Hi, I’m back.

I’ve tried to do this a bunch of times over the last five months.  Jump back into the saddle.  Get writing again.  But that saddle just seemed too high.  Too much.  I’m aware that those readers who joined me along the way have long since given up stopping by my blog.  So I’m more doing this for me.  Because I love to write.  And because if I used a journal or notepad, sooner or later I’d end up losing it along with the thoughts I’m trying to preserve for the future me to look back on.

For more than four years I have put a piece of me into every blog post I write.  My dashboard tells me I did that 320 times.  But it’s not a matter of keeping it going for the sake of what I’ve already written; it’s a matter of preserving space for what I’m yet to write.  Not to be some big shot writer (I’m a realist to a fault) but just because it’s what I love.  It’s what’s good for me.

To say it’s been a hard year feels so understated.  There will be a time, and I feel strongly about this, that will feel right to talk about it.  To be real and raw and honest, to give hope.  But ultimately to give honour and glory to God who is able to do immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine.  I used to just believe that, but now I know it to be true, without a flicker of doubt.  Because I’ve seen it and lived it.  And whatever your experience, when you live it you tell it, you can’t not.  But that time isn’t now, not yet.  My now is full of embracing life as it is, scratching my head over tomato plants that don’t grow tomatoes and getting comfy back in this saddle 🙂

 

Halloween Schmalloween.

“Halloween Schmalloween, this day belongs to the Lord and later we’re going to partyyyyyyy”

This was what I tweeted yesterday morning as I sat in the waiting area for my physio appointment.  I have the most bizarre relationship/perspective on the 31st October.  So many memories that make up to how I feel about it.

Before The Husband and I married, both being over-analysers, we disussed everything that we thought would come up in our marriage.  Money, children, ministry, gender roles, pets, did I mention money? So we were smug enough to think we were a step ahead of anything that could catch us off guard.  We were married in the July, and were soon packing up our rented house to move into our own in the late atumn.  Enter 31st October.

It was, as you’d expect, dark outside and we were probably busy packing boxes when one of us realised it was halloween.  Oh.  We’d never really talked over how we’d handle trick-or-treaters.  We decided quickly that we both hated halloween and everything it represented.  But do we answer the door and politely explain that we don’t celebrate halloween?  Do we give out sweets anyway?  Do we blatantly show we’re at home and ignore the door bell?  Or do we turn out ALL lights and skulk around in the dark?

Yes.  As fully grown adults, we decided to do the latter.  It saw us commando-crawling (with a bark of “get-down!”) across the floor each time the door bell rang and reaching up in the dark to peep through a window to see if they’d gone.  We were ready for those teenage ratbags with eggs.  Only they didn’t come.  We ended up taking on mission-“get-down!” for sweet young kids, most of whom were accomplanied by an adult.  I know.  The mind boggles.  We look back now and laugh so much about it, the funniest part being that it was no laughing matter at the time.  It was something we were literally working through as we lived it.

we tried out the strategy that the inlaws use and kept a bowl of sweets by the front door with a sign saying that we don’t celebrate halloween but please take a sweet.  Its seemed to work for them.  Only The Husband paced the floor all evening, peeking through the blinds to make sure the kids were not taking more than their share of sweets! I thought the man was going to have a heart attack…!

And then five years ago, on 31st October I miscarried. The story is told here on my brand-new-not-even-really-ready-to-be-put-out-there secondary blog where I will be piling all my mummy stuff so not to overload it here.  Even now, when October 31st rolls round I feel the sting off loss.

Last year I was sitting thinking about halloween, probably feeling a little wistful over my own experiences.  But I know I was feeling frustrated that children were being exposed to horrible stuff on halloween.  There has been times when I’ve had to walk out of a shop with my girls because the decoration has been so frightening.  I just don’t see what’s fun about death, horror and giving children nightmares.  But at the same time there’s no denying there’s a pull to it; the promise of sweets when trick-or-treating and the opportunity to see your friends at a halloween party.

It’s not enough to say ‘no’ to our children with Halloween.  Telling kids to stay away from something just makes the mystery of it all the more appealing (unless you’re as sensible as Chloe who would not touch anything scary with a barge pole).  If we’re trying to guide our children from something unhelpful we have to provide an alternative, so there’s no sense of missing out.

So last year we launched the Starlight Party at Emmanuel Church, and the church was packed full of kids and their family from both within the church family and from the local community.  Last night we celebrated the Starlight Party’s second birthday.  I felt like my heart would swell out of my rib  cage, I was so thankful for a team of about 30, that worked tirlessly with smiles on their faces.

And we pulled it off! Kids loved it and their family loved it.  I can’t say I’m a little relieved the planning is behind me but it without a doubt it was completely worth it.

 

Be you.

Last night I was telling a bunch of teenager to just be themselves.  They have so many expectations thrown at them, most of which would fundamentally change who they are.

Their hairs are numbered.  They’re made the way they are on purpose.  And the best way they can live life to the fullest is just to be who they are and not try to be someone else.  It frustrates me so much because it sounds so cliched.  Just be yourself.  What is it that makes it so hard to sink in?  It’s something  I still struggle with as I approach 30!

Sometimes youthworkers are compared to disneyland staff.  You just expect to see enthusiasm and energy, right?  I remember, back when I was training to be a youth worker, one of my line managers at county council told me that I need to find my niche to ‘connect’ with young people.  We worked together doing some detached work and he’d just swagger over to a group of young people and…trump! He’d get a laugh or a girly fake-disgust and he’d suddenly he became the jokey/confident youth worker.  I held my wind in and got a stomach ache.

Studying youth and community studies was no mean feat for me.  Walking into a lecture/seminar felt like walking into the lions den each day.  The course was full of ‘out-there’ people and, well, it was never dull.  I would have hid under the table if I thought I would have gotten away with it.

At the end of the three years, everyone was awarded a certificate.  Mine was “the shyest youth worker”.  Cringe.

The things is I’m not actually that shy.  I was just putting myself up against these massive personalities and expectations of a youth worker and decided that I didn’t match up to it, so took a step back.  It shook my confidence, visualising this ultimate youth worker that I’m supposed to be…

I wonder if there are a bunch of people that would be so influential in young people’s lives but think they just aren’t…enough.  Not young enough.  not cool enough.  Not loud and flamboyant enough.  And that’s really sad – the young people miss out on some incredible relationships and they miss out themselves.  I have learned so much from the teenagers I’ve worked with – they push me, challenge me and encourage me more than any one adult has done.

I’m rubbish at pretending – it can get very awkward and has got me into trouble but you can read me like a book.  For a while I battled against it, but then I figured I would just be creating a mask – a more polished version of myself.  How can we, as adults, do that and then expect young people to just be themselves, warts and all??

So I’m not the ultimate youthworker.  I’m not happy and bouncy all the time.  I get grumpy when I’m hungry.  I get PMT’d out.  But I love Jesus with all that I am and I love young people like they’re my own kids (or, ahem, maybe little brother or sister…!).  I don’t feel enough – but I know that His grace is enough.  And when God calls us to something, he’s already figured out that we’re the person to do it – we don’t need to sweat it or question it.  And whatever it is, whether its supporting something already existing or stepping out into new territory, as a very wise Charlotte gambill preached at Cherish Conference this year – we just need to put our hand up and say “I’m in”.

 

 

 

disappointment.

It has been said that a successful blog needs a niche.  A specialism.  So you’ll find cookery blogs, crafty/DIY blogs, foody blogs, mummy blogs, etc.  I don’t have a niche.  I just try to record the ‘little things’ that can easily be forgotten, make sense of my jumbled thoughts and share a little bit of me.  Sometimes I write about silly stuff.  Sometimes I write about good stuff.  And sometimes I write about struggles.  I’m guessing the former make for easier reading! But you don’t walk through life without struggles, n o-one does.  And I pray that as I write about stuff that I find tough, that it will encourage you wherever you’re at.

There’s always an ‘uh!’ moment when I wake up and my back/pelvis/legs are playing up. I’m like a disappointed child that’s been told they can’t go to the park, because this stupid injury stops me doing all I want to do. But right now, I’m grateful for what I can do. I’m so sorry for ranting and whining, the frustration might make a little more sense soon.

We had a load of Avon work to do Saturday afternoon and because it was so warm we combined it with a bike ride for my 4 yr old and 6 yr old. Never ever combine work with a bike ride with a 4 yr old and 6 yr old. It was awful. The girls were riding into the road. I totally misplaced a receipt I had for one customer. I was all sweaty in the ridiculous September heat (too much information) and delivered the wrong products to a different customer which meant I had to go back with my tail between my legs. I walked away feeling like possibly the most unprofessional Avon rep EVER. There was a slight turnaround in the whole experience when I delivered to the last customer. She was so lovely and a little amusing. She was asking me if I had popped brochure through a door over the road and kept saying she’s ‘gone away for the weekend’ – and she kept winking and grinning when she said it. it was a little bit wink wink nudge nudge. I grinned back. And had absolutely no idea what she was going on about. Maybe she’s a little ‘wo-hoo’ but hey, if she happy to buy with Avon… SAM_0855

On the way home we walked past some brambles and found blackberries, Much excitement followed and we improvised with Ruby’s bag to collect some. This is when a nice little picture of our foraging efforts would be fitting, but I didn’t have my camera with me. A lesson learnt. Take your camera everywhere.  So here’s what we came home with.

 

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Not quite enough to make a blackberry crumble but it was still a very cool little ‘bolt on’ to the afternoon.

We got home and almost immediately realised I’d walked way too far. For the first time in months I had all tingles and pins and needles down my legs. Gutted.  Some ice, rest and X Factor later my legs feel a little better but the ‘sciatica’ symptoms are still clinging on.

Yesterday I continued to ignore the pain and spent the morning in kids church, moving tables and carrying Ruby.  She has been exhausted since she started school and she’s not really caught up yet.  By the end of the morning church meeting she was showing major signs of flagging and so when The Husband took her this was pretty inevitable:

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Pushing my body when it was trying to tell me it was struggling took its toll and as we arrived back home at lunch time I crawled onto the sofa and upped my pain meds to the point that I was at before I started to reduce them.  Because I am chomping at the bit to get off all the medication I’m on, this was a bit of a blow.

Disappointment is rubbish isn’t it?  It makes you feel robbed and that all the hope has been sucked out of you, leaving you a little empty.  But it doesn’t have to be like that! There is hope in everything.   Here’s what the bible says about it:

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment.

Romans 5:3-4

We’ve heard its been said that we are what we eat.  It’s a good thing I don’t believe that or I’d be slow cooked chicken. I should eat more glamorous food.  We’re not what we eat.  We’re not even what we feel.  I wonder if our feelings get too much of a look in, and this comes from some one who mostly allows her heart to rule her head!  Feelings can be deceptive so we need to stand on what we know to be true.

Sometimes I just don’t feel I have what it takes, but I hold on to the truth that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13).  Sometimes I can feel like plans have gone wrong but I stand on the truth that the plans of the Lord stand firm forever (psalm 33:11).

Sometimes I feel frustrated that ‘stuff’ just gets in the way of the important stuff – But I know that Our God is greater.
 

 

 

You are what you see. But what do you really see?

We live in a technological world of social media where its easier to say what you think to a computer screen.  Blimey it’s easier to say what you think  to another person via a computer screen.  There is also a dangerous perception that words can be put out there and just deleted if regretted afterwards.  But it’s an illusion because once words are read by someone you can’t take them back.  The delete button is no-one’s safety net.

I wanted to share a little about some changes The Husband and I will be making in September, but before I do I need to be realistic and acknowledge that I’m in a position of influence both as a mum and as a youth pastor. The words I use matter. That’s not coming from a place of arrogance but from a place of responsibility that scares the baheebijeebies out of me.  But in my weakness HE is made strong and so on we go.  We want to live transparently, in our motives and actions.

So before I chat on about what September will probably look like to us, I want to put it all into context (this is sounding really serious, and it’s so not, ha! It’s just that I don’t want to risk any misunderstanding).

On Monday at The Link I talked to our young people a little about what it is to Give your heart to God…

When you are single to mingle and you find someone very cute and who like you back, its a pretty great feeling, right?  Having a crush on someone or even falling in love is often not a choice, it’s a progression of a relationship and before you know it you feel like your heart is not your own any more.  When someone has your heart there are a couple of things that happen that help us understand what its’ like to be in relationship with your creator, and what its’ like to be ‘in relationship’ with the world.  For now we’ll just look at one, but its’ a biggie…

When you’re infatuated, it’s very easy for your identity to be rooted in the object of your affection.  And before all the Mr and miss independents among you start heckling that no person will validate them – I say amen (!) but we have got to be real here.  People don’t complete you, but you’d be lying if you said that what the people closest to you say about you didn’t matter.  I’ve seen shy girls walk on air with a sudden spring in their step when their sweethearts have told them that they’re the best girl around.  And too often I’ve seen strong and amazing girls  reduced to nothing when the guy in their life has said they’re worth nothing.  Its’ gutting to see.  And this absolutely isn’t exclusive to the girls at all, its’ just been my experience because I’ve worked with a lot of young girls.

In today’s culture there is expectation screaming at young people.  The girls should be flawlessly beautiful (and when i say flawless I mean flawless, to the point of impossibility.  cough cough Photoshop cough cough).  They should be skinny but still have all the right curves and you know which two curves I’m talking about!  They should be outgoing, popular and affectionate but heaven forbid she fails to master the ultimate balance and be branded frigid or a slag.

 

 

And the guys don’t escape it either.  They are facing the pressure to be buff without becoming self obsessed, be reliable without becoming boring, be funny without be just plain weird and be sensitive without being a wimp.

 

Talk about a tightrope! whatever the pressure, there’s expectation to reach a standard.  So when you consider how young people place their identity and self worth in this culture its’ easy to understand how so many are gripped with eating disorders, anxiety, depression, behavioural issues along with so other mental health issues.

If we place our identity in God, its’ all about one thing: Seeing ourselves how HE sees us.  Our creator not only eases that pressure to conform to one model of human being but actually embraces diversity.  This gives us permission to relax into how he made us. Our bodies are to be loved, cared for and even celebrated, only, not in a way to objectify ourselves for someone else but to recognise that we’re made in the image of HIM.  The whole Bible is a love letter from God and is all about how he sees us.  and there are a lot of words in the Bible.  But here are just a few of what your creator has called you:

Precious                    Children of God                          Redeemed                        Restored

Worthy                 Accepted                                   Honoured                              Loved

God is passionate about us and is longing for us to recognise that so we don’t have to buy into the pressure to out perform each other in order like ourselves.

This isn’t new stuff, it’s the foundation of the Gospel – The good news of Jesus Christ.  He first Loved us.  We can approach him as we are.  We don’t need to be bigger, better, smarter, funnier, sexier, stronger to receive his acceptance – its’ already ours for the taking!

This is what grounds us as youth pastors.  This is what grounds us as parents.  This is what grounds me as a woman and its’ what grounds The Husband as a man.  Everything, everything is pivotal on  this, and its’ the safest place to be.

(To be continues in the next few days…….)

Rested and Recharged.

(this post was written last week but Windows Live Writer was not my friends that day so I’ve had to shift some of the present tense stuff to past tense now just for it to make sense!)

We were nearing the end of our break.  The Husband will only relax when we’re away so when the option came up for a few extra days there it was a no brainer. 

It’s was awesome.  How crazy warm has it been?!  We tried to be creative and intentional with our time; keeping the balance of relaxing and making memories.

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We came home rested and recharged.

There was lots to look forward to when we came home.  Roo’s birthday was yesterday.  4 years old.  Yes 4.  She’s taking it in her stride, as she does with everything.

As shallow as it is, I can’t wait just to finish kitchen and the living room.  Our downstairs has been in upheaval all this year, and we’re soooooo close.  just a bit of painting here and sanding there and job will be a good’n.

I’m one of those saddos that always loved the beginning of the school year.  All those fresh crisp exercise books, sharpened pencils and new starts.  I still love them and make I have a habbit of forming a list of ‘resolutions’ as it feels just as much a start of a year than January to me.  But for Roo this year is an epic one.  Her very fist start of the school year.  Uniform and all.  Which reminds me that we’re yet to sort these out because we’ve been away…oops. It’s the beginning of an era for Roo and also for me; childless between the hours of 9.00-3.00 for the first time in six years.  No doubt I’ll be as crazy busy and rushing to be on time of everything as much as I’ve always been since I crashed into motherhood.

Since the summer our family has eaten stodgy, fatty, sugary goodness for breakfast, lunch and tea.  And in between.  So September will bring another season along with autumn; the season of healthy eating.  I’m not sure how long this season will last, but we’re all partaking in it!  Our house may be enjoying the freshness of new paint and new carpet but they’re wont be a sweet treat in the house! Uh, great.

The husband and I are bursting with ideas to weave into the kids and youth ministry into the year ahead, and more exciting is the load of ideas that have come from members of our team.  Youth work naturally runs alongside the school calendar, and since ‘employment-wise’ we started last September and we have been through the four seasons of a years’ youth work, so this feels a bit like the second chapter.  By the grace of God alone we’ve seen some awesome stuff so far and so we’re expectant of what is yet to come.

James Connolley on 1 John

This post was published onto this space mistake, it was supposed to go onto our church youth blog – but I’ll not remove it because it’s one of our young guys’ take on some of the bible (1 John chapter 2)

Enjoy!

Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment for you; rather it is an old one you have had from the very beginning. This old commandment—to love one another—is the same message you heard before. 8 Yet it is also new. Jesus lived the truth of this commandment, and you also are living it. For the darkness is disappearing, and the true light is already shining.9 If anyone claims, “I am living in the light,” but hates a Christian brother or sister,[a] that person is still living in darkness. 10 Anyone who loves another brother or sister[b] is living in the light and does not cause others to stumble. 11 But anyone who hates another brother or sister is still living and walking in darkness. Such a person does not know the way to go, having been blinded by the darkness.

• Love is the main source of Christianity .Its pleasing to God, because every part of Jesus’ life was full of love. And he proves this by living a selfless life and ultimately dieing for us.

• Verse 8 shows Jesus was a sincere loving ,forgiving, merciful person ,this is a true Christian in Gods eye ,not religious monuments !!

• No one’s perfect ,at times we all argue and act hatred against are brothers and sisters(spiritual and non-spiritual) .But learn from your mistakes and ask for forgiveness. Eventually we’ll get there:D

• Finally, The greatest commandment of all “love your neighbour and God”

Just reflect on this.

Take some time to consider….
• Is there anyone in your life ,who is struggling and needs your love and care..?
• Will you make that decision today to love people ,even if they have hurt you or let you down(its hard I know)..?