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 🙂

 

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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.

 

validation.

I reckon I was an awkward teenager.  Maybe even more self conscious than the average young person.  I would agonise over what other people said about me, and took it for gospel.  I was too shy to enjoy attention at social gatherings but not shy enough to hide behind that role.  I have ALWAYS desperately looked forward to my birthday.  Not because I wanted a top birthday present or a glitzy party but because I got to be a year older.  I’m a summer baby, what can I say?  When you’re a kid, being the youngest in the class sucks.  Fact.

I guess what I’d say is; I’ve never been comfortable in my own skin.  I always wanted to me more…To be less…  I thought that my insecurities would cease with my single years but I carried them through into my years of marriage.

Young adulthood is what you look forward to when you’re a kid.  You’re old enough to live how you like but not old enough to be considered ‘over the hill’.  I look back on my 20s with so many AMAZING memories; I became Mrs Steward, I became a mother, I became a youth worker.  But the nostalgia is tinged with a little sadness that I still took myself so seriously.  How much time did I waste waiting to validate myself?

As I wander into my 30th year I’m starting to feel a little easier with myself and its’ so liberating! My really short hair is growing out and it looks dreadful, but I’m actually pretty indifferent to scraping it back and pretending I in fact look like Zooey Deschanel.  I had NO idea who my pretend-teenage-daughter was talking about half the time today (actors and singers ‘apparently’) – and I was totally cool with just being excited for The Great British Bakeoff.

I just don’t know what it is about age that makes us chill out.  But for me it’s working so I’m not knocking it.  I look at 14 year olds in tiny skirts and no jacket, wondering what on earth they were thinking as they left the house, and then laugh at myself remembering that I was in fact that girl not too long ago who sneered at old people wearing jackets. 

And right now, I’m so happy to be someone wearing a jacket.  We’ve all heard the rumour that 40 is the new 30.  But for me, I have the feeling that 30 is the new 20.

Home

 

I’ve always been a home bird.  I remember as a kid, rather than get excited about an impending sleep over I’d Mull over it anxiously.  It wasn’t anything specific, I just felt ‘lost’ even at the thought about being away from home.  And now, as an adult, with a family of my own, my heart still gravitates towards home.

Apart from a two day turnaround to wash the clothes, we’ve been ‘away’ for just shy of two weeks.  Yes that’s how sappy I am.  After 10 days of honeymooning, The Husband and I were longing to just be home and start our ‘home’ together.  Having VERY basic (icky) accomodation didn’t help either!

Having said that, I’ll be home for a couple weeks and start asking The Husband when we’ll next have a weekend away.  Because we live/work/play hard and fast, I’m all for short and regular(ish) breaks. 

When Chloe was very little, and new-parent-exhaustion was a part of everyday life,  The Husband and I intentionally arranged to go away for one night, twice a year.  Just us.  Springtime and Autumn.  It was awesome.  One time we went to London for 36 hours.  It was mental – involving a 6am train journey, lunch on Trafalgar square, WAY too much walking around in boots (I know, boots! why, I ask myself, why??) , a west end show, an overnight stay and then a whole day of exploring London before catching a 6pm train home.  London gave us so many wonderful memories, but it also gave me bronchitis that turned into pleurisy, ha! 

chlo 012

Sorry, I got carried away – so yes, we used to try and get away fairly regularly  Most of the time it was just an overnight stay in a nice hotel.  Nothing extravagant, but somewhere with a good pool, good food and a good room!  It was a place to be Rob and Heather again.

We’ve not done that in over a year (or more?) and it’s something we want to start doing again.  We’ll have to be intentional about it because days turn into weeks that flow into months and it’s been another year.

This post was supposed to be about the things I’m looking forward to when I get home, but I reckon I’ve thought, typed and babbled on enough for now.

Mosey down memory lane: 2007

WARNING: There are lots of photos in this post!

2007 seems an eternity ago.  I don’t remember much of the first half of the year, that’s possibly due to sleep deprivation.  I don’t have a whole load of pictured from this year on my laptop, I’m sure there are a ton more somewhere because we were a bit photo-happy with Chloe.

 

Apologies for the tone of the pictures – I’m just loving this ’1960s’ tool on picassa and so for now all pictures are having rounded corners and are slightly too warm in colour.

 

Straight after this picture was taken, Chloe fell off the trailer.  Caught it on Video too but it musn’t have been funny enough for Youve Been Framed.

 

 

 

 

 

In the summer we went on holiday with my mum and dad, brother and sister-in-law to spain.  Chloe’s first time on an aeroplane.  I’d heard horror stories of toddlers on aeroplanes., crying and struggling to move around. We needn’t have worried because Chloe was in my arms, fell asleep on take-off and woke up on landing.  Result.  Time for pictures.

 

 

 

 

 

2007 gave us that wonderful holiday (we’ve not had the chance to be on an aeroplane since) but the second half of the year was to be a gruelling journey for us as a family.  Around about the time of that holiday, a couple of months before I think, we felt ready to give Chloe a little brother or sister.  We were a bit taken aback when it didn’t happen straight away like it did with Chloe.  Everyone advises you to be patient when you’re trying to get pregnant.  Statistics tell us that it can take a while.  It has been reported that 20% of women trying to get pregnant will not conceive in the firt year of trying (http://www.gettingpregnant.co.uk/howlongwillittake.htm ).  But all women who have been in this situation know that every month is saturated with hope and then dried out with disappoinment when their ‘monthly visitor’ turns up to tell them it aint happening this time.  But in september there was no monthly visitor bringing bad news, but a plastic stick with two pink lines.  A little apprehensive of being as sick as I had been when pregnant with Chloe, we cautiously allowed ourselves to get excited about turning 3 into 4.  A couple weeks went by and I was a little bemused that there was no nausea.  Then on 31st October, Halloween of all days, I started to bleed.  I remember sitting in the dentist chair that afternoon, my mind a million miles away, hoping that it would all stop so that everything could go back to how it was the day before.  But it didn’t stop and our baby died.  I went up to my parents for a few days because I couldn’t bare being at home, the place where we had been making plans for the baby had been carrying.

I had to cling on to God.  I had so many question weighed down by disappointment that my prayers had no words, they were just waves of admition that I was desperately in need of being carried through this.  I clearly remember the day my mum drove me back down to Lancashire and I called this out to God:

God, I need to know you’ve got me in your hands, I need to know that this is all part of a bigger and better picture.  You gave noah his rainbow, please give me mine.

I wasn’t asking for an actual  rainbow, I was asking for something that would quiet my heart and pick me up again.  So we got into the car and headed back home.  We stopped to get petrol and when my mum was inside paying something in the wing mirror caught my eye.  I turned around to see the most vibrant and complete rainbow I’ve ever seen.  Most of the time I see part of a rainbow but this one, you could see it all from one side right up and over to the other side.  And it hadn’t been raining.  As we drove down the motorway, I promise you this is true, I could see the rainbow in the wing mirrow.  I know it makes no sense because the car was changing direction  throughout the journey.  All I can say is that it was there.  I think I must have fallen asleep and so forgot all about it until we arrived at our house.  I got out the car, stretched my legs, looked up and there between two houses at the end of the road was the rainbow.  I know it seems a bit crazy, scientists might argue it into rational reasoning and some may even say -‘a measly rainbow, so what?’.  But to me I have no doubt in my mind that that rainbow had been an intentional sign of hope for me.  A Vibrant and complete sign of hope.  It wasn’t a promise of a baby or a free pass to guaruanteed happiness, it was reminder to me of the sovereignty of the Lord and gentle care of the Father .  God is so huge he moves way beyond our human level of understanding.  I don’t know why I didn’t get pregnant straight away.  I don’t know why I miscarried.  But God does, and I know that he sees the bigger picture and how he has woven his good plans for me into that picture.  But at the same time, God heard me. He heard my cries and wept along with me.  So as that rainbow followed me around that day, I knew, I mean I really knew that God cares about what goes on in my little life.  I matter to him.  Sometimes we have to choose to believe that and deliberately turn towards him. There’s an old hymn that says this:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,

Look full in His wonderful face,

And the things  of earth will grow strangely dim,  

In the light of His glory and  grace

Yes there was still pain, but there was comfort within it.  As it turned out, I became pregnant again very shortly afterwards and there was lots and lots of nausea!

mosey down memory lane: 2006

I have very few pictures of me pregnant with Chloe.  Oh boy was I sick!  And tiny.  I hated it when people told me so but my bump was miniscule.  This was me 8 months pregnant when we left our first house to our current one:

Some friends came over to help The husband rebuild our bed.  I had been sitting of the small set of drawers you can see in the background.  It had a glass sheet and sitting on it cracked it.  It used to have a tv on and it was fine but it seems me and Chlo were just too much for it.  The carpet was a safer place for me.  It makes me laugh because my tummy is probably the same size now as it was then, but no baby this time!

So yeah, we moved house when I was getting ready to pop.  We can’t be the only crazy couple to do this.  But we were definitely prepared and had a cradle set up in the first house just in case.

But Chloe didn’t come early.  She was five days late.

And when she finally decided to make an appearance she took her time about it, and dilly dallied for 30 hours.  But then…….!!!!!

And finally, 2006 also welcomed the gorgeous and lovely Kim into the Steward family when she married Chris, The husband’s big brother.  Canada is waaaaaay to far away guys!!

Mosey down memory Lane: 2005

I have a load of 2012 photos to show you all but until I get them from the camera, I’ll take a mosey back down memory laaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaane (said with a funny weird voice).

2005.  Relief aid continued in the wake of the mammoth boxing day Tsunami that brought devastation to Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand.  In all seriousness I remember watching Day after Tomorrow on Christmas night (not very festive I know) and and then waking up to hear all about the Tsunami – slightly unnerving.

But 2015 was way more than that.  David tenant was named the 10th Doctor who, Greece won the eurovision song contest and The Husband and I worked on our little 2-up 2-down home.  Rosie Posie the demon puppy (she’s the best grown up dog ever now though) came crashing into our lives and the husband and I hit the big one year mark as others took time in 2012 to say I do.  We holidayed in Wales (total jestsetters I hear you cry in jealousy) and in the September I found out I was pregnant (smile – it was a good discovery!).  I spent the rest of the year pretty much with my head in a bowl being sick.

so come with me to 2005…

 

(hugging my newly married brother after jumping a wall and running into the nearby pub to be sick)

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