of her older siblings have done. She is thankfully settling in very well. It’s always a bit nerve racking sending them into school, having home educated them, as we want to ensure we have prepared them sufficiently to slot into their year group. It appears that Phil and I have so far passed muster!
In all seriousness though I think it’s a shame that our education system rates success by academic grades, as people are so much richer than that. Human beings have such a variety of skills and many of these can’t be graded, but all are valuable. We hope that, with home education, we are giving each of our children the foundations of faith and the opportunities to discover their gifts. We then send them out when they need experts to further their learning in specific areas.
Sorry this update is somewhat lacking in depth, but hopefully I will be able to find more time to blog as Timothy grows and settles in the evenings. In the meantime my ramblings will at least remind you all we are still here and that I haven’t forgotten to post updates.
What’s in a year? In January I met 2022 for the first time. 2022 seemed somewhat uncertain of his character. He’d been delivered to us courtesy of his mother, 2021, and she wasn’t a very cheery character. She came with lockdowns and fear, would her son fair any better? 2022 told us he would bring us hope and a new start. He promised healing from a virus, healing for families torn apart and healing for our nation. Sadly 2022 wasn’t entirely honest and seems to have been somewhat deluding himself.
2022 has for many people, been an extremely hard year. It’s been filled with media-fuelled fears, financial difficulties and a time of enormous change for our nation.
All I can say is I’m grateful to know the One who holds each year. He’s the One who offers each year to us as a gift, an unwrapped present, full of hope. Some years bring instant gratification gifts, financial rewards, family joys or fulfilled achievements, but other years the gifts are harder to enjoy, their joy hidden beneath layers of pain.
Maybe you can relate? Maybe your year has been filled with pain? How can we find the gift buried beneath layers of disappointment, worry and stress? If we know the Giver of each day only gives good gifts to His children then how can we find the gifts that this past year has brought? I think the secret lies in the Giver.
Jesus loves us so much that He sometimes says no, He sometimes has a bigger miracle to do in us. When our circumstances aren’t changing despite our petitions, we can be sure that God has heard us and He is at work in the situation, changing us. Every pain and trouble can do one of two things, drive us to God, or to sin, to the sins of self-pity, anger and worry. The first response will give us peace in the storm and the second will steal it away.
I’ve had plenty of opportunities this year to choose my responses. Everyday trials have come my way and each time I was met with a choice. I’ve had 9 uncomfortable months of pregnancy and a birth which was challenging, teenagers with a barrage of emotions unloaded on me daily, endless housework and sibling squabbles. Today I have just felt rather lonely, missing friends whose children are unwell.
Each time I’ve met with those same two choices, to turn to God or to turn to sin. It’s a constant battle with Self. Self wants us to feel sorry for ourselves, to give way to fear or to anger. It’s an act of will, to turn our backs on Self and to turn to the One who has the answers. It’s an action we don’t face alone, the Holy Spirit is our Helper. All we have to do is turn and He’ll do the rest.
I’ve often made the wrong choice, chosen fear, self pity or resentment. I know what I should be doing, but in the words of Paul, ‘I do not practice what I want to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate [and yielding to my human nature, my worldliness—my sinful capacity]. Romans 7:15. It’s a good job God never gives up on us, He continually calls us to Himself. He uses our circumstances to draw us to Him.
We’ll be meeting 2023 soon, wrapped as an unknown gift, awaiting us. Will we find the gift enclosed? God asks us to ‘seek the LORD your God…you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.’ Deuteronomy 4:29.
I pray for us all that this Christmas we will find the ultimate gift. Amid the chaos and the crazy, may we take time to understand why we celebrate. Whatever Christmas and the new year holds for you, I pray you will turn to Jesus, the One who has all the answers.
It seems that this Autumn has been the season of new arrivals here. Timothy’s birth started the ball rolling and just a couple of weeks later we had another birth here on our little farm.
Our cows, Mary and Martha, were visited earlier this year by a friendly bull called Ginger. Ginger was with us for 6 months, enough time we hoped, for our cows to become pregnant. Months passed and we had the cows checked by a vet, she said that she thought Martha was pregnant and due in May.
May came and went, June, July still no calf , August, still no calf. We assumed the vet was mistaken, as cows are pregnant for 9 months, not nearly a year! Then one day a vet came to do the regular TB tests and we asked her to check to see if Martha was pregnant. After a less than dignified procedure, somewhat reminiscent of ‘All Creature Great and Small’ she discovered two legs, confirmation that Martha was indeed in calf. We were told that potentially the calf was mummified, as it may have been in there too long, something which happens sometimes, it doesn’t harm the cow but eventually the cow is induced to bring the dead calf out. We would just have to wait and see.
The story culminated early one cool October morning when my friend came to visit. She nonchalantly asked when our calf had been born? The next half an hour was filled with a flurry of excited squeals, as child after child donned a coat and wellies over their pyjamas and charged out to field, to meet the new arrival.
There before us stood, what to us was, the most miraculous sight. We had genuinely given up on any hopes of calves and had accepted that our sweet ginger bull had just not quite been up to the job. Well Ginger, we are sorry, we were wrong, it seems he simply needed time to get to know Martha first, what a gentlemanly bull.
We didn’t think long about a name for this little bull. With a mum called Martha, a grandma called Mary, Lazarus seemed the perfect name, especially as the vet had thought he may be dead.
The story of our new arrivals wasn’t quite complete though. A few weeks later we woke up to another surprise. This time it was Mary’s turn. We had no idea she was even pregnant! Again, without batting an eyelid , she gave birth to a beautiful pale brown calf. This one’s called Surprise.
Seeing another mother and baby pair made me think back to Timothy’s recent birth. Honestly, this calf had just arrived and mum was up on her feet munching the grass and looking entirely unperturbed by the whole event. I on the other hand, couldn’t really move for several hours after birth and I felt wobbly walking for days. What was it that made my birth so hard and Martha’s so easy? Many might suggest that my anatomy is a compromise because I stand on 2 legs and therefore my pelvis is shaped accordingly. I believe that what I witnessed was proof of The Fall. Eve’s curse in the Garden of Eden, was that she would have pain in childbearing. We don’t see animals having period cramps or struggling with agonising labours, but we do see women suffer.
Is that what God wants, women to suffer? My experience of God is not of a vengeful man sitting on His throne smiting womankind. My experience is a God of compassion who meets us in our suffering. He’s a God who, through the sufferings of Christ, understands our pain. He’s the God who sent His Son to suffer and die in our place to save us from eternal suffering.
I have never felt closer to God than I did at the moments of greatest pain during Timothy’s birth. It was then that I knew I couldn’t go on without His help. Jesus is the answer to all suffering. Jesus will meet you in your suffering, it’s there that He shines brightest, it’s there that He’ll carry you, you just have to ask.
I didn’t expect a post about cows to lead me down the route of salvation, but there you go, Jesus is intertwined with every aspect of our lives. If we stop and look we can see his hand everywhere, we just need to pause long enough to see it.
I often feel like a swan, appearing to have it together on the surface but underneath madly paddling just to stay afloat.
Circumstances often leave my head spinning. Children playing noisily, a baby crying, a teenage meltdown, the phone rings, the washing pile stares menacingly at me, a meal needs cooking and schoolwork needs doing. Where do I start, how can I find a way forward when everything seems urgent?
My go to phrase is do, ditch or delegate. The challenge is thinking of which to do when your head is spinning, tiredness dulls your mind and hormones rock your emotions.
Having a new baby has certainly given me more opportunity to grow in patience and it’s forcing me to up my game. I know I’m struggling because I crave treats more, chocolate, wine, takeaways, meals out, baths, any escape route from the excess weight of work. All of this is normal, but it’s still hard. Hard isn’t bad though, it’s just hard and success normally involves hard work.
What’s the success I’m aiming for? I’m certainly not looking for a perfectly clean and tidy house, I’d just like to be able to find stuff when we need it. I don’t need perfectly turned out children, just clothes which fit them, are appropriate for the weather and don’t have holes in them. I’m not expecting to churn out a family full of Einsteins, but I would like them all to achieve their potential. I don’t expect harmonious relationships all day long, but I do encourage them to be kind even when they are tired, offended, hungry or hormonal (that point is needing lots of work at the moment!). Mostly I want to be able to stand before the throne of Grace and hear Him tell me I was a good and faithful servant, that I pointed my children to Jesus through my words and actions.
Success is easier to quantify in a workplace setting, but success in family life doesn’t come with pay rises, bonuses or even a pat on the back. We can never resign and we’ll never really get to the end of the ‘project’. We have to find little wins and relish the good moments, strengthening ourselves for the challenges ahead by filling our ‘happy banks’.
For me the way through the overwhelm is living in the moment and giving myself grace. I would love to do everything better, but I’m only human and accepting ‘good enough’ is one way I find peace.
I used to have everything in order, way back when we only had a couple of children. Routines were adhered to with military precision, meals were carefully balanced, activities calculated to ensure maximum learning potential and clothes carefully laundered but I had no ability to be flexible. I knew what I wanted to do for the next 5 to 10 years. I thought if I kept control, life would be good.
Secretly I admired mums who were more relaxed, but I just couldn’t let go. I thought I would never manage more children, broken routines, nutritionally imperfect meals or if I did I would be failing my children. Am I failing them when they eat a biscuit instead of a rice cake, or eat chips 3 times in a week? Am I failing them when we don’t get all our schoolwork done or I shout at them because I’m tired and overwhelmed? Maybe some people would say I am, maybe some people would say I should have stopped at 2 and done my job better, but I think I see it differently now.
Our children are learning about compromise, sharing, waiting, patience, tolerance and caring for others, these are the skills I want them to go into adulthood with. Of course I want them to eat well, learn well and stay clean and tidy, but I’ve learnt to let go of perfection and with that I have found a way out when life gets overwhelming.
Sometimes I wish I could press pause, sit down and have a cuppa, but when that doesn’t happen I try and make it happen. If I need to rest I ask the One who created rest to find me a moment. I use that moment to pray, eat chocolate, drink tea and go the loo alone! God sees my tears, knows my fears and struggles and only pushes me as far as I need to be pushed, in order to fall into His arms.
I’ve learnt to let go of the future, my plans are irrelevant, God’s plans are much better than mine. I would have chosen a safe, predictable life which didn’t push me out of my comfort zone, but I would have missed out on so much. Stepping out in faith is scary and it often leaves us overwhelmed, but that’s when we need to turn to God to bring us through that which He got us into. He’s always been faithful to meet my needs (not my wants) and he’ll meet yours to, if you ask.
Sending blessings to you all and praying you finding the joy of the Lord today.
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Where did I leave you? I think I was doing some nervous overthinking in the middle of the night.
As I lay there after writing the blog I felt a sense of peace return. I knew in my heart that, for whatever reason, God wanted me to go into hospital and I could trust that he would take care of everything, all I had to do was surrender to his will. By this stage I was so uncomfortable that a guaranteed end to pregnancy was highly appealing!
I got up after just a couple of hours sleep (not ideal for labour day) and set about preparing for the big day. I figured if I kept moving I might move things along a bit further, enabling them to break my waters to trigger active labour.
We got some bolognese in the slow cooker, changed some sheets ready for Super Nana and Super Papa to stay and I packed my bag. As we had prepared for a homebirth my packing skills were somewhat inadequate, as I discovered later when I realised I had not packed a nightshirt and thus spent my labour semi clad! On returning home I found said nightshirt on the banister ready to pack, a little late by then 🤪.
Phil and I had a phone call with the fantastic consultant midwife who promised us a private room throughout and the guarantee that Phil would not have to leave my side. We arranged to arrive by 11.30 and in reasonable calmness (I was still having irregular contractions) we were on our way.
Phil and I rarely get any time alone during the day and the thought of lunch out first wistfully crossed my mind, but another contraction soon but us back on course!
By the grace of God I was actually feeling quite excited, despite normally being very nervous in any medical establishment. We were shown to our room, shown the facilities and were offered tea, biscuits and sandwiches. Was I mistaken, was I actually a princess who was having her baby in a posh private facility or was this just the only way Phil and I could get a night away just the two of us?!
The midwives were fantastic and throughout, offered us options without pressure, explained everything and honoured our choices at every point. God was really taking care of us.
It was decided that the doctor would come in around 3pm to see if they could break my forewaters. Around 2pm I decided to walk around and try and get things moving. By 2.30 I was needing gas and air and from that point on until birth I barely came up for air. The pain was intense and the pressure (down below) was enormous. When the doctor came in I apparently wouldn’t let her near me. It was around this time that Phil heard me saying that Jesus was here and he was beautiful. Poor Phil didn’t know whether to be delighted at my evangelism efforts, overjoyed that I was having an experience with the Lord or scared that I was heading in the wrong direction. When I reflect on that moment it felt as though I was completely broken and God was pouring himself into me. The pain was a gift and an opportunity to share a little in the sufferings of Christ.
It was 5.15pm when Phil spotted a moment of calm and suggested now might be the moment to break those waters. The midwife confirmed I was still only 2cm! I had been at 2cm for 6 days and after all that pain had seemingly made no progress. Phil was so confused and powerless, I feel really bad that he had to watch me suffer. Anyway they managed to break my waters, ooh it felt so good! The pressure was hugely relieved and I just kept telling the midwife how much I loved her😂.
The contractions ramped up again and with my dignity now gone, as the waters had gone all over my dress, I continued on. I didn’t know at what point Phil had undressed me until the next day, as I was not really engaging with the world.
Things carried on with no obvious change. Around 7pm Phil was concerned that things weren’t obviously changing and wanted them to start me on a hormone drip to help me dilate, but they said that would have to wait until 9.15, as they like to give it 4 hours for the breaking of waters to take effect. So once again he just had to watch and wait. I don’t know who it was worse for, Phil or me?
It was about 7.50 pm when things changed. I started shaking uncontrollably and saying that I couldn’t cope and I needed more pain relief. I was hoping this was transition, but none of us really knew as I hadn’t been examined since I was 2cm and I was in too much pain to even listen to a midwife now. Apparently the midwives had been writing notes to Phil in order to give me the silence I needed. At one point the consultant midwife had come in and asked Phil to encourage me to breathe some fresh air. He said she should try as he didn’t fancy trying! In the end he got me to breathe briefly without the gas and air!
With me writhing on the bed and feeling entirely desperate for relief, my IPad rang with a Skype call. Phil knew that my only Skype contact was my dear prayer partner Jennifer. Jennifer and I have been praying together every Wednesday night for 7 years. We pray for our children, our husbands and over all our motherly needs, these prayers have carried us both through our mothering journeys. We had missed our normal Wednesday slot because she had been on holiday. We had arranged this Friday slot about 3 weeks before, as she wanted to pray with me before the baby was born. Phil dived for the Ipad and gave Jennifer a quick update telling her that I really needed her now! Hers was the only voice I had listened to for hours. I was so used to hearing her voice praying for me that it was the most natural thing. I told her I couldn’t do it anymore and she told me I could. I heard her asking Jesus to help me and that was all I needed to hear, God did the rest. It was just a few minutes later that after 6 days and nearly 6 hours Phil and the midwife finally saw our baby’s head, 4 minutes later he was born. Phil tells me that he can never repay Jennifer for her prayers and will be forever grateful to God for intervening in a miraculous way.
Our little one’s head was born into Daddy’s hands, the midwife uncoiled the cord, which was wrapped twice around the neck and baby was delivered into Phil’s waiting arms. Phil laid our little one onto my tummy and asked me whether we had a boy or a girl. I couldn’t open my eyes due to being so overwhelmed, but I felt between the legs and discovered God had blessed us with a son! We immediately welcomed Timothy Noah and put him to the breast.
I hoped that would be the end of the story but with the placenta still to come we weren’t done yet. I continued to have painful contractions but managed to deliver the placenta naturally. Blood was still trickling though and so I asked for Syntometrin to try and stop the bleeding. It still wouldn’t stop and so the midwife called a doctor who proceeded to scoop blood clots out of my womb, it was a huge relief when they were all gone and finally it was all over.
I was still shaking. I needed to sit up to have a drink, upon doing so I repeatedly vomited everywhere. I sat back, unable to do anymore. Timothy fed and I rested. My blood pressure was low and I felt rough. It was about 4 hours later that I suddenly announced to Phil that I felt much better, I’d clearly turned a corner. By 4 am I was starving and I ate a giant pile of cheese sandwiches and several Bourbon biscuits, oh my did that all taste wonderful!
Once my blood pressure had picked up and Timothy had completed a night of observations we were ready to head home. After being brought breakfast in bed and after a shower I felt ready to face the cacophony of noise that is the Goldby household. We arrived home to smiles, hugs and a huge amount of enthusiasm from an army of siblings who were ready to protect and love their little brother.
The blessings go on as we enjoy our babymoon, albeit disturbed by constant requests for hugs with their new baby brother.
We always prayed that if God wanted me in hospital for this birth then he would have to make it clear. He certainly did that and I was so grateful to be cared for so lovingly and to be given the space to labour without the pressure from little voices asking if I was done yet! Our home is full of fun but perhaps not conducive to a labouring woman’s need for silence and time. God went to extraordinary lengths to give Phil and I a night away 😊 and an opportunity to have a few short hours to marvel at our new gift.
Sending blessings to you all, Vicki
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I wrote this in the early hours of Friday morning. Since then we have welcomed our new blessing into our home. I want to tell the story as it happened, so I have chosen to put this post up first. I’ll try and get the rest of the story written up as soon as I have the brain space….
It’s the middle of the night, that time when thoughts and worries can run away with us. What’s keeping me up tonight?
For the past six days my body has been trying to go into labour. I’ve been having frequent, fairly painful contractions, but no real shift towards established labour. Yesterday it was confirmed that my hindwaters had gone, but still no progress. Today we are waiting. If I don’t go into active labour by this afternoon, I will be encouraged to go into hospital to be induced.
I’ve never been induced before, so this would be a step into the unknown. It feels as though God is stretching my faith, my experience and my trust in him.
I have a huge heart for mothers whose births don’t go as planned and struggle with trauma related to that. I would love, in the future, to support these mums, perhaps as a birth doula? Maybe I will be better equipped to serve them if I walked a day in their shoes?
It’s what God does best, he takes the problems we have and turns them for good. ‘And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.’ Romans 8:28.
When writing this blog post a story came to mind, I don’t know if I’ve shared it before, but it soothed my heart and I trust it will speak to others too.
Many years ago Phil climbed Kilimanjaro. The night of his final ascent began. With head torches lighting the path ahead of them they scrambled towards the summit, on and on, step by precarious step, with no knowledge of what was to their left or to their right. With precision timing, that only their experienced sherpa could have planned, they reached the top as dawn broke. The view was indeed breathtaking, but there was one part of Phil’s retelling that really stuck with me. As he looked behind him at the path he had navigated in the dark he could see ice and dangerous precipices on either side. If he had known of these dangers he may have been afraid, maybe turned back or frozen in fear? Thankfully all he had was the light on the path just ahead of him, enough to take just one more step and trust that his sherpa knew the best path to take.
It’s all any of us really need, just enough light to take one more step. I’m so grateful to God that only he sees the bigger picture, as I’m sure it would terrify me. When we follow God, even in the darkness, we can be sure that we will not stumble, for his light will guide us, for he is the ultimate sherpa.
Today we are looking to him for guidance. We don’t know what’s best, but God does and we trust that he will go before us and show us the best path to take.
I pray that today God will guide us and bring us peace as we step out and trust in him. I pray that God will be glorified through this birth and that we will have a good outcome. Part 2 to follow….
Waiting’s hard, whether it be waiting for a bus, a letter, important news or in my case waiting for a newborn to arrive.
Can we wait well? Can we learn and grow in the waiting room of life? In the Bible we read of Anna and Simeon. Anna was a very old lady waiting at the temple for the Saviour to arrive. She was a great example of waiting well. She served at the temple and wasted no time, serving her Master each day, even before she saw his newborn face.
Our beloved Queen waited well. She has now gone to be with her Saviour, but whilst she waited for that day to arrive she served, right to the end. There we find a lesson for us all.
Whilst Jesus waited for the cross, he prayed and served. Here I learn my greatest lesson. If I am to wait well for this tiny new arrival, I must learn to pray and to serve. I may be physically exhausted and that can lead me to impatience, but I know the sweetness in waiting isn’t found in impatience, it’s found in hope and anticipation.
Several babies ago I was eagerly and impatiently awaiting the arrival of one of our children, when the Lord gave me a word to hold onto. A song ran through my head all day, ‘All Creation’s Waiting on Tiptoe just to See’. I googled it in the hope of understanding whether God might be saying something to me. I discovered the song was based on Scripture, “For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.” Romans 8:19.
I had a picture in my mind of all the angels lined up as supporters in a marathon, waiting for my little one’s arrival. I could feel their excitement, their certainty that the arrival was imminent and worth every moment of waiting. As I read on it spoke of creation groaning as in the pains of childbirth. Wow! I felt goosebumps rising up my arm as I acknowledged the fact that the song had indeed come from God and he was encouraging me to wait well.
Oh the sweetness that came in that moment as I too shared in the angels’ excitement. Just around the corner a new life was approaching, a new person with plans laid down from their Father before the creation of the earth.
Today I hold onto those verses. Today the angels are again waiting with me as we excitedly, “hope for what we do not yet have,”Romans 8:25.
Waiting no longer has the same tedious sense of longing, but is filled with a certainty, an excitement, a knowledge that God has a good gift for me and it will come at exactly the right moment.
I’m 37 weeks pregnant now and beginning to have irregular, but increasing contractions. I anticipate this could go on for a few weeks, as it has done before, but with each contraction my body and mind are preparing for the journey ahead.
Are you waiting for something today? I pray God will help you to wait well, to wait prayerfully and that he may encourage you whilst you wait for his perfect timing to unfold.
Sending blessings to you all, both near and far.
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I woke up a couple of Sundays ago to the ear piercing screams of a fully blown tantrum outside my bedroom door. I used to wake to an alarm clock, never pleasant, but necessary. Generally my mornings are slow and the children relatively content, but this particular Sunday morning was not to be so. A small Goldby was complaining loudly about our lack of yoghurt. I kid you not, but natural yoghurt was the cause of this cacophony. Our small child was devastated that their choice of breakfast was compromised by our lack of shopping. There were multiple other suggestions made, in an attempt to pacify the wailing, but all in vain, it seemed that yoghurt was the only solution. Whilst this particular scene was playing out another smallish Goldby entered stage left and with equally loud siren-like wails and declared that they had been bitten by a slightly older sibling. Seriously, this was not a good, or common start to the day. Comfort was provided and the perpetrator of the bite questioned over their motives for this unusual behaviour. I was just beginning to recover from this early morning assault on my senses when crisis number three was presented to me. One of our older children was being obstreperous and was refusing to consume any of our delightful breakfast offerings. At this point I made it loud and clear to anyone listening that I was to be left alone as my morning had not got off to a good start.
I withdrew under the bed clothes, hoping that when I came out all would be well and the last 15 minutes had just been an early morning bad dream. Sadly it soon became evident from the noises downstairs that all was not well and moods had not improved. Closing my weary eyes I sent up an arrow prayer. I asked God how I was to keep going for another 20 years. 20 years ago I started my mothering journey and it has been often wearying, sometimes worrying but unquestionably wonderful. I’m now older, a little wiser, but I am going back in some ways to the beginning. Our new little blessing is due in less than 2 months and so I must start again. Where will I find the energy, the inner resources and the strength to keep on? God whispered in his still small voice, ‘Vicki, this is a marathon, not a sprint’. I knew it was Him who had put that thought in my mind and so I mulled it over, Googling how to prepare for a marathon.
Soon enough the noises from downstairs grew louder and I knew bed could no longer hide me. I dressed myself and the little ones, brushed multiple sets of teeth and we prepared to drive to church. At this point disaster number four showed up, the bus had a flat tyre. Phil thought he could pump it up, as he had done before, but it became clear the hole was just too big. So we decided to go to church in two runs, using the little car.
Phil left Jonathan with some little ones at church and returned for the rest of us. In the car on the way down (now really late) I spoke to Phil about my morning and the word from God about motherhood being a marathon. I said that I just needed to hear something at church about running a race. We squeezed in at the back of church, in the hope of not disturbing the service. We were just in time for the sermon to begin. On the screen came up the topic of today’s sermon, ‘Running the Race’! I had no idea this was the planned talk, but clearly God knew what I needed to to hear. Goosebumps ran up my spine and tears welled in my eyes as I realised that I really had heard from God and he really had seen my rubbish morning and he really did care about my struggles. Oh what a wonderful God we serve!
The sermon was much better than my Google search and told me exactly how to run this marathon. I was to rely on Jesus to be my refreshments provider, my paramedic, my trainer, the one who would show me the way, He would provide everything I would need, I simply have to keep my eyes on Him.
It sounds so simple and yet I still struggle to obey in this area. I find it easier to look at my fears, to look at Google, to look at the world and seek answers from these places. When I finally remember to seek God I realise I am so dry that I really need Him to be my paramedic. He is so good though and He picks my up, feeds me with His Word, provides me with water that won’t run out and strengthens me with His joy.
I can run this marathon, we all can, we just need to look to Jesus, He is all we need. motherhood is a marathon, especially when raising a large family, but the Christian journey is also a marathon. We will always have struggles, whether that’s with children, spouses, loneliness, work, illness or a hundred other unknown challenges, but Jesus will help us through, we just need to ask Him.
‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.’ Hebrews 12:1
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This phrase came to mind as I walked around my home experiencing reminders of life beneath my feet and a new life within. My mind whirled with the extra sensitivity that bare feet and pregnancy bring. Much like the old Tom and Jerry cartoons, there are two voices that play in our heads, the good voice and the bad, which one do we listen to?
Cold floor beneath my feet, Rice Krispies trodden in, Lego waiting for a careless step. Crisp, dry grass prickling my soles, pine cones thrown from catapults lying silent on the ground, dog sticks chewed to bits and plastic cups forgotten.
My feet feel life, real, raw, each item recalls a memory, a moment in time when life happened. Children enjoyed breakfast, played with toys, the hot sun scorched the already parched grass, our son created a homemade catapult and used pine cones as ammunition, the dog was quiet and calm for once chewing on his stick and the cup brings back memories of a summer barbecue for our church, a souvenir of sweet fellowship. Each crunch or ouch beneath my toes could be grumbled at or marvelled at, it’s all about attitude. Most days I choose joy. Those are the good days.
My belly shifts, pokes and jabs, each movement a reminder of the life within. Stomach sick from being squashed, muscles ache from extra work, back twingeing as I bend to pick up Lego, dizzy head as blood pressure drops, bladder under pressure. Body weary, eyes sore from tiredness, ferocious hunger followed by nauseous regret, restless sleep as heat takes its toll.
My mobile middle a sweet reminder of a little one thriving. Limited food capacity and a troubled bladder, a great sign that our blessing is growing bigger by the day. Low blood pressure is always welcomed by the midwives, the side effects a reminder to slow down. Exhaustion pushes me to sleep, to accommodate the needs of our new gift, to put them to the front of my mind and prioritise their needs and mine.
It’s all about attitude, when I choose joy it comes, but if I choose to grumble the negativity feeds off itself and nourishes the black dog. I’ve been there, my hormones take me there, my circumstances take me there, my sinful soul chooses to grumble, but the Spirit within whispers joy and gratitude. When I shut out the loud shouts of my sinful self I hear the still small voice of God whispering, telling me of his gift, his help, his joy, reminding me to be thankful in all circumstances, then slowly, very slowly I pull the black curtains of self-pity back and discover the light that lies beyond. For in every situation there is sorrow or joy to be found. I choose joy.
‘I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.’ Philippians 4 11-13.
Sending blessings to you all and praying that you find the joy of the Lord today.
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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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