The deafening silence from my sleeping keyboard has been calling me for weeks. My notable absence from blogging has grieved my writer’s urge but equally allowed space for emotions to flow and practicalities to be overcome.

Life has been exceptionally busy and sometimes hard, but God has made a way for me to rest. Last week our internet provider turned off our connection 8 days early, before our new provider was due to connect us up. As our telephone also uses the internet and mobile signal is limited out here in the sticks, we have been out of communication with the world for over a week. We asked the provider to sort out their mistake, but they had no protocols in place for such an event. So that was it, nothing could be done and so we decided to make the best of it. I mean it’s not been that many years since we all lived very happily without the internet, surely we wouldn’t miss it that much, would we?

I’m fairly technophobic and so I delighted in the concept of being disconnected, but how was in reality? How did it impact the family, Phil’s work and the teenagers? What did we miss? What did we gain?

Phil’s work was the greatest priority and he quickly found a solution. He set up office at his parents’ house, who live 10 minutes away. This worked very well in general. He missed his big screens and he wasn’t able to step back into the office at 10pm for a weekly meeting with the States, but largely his work felt little impact. Here at home we missed Daddy’s input. Questions from the builders, currently renovating some of our property, were unanswerable by me; with shaky mobile signal I sometimes had to stand on the drive scrabbling for a couple of bars of connection just to ask a simple question. An issue with the chicken feeders and the cow’s water trough showed up another of Phil’s tasks he quietly gets on with, which the children and I had to fumble our way through to find solutions.

The teenage girls discovered that they could get some connection if they climbed the scaffolding and sat on the roof of the barn! Desperation drove these young ladies to these drastic measures as they spent several happy nights chatting to friends in the twilight. I’d hoped it would disconnect all of us, but sadly where there’s a will there’s a way and their technical know how found a way.

The younger children missed out on some online lessons, some reading and apps, but largely they didn’t notice the lack of connection. We still had DVDs for afternoon rest time and so life for them just went back a decade. I personally felt much more at home as a parent. Technology is moving so fast and I often feel that the children keep up but I’m still scrabbling around, feeling like a time traveller from the year 2000.

I did miss some things. I missed by word quizzes, downloading podcasts and searching for recipes. I didn’t miss google doctor. We’ve had a couple of health incidences this week and I’m sure I would have wasted hours googling how to deal with these situations the answers I would have found would have undoubtedly plagued me with anxiety. Google often reminds me of the health encyclopaedias we had pre internet; whatever symptom you had, by the time you’d followed the pathway the book sent you on, you had to see a doctor immediately, as your condition could be life threatening. It was a classic situation of a simple headache being a brain tumour! I always swore I would never get one of those books but now we have the internet; health anxiety in the general population has skyrocketed, I suspect there’s a correlation.

Perhaps the greatest thing I’ve learned is how I can waste time or use it wisely. I can read an edifying book or I can read the drivel in the newspaper. I can scroll through Instagram or I can paint or draw. I can browse through YouTube or I can listen to a pre-downloaded podcast, already selected for its soul nourishing content. I can read someone’s opinions or I can read the Word of God.

Time is a gift and God gave me more of it this week. The gift continues to give as I have come to see my time in a new way. It’s so easy to get lost on a device scrolling and searching and yet the answers will often elude us. Sometimes we need empty head space to hear God’s voice.

The irony isn’t lost on me, that the silence of my sleeping keyboard could only be awakened when the noise of the world, via the web went silent.

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When I stated my parenting journey I was fairly fresh out of college, where I trained as a nanny. Surely I knew how to care for a newborn? Although Norland was a great college, they never gave us a singular method of baby raising, instead they encouraged us to work with parents and follow their preferred style. This was all well and good but now I was the parent and I had no idea what style of parent I was!

Without a mum to give me answers I looked to books and other women to advise me. One of the parents I had worked for as a nanny had recommended ‘The Contented Little Baby Book’, a book which is like marmite, you either love it or you hate it. Inside its pages were the answers every sleep deprived parent craved, a guarantee that if you followed her advice, your baby would be contented and sleep through the night at an early age.

As soon as our son was born I implemented the routine. I lived and breathed the schedule and by 16 weeks Christopher was sleeping through the night having hardly cried at all during his first few months. I thought I had all the answers, what a pain I must have been!

When Christopher was just a few months old I joined La Leche League, a mum to mum breastfeeding support group. I was the only mum in the group who had a child who slept alone in a cot and I felt an element of embarrassment to even mention the word routine. Having said that, the leader was one of the most gracious Christian women I have ever met and simply met me where I was at. She encouraged me on my breastfeeding journey and showed me what it was to love people with whom you shared different opinions.

After our second child was born I increased in smugness, as he slept through the night at 9 weeks. Then at 7 months we had a major sleep regression and I ate large chunks of humble pie. For 4 months sleep evaded us both, I tried controlled crying, sleeping in his cot bed with him, you name it I tried it. Then one day I happened upon an article on ‘The Contented Little Baby’ website which suggested overtiredness as a possible cause of night waking. This was a revolutionary idea to me, as a 7 pm bedtime had been religiously kept to in our house. So I bit the bullet and put him to bed 20 minutes early, and that was the miracle I needed, he slept through the night every night following this intervention. I learnt so much from those incredibly hard months, humility, new techniques, letting go of firmly held ideas and I learnt that I can cope with more than I realised.

After this I really saw an evolution in my parenting style. After our 3rd child was born I accepted that afternoon naps at home, in the dark of the nursery, would be impossible to implement. A new approach was needed and I began to find my way.

Over the years of raising our 10 children I have found my style of mothering. I feel led to share what I know because maybe another young mum needs to find another way, a way that is not attachment parenting or routine, but is a combination of both. I cannot promise your baby will sleep through the night at an early age but ours have all learnt to sleep through the night and they are all secure children.

Here’s an average day for a young exclusively breastfed baby in our house: (all timing are approximate). It’s a very basic overview, but it’s a starting off point.

8am-wake the baby, feed, change nappy and pop them in a bouncy chair watching the family until they appear to look tired, but if you miss the sleepy window, don’t worry, we can set things back on track.

Around 9-9.30 pop them in the sling or pushchair and walk them to sleep (I breastfeed a really overtired baby to sleep whilst wearing them in a sling, I use a Connecta sling)

They’ll probably sleep for quite a while at this nap, but regardless I wake them for their next feed.

11am feed, nappy change, play

12 ish, sling or pushchair for a nap

If they wake during their nap, feed or rock them back to sleep.

2pm feed, nappy change, play

3.30pm nap in sling or pushchair

5pm feed, nappy change, play

7-8pm – feed and sleep in the sling whilst putting everyone else to bed, cleaning the kitchen and reading stories whilst standing and bouncing! I do a lot of jigging and rocking in the early evenings.

9 pm- I finally sit down and baby wakes up! Change nappy if needed and then we play until I go to bed.

10-11pm-we both go to bed. I have a cot bed attached to our bed as an extension to our bed and our young babies sleep there until 6-8 months. Once they have fallen asleep I keep the lights dim all night and just roll over for night feeds.

Life with tinies is always demanding, but the way we do it helps the older children not to feel pushed out, as the baby is content most of the day. This way gives me my hands free to cook or teach and it also gives me some predictability as to when I need to stop for feeds and nappy changes.

If anyone wants to implement these ideas and has any questions, please feel free to ask. This is just my way and it may not work for anyone else, please take what is useful to you and leave the rest.

Parenting styles are not binary choices, routine and discipline are not mutually exclusive of security and attachment. As parents we haven’t got it all figured out, but I just wanted to share these ideas, as a starting point for mums, who want an approach to mothering which is routine based, but with compassion and a large dose of reality.

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It’s a constant adventure. Every day feels like a commission from God. Take yesterday for example. Christopher and Jonathan had been away for the weekend with about 50 young adults, enjoying a time of worship and fellowship together; following this they decided to come back to our home, with about about 20 of their friends to enjoy a barbecue together. The spontaneity of this was wonderful and added fun and adventure into our weekend. Seeing so many young people, loving the Lord and hanging out together at our home brought huge joy to my heart.

The day before Madeleine had a trick riding lesson, as a birthday gift. It was wonderful to see the smile on her face as she conquered new skills pushing herself to the edge of her capacity. She’s also learning to drive, with Phil’s help, and is making great progress.

Seeing these older children stepping out into the world is such a joy. It’s clear to see God is with them, giving them opportunities and support at every turn. It’s such an encouragement when I’m parenting the younger children, to know that all the challenges will be worth it, as we can trust that God is going to guide our children every step of the way and their future is safe in his hands.

Every day is a challenge and an opportunity to seek God. Some days there are tears and tantrums, there are so many meals to cook, clothes to wash and lessons to learn, but there’s so much good in all of that.

Every single task is a God-ordained commission and with that attitude it becomes a way to love and serve God. It becomes a way for him to grow us and draw us nearer to him. Each success can be a pat on our own backs or an opportunity to thank God for his gifts and his help with everything.

It’s all perspective. We believe that we are not succeeding because we are great, we are not raising these children well because of our efforts, it because God is with us. We pray constantly for his help. Every task can be preempted with a prayer, even just a brief arrow prayer. Every achievement can be cloaked in thanksgiving.

I am constantly aware that these are very blessed days and harder days may be just around the corner, but I don’t fear for the future, because God is already there. There is nothing ahead that he will not prepare us for, give us grace for and walk alongside us in.

Practically speaking having ten children is a full and wonderful life. Spiritually speaking it’s the way that God is drawing me to him. I can’t do any of this in my strength and so I reach out to the source of all strength and there I meet him and he never sends me away lacking exactly what I need for the tasks ahead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sending blessings to you all, Vicki

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sending blessings to each of you, Vicki

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I’ve recently found my head swirling with long forgotten thoughts, thoughts so deeply buried, so intentionally hidden that their surfacing has rocked me. It’s got me thinking about the solutions the world offers to help us cope with emotional and mental pain and then to consider how, as Christians, we might respond in these situations.

Memories from childhood are often a blur of loosely connected events, combined to create a recipe of flavours unique to each child, some sweet and some which leave a bitter taste. Even within the same family, memories are interpreted through the individual lens of each member, each affected differently by the events and people surrounding them.

Our present reality cannot be experienced outside of the confines of our mind’s childhood memories. Sometimes we subconsciously mirror our own childhood and other times we will seek to live in the opposite way, with the intention of breaking away from the past and living in a new and better way.

If our childhood was unhappy the world tells us that our past will forever disable our future. Modern psychology doesn’t fit Jesus into the equation; they just add adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) together and the number produced (0-10) will tell you whether or not you will have a happy and successful life. I’ve done the quiz and I know that there is hope beyond their prognosis.

The outcome for adults who have suffered many ACEs is a cocktail of mental health issues, addictions and physical ailments. Even with years of therapy, CBT and various drugs, the prognosis for such individuals is grim. There’s a better way though, a way which offers freedom from the past. It’s a way that Mary Magdalene found and we can find it too. That way is found through Jesus Christ.

Jesus didn’t just come to save us from our sins, but also to heal our wounds. ‘He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds’ Psalm 147:3, Jesus came, ‘to set the oppressed free’, Luke 4:18 and ‘He daily bears our burdens’, Psalm 68:19.

When we have gone through pain, we don’t need to suffer alone, but we can take our memories and ask Jesus to the heal the consequences of those experiences. He won’t just put a sticking plaster over them, but he will wash them and His love will gradually soothe them and heal them, so that these events don’t break us, but they become the conduit for his love to us and through us, to others. Our suffering, when put into the hands of Jesus transforms into something extraordinary.

Our suffering is never wasted; instead he uses it to shape us, to soften us and in our vulnerability we can honestly say that we are nothing without Christ. It is at that point of vulnerability that he can truly be glorified through us. It’s at the end of our healing journey that we see the beauty in what he’s allowed, for it is then that, ‘we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God’ (2 Corinthians 1:4).

Practically speaking though, how do we move forward, when memories from the past begin to overwhelm us, and we feel like we’re drowning? With Jesus as our guide, prayer becomes even more essential, for in the darkness we must cling to the light, even if it seems to be just a glimmer. Sometimes we only have the strength for an arrow prayer, but, however small our prayerful offering, God hears and answers.

During my darkest nights, as I’ve lain awake with memories knotting together in my stomach, I have recited Psalm 23 over and over. One night recently I was doing this and I got up, opened my Bible, with the hope of some comfort and immediately fell upon Psalm 23. Yes, he was there during that night and as the Psalmist says, ‘he restores my soul’. There is no greater peace than the certainty of knowing that God sees you and cares about everything you’re going through. That morning I wept, as the feeling of safety engulfed me, safe in the arms of the One who saw everything and weeps with me.

He’s not just there for me, but for you too. If you are going through your own ‘valley of the shadow of death’, please know that Jesus is with you and he’ll get you through this. You aren’t alone.

If I can pray for you, please let me know in the comments.

Sending blessings to you all, Vicki

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Dare I say it out loud? I’m not sure it can be said in polite Western society. I am not a Christmas fan. There I did it, admitted my secret thoughts.

Christmas growing up wasn’t filled with memories that I treasure. Perhaps I knew that Santa, presents, chocolate and television weren’t the essence of Christmas? Perhaps I just missed eating meals at conventional times or maybe I felt overstimulated by the music and the excess of everything? Deep down I know it’s more than that.

Christmas as a smaller child was all about the big man in the clouds, the one who’d watched me all year and had my name written in his big book. Once I came of age and the reality faced me, what was left of Christmas? No Santa, no Christmas?

I remember the first Christmas without mum, I was still a child but not yet a Christian and the pointlessness of the day rattled through my bones. We opened presents after Midnight Mass, why wait for the morning, why keep tradition? Money was tight and every gift felt an unnecessary expense, wasted on a day we could just pass by. Passing it by seemed easier, the pain less noticeable if we could just pretend. That’s my coping skill, just smile and keep saying you’re fine. Fake it ‘til you make it.

But God reached into that brokenness and showed me a real man who would return on the clouds of glory, who has written my name in His book and who doesn’t just watch me but he lives in me, loving me back to wholeness. Jesus is the only one who can give us each the Christmas present we really need. He offers us the gift of himself, we just need to accept that gift.

Why then is it that Christmas is still so uncomfortable for me? Surely with Jesus at the centre everything is wonderful? The reality is that healing is a process and none of us will be completely whole this side of Heaven, but each day God continues to work on our hearts, continues to draw us to himself.

Each year I stuff down those old painful memories and put on top the Jesus filled, family focused Christmas we desire for our family. The problem is, the memories keep rising back up and fill my stomach with butterflies. I think perhaps saying it out loud to you all is the first step in letting go of the past. I guess I have to admit the hurt exists in order to ask Jesus to heal it.

In an effort to break generational patterns Phil and I are writing a new story onto the hearts of our children, a true story, one which they won’t grow out of but they’ll grow deeper into. The truth of Jesus Christ is so much more beautiful than the childhood tale of the man with the stuff-filled sack.

Christmas is hard for so many people and although I don’t want to dampen anyone’s joy, I want to be real. It’s easy to see the images of saccharine-sweet families, seemingly perfect and joy-filled and yet the reality is so often different. My prayer this year is that God uses my brokenness to reach into the lives of those who know pain, who carry emotional scars and for whom Christmas is filled with darkness.

It was into the darkness that Jesus was born, to bring light, hope, joy and salvation. His love is what carries me and it can carry you too, you just need to receive it, and that would be the only present you would ever need.

Sending you all love and blessings this Christmas time.

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Motherhood is hard. From morning sickness to teenage meltdowns, the challenges are endless. The world offers mothers criticism and guilt, but rarely praise and encouragement. Social media is filled with fake glimpses of people’s lives, shielding us from their reality, but giving us a false picture to aspire to.

Some mums seem to have it all together and if only we follow their suggestions we too can have children who fall in line. Really? I’m not buying that. Children are unique and so are their parents and therefore each family will need to go to their creator, our Lord Jesus Christ, and ask him for parenting advice. The Bible is full of parenting advice but it’s also full of grace.

If we are to use the Bible as our number one parenting handbook, then we need to submerge every rule in grace. We need to allow the living waters of God’s love to become the conduit of those guidelines, as they soak into the hearts of our children.

Yes, we need rules, but rules without grace will only harden the hearts of our children and give them a false picture of the God of all grace.

God forgives us and shows us endless mercy, he also disciplines us out of love, but thankfully not for every misdemeanour, and so that’s our parenting model.

I recently learnt that the ‘discipline for every misdemeanour’ school of parenting was still alive and thriving in parts of the Christian world. I naively was shocked by this because this is definitely not my style of parenting.

So the question is, how to discipline a child without harsh punishment? And how does discipline work in the Goldby house? Our approach is that we explain something is wrong and that there are consequences (often extra household jobs) for wrong behaviour, we model what is right and explain what the behaviour we expect is. It might involve removing a child from the situation and then setting them up for success by changing the ongoing scenario. For example if the children are arguing over toys I would explain that it’s wrong to argue, I would encourage sharing, but if that fails then we change the activity. I would probably set them an age appropriate household job to change the mood. I also use this as a time to share the gospel story about giving extra to the one who asks.

I know that Christ has shown me so much grace, whenever I’ve taken a wrong turn, he has lovingly guided me back to the narrow path and this is how I choose to parent. I guess the phrase might be parenting by grace, not legalism. I fear that the harsh disciplinarian style of parenting teaches children to be outwardly well behaved, but doesn’t transform their hearts, only grace can do that.

The gospel is all about grace and so that is at the centre of everything I want to communicate to our children.

I’m writing this as a way of thinking through these concepts, as I never feel truly confident that I’ve figured parenting out. I know I’m a soft touch, as I really struggle with confrontation, but I do expect obedience and mostly we get it, even if we get grumbles first! We don’t get obedience through harsh parenting, but through trying to set a good example, reminding them of our expectations and reminding them that there are consequences if they step over the line, like removal of phones for the teens or no screen time for the littles, or straight to bed if necessary. We focus on the big issues and let go of some of the petty squabbles.

I also think that bad behaviour has causes other than just sin. Often children are more badly behaved when they are tired, hungry or bored and so, where possible, I will try and make sure these needs are met and thus avert many issues that would otherwise occur.

I haven’t mentioned Phil much in this and I think fathers have an essential role to play in discipling (yes discipling, not just disciplining) their children. The route word of discipline is disciple and so that would be our goal, to have children who want to follow our example, as we try to lead them on the narrow path, pointing them to Christ. Of course we do have boundaries and Phil is better than me at maintaining them, I’m grateful everyday to be a team in this parenting challenge.

For us, our main goals would be that our children love God, love one another and are servant hearted, so everything we do would be to encourage those things.

How about you, what are your childhood experiences of discipline or your parenting discipline choices? Maybe you don’t agree with our way, that’s ok, we’re all different. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject.

Blessings to you all.

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I’m Vicki and I’m a perfectionist. I can’t do anything by half, I’m an all in kind of girl. I gain no pleasure from a job done quickly but which is rough around the edges.

Motherhood has given me many opportunities to express my perfectionism, be it washing Terry nappies instead of using disposables, cooking everything from scratch, making dressing up costumes, making cards or Christmas presents. I love to grow, pick, prepare and eat our homemade produce all the while passing on these skills to our children. For years it seemed I was doing quite well, holding it all together.

And then we moved to the country, we built a much bigger house, fitted a new energy system, had another baby, got livestock and we’re still not finished. Everyday is different, perfectionism has become impossible.

My perfectionism is dying by a thousand tiny cuts, a thousand letting goes, a thousand moments of grief. Each time I see a drawer full of unfolded clothes I wince, or books on the floor, or shoes left out, or a vegetable garden hiding beneath the weeds.

Caring for my family brings me so much joy but I’ve realised that my desire for perfection is stealing that joy.

Thankfully, but painfully, God won’t leave me wallowing in my pride, taking pleasure in my achievements. He’s calling me to something deeper.

He wants the deepest parts of me, the parts that lie beneath the achievements everyone sees, to let go and to let God do all that I can’t do. I’ve spent years believing that through sheer effort of will I can make everything beautiful. Who was I fooling? Certainly not God. He’s bided his time, allowing me to enjoy the temporary satisfaction of my labours and then he’s swooped in, pulled the rug from under me and I’m still falling.

I know I’ll keep falling until I stop looking at the unfinished jobs around me and start looking up, up to the One who has given me all these tasks.

I know in my head that God doesn’t expect me to do everything perfectly this side of Heaven, so why do I expect it of myself? I think it’s a heart issue, it’s asking myself the question, is my joy found in my achievements or is it found in God? I’m learning that I need to let him into the mess, let him see what he already sees, and admit I can’t do it.

Admit my failings.

That’s hard to say and the difficulty I have saying that, shows my pride. I often think that I’ve done that, told God how hard this is, but I’m not sure the deepest part of me has fully relinquished everything to Him. I need to only do that which I can do, all the while praying to the One who will multiply my efforts and create more beauty than I could ever dream or imagine.

‘God is the God who makes all things beautiful in his time’ Ecclesiastes 3:11, He is the ultimate artist, the perfect creator.

I love to create beauty in everything, from my words to the children’s clothes, hairstyles, soft furnishings, homemade gifts, home cooked meals or cakes. I know that the desire for all of this beauty comes from God, but I suspect I am looking for beauty in all the wrong places.

I was out taking pictures for this blog post when I happened upon the raspberry canes. I thought they were finished for the season and now it was just weeds and thistles taking over but on closer inspection there were multiple sweet raspberries just waiting to be picked. I’d been so busy looking at the weeds that I almost missed them.

I think that’s the lesson God wants me learn today. He doesn’t want me to look at the mess, to focus on the big picture, he wants me to see the beauty that I’m missing whilst I’m stressing about the mess. I suspect that beauty will be found in the faces of the people living in this home. If I can pause long enough, I might just see what God sees and I know that will bring me real joy.

Sending blessings to you all, Vicki

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Our home education ethos can be summed up with the phrase, ‘Raising children to embrace their place in the Body of Christ’. In fact this is the topic we will be sharing about at the ‘Chess’ home education conference, at the end of the month.

So how does this play out in our day to day life? Education begins the moment our children are born. In many ways I wouldn’t call it education, more facilitation, for my job is not merely to impart knowledge upon these new creations, it is to reveal their hidden characters and then foster the skills God has graciously imparted upon them. For none of us really ‘teach’ our children to feed, walk or talk, but we live alongside our children, demonstrating how to eat, encouraging their efforts to step forward and embedding them in a world of conversation, including them before they can reply. Is that education? I think so, but not in the traditional sense. And so begins the journey of raising and educating our children, without sudden interruption at 4 years old, the age of formal schooling, but an organic process where they lead the way into the next stage they are ready for.

So how do I help them uncover their God-given gifts? It is in the silence of those moments, the ones when they don’t know you’re watching them, that you can see the early formation of their personality. The activity that draws and holds them, consumes their unplanned time, that is the beginning of seeing the unwrapped present hidden within each child.

Here’s a real life example. When our eldest was about 7 months old he started crawling and from that moment on I couldn’t keep him away from the tech equipment. Once, when he was 9 months old, we had a 5 hour car journey and I knew I needed to keep our wriggly boy still and quiet for a long time. The week before we left I popped into the jumble sale and bought an old Walkman, with headphones to push in and pull out, a tape to put in and out, a travel plug and adapter to put together and separate, an old calculator and a remote control with no batteries in it. It was so obvious at this stage what he was ‘into’ and baby toys were just not going to cut it. Moving forwards ten years and he was setting up the hifi amps and rigging torches to the ceiling lights for the sound and lighting for our family ‘shows’, which the children used to put on daily.

Moving forward to present day and he has recently spent a week organising the sound and lighting for our Christian home education holiday for 400 plus people.

Our other adult son is Jonathan, who is now 18. When he was 3 he was junk modelling buildings, colouring immaculately and doing huge puzzles upside down. I remember saying to Phil that he might have the skills to be an architect. He spent much of his childhood building go carts, treehouses and models. This term he has started his Degree apprenticeship in Architecture.

Not every child has such easily discernible gifts, but every child is gifted at something. I see it as my job to help our children unwrap their gift and then help them to develop it.

Each child we home educate will have a basic grounding in the 3 Rs, but they will also have many free hours to pursue their individual interests.

Coming forward to look at our current home educated children and again I can see particular interests on display. Matthew, Hannah and Stephen have been making costumes for their battle re-enactments. They were inspired by a reenactment we recently attended at a nearby castle and since then all things historical and battle-worthy have consumed their free hours. They learn so much more when they lead than they could ever learn when I ‘feed’ them information. Home education is often described as lighting a fire rather than filling a bucket.

One of the most fun parts of parenthood is when I get to see the creativity of God in each unique person he’s created. What a privilege it is to have a part in watching him ‘sculpt’ one of his masterpieces.

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Sending blessings to you all, Vicki