Saturday, 1 October 2011

Allowing your child to fail in order for them to succeed

I am not a competitive person. We often play board games or the Wii in our family and I really don’t like the rivalry between my girls and their dad. It makes me squirm as they are constantly trying to out think each other and physically out do each other. I tend to deliberately loose in these games because competition makes me feel very uncomfortable. I don’t like how it makes people act, often in a ugly smug way; in a way that proudly says ‘I am better than you’. I can understand the need for competition at times, when applying for a job or running in a competitive race. But I also see the need for humility in competitive situations.

I have recently hit a parenting brick wall, quite hard and it hurts, a lot. Molly has set her heart on studying medicine at university when she finishes her A Levels. Now had this been any other degree course I would have been really calm and excited about it because she is very capable of getting the grades she needs. However, for places to study medicine there is a lot of competition. You don’t just need to get the grades at A level, you have to go through interviews, tests, have had lots of relevant work experience and have written it all up and lots of other stuff – basically you have to out do everyone else applying for that place at University – it’s a competition and there is every chance of failure in any competition!

She seems really cool about it, as does my husband. But I am freaking out, firstly because I didn’t go to university so this is all an unknown to me, secondly because of my dislike of competition and thirdly because I can see that there is nothing I can do to help her in this. This is the first time I am unable to help her attain one of her life’s goals and I am scared. My little girl has to do it on her own. Oh my gosh, what if she fails!

I know as parents we should be allowing our children to fail in order for them to succeed. Thinking about it I realise we have been doing this bit by bit all through their lives. Like when we removed the stair gate from the stairs in order for them to learn how to go up and down the stairs safely by themselves, there were a few accidents, but they soon learnt that they needed to hold on. When we showed them how to get to school on the bus and then allowed them to go on their own without us watching over them, they haven’t got lost yet and have since explored many different bus routes home! Or even recently when we allowed both of them to set their own revision timetables for exams and they did a good job but it could have easily gone the other way.

I guess it is about encouraging them to be proud of themselves for what they have achieved for themselves, not just knowing that we are proud of them. Giving them the chance to feel uncomfortable in certain circumstances in order them to build up a tolerance for discomfort and learn how to deal with it. Teaching them how to be responsible for themselves and the choices they make, whether they fail or succeed. Life isn’t all good stuff. I know they have both made bad choices and learn from them which is great, but I have to be real and know there is a lot more of that to come. I don’t want to see my girls fail, but failure is good, it can teach us a lot of things about ourselves.

As I said Molly seems to be quite laid back about this situation, but for me this university place represents Molly’s future hopes and dreams and it all feels so overwhelming to me. I know I need to get over myself and just do what I do best, love her to bits and be there for her if she does fall down.

The world is a very competitive place my beautiful girls, go for it, Dad and I will always be there for you, cheering you on and loving you.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Smile though your heart is breaking!

Cast your worries and cares on God today. Jesus says in John 16:33 'Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.'

Imagine the gospel choir standing in your kitchen/lounge/bedroom and have a bit of a sway to the following song by Kirk Franklin called 'I Smile'.

3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. Romans 5:3-4 (NLT)

If you would like to know more about the God who helps you smile through your troubles then can I recommend the Alpha Course that is starting next week (27th Sept) at St Barnabas, 7.30pm-9.30pm. I am on the leadership team and look forward to seeing you there. God bless you all x x x x x x

For more information see the link below.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Unconditional Love!

It’s so exciting to be back at Barney’s after the long summer break. I just love Wednesday and Friday mornings and being able to have all my friends round for a cuppa tea and a chat. Love it, love it, love it! I have to say a huge thank you to St Bs for allowing me to host you all in their front room and not mine at home, because you wouldn’t all fit in at mine!

Over the summer I had the great privilege of being part of another milestone in the lives of my beautiful daughters, Alice (14) got an A in her GCSE Art (which she took two years early, she starts her normal GCSEs this year in year 10) and Molly (16) got 6 A*s, 5As and a B in her GCSE’s and has now started 5 A levels in her quest to study medicine at University. I am so proud. They both worked so hard. I had very little to do with their hard work apart from the occasional midnight dash to Tesco for more printer ink, providing regular cups of tea, bars of chocolate and searching Tiger and Poundland for art materials because they were being used up so quickly! But it was a pleasure to be able to facilitate, in a small way, their success. Allow me a moment to be a proud mum and say my heart is bursting with pride at what amazing young women they are growing into.

I was asked this week at Barney’s, how we managed to encourage our children to do so well. My answer was ‘we just love them’, but I think I need to unpack that a little.

We strive to love our girls unconditionally. Weeks before the exam results were out we organised a party for them, which happened the Saturday after exam results day, to celebrate their results. We wanted to clearly say to them that no matter what their results were, we intended to celebrate them as a person and recognise how hard they had worked. I think if a child knows they are loved, no matter what they do or achieve, then they are more able to love themselves for what they are and not be discouraged by what the world tells them they should be achieving. Through that truth and encouragement comes the feeling that they can attempt all kinds of things, in the case of education no matter how academically gifted they are, and they are more inclined to try their best in everything they attempt to do.

Sadly today’s teaching in schools leans heavily towards the academic child, rather than the creative child. The new baccalaureate system introduced this year in all secondary schools gives little chance to a child who is less of a ‘book learner’ than others. I find it really sad, that what you achieve in exams is held in higher esteem than what kind of a person you are.
Academic success is not the be all and end all. God loves us all unconditionally and sees our hearts, not our achievements. The world has a habit of telling us we are not good enough, because we haven’t achieved this and we haven’t achieved that. God says to us ‘ matter what, I love you. Know that love, grow in it and be strengthened by it.’

This is what we have claimed for our girls, that they should receive from us as their parents, what God has given us. Unconditional love is very hard for us all to understand, as it is not a worldly thing. But I believe It is what we should all be striving to give our children. Loving them for who they are, not what they achieve. By all means encouraging them to achieve their God given potential; but always celebrating them as a person, always loving them for who they are.

Father God thank you for your unconditional love, thank you that you loved us so much you sent your Son to die for us and through his resurrection we can have an amazing life; a life so full of love that we cannot help but want to give it away. Help us to love our children and others as you love us. Amen

If you want to know more about God's love for you or any other big questions of life that you may want to explore, the Alpha Course starts next Tuesday evening 27th Sept, 7.30pm at St Bs. Please come along, I will be there and hopefully you will get your questions answered. I look forward to seeing you x x x x x

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Rites of Passage

Life is full of ‘rites of passage’. From the formal ones of baptism, weddings and funerals to the others that we all hold dear in our lives: first smile, first day at school, first lost tooth, 13th birthday, 18th/21st birthday and many more. This week saw our family involved in a new, imported one from the USA, the end of school ‘Prom’. Molly finished her GCSE’s last week and Monday saw the long anticipated Prom Night. As ever it was such a privilege to be part of another of Molly’s ‘rites of passage’ the planning for her big night.

She chose a dress on Ebay, just from a photograph, that she really liked and said that she would feel like Eva Longoria wearing; when it arrived she wasn’t wrong she looked stunning. We practised hair and make-up for weeks before hand, I am now an expert in the many ways you can make long straight hair have a curl in it, and how not to gas yourself when using copious amounts of hairspray. We shopped for shoes with six inch heels and we spent hours practising walking in them!

I was really surprised at how emotional I was at all of this; my little girl suddenly became a woman in front of my eyes. I took loads of photos, cried a tears of joy, worried for her as we dropped her off to meet her friends and get in their limo, cried a bit more as I saw the rather handsome young man who had asked her to be his date give her a beautiful corsage of flowers for her wrist; and then worried all night that she would have a good time, be safe and not fall off her shoes!

But the most amazing moment for me, when I realised that this was a rite of passage for me as well as her, was when I got to do something that I remember my mum doing for me on my wedding day. As Molly was about to leave to go to the prom, I noticed something was missing from her outfit. I rushed upstairs and got a single drop silver necklace out of my jewellery box that Steve had given me when we first met, it would compliment her dress perfectly. With trepidation I reached to put it round her neck, looking into her excited eyes, no words exchanged but joy, pride and love making my fingers shake as I fumbled to fasten the catch. In that moment I was transported back to my wedding day, and I said to her “Nanny did this for me on my wedding day” to her, she looked at me and said “I love you so much Mum”.

Such a beautiful precious moment between mother and daughter; a moment that could go unnoticed by anyone else except those involved. On my wedding day, as I came down stairs for the first time dressed in my wedding dress my mum reached around my neck and fastened a beautiful gold chain with a single pearl hanging from it. A necklace I had seen her wear many times, that had been a gift from my dad. In that tender moment, that didn’t need any words I knew what she was thinking, how proud she was of me, how much she loved me and what this moment meant to my Mum.

As Molly and I stood there I suddenly realised that I was giving my daughter away, not yet to a husband but to the world. Another bit of my child, that I wanted to cling onto so tightly, had just slipped away unnoticed by anyone else other than Molly and me. A truly precious moment shared with my beautiful daughter and one that I am so glad I did not miss.

Rites of passage aren’t only in the big things, but in the everyday, as you watch your child grow and fly away. Keep an eye out, don’t miss any because they are so precious and you cannot get any of them back once they are gone. Don’t let your child grow up too soon, as the world seems to encourage them too, rites of passage are called that for a reason there is a time and place for each of them – they are life stages, our journey from birth to death and deserve to be celebrated and enjoyed. And as I found out this week, their rites of passage are ours too.

This is my song for my beautiful girls Molly and Alice, I love you so much my darlings x x x x x x x

Father God, I want to thank You for my beautiful daughter. Thank You that You have trusted me to be her mum and raise her for You. Thank You for the amazing times we have had together and I look forward to many more, please keep my eyes open to every precious moment because I don’t want to miss a thing. I am very proud of her and I know that You are too. Amen x x x x x x

Saturday, 11 June 2011

You only get out what you put in!

My gorgeous eldest daughter was born in February 1995 and I remember those sleepless nights and equally long days of coping with a new born. Stumbling from nappy change to feed, to nappy change, hoping I had got them in the right order. In all honesty not having the foggiest what I was doing, making it up as I went along. Spending hours gazing at our small bundle of innocence in her cot praying “Lord, wherever else I may fail, don’t let it be here!”

Now, sixteen years later it is GCSE time in our household. Molly is taking 14 GSCEs. Her predicted grades are As and A*s; that’s a big ask for a small person and we are really proud of her and how hard she has worked to hopefully achieve those grades. However, I do have to remind myself that we too have worked hard and played in part in her success, encouraging her in her education by helping her with homework, by attending parents’ evenings, by making sure she has been in school each day, that she has been equipped with all she needs for school, that she has full school uniform and cheered her on in all her educational endeavours. The part we play in our children’s education is just as important as the part they play. As a result of our input Molly has worked to the best of her ability during her school career, especially in the last two years of GCSE study. She has her own aspirations to become a doctor and so has set herself goals of what she would like to achieve. Therefore, her recent study leave and revision time has been just that. She has learnt everything she needed to learn over the last two years and this time is truly a time for revision/reminding herself of her knowledge rather than trying to learn it from scratch. We are very proud of her.

How our children turn out says more about our parenting skills than about their genes. God has put awesome power into our hands – the power to shape the next generation – and it takes a lot of commitment. We need to be part of their spiritual, emotional and educational challenges even when we are exhausted ourselves. We need to accept them unconditionally, even when they don’t want what we hope for them. Finally we need to be unfailing in our encouragement. Whether they win or lose, are right or wrong, make us look good or embarrass us; we need to understand, console and encourage them nevertheless. They need to know that we would never reject them, no matter what happens.

Each day when Molly goes off to sit an exam I joke with her. I say “I love you so much, if you just wrote your name on the test paper and that was all you did I would still love you!” I wrote my name on her life the day she was born and committed to see the ‘test’ through to the end, no matter what. It has been very testing at times, but as with everything in life you get out of it what you put in.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Kill them with kindness!

My Dad always used to say “...kill them with kindness Sally” and it is something that has stuck with me. A kind gentle word can defuse all kinds of awful, ugly situations. A simple expression of love can melt any act of anger or hatred. Words spoken in love can bolster a broken spirit and heal broken hearts. A look of pride, a display of joy can change the atmosphere in a room full of people. How you say or do something is crucial to how it is received by the other party involved.

It says in Ephesians 4:32 “Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.”

We live in a world that is so broken, a world that openly accepts blame culture and is now moving into such a litigious state that soon I wouldn’t be surprised if someone broke a finger nail they may call ‘Injurylawers4U’ and sue God for it!

And all this bitterness, anger and disrespect that people carry around with them against others, because whatever happened wasn’t their fault, is making a society that is permanently angry. I was chatting to a wise ‘older’ woman yesterday at Barney’s who said to me that in her experience of watching children grow over the past 50 years, she noticed that a large proportion of them displayed the same kind of demeanour as their parents, it is a learnt behaviour. If their parents were the type to be stressed most of the time, then their children had grown up to be similar; if the parents were anxious, then their children tended to be anxious; if the parents had little self respect, then it seemed so with the children as they grew; if the parents were laid back, then their children were laid back. I had to say that I agreed with her and it made me think about what we are subconsciously passing on to our children. In this culture that we live in, are we encouraging our children to become the next generation of bitter and angry people who feel everything wasn’t their fault and the world owes them a living; or are we taking responsibility for our actions and acting towards other people as God would have us do, by being gentle, sensitive and forgiving.

Did you know that kindness is a drug? It gives you a far better kick than chocolate! Disrespect, rudeness, incivility, and a lack of kindness have become a serious problem. You will be hard pressed to ever go a day in your life when you won't meet someone that doesn't need a kind word. This week I had quite a few occasions where I had the privilege to thank someone for what they had done for me; give someone who wasn’t feeling on top form a hug and kind words; to encourage someone who wasn’t feeling all that confident about something they had to do; and tell someone I was proud of them. Some of these people were total strangers, people with whom I had no relationship, yet it was fantastic to be able to speak positivity into their lives. Not only did improve their situation, but it gave me a lovely warm feeling inside, I felt incredibly blessed. It was the kind of feeling that money can’t buy and I am pretty sure should be prescribed for certain depressive illnesses. It is impossible, not to be unbelievably blessed when somebody sends a kind deed or a kind word your way. Remember this saying and kill someone with kindness. You really can do that with people. You can kill animosity, bitterness, anger, and hard feelings with just a little kindness.


Saturday, 21 May 2011

Hold my hand and we will do this together........

I was teaching this morning at the Family Craft Morning on how when we are scared we just have to turn to God, because he is bigger than any fear we can be facing and He says to us ‘I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you’ in the book of Isaiah 41:13 (TNIV).

As I spoke I asked one of the children to come and hold my hand and in that moment I was struck with just what a powerfully comforting feeling it is holding someone’s hand.

I got to thinking of how many times my girls have, and still do, slip their hand into mine in order for me to guide them and for them to feel protected; and how often I slip my hand into my husband’s when I am feeling a bit vulnerable in a social situation.

What a privilege it is to have our children trust us so much that they feel reassured by just holding our hand and also what an honour it is to be able to guide them in such an intimate way. I am sure we have all used hand holding as a control measure, when we are crossing the road or in a busy shopping centre where we don’t want to lose our children, quite possibly never really understanding what a powerful sign of love and protection it is to those whose hand we are holding.

So just think how powerful it is to know that God wants to hold our hand; that just as we reach our hand out to our children, so He reaches out His hand to us His children and says ‘Do not fear, I will help you’.

If you are in fear of something today, just reach out, God will take your hand and guide you through whatever it is – it may not be a smooth journey, or an enjoyable one, but with God by your side you will get through it. God says to us “Hold my hand, we will do this together!”.

Father God, thank you that you are not a distant God because you are by our side all the time. Remind us to reach out to you when times are tough because we know that You will take our right hand and help us through the scary moment, let’s do this together. Praise You Father, Amen.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Love and Support

God has opened my eyes wider this week to something really precious to me: the gift of belonging to a community and all the benefits that brings in the form of friendships, accountability, love and support.

Many of us these days live far away from our families, those who would naturally provide our community and support system. London is a place where, unless you are born there, is generally where people come to live specifically for work. At Barney’s of the 150 members we have people from all over the world as well as all over Great Britain.

I think I am possibly one of the few born and bred Londoners at Barney’s; I was born in Hackney, East London and spend my childhood in Enfield. But I am the last of my family to remain in London, they have all moved away, mainly to Hertfordshire, which isn’t far, but far enough. I am married to Steve who is from Dundee in Scotland, where his family remains. So even for me, a Londoner, my natural support system is distant.

Some of you may not know the background to my leading Barney’s. 10 years ago I joined Barney’s, I too was a victim of the dreaded waiting list, but it was so worth it when I finally got a place and became a member. My own children were at school by this point and I was a childminder. I had tried toddler groups with my girls, but found all the ones I visited just never fitted me, some were unwelcoming, others cliquey and some were in grotty church halls and lacked life. They didn’t bless or enhance my life in any way.

The first child I minded was Sara’s eldest child, Mike. She recommended Barney’s to me as she knew about it because she was a member of St Bs. So I went along to Barney’s expecting to find the same as I had found everywhere else, but was pleasantly surprised, mainly by the coffee but there was something there that I couldn’t put into words. From the moment I walked in I felt welcome, comfortable, relaxed and at home. So to hear I had to go on a waiting list was a bit sad and eventually when I got a place it was to bring Sara’s second son, Tom (who is now 11).

Being a member of Barney’s saved my life, as a parent of young children there are days when you feel you are just stumbling from one disaster to another, it is confusing and joyful at the same time, the pressure you feel under to be a good parent and do the right thing for your child is intense and as the milestones pass by you wonder if what you have done is good enough. This is when you need your support system, someone to affirm you in your parenting, someone to hug you when you are having a bad day, someone to listen when you want to let off steam, someone to tell you they love you, someone to offer to babysit, someone to help you look for a nursery or school place – someone to share the ups and downs of parenting a small person. And that is what I found at Barney’s, I made some amazing friends, met some wonderful women and men, all of us in the same boat, all of us needing each other and everyone willing to give their time to each other to help and support each other. I think you call it a family!

I immediately gained grandparents, aunts and uncles, sisters and brothers and was accepted and loved into the Barney’s family. A year after joining Barney’s I became a Christian, and joined St Barnabas Church as a member, a year after that was asked if I would like the privilege of taking on the leadership of Barney’s. I couldn’t refuse, I loved Barney’s and so wanted for it to be able to give to others what I had received when I had become a member. My saying of 'once a Barney’s member always a Barney’s member’ is kind of a selfish one in a way, because I have an incredible fondness for all the families I have met through Barney’s and have spent many a wonderful time chatting with them and having the privilege to share in their lives that I want to maintain that relationship. So when I say, drop in for a cup of coffee any time – I really mean it, I find it really sad when people leave and I have to say goodbye to a friend.

When I took on the leadership of Barney’s I prayed “Lord help me to maintain what you have built here through the previous leaders, what I have benefitted from so greatly and what long to pass on to others” and that is my prayer still. Being a member of the Barney’s family and gaining the gift of belonging to a community and all the benefits that brings in the form of friendships, accountability, love and support is so precious. I love meeting you all, I love hanging out with you all, I love being able to share my ups and downs with you and to do the same with you. To me Barney’s is so much more than a toddler group, you are my family, my friends and I want to thank you all so much for being there for me and as St Paul says in the book of Philippians

“Every time you cross my mind, I break out in exclamations of thanks to God. Each exclamation is a trigger to prayer. I find myself praying for you with a glad heart.” Philippians 1:3-4

I love you all x x x x x x x

Saturday, 7 May 2011


Picture the scene, Friday morning 7.25am:

“Mum, I need £3 for a French play today” Alice announces just she is about to leave for school.

“Oh and Mum” says Molly, “I need two sets of acrylic paints and a wonderwoman T shirt”

“You what?” I reply.

“I think I can handle the £3” I lie, knowing full well I don’t have a penny in my purse and will have to go and ask Steve if he has any cash, “when do you need the paint and t shirt for?”

“Paints for Monday for GCSE art and T shirt for Drama GCSE on Wednesday” replies Molly.

I stand there wondering if it is indeed me who needs the wonderwoman T shirt right at that very moment!

I try to stay calm at the lastminute.mum requests, considering it is Friday morning; I will be at work all day (squeezing in at 4.30pm a visit to the Post Office to get Molly’s CRB verified and three haircuts, so no window for shopping there), Saturday we are attending my nephew’s ‘naming day’ and Sunday is never a good day for shopping for me, plus where on earth do you start looking for a wonderwoman T shirt!

The very idea of forward planning is not in a teenagers psyche; Molly has known the dates of all her exams for a couple of months now and surely would have known what she needed for them. So I smile, take a deep breath, find Steve and relieve him of £3. Then turn on my computer and Google wonderwoman T shirts. Praise God for Amazon and their special delivery service, a little more than I would have wanted to pay for a wonderwoman T shirt (if I had ever really wanted one!), but job done. Now just to hope that I don’t have to trek to Hatfield Galleria to buy more paint, which I could squeeze in on Sunday (but would rather not!), think I will fly by Tiger on the High Road first, they don’t generally let me down! I can squeeze that in on Saturday morning on the way to the naming day.

OK, ‘supermum’ status has been restored; plans have been made, time to send my gorgeous girls off to school.

“Oh and Mum, sorry just remembered, my teacher asked me to sing in the leavers concert next Friday and I need a backing track for ‘Someone like you’ by Adele.” says Molly as I kiss her goodbye for school, “I love you Mum!” she adds, as I weakly smile and scream inside! It’s just as well she is so adorable.

And off they trot to school without a care in the world, because they have just dumped them all on me, and off I trot, back to Google for Adele backing tracks. Think I will have a cup of tea and pray first, to bolster up my spirit and commit the rest of my day to the Lord, lastminute.mum sure takes it out of me!

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. Thessalonians 5:16-18 (New Living Translation)

Jesus, thank you that you bring peace to my world, peace in my heart, peace in my mind. Guide me today, steer me safely round any other last minute things thrown in my way today. I love you Lord. Amen

Monday, 25 April 2011

The Garden

I love to journal; it’s not like keeping a daily diary, more of an ongoing conversation with Jesus. I try every day to read my Bible, pray and spend time with God. Inevitably this doesn’t happen every day, but I find when I do make time for God my days are so much easier to face and get through.

My journals are really precious to me, full of words from God, cards and letters from friends, songs, poems, pictures, and conversations with Jesus. I started journaling on Saturday 26th April 2006, and so much has happened since then. It is great to be able to look back to see what has been going on in my life and just how much God has done for me and in me, during that time.

I don’t often share what I write in my journals, but I was really moved by something I wrote last week and I feel God is asking me to share it with you. A couple of weeks ago my friend Rex, challenged me to “find somewhere nice to sit with Jesus and see what happened”. This is what happened on the first occasion I did, on the 14th April:

The Garden

I walked towards a beautiful ornate metal gate in a really high, thick hedge. The gate was really cold to the touch as I pushed it open. But as I walked inside the hedge it was really sunny, bright and warm. There was a garden, filled with lots and lots of flowers; tall ones, short ones, all different colours, no rhyme or reason to how they were planted. They were all moving slightly in a light breeze, almost dancing – as if they were laughing and having fun.
There was a gardener standing right in the middle and I can see, on closer inspection at low level that there are lots of brambles with sharp thorns beginning to constrict the flowers freedom of movement. But the gardener has a huge smile on his face and a pair of secateurs in his hand.

He calls me to join him in the middle. I make my way to him, but my clothes keep getting caught on the brambles, my legs getting scratched. It is a slow process getting to him as I have to untangle myself from the brambles.

“Well done, you made it” he says and laughs at the same time, “isn’t this glorious!”

“Yes, it’s beautiful, so beautiful, but I am a little sad that the brambles are beginning to take over” I said.

“Don’t you worry, we can sort that out” and he begins to chop each bramble off at its root, gently moving each beautiful flower to one side to get at the source of the bramble. “Here you go, just follow what I am doing” he says as he hands me a pair of secateurs. “I’ll show you how.”

So in the beautiful sunny garden we work together for hours, gently freeing the beautiful flowers from the brambles. Both of our hands and legs are scratched and bleeding from the brambles, but there seems to be no pain. The pile of removed brambles becomes bigger and bigger. The flowers are able to dance freely in the breeze, nothing hindering them.
As we chop the final brambles, he laughs loudly, “Well that’s a great day’s work eh, how beautiful is that?”

I laugh too, like I have never laughed before, our hands are scratched and dripping blood, our legs the same – yet we laugh and it seems as if the flowers are laughing too.

“I love doing jobs like that, so satisfying” he says.

“You did a great job,” I replied “thanks for teaching me and letting me help you. It is very rewarding to see the flowers so free.”

“You can’t stop now” he said, “those brambles will be back, they are sneaky, you chop them down here and they come back there. Keep those secateurs, you will need them. Keep an eye out for the brambles, keep them under control, keep cutting them back – I will always be here to help you. I love doing it, it is FUN!”

“But what about your hands and feet,” I ask “surely they hurt”

“Oh no” he says “It’s only a little scratch, and it’s worth it to be able to see such beauty don’t you think?”

I had to agree. He started laughing again and we laughed together for ages.

Happy Easter to you all, I pray that you meet with Jesus, the Master Gardener, and allow Him to come and help you clear the brambles from your garden and in turn allow Him to help you keep them under control. He longs to see beauty in your garden, He longs to hear you laugh the laugh that comes with the freedom that knowing Him, and working alongside Him brings!

Friday, 8 April 2011

When do you stop worrying about your kids?

When do you stop worrying about your kids?

When I was 21 the most embarrassing thing of my life happened. I had been working in the City for three years and was still living at home in Enfield with my mum and dad. I was on a night out with my friends from work and it was 1am when we decided to head home. Two of my friends had to get back to Essex, but by that time had missed the last train so I offered them a bed at my house. So we all jumped on the night bus and headed back to Enfield. At 2am, as we approached my house, I saw the living room light was on, which I thought was a bit strange. I put the key in the door and let us in. We walked in to find my mum sitting on the sofa in her dressing gown, knitting; she turned and smiled and said “ok love, just catching up on a few episodes of Minder.” Oh my gosh, it’s 2am mum! She was waiting up for me and I had bought home two friends to witness this majorly embarrassing moment in my life!

I want to say a huge sorry to my mum, because I now know exactly what she was thinking and why she was waiting up. I now understand that you never stop worrying about your kids, no matter what age they are; five, fifteen, 25 or 55.

Even when I was grown, married and had children, whenever I visited mum and dad, to let them know that I was safely home (in Finchley after the perilous 20 minute journey from Enfield), I had to give them ‘three rings’; which meant phoning their telephone number, letting it ring three times and then putting the phone down.

I am that mum now, sitting catching up on episodes of ‘Jamie’s Dream School’ whilst waiting to collect my girls from wherever they are ‘til midnight, stressing out when they are 20 minutes late home from school; concerned when they are not answering their mobile phones, praying for them in their every move. You will never stop worrying about your children; the list of things you can and will worry about is endless. But remember to cast your cares on God; He loves them more than you. It says in Philippians 4:

6-7 Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the centre of your life.

I thank God for my beautiful girls and that He loves them more than I do, although I do question how that could be possible! He loves your children too, more than you do! Remember to pray for them, from the little worries of school place to the big worries of who they are going to marry. God hears every prayer, big or small. He has it all in control, He knows our concerns, He has plans for our children and will settle our worries. Put God at the centre of your family, trust Him with your children. Let Him do the worrying.

I wonder what God watches on TV at 2am when He is waiting for us to come home?

Saturday, 2 April 2011

From generation to generation .............

The Bible is a historical account of the people of God. Stories of generations of people, all learning from previous generation’s successes and failures, striving to improve life for the future generations.

That is still a truth for the people of today as we strive to bring better lives to our children. Steve and I made a conscious decision when we had our girls to improve on the parenting we ourselves received, not to just replicate our parents parenting; we felt it was important to try to understand the world our girls were going to be living in and parent accordingly.

Not to say that our parents were bad, but a symptom of their generation seemed to be secrecy and inhibition. Both of our parents didn’t talk openly to us about sex or relationships. I can understand their shyness at approaching these topics, but I in particular made some choices I wished I hadn’t made in my teens and twenties due to being under informed and having to find out about life for myself.

Conversations about sexual and emotional integrity are not easy, you have to step well and truly out of your comfort zone to broach them, yet they are so important. Especially in a world that seems to be sexualising children as young as six or seven years old with inappropriate underwear and clothing, TV programmes and movies.

Our children need to know that:

  • they have the right to own their own bodies – no one as the right to touch their bodies without their permission, that there are good ways to touch a person and bad ways.

  • that they have the right to say no to anything – regardless of what others try to get them to do if it doesn’t feel right they have the they have the right to say no.

  • they have the right to drive rather than be driven – if they are in a situation that they don’t feel is right, they can drive that situation in a better direction. It is ok to swim against the tide and be their own person.

  • they have the right to be choosy – especially in the arena of dating, that dating is about choosing and not being chosen.

  • they have the right to defend themselves and others – they should never ever have to tolerate someone mistreating them or anyone else. If they tolerate mistreatment they are enabling that person to think it’s ok to talk disrespectfully to them or take advantage of them.

  • they have the right to privacy – that their friends do not have the right to be completely in their business; personal lives are personal lives. They have the right to privacy whenever they feel they need it whether it is changing clothes in private or keeping a diary.

The children of today are going to live in a far different future to the present that we live in now; and their children, our grandchildren will experience the same fast moving, fast changing world. Frequent chats with your children about sex and relationships, a willingness and openness to talk about any subject with them at anytime can greatly strengthen family bonds and build them up in their life’s journey.

Wouldn’t it be great if our kids always called on us, their parents, for answers to their questions about sexuality, relationships and life because they knew we were not only willing but eager to answer? And because they felt that no one else knew as much about the topic as Mum and Dad because we are able to be open and honest with them?

When your children need to talk about these topics, who will they go to? Will they be free to come to you?

Men and women who have lived wisely and well will shine brilliantly, like the cloudless, starstrewn night skies. And those who put others on the right path will glow like stars forever. (Daniel 12:3 The Message)

Sunday, 20 March 2011

To clean or not to clean, that is the question!

My wonderful husband is not only a wonderful husband but also an amazing dad. Usually very even tempered and fair, there is only one thing that tips him over the edge when it comes to our girls’ behaviour. And that is Molly’s ‘floordrobe’.

It does make me sad also that every single article of clothing she owns is strewn over her bedroom floor and that the wardrobe and chest of drawers sit there redundant; their doors and drawers fully open in a begging ‘fill me’ stance. Yet I know that when I was her age my bedroom floor looked exactly the same! When I ask her to tidy the clothes and give me her dirty washing she does so, some of the clothes make it into the drawers, and the rest are screwed up and shoved in the bottom of the wardrobe. They stay there for 24 hours max. I have learnt to pull the room door closed and have chosen to ignore it; sadly Steve struggles with my decision.

I have just read a great book called ‘Boundaries with Kids’ which affirmed my stance on the ‘floordrobe’ situation. We tend to parent in the present without thinking of the future, dealing with the problems at hand; forgetting that the main goal of parenting is raising our children to be responsible adults. If I were to clean Molly’s room every week, putting away her clothes for her, picking up everything she dropped what would that teach her? Would her future husband be happy with having to pick up after her? I would love to see Molly lying in bed each night in a beautifully tidy bedroom. However my helping her to keep her room tidy would not be ‘helping’ her future. She could develop a character in which she could feel entitled to everyone else’s help. This character trait could also end up playing out in other aspects of her life. Tidying after our children will not teach them how to be responsible for themselves and have respect for their belongings.

When you are a parent, you help create your child’s future. The patterns children establish early in life (their character) they will live out later. A character is always formed in relationship; never underestimate your role as parent in developing this character. As it says in Proverbs 22:6 “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it”

I can’t recommend this book highly enough as it tackles all age groups, from infancy to teens. It looks at issues such as inattention to parental directives, defying authority, whining, aggressive behaviour, school problems, conflicts with friends, sex, drugs and gangs. This book is not ‘problem centred’ but ‘principle centred’ in that it is organised around key concepts that will help children take ownership of their lives.

The suggestions it makes are geared much more towards how we as parents behave with our children than toward educating our children. Learning boundaries has a lot to do with going through experiences, receiving consequences for that behaviour and therefore learning to take ownership of one’s actions. As we learn to require responsibility from our children, they learn the value of being responsible. The process begins with us.

‘No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.’ Hebrews 12:11

Boundaries with Kids – Dr Henry Cloud & Dr John Townsend Zondervan ISBN 0-310-24315-7

Also one for us adults which is a great read too!

Boundaries – When to say YES and When to say NO to take control of your life - Dr Henry Cloud & Dr John Townsend Zondervan ISBN 0-310-24745-4

I will be getting copies of both books for the Barney’s library.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Hugs, cuddles and love!

We are stuck in a blur of evening school meetings at present. Last week choosing year 10 GCSE options for Alice, this week A level options for Molly and next week Alice’s parents consultations. Still I can’t think of anything better to do on a Thursday evening that hear from other people about how wonderful our girls are, it’s a lovely treat.

It was interesting this Thursday, as we got out of the car, to hear from Molly, our 16 year old “OK parents, today there are rules; Dad you can’t hold my hand, Mum you can, but I would prefer if you held my arm. Dad please don’t say anything embarrassing, Mum please don’t let him! Once we are inside school no physical contact unless I initiate it OK? I know that you love me and I love you too, but those are the rules”

Oh how they are growing up. Touch is the first expression of love that goes beyond words. Touch is your first communication with your baby, and throughout life it remains our most vulnerable and tender connection with each other. I am a physical contact person, I love hugging and being hugged; just a touch or squeeze of the top of the arm can convey your love for someone. Molly has always been the kind of child who would love to be inside my skin if she could, physical touch means so much to her. However, it now seems we have reached the stage where it is totally uncool to be seen in public holding Mum’s hand!

Every touch has a feeling that comes with it. A light soft touch expresses your warm feelings for a person; it says “I like you”. A warm gentle hug conveys “I’ll take care of you”, an affectionate embrace says “You’re safe”.

Have you ever noticed when someone takes your hand or touches you with love and sensitivity that a wonderful phenomenon occurs? Stress and tension dissolve. Fear recedes. Babies fall asleep in such soothing arms; children unwind and calm down with a gentle reassuring touch.

And a word to the wise: experts agree that premature sexual experimentation stems from a hunger for loving touch. So hold and cuddle your child as much as you can. As they grow, give affectionate hugs when they are near, snuggle up on the sofa watching movies or reading books. Hold hands if they will let you. But remember, never force a touch or a hug on a child; like all of us they have a right to maintain a comfort zone around their own physical space - as we were informed on Thursday night!

Molly didn’t want me to hold her hand, but I caught her leaning into me, sitting close to me; her way of touching without too much closeness, but maintaining the comfort levels she needed from me. When a child gives you the go-ahead, it’s ok to reach out with tenderness so that your touch is a compassionate source of comfort now and always.

‘Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God.’ 1 John 4:7 NLT

Friday, 4 March 2011

Just where is Tiredsville?

“I am tireder than I tired thing from Tiredsville!”

In order to substantiate this statement I guess we first need to know:

· what a tired thing is
· just how tired the tired thing is
· where is ‘Tiredsville’
· how tired do you have to be to be more tired than the tired thing
· and just what on earth am I rambling on about?

Parenting brings on these moments of tiredness that are totally indescribable. Mainly because you are unable to string two words together because you are so exhausted and your brain has turned to mush.

I remember when my girls were first born, those first few months of every three hours, night and day, that were so totally debilitating. It was a real struggle moving from Saturday and Sunday morning lie ins, with a newspaper and a cup of tea; to the overnight total lack of regard a small person has for their parent’s rest and relaxation routine.

I longed and fantasised about the day when I would not feel tired anymore. I knew that then my life would be great. I even started recognising different types of tiredness:

· the foggy tiredness, when you move and act automatically and are somehow unable to make decisions beyond the next 10 minutes, the next hour, the next day.

· the intense bodily tiredness where your entire body feels as though it is wading through porridge. It takes an enormous effort to walk, bend down, get up, even blink!

· the tension tiredness, where you neck feels tight from the base of your skull to the tips of your shoulder blades.

· the numbing tiredness when you can't feel anything. Not happy, not sad, not upset, not excited, not guilty or encouraged.

· and then the tiredness where you feel everything at once. Sad and happy and angry and scared and laughing and crying.

I still long for and fantasise about the day when I will not feel tired anymore. The small person drops the night feeds, sleeps through, but still gets up early. The older they get the later they go to bed, but they still get up early and your day gets busier with running them here and there and running after them here and there. What you gain in sleep you expend in energy. The even older they get, the even later they go to bed and it has been known on more than one occasion recently for my two girls to ‘tuck me in’ at bedtime. The good news is they then sleep in until midday, the bad news is you are up early bringing them tea and a newspaper in bed – the good news is you get to wake them up to give it to them! Ha ha! Revenge is sweet (tee hee).

I’m off to Tiredsville to find out what a tired thing is. I guess I am looking for something that looks a bit like me. I will start my search by looking on the inside of my eyelids.

Hope you all have a restful weekend, sleep well x x x x

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Love your neighbour as you love yourself

When I woke this morning I smelt brioche cooking in the kitchen, I was bought a cup of tea in bed and got to thinking how blessed I am. While we may be struggling in this country with the present economic state there seems to be an awful of worse things going on around the world. I am not belittling what is happening as I have many friends who have lost their jobs and are finding it really hard to find another. However, we should to take a look at the world situation and count our blessings.

God tells us to love our neighbour as we love ourselves, this shouldn’t extend to just our immediate locality, but the whole world. There is not a lot we can do for the world in a physical sense but we can pray for them.

So please join with me today in praying for the people of Egypt and Libya, especially the families with small people. Father we pray that the political situations in those countries will become less volatile, that any new leaders will be full of integrity and interested in the good of the people they lead.

Let’s also pray for the people of New Zealand whose homes and lives have been destroyed by the recent earthquake and lift up to God the families of the people who have died.
Remember the people of Australia, Brazil, Bolivia and Sri Lanka, whose family lives have been destroyed by floods. Lord help them to rebuilt their homes and their lives. Be their rock Lord!

Let’s also keep in mind the people of Haiti, particularly all the children who lost their parents a year ago and are now being placed with families all over the world. Father bless them, give them peace as they learn how to love and be loved by new parents, brothers and sisters.
Lord we lift up all the children and families in the world to you. Lord bless them and keep them.

And finally let’s pray for this country, for the economic and political situation. Lord we ask that you give your peace to all those who have lost their jobs and livelihoods. We pray for all the families struggling to survive, pay the bills and feed their children. Lord surround them with generous family, friends and neighbours who can help them through this time. Lord please show them the way forward. Give them the hope they need for the future.

Amen x x x x

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Letting go........

Let me describe to you the home of parents of a small person. There is a stair gate at the top of the stairs to stop them falling down, and another at the bottom of the stairs to stop them climbing up perchance they should fall down that way also. Every cupboard in the kitchen has one of those annoying kiddie safety catches that we, as adults, cannot open without scraping our knuckles, but the kids can get open in a trice. All items that could be vaguely dangerous to a small person have been elevated to a suitable height, all sharp corners covered and every door in house has one of those foam whatsits that stops the door from shutting and squashing precious fingers. Each plug socket has one of those annoying covers on it to stop small people poking their fingers in or Mum from hoovering because she can’t get the flaming things out again without using a kitchen knife! Equally so the car is full of safety seats and the childlock is on the windows and the doors. There are even more electronic sophisticated systems in place inside the home, watching the small person as it sleeps, in the next room!

Outside of the home the parents of a small person are employing every tactic they can to ensure the safety of their precious bundle, strapping them into their buggies and car seats and when they learn to walk insisting that hands are held (or if not employing the use of a kiddie lead). Teaching the small person how to cross the road safely, stressing how they should never stray from the sight of their grown up, tactically explaining to them how they shouldn’t talk to strangers.

And then comes that fateful day, when kiddie locks won’t hold them anymore, life seems to be continually bumping into them, your car seat is what they are looking forward to sitting in as they learn to drive the car themselves and they are more than capable of taking the cover off the plug, but not doing the hoovering!

This is the day when you hit your knees and with your heart in your mouth you pray -

“Lord, I have done all these things to protect my child, there is nothing more I can do, she 16 now, a young woman, and the kiddie lead is being strained so badly it’s going to snap any minute. Lord PLEASE look after her for me. I place her firmly in your hands. I pray I have done enough. I pray that all you asked me to do for her, all you asked me to teach her and show her, everything good that I have planted in her will now grow and help her mature into the beautiful person you planned her to be. Father I pray that she too one day will be praying this prayer, after protecting and loving her own small person and that she will remember the loving protection and guidance that I too remember from my own wonderful mum. Thank you for blessing us with such a beautiful child, I’m going to be brave and take a step back now, trusting that you Lord will take a step forward and guide her now. I love You. Amen”

Parents of small people, no matter how small they are, look after them, enjoy every moment, treasure them and teach them well. 16 years ago, whilst holding my brand new small person, I never dreamt that this day would come. Look out world, here comes our beautiful daughter Molly Dryden! May God bless you in all that you do my precious small person. We love you and will always be there for you.

“Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of your house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.” Colossian 3:15-17 The Message

Saturday, 12 February 2011

God's multiplying principle!

Yesterday in TLC (Toddler Lunch Club) we were learning about God’s multiplying principle. Basically, whatever you give to God, your time, your money, your love, He likes to multiply it for His glory. This morning as I woke up I found myself thinking about this principle, and how clever God is.

On 14th January 2003 my Mum died, suddenly and unexpectedly. She was 58, my dad had just retired, they had just bought their dream house in the country after living in London all their lives, they were looking forward to a lovely retirement, hanging out with their children and grandchildren. And then she died.

It was a very traumatic time for us, she was a wonderful mum and even more amazing nanny, I just kept thinking about our beautiful girls and how much they were going to miss not having her in their lives. I had no idea how I was going to raise our girls without her wise counsel; my girls were 8 and 6 at the time.

On 15th March 2003, whilst attending an Alpha course at St B’s I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Saviour and became a Christian. Coincidentally, in December 2002, I had agreed to go on the course with a friend, which started the week before mum died. God knew exactly what I would need at that time.

In joining St B’s I got involved with Barney’s and a few other bits and pieces and in doing so started to make friends. All in all so many wonderful friends I have lost count! So many dear friends, many of whom no longer come to Barney’s, their children are at school now some in year 3 or 4. I went to the pub last night with four of them, one of whom moved away from London 4 years ago, but came back yesterday for a visit – and is now running her own toddler group!.

Through being a member of St B’s I have found lots of friends, amazing people who love me in a way I have never been loved before. They support me through the ups and downs of my life and I am so grateful. And what gives me great pleasure is being able to do the same for them. It’s almost like in losing my mum my world shrank to half its size, but in finding God He has multiplied my world beyond my belief. Of course no one could replace mum, but I and my family now have so many wonderful friends, each of whom restore a little bit of her to us.
Through meeting Jesus and then having the privilege to lead Barney’s and being able to invest my time in helping new mums and dads, my heart especially being for families with young children, God has multiplied what I have given Him a million times over. I lost my mum, but gained, through all my new friendships, lots of honorary mums, dads, sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews, sons, daughters, grandchildren!!!!! And buckets full of love!

“God gives, God takes. God's name be ever blessed.” Job 1:21 The Message

TLC (Toddler Lunch Club) is a group for Barney’s Toddler Groups parents and carers, which meets on a Friday between 12 noon and 2pm in the Parish Hall at St Bs. We share lunch together, chat, learn, support and strengthen each other in our daily lives. Simply bring your toddler and your lunch. The children have fun with toys, craft and dvd’s and we have time to spend with God and each other.

A time to learn how to take life as it comes and experience God’s tender loving care for us.
Please come along one Friday and try it out – it’s mad, but fun!

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Dirty dishes?

What’s more important, a tidy house or a happy child?
Last night my husband came in from work, went into the kitchen and started banging around at the dirty dishes lying in the kitchen muttering to my daughter, who was also in the kitchen, “I don’t know what your mother does all day”. I was upstairs when this was happening; I heard what he said and was deeply saddened.

What did I do today? Today I left some dishes dirty, the reason for that being that when I got home from work, I went upstairs to take my shoes off and put down my bag. As I sat on my bed doing so both of my beautiful daughters joined me. And there we sat for two hours, they both wanted to talk about the ups and downs of their week at school. They needed my love, my time and my prayers. The needed their mum, the one they can trust to tell anything to, the one that will never judge them and always love them. So we lay on the bed for ages, laughing, crying and celebrating – it was the most wonderful use of two hours of my life.
No the dishes didn’t get done, in fact we then went downstairs made dinner together, ate together and made even more dirty dishes. Then we left the dishes deliberately and went back to my bed to watch TV together – to share more intimate time together.

The dishes can wait, your children can’t and shouldn’t have to. I am sure there are many parents who feel sad that they cannot justify their day at home because there is no visual or physical evidence of what they have done. In fact one lady said to me in the MiniGAP cafe last night that she works part time because she loves the sense of achievement she gets from seeing something finished at work, because she feels she never gets anything finished at home, as she has three children under the age of 7. I can fully appreciate her frustrations, but thinking about it, the feeling I got from leaving something unfinished last night far outweigh those frustrations. When I became a parent, this is what I signed up for, making time to listen to my girls, giving them space to air their joys and frustrations, helping them to gain the tools they need to approach the next part of their life journey – it’s a huge, scary world that we send them out into, even us grown up’s don’t understand it most of the time! I love you intensely my wonderful husband, but I am afraid on this occasion the dishes can wait!
What did I do this whole day through?
not much that shows, I guess that's true.
Unless you think that what I've done,
might just be important to someone.
Two beautiful girls with gorgeous red hair,
if that is true...then I've done my share x x x x

Saturday, 29 January 2011

The best things in life are FREE

This week I spent three days on a staff retreat in Norfolk. We stayed in a beautiful old house in the middle of nowhere, it was freezing cold, but we had such a laugh! Places like that generally really freak me, as I am a real townie. This is my worst nightmare being miles away from the nearest Tesco, no internet connection, no mobile phone signal, no television – alone and nothing to do.

I got to thinking how this type of life would be even scarier to my children, who are very much of the 21st century and rely on technology and us as their parents for their entertainment. As parents these days we tend to spend so much money making sure our children get to do all the clubs and extracurricular things we can, to fill their time and make sure they are ‘rounded’ people. When they are not at these clubs then our children are provided with virtual lives to live in, Xboxes, Wii, Nintendo DS, internet and TV. Very rarely being encouraged, or having the time to use their imagination or physical abilities to entertain themselves.

We arrived in Norfolk on Tuesday afternoon, and as adults managed to spend a pleasant evening chatting over a glass of wine together the first night (all of us bemoaning the fact we couldn’t check our email and Facebook accounts!). The following morning I got up and went for a walk in the gardens. There was a very fresh breeze blowing across the flat Norfolk fens which was invigorating to say the least!

I came across a children’s play area, and headed for a swing to sit on, enjoying the silence. I then found myself beginning to make the swing work, throwing my legs backward and forward, making the swing go higher and higher. The cold breeze took on a different meaning, it was no longer just invigorating but invoking all kinds of wonderful childhood memories of the park at the end of our road and the amazing times I had spent there as a child with my Mum and Dad. I was so excited that I had remembered how to make the swing work, I laughed out loud at my achievement as the wind took my breath away. How sad it was that my parents had spent so much money on my piano lessons as a kid, but now I couldn’t remember how to play; the extra hours my Dad had worked for me to have tenor recorder lessons also, but I am not a virtuoso performer. None of those things had really enhanced my life. Yet here I was enjoying something so much that hadn’t cost a penny to learn, just a bit of their time and encouragement. I could remember my Dad showing me how to swing my legs back and forth, the laughter we shared as I got it so wrong, legs all over the place and the sense of achievement I felt when finally got the hang of it.

I have spent hours nagging my girls to do their piano practice when we should have been sitting on a swing together! The real things they remember, the real things that make them ‘rounded’ people, are the FREE things – our love, our time and our encouragement.

See you at the park!

Friday, 21 January 2011

Love is not an emotion, it's a choice!

Have you ever had one of those days when someone you love so much has just been an absolute pain, and you are finding it hard to remember what made you love them in the first place?

In the sadness and pain that you are feeling at that time, revenge is the only thing on your mind. ‘They have hurt me, so I need to make them pay for it!’ is the thought running through your mind.

It’s pretty hard to feel love in those situations. Most of us live in this sea of romantic love, you know that type that happens at the beginning of most new relationships, and then that fateful day comes when your partner leaves the top of the toothpaste, or the toilet seat up, or worse – and then you move into the true state of love, the romance disappears and you have to ‘choose’ to love them, warts and all!

This can happen with your children and friendships also. They say that love and hate are the same emotion, just opposite ends of the spectrum. You love them intensely, and then the next minute they do something to upset you and suddenly you ‘hate’ them. You then have to choose to look beyond what has happened and love them no matter what. Because the truth of the matter is that you hate what they have done, you don’t hate them.

It’s tough, but it is real love. It’s the love that God has for us. How on earth could God love me, yet it says He does in the Bible. God chooses to love us, no matter what!

“I have loved you with an everlasting love” Jeremiah 31:3

In fact it says that God loves us unconditionally – despite the fact that I regularly mess up and probably really annoy Him. God chooses to love us unconditionally (that means there is nothing we could say or do that would ever make him love us any less – WOW). That is God’s grace; his unwarranted, unmerited love for us.

Love is not an emotion – it is a choice. It isn’t about finding a perfect person, there is no such thing. It is about seeing an imperfect person perfectly. If you are making a lifelong commitment to anyone, be it in a marriage, as a couple, to your children or in a friendship, it is important that you understand the level of commitment that comes with love.

Love is a choice, it is choosing to love that person unconditionally. Love is a verb. Love is a DOING word. It requires choices: hard choices, sometimes. It’s about sacrifice. It’s about faithfulness. It requires commitment. It sometimes hurts and doesn’t feel so good.
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a (NIV)

Is there someone in your life at present that you are struggling to love? I would love to pray for you and that relationship. God asks us to love everyone, as God loves us, unconditionally. It’s a big ask! I would love to hear from you. Facebook inbox me, email me; drop me a letter, text me or catch up with me any time.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Walnuts and a tin of buttons!

I’ve had an amazing week. It’s so great to be back at Barney’s hanging out with all my friends again! This morning was made extra special by an unexpected present from a wonderful friend, a dusty tin of buttons and a bag of crushed walnuts.

Now I can hear you all thinking, what kind of a present is that? Well, to me it is just the best and most thoughtful present. I love walnuts, but they are quite pricey so I don’t often treat myself, and my friend knows that I am a jewellery making nut and so a dusty tin full of beautiful, colourful buttons sends my creative thoughts rushing off skywards! My thoughtful friend knows how to fill up my love banks.

Do you know how to fill the love banks of the people you love? Do they know how to fill yours?

I have to recommend to you the fabulous ‘Five Love Languages’ books. In his books, for couples, singles and children, Gary Chapman describes how everyone expresses love in different ways and he has identified five specific languages of love: Quality Time, Words of Affirmation, Gifts, Acts of Service and Physical Touch. What speaks volumes to you may be meaningless to your partner, friend or child. The key is to know your love language and those of the people most close to you in order to fully express your love and to feel truly loved in return. At the back of each book is a simple quiz that you take in order to find out your love language.

If your love language is Words of Affirmation then unsolicited compliments mean the world to you and hearing the words, “I love you,” are important. If it is Quality Time then nothing says, “I love you,” like full, undivided attention with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all chores and tasks on standby. The person whose love language is Receiving Gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift, not the monetary value. Can vacuuming the floors really be an expression of love? Absolutely to a person whose love language is Acts of Service! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes. And finally a person whose primary language is Physical Touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy. Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face—they can all be ways to show concern, care, and love.

We have Gary Chapman’s books in our Barney’s library, please feel free to borrow them to find out what your love language is. Or you can look at where you can check online.
I highly recommend it, I know that my husband’s principal love language is Acts of Service, so my ironing his shirts each week fills his love bank, mine is Words of Affirmation, so tell me how much you love me and I am a happy bunny. Molly’s is physical touch, I love giving her hugs and Alice’s is Quality Time, so a ten mile bike ride with her makes her happy (and my bottom hurt!).

Some of us long for tender words. Others, a gentle touch, a thoughtful gift, a kind deed, or some precious time spent together.

Only when we have learned each other’s language have we truly learned to love.

God says “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.” Jeremiah 31:3 NLT

Saturday, 8 January 2011

The perfect murder weapon?

“If you wanted to commit the perfect, unsolvable, murder what weapon would you choose?”

My husband is a Detective Inspector in the Met and has dealt with many an ‘interesting’ murder scene in his 30 years as an officer, and this question is often the topic of conversation at dinner with friends. They want to know if it is possible to ‘get away with murder’!

I have watched many a documentary on TV about murder where there was no evidence of who did it left at the scene. One programme even suggested that a weapon, like a knife, or similar, able to stab someone could be made of ice and that would be the perfect weapon. Once inside the victim it would melt and there would be no murder weapon to be found.

Well, I’m no crime scene investigator, but all around me every day I see, speak and pray with murder victims. Sadly for these people their death wasn’t swift, but a slow, painful, tortuous experience. They have been attacked with the most cruel of murder weapons, a weapon that makes you die from the inside out – and that weapon is ‘words’.

Words, I believe, are the cruellest weapon you can use against anyone. Just a simple throwaway line to a child who has fallen over like “Get up stupid!” can be a killer – that child instantly identifies with that label and believes they are ‘stupid’. I’m sure that all of you can think of a time when someone said something to you that hurt. It not only hurt, but it then continued to fester in your heart and mind, making you doubt yourself, making you think differently about yourself and ultimately changing your whole view of yourself. Words are powerful things when used not in love or for encouragement.

This week Alice, our 13 year old, came home from school in floods of tears. She is in yr 9 at school, at the end of year 7 the school identified that she had a talent for art and asked if she would like to do her GCSE Art exam early. She started the coursework in yr 8 and has just done her mock exam, the final real exam being in May this year. We are really proud of her, she does have a talent for art, she has her own wonderful style and is always doing something creative. Her bedroom is a delight, the walls are covered in her work, paintings, cartoons, sketches, collages etc. She made me just the most beautiful picture for Christmas, a collage of photos of me and her interspersed with other bits of her art and she had framed it.

Wednesday evening she came home from school after her first art lesson of the year with her mock exam result, it was one mark off attaining a B grade at GCSE! We were so proud of her, at 13 she was doing so well. But she was crying. Her teacher had told her “she obviously hadn’t worked hard enough” and what she had produced for her exam was “too simplistic”. She was totally broken by his comments. Now that is murder. That is how you crush someone’s spirit. A 13 year old attaining a B grade at GCSE is totally amazing in my eyes, but obviously not in the eyes of her teacher. If I were her teacher I would not only be congratulating Alice for her achievement, but quite selfishly thinking maybe I had done a good job too in coaching her to achieve such a result!

Someone once said to me that before you are allowed to criticise someone you have to say seven positive things first and also phrase the negative as an encouragement rather than a criticism. Constructive or positive criticism is always the best option whether you are speaking to an adult or a child. Think before you speak, how would I feel if someone said this to me? If you wouldn’t like to have someone say it to you, then don’t say it. Say it in a way you would like to hear it, with love.
Follow the golden rule in Matthew’s gospel “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” Matthew 7:12 (New Living Translation)

And remember “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” Ephesians 4:29 (New Living Translation)

Words are sharper than swords, they can cut you down in one blow and sadly can remain with you forever. Please remember to use them wisely and lovingly - for the building up of people, not the cutting down.

My prayers go out today to all of you who are victims of other peoples words. God knows your pain and is crying with you. I would love to pray for you, or with you, for your healing. I know that God can and wants to heal you from this pain. Facebook inbox me, email me; drop me a letter, text me or catch up with me any time.

“Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing.” Proverbs 12:18 (New Living Translation)

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Plans or Goals?

I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. "When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I'll listen. "When you come looking for me, you'll find me. "Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I'll make sure you won't be disappointed." God's Decree. "I'll turn things around for you. Jeremiah 29:11-14 (The Message)

It’s the 1.1.11, the day when our thoughts turn to the coming New Year and what it may bring for us. As the clock struck 12 last night my two girls immediately said “What are your New Years’ resolutions Mum?”.

Looking back on last year, I have to say that making plans aren’t always the best thing. Last year I found myself disappointed over something that I, and others, thought was certain to happen to me, but it didn’t. The plans we make often do not concur with those that God has for us. I like the idea of having goals for my life, but making plans for the year puts a time frame on events. Time frames can often lead to disappointment. I think I want to approach this year prayerfully, committing this year to God and His plans for me.

Even this morning I heard from a dear friend, who last night was excited for what this year held for her and her family. And then less than 6 hours later, heard that someone she loved dearly had died early this morning, totally blowing hers and her families hopes and dreams for the year to bits. My thoughts and prayers go out to her and her family at this really sad time.
My hope for this year is that I will take each day as it comes, make the most of every moment of each day, and spend time with my family and my wonderful friends, trusting in God for my happiness and fulfilment. He knows what is best for us. He has equipped us to handle life as it comes. Each day has enough for us to consider, we don’t need to anticipate tomorrows issues while we are still trying to live out today! And that is my prayer for you all too.

Thank you all for your love and support over the last year. I have really appreciated everything you have done and I am so blessed and honoured to have such a wonderful group of friends.

I would love to pray for you. If you are worried about what this year may hold for you, if you have unresolved issues from last year that you would like God’s help with, or if you want to know the peace of God which surpasses all understanding or meet with Jesus and have him as your personal saviour – then I would love to pray for you or with you. Facebook inbox me, email me; drop me a letter, text me or catch up with me any time.

May God bless you and your families this year. Love and hugs to you all x x x x

‘May the Lord bless you and protect you.
May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord show you his favour and give you his peace.’
Numbers 6:24-26 (NLT)