Saturday, 29 September 2012

Today my baby is driving a car!

Ok, so ten minutes ago Steve and I were the proud parents of two little girls aged five and seven, beautiful, cheeky and fun. Now all of a sudden it turns out that our eldest little girl is seventeen, going on eighteen and going to university next year. She is filling out application forms and writing personal statements, making decisions on how far she is going away from home and where the next stage of her life is going to take place because it isn’t going to be in our house anymore – how can that have happened? Where has time gone, where have our babies gone? I keep trying to allowing myself to think ahead to next year when we say goodbye to her, but it makes me feel so sad I don’t want to go there yet.

Another step in that direction happened yesterday, when Molly passed her driving test, and immediately jumped into the car that we had so foolishly bought her for her birthday in February and drove off into the sunset to pick her sister up from school. No more are we going to hear in the mornings “Mum, Dad can we get a lift to school today?” No more staying up late waiting to go and pick them up from somewhere. Yes a huge part of me is pleased for her, but the rest of me is feeling totally bereaved. How can that be true, my baby is driving a car!

“This time next year Mum it is going to be just you, me and Dad” says Alice, reassuring me that she isn’t going anywhere, but that isn’t strictly true as already she is looking at what she wants to study at university, as she plans what A levels to take next year.

This week at college morning prayers were about time and how we should enjoy our three years studying; how all good things take time to achieve. Lincoln, who was preaching said that ‘time is God's way of stopping everything happening at once.’ Well I have to say that at the moment I feel like time has very much caught up with me. By the end of my three years studying everything I knew and took for granted about my family will have totally changed. Molly will go to university at the beginning of my 2nd year, and Alice will go off the year I finish, 2015. My babies will both be gone and it will just be Steve and I, on our own again.

At this point I think I would like to ask the world to stop, because I’m a bit scared. I love having my girls around, I am so proud of them and I am sure their futures will only give me more to be proud about. I will miss them terribly, but what Lincoln said is true, God has cleverly given us 17, going on 18 years with them, and bit by bit, year by year they have been growing up and becoming independent of us; everything hasn’t happened at once, although at the moment it feels like it. But I thank God for the time we have had with them, what an absolute blessing they have been to us, what a privilege it has been to be their parents and watch them grow into the lives God has planned for them, strong, beautiful, intelligent women of God.

Yes, my baby has today driven herself to her Saturday job; I am no longer needed at 6pm to pick her up. But I am so proud of her. She is working, and has been for a year now, she has saved money so that now she can drive she can afford to run her little car. What a sensible young lady.

But I think for the time being I will just look at life day by day, the big picture is just a bit too much to cope with. I’m with you God, one day at a time.

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes."          Matthew 6:34 (The Message)

Thank you Lord that you are in charge of time, and one day at a time is what we have because I am pretty sure I couldn’t cope with any more. Thank you for the pleasure of being able to watch Molly and Alice grow daily. Lord as they go off into the world I pray that you watch over them, guide them and continue to help them grow. Thank you for giving us such beautiful children. Amen x

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Special Children, Special Parents

I’ve just returned from a week in Shepton Mallet at the New Wine Christian Conference leading a venue for the parents of children with special needs. I had the privilege of meeting some really amazing people who are struggling with life in a way that I could never understand, yet to my surprise are some of the strongest people I have ever had the pleasure to meet.

The whole week wasn’t dissimilar to my normal week, chatting to parents, drinking tea, eating too much cake, praying for people, listening and crying; the only difference being that these people were the parents of some really special children with a wide range of special needs. My sole purpose of being there for the week was to hopefully bless them in every way I could. Now, after being home for less than 12 hours, I find that they blessed me far more than I feel I blessed them.

Most of the conversations we had were about the struggles of raising a child with special needs, conversations that left me angry on their behalf for the constant fighting they have to do against bureaucracy, funding etc in order for their children to have a similar standard of life as mine girls do. Simple things that I take for granted, like my children attending school every day, are hurdles for them.

One conversation that has impacted me and will stay with me forever was with the lovely mum of an 11 year old boy with autism. She was telling me about a gang of boys aged 11-14, on her estate who have recently made her son’s life a misery, hanging around outside her house hurling verbal abuse at him as he goes in and out of the house.

As a good policeman’s wife I immediately said “well the police are cracking down on anti-social behaviour at present, maybe you should call them and ask them to sort those boys out!” My first thoughts were to protect her and her son.

She looked at me and said “Yes, that is an option, but what I thought I would do; what I feel God challenging me to do, is invite them in to spend some time with my son. I think if they knew him they wouldn’t be scared of him, maybe that is why they are behaving as they are, there is nothing else for them to do on the estate.”

WOW, I didn’t know what to say other than “I guess that is what Jesus would do” and check my attitude.

What an amazing woman. On top of her everyday struggles of raising a child with special needs, hers and her special son’s life was being made a misery by these boys and instead of getting ‘angry and even’ she was thinking ‘what would Jesus do’ and deciding to love them, feed them and educate them rather than retaliate in any way.

I felt truly humbled by her attitude, despite everything going on her life she was choosing to keep her eyes on Jesus and trust Him. Not be of the world and ignore and sideline those boys as it seems possible that their families and local community were doing.

What an amazing woman, I hope you can join me in praying for her and her son. That God will honour her obedience and that those boys will become her son’s best friends. That they will ask her, in time, why she did what she did and she can tell them about the God who loves her, her son and THEM!

I look forward to hearing her story next year.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 5:43-48

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Happy Diamond Jubilee Weekend!

I’m sad to say that I am looking at this Diamond Jubilee long weekend not with excitement, but as just another day. I would loved to have gone up town to watch the flotilla and be part of some of the other things going on, but it is on Sunday when I am at work. I have totally disregarded the fact that there are three other days of this celebration. It’s not like me but I fear the Grinch may have stolen my joy this weekend!

In my concern at being so grumpy I started thinking about what our family could do to change this, to have fun rather than let it all go by, when a friend’s status came up on Facebook which says “getting quite excited about the Diamond Jubilee, despite rain threatening plans for my Big Lunch BBQ on Sunday! Where were you for the Silver Jubilee in 1977?” Her joy at looking forward to the celebrations at first made me feel even sadder, but then kicked my butt! I excitedly replied to this status with my 1977 memories, I was twelve. We had a street party on our road, we all had to get dressed up and I went as an Edwardian lady, my mum made this amazing hat for me and I had a beautiful velvet long dress. If I remember rightly my sister wore a white toga and my mum made her a big shield out of cardboard and tin foil and my sister was Britannia, I forget what my little brother was!

We decorated the windows of our houses (see old photo of our house above), we put up flags in the street. We all took our dining tables and chairs out into the street, along with rounds and rounds of sandwiches. I remember there were games for the children, party games, races etc. And I think we all had our picture taken together at the end. My lasting memory is how much fun the togetherness bought, normally my Dad worked 24/7, but that day I can remember him laughing and dancing in the street with our neighbours. My mum made such an amazing job of our costumes I remember feeling like a princess.

The dictionary definition of Jubilee is “A season or an occasion of joyful celebration”. In the Old Testament the Bible speaks of a Jubilee as being every 50th year and it is a “a year during which slaves were to be set free, alienated property restored to the former owners, and the lands left unworked”

I am determined to give my kids some memories this Jubilee celebration, similar to the ones I have from when I was 12. It’s not gonna be another working day, it is a time to be set free, be given some time to spend with my family that I may not normally get, and to do no work during that time.

OK Grinch, I’m claiming back my joy! I am gonna have fun at the party tomorrow at church and we are going to make plans for the rest of the long weekend that don’t include work, staying at home or exam revision.

Happy Jubilee weekend everyone, try to make precious memories for your family, so that 35 years later they too can remember where they were and what they were doing at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee with their family and friends!

May God bless your time together.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Parallel Universe Parenting

Ok, so this is what happened.

I woke on Saturday morning at around 9.30 after a lovely lie in.

Went downstairs to make a cup of tea to take back to bed and read my book.

As I walked into the kitchen I noticed it was really hot in there, the oven seemed to be on.

I looked in the oven and could see the light was on.

I then went into the lounge to find daughter no 1 sitting watching an American sitcom.

“Morning darling, what’s in the oven” I said.

“Brioche” she replied.

“But we don’t have any” I replied, knowing full well I hadn’t bought any brioche in ages.

“I made it” she replied

“You made it” I said, slightly confused.

“Yes I made it” she said

“When?” was my puzzled retort

“Last night” she said

“When last night?” was my even more puzzled reply.

We had all gone to bed at 10pm the previous evening as we were all tired, I had done my usual rounds of goodnight kisses and tucked them both in. At no point in my consciousness was brioche being made. I could feel myself beginning to slip into one of those confusing parenting moments and I was scared!

“I made it last night, Dad was there” she said

“But Dad didn’t get in until 11.30 I heard him come to bed” I said

“Yes, I was bored” she said

Ok, this is beginning to formulate in my brain, Molly, aged 17, was bored at 11.30pm, so she got up and made brioche. Ok, I can do this.

“You were bored?” I said

“Yes I was bored” she said

“Ok, that’s good” I said as I turned and left the room, “we have never made brioche before, where did you get the recipe?” Stupid question, but that happens when you are totally confused by a situation.

“Off the internet” she replied.

At this point I just felt it best to retreat back to my bed with my cup of tea, partially excited that there was warm, freshly baked brioche for breakfast, but mostly totally freaked by what had happened in the previous 10 minutes.

As I climbed back into bed, Steve came out of the bathroom.

“Darling, what time did you get in last night?”

“11.30” he replied

“Hmmm, yes I thought so. What was Molly doing when you came in?” I said

“Making brioche apparently, you should have seen the mess, there was flour and $%&* everywhere!” he laughed.

“Ok, that’s good”

“Why?” he said

“I was just a bit worried that my lie-in this morning had actually been a week rather than a couple of hours. I just wanted to check that I hadn’t been transported to some parallel universe where you put your kids to bed at 10.30 and then wake up to find they have been up all night making, proving and baking brioche because they were bored! That’s all” I said

“Good, good” was his reply, “shall I bring you some when it’s cooked?”

“Yes please, butter and jam.”

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Four Weddings and a Resurrection!

It’s been the most exhausting two weeks with two weddings in the two weeks before Easter, then Good Friday, Holy Saturday on the High Road, four services on Easter Sunday and then two more weddings, one on Easter Monday and Friday this week too.

As exhausted as I was I have had the most amazing time attending, on Monday, Karen and Dave’s wedding; and on Friday, Wendy and Rich’s wedding. Congratulations to them all. It was such a privilege to be part of celebrating their special days.

Quite selfishly I enjoyed them for an extra reason, that Steve and I could spend some quality time together after the Easter madness, and he could meet some of my friends. Our lives have been so orientated around our family and our individual work lives for the last few years, so infrequently do our lives collide in this way. Yes, we don’t make enough time for each other.

I remember a time, pre children when we were out most nights, socialising, dancing and generally hanging out together, spending time in each other’s work worlds and in our own private world and recently I have found myself missing those times and craving them again.

To a certain extent it really felt to me that we had drifted apart a bit, and I desperately wanted him back, I really miss our silly, fun times together. On Friday night I headed towards the dance floor with some friends, hesitantly. I haven’t danced for such a long time and I felt really self conscious, gigging away in the circle, around our handbags (some things don’t change with time!).

As I stood there I heard Jesus say to me “Sally, what are you doing? You don’t find it hard to dance in church when you are worshipping me, you don’t care who is looking then; just get on with it, release those fears and dance your socks off!”. In that moment I felt instantly free of my inhibitions. I left the dance floor, grabbed Steve, dragged him up to join in the fun and we danced and we laughed; and we laughed and we danced. It was the most incredible time.

It’s all too easy to lose yourself in parenthood and work. You find yourself always having to be the sensible one, when deep inside a disco diva, life loving woman is screeching to get out. I don’t want to be the sensible one all the time and I need to make time to enjoy and appreciate my husband again, have fun with him again, remember why I fell in love with him and celebrate that. To really appreciate the man God gave me and remember the vows that we made in front of him 19 years ago this month.

“Will you love him, comfort him, honour and protect him,
and, forsaking all others, be faithful to him as long as you both shall live?”.

Lots of other people, things and life have crept between us, mostly for good reasons, but it says ‘forsaking all others’, we have to remember that we are the most important people in our marriage.

Our final dance was a slow one, so wonderful to feel so close to him and I could almost hear his heart beating, as we danced to ‘Lovely Day’ by Bill Withers. As I sung the words into his ear, it was much like a prayer of thanks to the two men in my life, by wonderful husband Steve, and my wonderful saviour and giver of life, Jesus.

With Jesus in your life, and in your marriage, every day can be a lovely day.

Fancy a dance?

When I wake up in the morning, love
And the sunlight hurts my eyes
And something without warning, love
Bears heavy on my mind

Then I look at you
And the world's alright with me
Just one look at you
And I know it's gonna be
A lovely day
Lovely day, lovely day, lovely day

When the day that lies ahead of me
Seems impossible to face
When someone else instead of me
Always seems to know the way

Then I look at you
And the world's alright with me
Just one look at you
And I know it's gonna be
A lovely day

Thursday, 19 January 2012

I love you more...

“But Dad, I can’t, I’m scared” said the little girl, feeling tears beginning to fill her eyes. She was trying to hold them back, brush them away before her Dad saw her and told her to “pull herself together and stop being so silly!”.

The tears were welling up even faster as she began to feel even sadder that her Dad didn’t just reach out and help her, hold her tight, guide her. She braced herself for the harsh words she knew she was going to hear. The words that went straight through her chest and ripped her heart out and the look that said “don’t be so pathetic” making her feel worthless and even more afraid.

But this time, strangely, something different happened. The little girl wasn’t so little anymore. She felt the tears run down her face. She closed her eyes so as not to see his look of disdain and as she did she felt His hand gently on her cheek, wiping away her tears. She felt His other hand hold her on the top of her arm and then draw her close to Him. She found herself in the tightest bear hug she had ever been in, her head safely tucked under His chin. This wasn’t her Dad, He smelt different. He didn’t smell of fear and anger, He smelt of love.

She felt Him gently stroke her hair. She looked up and fell into his huge eyes. Eyes that said “I love you, I’m so proud of you. You don’t need to be scared. You don’t need to be afraid. Let’s do this together. I know you can do it”.

It felt so strange, so alien, yet so amazing. One of those moments that you never want to stop, a moment you certainly never want to forget.

Who was this person who could make her feel like this – such an awesome feeling, and such a contrast to the way she had expected to be feeling right now.

Despite this amazing experience her mind still wanted to go back to that place of “I’m scared Dad, I can’t do it”. She opened her mouth to say it, but before the words came out she felt his hand gently touch her mouth, and He said “Yes, I know you can’t do it – BUT we can, we can do it together!” and He laughed. He laughed and smiled at her and all her fear slipped away. She began to laugh too, a laugh that she had never laughed before. Coming from a part of her being that she didn’t even know existed. She leant back in His arms and looked in His eyes again. She couldn’t believe what she saw. She saw love, she saw acceptance, she saw peace – but this time she also saw her own reflection and for a moment she didn’t recognise herself.

What she had seen in the past, when she had looked in a mirror, had been a grey skinned woman with many battle scars; with life written all over her face.

What she saw in the reflection in His eyes was a beautiful woman; the scars were still there, but no longer grey. The colour was back in her cheeks and her eyes smiled and sparkled like stars.

Slipping back into childish ways, fearful of losing this feeling she now felt, she said “I don’t want my old Dad anymore, will you be my Dad ?”

He replied “I am your Father, always have been, always will be. And you are my beloved daughter. I’m here to stay. Are you?”

“Oh yes, most definitely” she replied as she snuggled back into His arms. “I love you” she said into His chest.

“I love you more” He replied.

I offer you more than your earthly father ever could ~ Matthew 7:11
For I am the perfect father ~ Matthew 5:48