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Stories that shape us

We sat in the nurses office, me with a baby on my knee and a hysterical toddler clinging to my side. The nurse eyed me and nodded. We’d exhausted all other possibilities. Taking my daughter firmly in her grasp, the nurse crouched down to eye level and tried to reason with her one more time, but Kate was having none of it. The needle appeared and she actually made a run for the door. I put the baby down and the nurse and I grappled her to the floor. Both of us, almost bodily smothering her as the needle went in and she screamed like someone was removing her insides with a spoon. It was more like a rugby scrum than a visit to the clinic. I was amazed at the strength with which that little body could fight.

She was 3 and a half. The injection was a pre-travel immunisation so that we could visit her Aunt in Brazil that summer and introduce her to her newest niece, whom she had not yet met. There was no reasoning with a child that age. We’d tried every pre-school trick in the book: Mummy had had her injection first, look how brave she was, it didn’t hurt a bit. Did Kate want a go? Could Kate be brave like Mummy? Kate shook her head forcibly and cried some more. We injected her 18 month sister, and attempted some sibling rivalry to spur her into action. There, look: Sarah can do it and she’s just a tiny baby. I am sure big brave Kate can have her injection too….

Nothing.

Point blank refusal that quickly turned to more tears and screaming.

We even injected her favourite teddy, Boris, who was just as brave as all of the other family members and set an excellent example in suffering in silence and maintaining an immovable poker face throughout his ordeal. Separated from us by her fear, nothing touched her. All of our coaxing and cajoling was to no avail, and we were running out of time. There was nothing for it but to wrestle her to the floor and get it over with. So we did.

I have no qualms about what we did – it was necessary to protect her from a whole host of nasty illnesses, and is one of the many times I have had to be the bearer of temporary pain in order to prevent long term suffering for my kids. It’s life as a parent, as many of us know.

No doubt Kate would barely have remembered it, had no one ever reminded her again. And that, I guess, is the point of today’s post. Eight years have elapsed since that horrendous Injection Incident, but we have retold the story a thousand times. To friends, to family, sometimes in Kate’s presence and sometimes not (but often, in her presence). Everyone knows of Kate’s fear of needles (despite the fact that she was 3 1/2 the last time she had a jab) as well as her almost-legendary overreactions to very small medical procedures, such as the screaming that often accompanied the removing of a plaster, or how it once took 4 adults to pin her down and remove a splinter whilst she howled like a banshee impaled on a spike.

Everyone knows, including Kate.

I’m telling you this story because yesterday, we returned to the nurse at the travel clinic in order to find out what immunisations we might need for another trip; this time to Ethiopia in October (which is another story, that I will tell you about another time). Kate has been dreading this appointment for weeks, despite my attempts to calm her with an (eventually misguided) assurance that this was just a consultation, no needles today. After chatting through all our plans, making lists and consulting guidelines, the nurse cheerily clicked her mouse on more time, shut her screen and turned to face us with a smile.

‘Right, shall we get on with it then? I have the Typhoid and Hep A injections in stock, I could do them right now.’

I looked at my 11 year old as the colour drained from her face and she shifted uneasily from foot to foot. She wasn’t ready for this. She looked petrified and like she might burst into tears any second.

I went first. Then her younger sister. She sat on my lap and gritted her teeth, knowing it was important not to show any fear or give her big sister any more reason to freak out. It was a beautiful show of sisterly love.

Then it was Kate’s turn. I smiled and winked at her.

‘You’ve got this Kate, you’ll be fine.’

She stood bravely and gave the nurse her arm, but I knew with a Mother’s instinct that she was a hairs breadth away from a full size Freak Out. I locked eyes with her and held her gaze. A flicker of pain passed across her face when the needle went in, but she didn’t run this time. Then the realisation that it was all over already sank in, and she grinned at me, pride spreading across her face that she hadn’t lost the plot and needed to be wrestled. As she’s nearly as tall as me now, I doubt we’d have been too successful had it come to that anyway.

‘That wasn’t that bad, Mum,’ she said

No, it wasn’t. And I suddenly realised that it probably wouldn’t have been half as bad for her in the run up, if we hadn’t told that story so many times over the years that it stopped being a story to her and became, instead, her reality. A label, imposed on her because of our need to raise a laugh; to bask in the warm glow of approval that comes from the contribution of a witty anecdote to an after-dinner conversation. That rises above the need of the object of said witty anecdote to be protected, afforded anonymity, or the opportunity for the funny-but-probably-personally-painful-in-some-way incident to drift away forever into the mists of time.

Kate’s Injection Incident was never afforded that luxury. Never allowed to fade away into her memory, but was instead wheeled out time and time again, becoming one of those legendary Family Stories that all of us have. Most are mildly embarrassing at worst, cringe-worthy tales that pop their heads up when new boyfriends are invited home to dinner for the first time, or that make their way into wedding speeches and raise a few inside laughs as you stare hard into your wine glass and ask God Above why he couldn’t have please given you a different family.

But some, like this one, shape you somehow. Instead of becoming who you are intended to be, your growth is shaped, stunted by The Story. Like a little bonsai, or a topiary tree. Sculpted not by experience, or real memory, but by some-one else’s retelling of it. As the realisation burned in me, I wondered how many of us pass through life like this, shaped by the stories told around us and of us and to us. Not in anger, or malice, but just with no thought as to their impact. I’ve heard it said a million times in parenting manuals, blog posts and articles in magazines; be careful what you say in front of children. They have ears like bats and memories like elephants. They are giant sponges, hoovering up every word you say, good or bad, and storing it away, good or bad. But it’s hard. Hard to resist sharing that funny story, or just plain hard to find a time when they’re not there; when the story isn’t funny, and you’re not sharing it for the laughs but because you need to, need advice or just to lessen a burden by making it not all yours.  But I will try harder, now that I have seen it play out with my own eyes, in my own child.

‘Do you think you’re still scared of needles Kate?’ I asked her later on that same evening as she sat at the breakfast bar in our kitchen.

‘No’ she shrugged, looking up at me.

‘I’m not sure you ever were, really’ I said.

‘No’ she replied again ‘I don’t think I was’.

Pure new light – a poem for Easter weekend

Header Image Pure New Light

Light creeps round the edge of the curtains, gentle steel-grey washing newness across this new day.

Pure morning light is a beautiful unsullied

blank canvas

stretching out, unmarked, unhurried

heavy-laden with opportunity

laced with forgiveness.

Today we get to start again

breathe deep and start over

forget that which is behind, and with optimism and anticipation clear as faith, press on again

towards that which we imagine with eager hope but cannot yet see with mortal eyes.

 

It seems impossible now to remember what it felt like in the dark

hues of black blue

and all it’s bruising heaviness wrapping itself around us like drowning

and we are left gasping for air, clambering for the surface and

dipping under and under and under again

no sense of time in the drowning

no sense of

tomorrow

 

Is that what it was like? To hope and not know?

To live and learn and love

and to see it gone

and not know whether it will return? whether it was all that it was meant to be.

Is that what they lived with when he was taken from them?

their friend

God

King

hunted down

handed over

hung up to die.

 

To wander in the abyss of the unknown

where time does not fit a frame

speeds up

slows down

relentless

crawling

Is a particular kind of itching torture

that brings in eager bedfellows:

doubt

fear

pain

who revel in their role in tormenting the mind already tormenting itself all well and good enough.

 

But then it comes again

rising like the morning son and washing us still all over again

that blue-grey steely hope

that never dies.

 

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Certain

There are some things I am certain of.

When everything else is in flux, and I am not sure what part of the life plan is supposed to come next, there are some things that remain.

This is the revelation that hit me as I walked; me and my dog, muddy feet and muddy paws splashing down paths as spring sprang around us in the trees. As I looked up and watched branches budding velvet silver, it was like it was writ large in the season-turning just for me. Catkins bursting into yellow flame and illuminating it all golden.

Catkins

Catkins

Trees in Spring

Because sometimes, I need to be reminded that it’s often just the shift in perspective that makes everything feel like it’s shifting from under my feet.

They say the only constant in life is death, and that nothing ever stays the same. That changes come when we least expect it and often in the most unexpected ways. Sometimes it’s good. Often it’s not. Nearly always, it can make us feel unsettled, unsure, afraid. We move house, or town or country. We change jobs. People we thought would be in our lives forever are lost, or leave, or die. Change comes in many forms and in many ways.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not good with uncertainty. Which is not a great trait for someone who is also fairly easily bored. So, if things sit still for too long, I get restless. Twitchy. Itchy-feeted in the extreme. But then when things start to move and change – unless I know the exact game plan all laid out in advance and to the T, I can feel myself again twitching, although not this time out of restlessness.

You see, I want to move on, do the next thing, and the next and the next, but I also preferably want to be certain what that next thing is. Wholly and completely and can I know it all right now please God?

It’s difficult.

And in all of that, I am so caught up in trying to make the right decision, the best decision – not only for myself now, but for our whole family unit – that I end up paralysed. ‘I’m so unsure‘ I rant. ‘I need clearer direction, clearer instructions, a more detailed map.’

I love the line from Baz Lurhmann’s ‘Sunscreen’, although it also terrifies me half to death as well.

The real troubles in your life are apt to be things
That never crossed your worried mind
The kind that blindsides you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday

I try to recall it’s wisdom as I stamp along well-trodden paths, past water-logged meadows and gaggles of geese floating on flooded fields.

Try to remember that almost certainly, worrying about what comes next, about the whys and wherefores of changes is almost always a complete and utter waste of time and energy. And as I do, I remember this too:

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” ( The Bible. The book of Hebrews, chapter 11, verse 1 )

 

I have a faith. In a Creator God who loves me, and who holds me fast, and who works out all things for the good of those who love Him. And that faith means I am sure of what I hope for, and certain of what I do not see.

I may not know what step comes next, but I am certain that God guides my path in all righteousness.

I may not know what changes are ahead for us, but I am certain that this life will be a life well lived if I live it all for the glory of God above.

I may not know how to ‘be’ in the midst of change as well as I should, but I am certain that I am being transformed daily by the renewing of my mind, so as to be more like Christ.

There are so many things that I am certain of, and fixing my eyes on them seems to suddenly make all of the uncertainties fade to black as I tilt the lens one more time and adjust the angle of my focus. When I choose to view the uncertainties in my life through a lens of trust and obedience, the perspective shifts once more and my footing becomes sure beneath me again.

It’s the miracle of God that brings the blessing of peace to hearts that are troubled and minds that are not still.

I turn and walk back along the path, dog bounding by my side and geese hooting spring calls over the water and fields and trees.

 

Things I wish I had told my daughters when they were little

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We drove home along the country road, fields flashing past the window and the sun hanging low over a winter sky. For once you were quiet; sleeping seemed to be the only time you weren’t jabbering away, giving me a constant kids-eye critique of what you saw, heard, touched, held. A stream-of-consciousness toddler’s insight into the joy and wonder with which you beheld everything that happened all around you; the never ending commentary on the details of your day that never stopped, even now when you’re 11.

As the wheels turned and you slept and I took a moment – a quiet moment to just breathe, remembering what this headspace felt like and how precious it had become since you came clattering into our lives with your noise and love and newness – it washed all over me and took me by surprise all over again.

Does anyone ever expect this? Can you ever really explain it? That despite the tiredness and the noise and the relentless everything; among the chaos and the out-of-control and the days when you slid down the wall and cried hot tears of wondering: am I really ever going to get through this? Can I do it? Am I enough? – there is this. This stillness. This quiet love that comes – mostly when you sleep, I must admit – and I am again overwhelmed with love.

I drove home and promised myself that I would write it all down. And when your sister arrived a year later, that I would write you both a letter, each and every year, marking the milestones and the dizzying passing of time. But the years flew by and now you are grown and I never did get to put those precious words down on a page for you to read in years to come. So many things left unsaid, unrecorded.

I tried to write them later, but the words came out untrue. It felt contrived to backdate the memories, the emotions; like they were validated only by being spoken then and there in the hubbub of those toddler years.

I wanted to tell you how much it all meant. That despite the overwhelming feeling that I was getting it wrong most of the time, and the frustrations and the tiredness that boiled over far too often into harsh discipline and hot words, that I loved every second of it. That it was – and is – my greatest privilege to be your Mum, and not one single day goes past that I take that for granted, despite my words and my attitude sometimes.

I wanted to tell you that I’m thankful to you for letting me experiment with you. So many firsts. So many late night discussions and how-do-we-deal-with-this? The not knowing is perhaps the hardest thing – how will this turn out? Have we made the right choice? Will they one day thank me for what they hate me for right now? I guess that bit never gets any easier, but despite the look in your eyes that sometimes tells me you don’t think that it’s true, every decision we ever make is only ever intended to nourish you, protect you, grow you into the amazing human beings that we know you were created to be. And every time we get it wrong, know this: we’re sorry. Today and yesterday and for always – I am sorry for the times we’ll get it wrong, the pain we’ll inflict when we’re trying to love you, the times that we miss the mark when we’re trying so hard to protect you.

If I could tell you one thing, it would be this: you are amazing. Without us and in spite of us and 100% of your own volition: You. Are. Both. Amazing. You have qualities and talents inside of you that could change the world. And in this world, you have a sea of opportunities from which to choose. I hope that we have done enough to help you choose wisely. To be brave and courageous, especially when courage means walking hand-in-hand with fear. When it’d be easier to sit still, keep your head down and not risk. I hope that we have given you enough to know that you have it in you to do more. That it isn’t about friends, or money, or success or fame; but about doing what’s right, loving kindness, and walking humbly with your God (Micah 3:6). Putting others first is always the source of life’s richest blessings.

And above all, I would tell you this: we love you. And even more than we love you, God loves you. So whatever happens, whatever mistakes you make along the way, we’ll always be here, and so will He.

So go get ’em. We’re right behind you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Serbia and refugees and kids like mine…

It’s raining outside. Water pouring down for the past three days apparently, turning my garden into a veritable mud bath. I slip on my ‘garden shoes’ – the old trainers I no longer choose to wear out and about but that are still perfectly serviceable – not stopping to untie laces but jamming in my toes and trampling down the heel, and stamp across the mud to let out my chickens. The sky is grey and I am damp when I return from the school run and shake off the rain.

I glance at the trodden-down trainers and swallow hard. Last night I returned from a freezing-cold Serbia. Three days in sub-zero temperatures visiting the impromptu shelters that have sprung up across the capital as neighbouring borders have closed and refugees have found themselves stranded here, in Belgrade. The conditions were worse than horrific. Worse than anything I could have prepared myself for. We met boys as young as 13 sleeping in car parks in the snow, bedding down under blankets that grew frost as they slept. Derelict warehouses that now sheltered clusters of men and boys in the most unsanitary, unsafe environments you could imagine. We wrapped scarves around our head as we entered, the smoke from a thousand little fires stinging our eyes and making our chests hurt. Futile attempts to stave off the cold instead poisoning lungs as thick, dark smoke belched upwards from burning wood coated in who-knows-what.

Serbia Refugee Collage

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My shoes look back and reproach me. They look like the shoes I saw on so many feet this week. But their heels were not trodden down because of laziness or lack of time. Heels poking naked out of shoes that were 3 or 4 sizes too small, bare and vulnerable without socks to shield them from the snow and ice. Not garden shoes or a second pair of shoes (or God forbid the 10 or so pairs that I have in my wardrobe right not) but the only shoes; shoes that have travelled who knows how many miles and that offer the only protection those feet know.

The contrast with my own life is feeling hard to bear this morning, as I settle back into old clothes and old routines and my normal, comfortable life. I know it’s to be expected, and many others have been and seen and felt similarly on their return.

But it’s hard.

Hard to come back and hug your own children and try to imagine them out there, on their own. Try to imagine a circumstance – anything at all – that would make it seem preferable that they leave me and here and our family to make a journey of many thousand miles, alone, in search of safety and a better life.

I tried to put my snowboots in the washing machine, and somehow couldn’t quite manage it. They are filthy and muddy from playing football in the melting snow with refugee boys. I never knew how much joy a football could bring, how much it could mean to try and fashion a moment of ‘normal’ in a life like this. Somehow I don’t want to wash all of that away just yet. I don’t want to stop seeing their faces.

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I cried as I put away the children’s laundry, feeling ridiculously grateful and guilty all at the same time that my children own many pairs of clean, dry socks.

I don’t know where they’ll go, or how their stories will end, and maybe that is hardest of all. But I pray that they find peace, and safety, and a way to be with their families again – wherever that might be.

And I pray I will never forget what I have seen, never stop feeling it, even if it does make it hard to breathe sometimes.



I travelled to Serbia with Creation Fest. To read more about their work with refugees, click here. Whilst there, we worked with Calvary Chapel Bible College Europe and volunteered with three amazing projects in Belgrade: Hot Food Idomeni, Refugee Aid Serbia and Refugee Aid Miksaliste. All are doing amazing work feeding, clothing and providing refugees with a safe space to access services. If you’d like to donate to any of them, please visit their websites.

 

The thread of a story… how everything unravels and yet holds fast

Header Image

So last week I told you that I would share the outline of the story I am going to try and write this year. It’s one of my goals for 2017, and putting out there is one way of me being brave and accountable and not procrastinating forever. So here it is: I first wrote this as a spoken word piece for a threads workshop at Creation Fest a couple of years back, but I think it might make a pretty good outline for the book. See what you think…


I was 18 years old and sitting on the floor of my room in my university halls, chatting with the girl who had the room next door. We hadn’t known each other long and we were just sharing about our lives, I was telling her about my family and where we were from.

At some point in the conversation she turned and looked at me square hard in the eyes and asked ‘Didn’t you ever think it was weird? You became a Christian and then your whole life just totally fell apart?’

I stopped and thought, long and hard. The honest truth was no, I never had thought it weird. In fact it’d never even crossed my mind before she asked the question.

Rewind 6 years, and in a little hut somewhere in deepest Sussex, I had just met Jesus – like properly, for the first time.

I didn’t grow up in a Christian house. My parents didn’t know anything of Jesus to teach me and my brother. But I had started going to church for church parade, when I joined the Brownies at 8 years old. A little post-war Anglican church on the edge of a housing estate in Essex. It was nothing special; a little choir and some dusty song books. But – I don’t even know how to explain it – I loved being there. A year later, I asked to be christened for my birthday. My brother, who is 3 years younger but whose birthday was a week after mine, got christened for his 6th birthday too, and we had a little party I remember. I’m sure he’d have been happier with a Tonka truck or something but there we go. I went as often as I could, and a few years later, my friend and I got confirmed. She went to the youth group there, and one night took me along. They were all signing up for this weekend away, and so I did too.

It was nothing like the hymns and patterns of my little Anglican church. The band, the music, the people – they talked about Jesus and not just about God. And I felt like I had come home, that’s the only way I could explain it. I met a girl from school there whose youth leaders were running the weekend. I gave my heart to Jesus and came home changed. I started going to their church and youth group, learning what it was to be a Christian, reading my Bible, drinking it all in.

And then. Then it happened. For the first time. I could tell you I should have seen it coming but the truth is, I did. I just didn’t want to. See, that is. Like most 12 year olds, all grown up and mature on the one hand, but all of us desperately trying to secretly hang on the security and safety of home on the other. I saw the evening I came home and found my Mum sitting there in the front room. Lights out, back pressed hard up against the sofa and knees hugged tight to her chest. I asked her if she was alright, she smiled yes and I didn’t want to hear any different.

I saw the day I opened his wallet and found a photo there. All blond hair and smiles, it wasn’t my Mum’s dark curls. I put it back in a different place and the next time I looked it had gone. We talked about it one morning as we walked to the bus stop, my mates and me, but we all agreed – it couldn’t. It wouldn’t.

But it had. And it did. He sat me on his bed, a couple of months after that first encounter with Jesus in the shed in Sussex, and wrung his hands, stared at his feet and asked no one in particular

‘How do you tell your little girl something you know will break her heart?’

A few weeks later and I came home from school and he was gone. The first of many times he’d up and leave us after promising that day that he never would.

My Dad was a powerlifter. Married to my Mum at 19, they were loving parents and seemingly happily married. Dad owned a successful building business and we had a lovely life. What I didn’t know was that a weightlifting injury had led to a dabble with steroids. The crew he mixed with at the gym had led to a bit of work as a nightclub bouncer; the money was good but the day job and the training and the nights on the door – a pick me up led to a habit, and before any of us could blink, everything had imploded.

My Dad walked out on us in November 1989. I was 12 years old and had been a Christian for literally months. The cocaine habit had racked up some debts, and so Dad had convinced Mum we needed to move, to downsize. What she didn’t know was that he’d forged her signature on the mortgage documents and so as we moved, alone, he was leaving the country with a holdall full of cash, new girlfriend in tow, leaving us to move to a smaller house on the other side of town with just as much debt as before.

Everything changed. My Mum, struggling to make ends meet, went back to work full time. We became latch key kids, letting ourselves in after school and getting dinner ready, laying the table. Except as often as I could, I didn’t go right home – you see school was OK. At school I could mostly cope; forget Dad was gone. But coming home… coming home and laying the table for 3 people instead of 4, there was no escaping that. So I didn’t. I walked straight up the road and straight past our house and through the little alley way at the top of the street and round the corner – to the little flat where the youth leaders of my new church lived. You see, when my Dad was lying to my Mum and convincing her we needed to move because of his debts and his drug addictions, when he was manoeuvring us into this little house so he could run off and try to start over with our money and some other woman – what he didn’t – couldn’t  – know, was that God was already one step ahead of him. Ahead of all of us. God was years ahead in fact, sowing a seed into an eight year old’s heart that would hold her tight and stop her from falling and stop all of their threads from unravelling.

And so I’d go, not home, but to my new youth leaders house, now conveniently just round the corner from where I lived, and I’d sit on their couch and we’d eat custard creams and drink tea and pray that God would make everything OK. I was just a kid, and a baby Christian – and if I’m honest, I had no idea whether I really thought God could or would make everything alright. I just had no other place to be and no other idea what to do.

Those people prayed faithfully over me and my family. That church held us up over the next 4 years as my Dad came and went and turned up and begged my Mum to take him back, dry him out. And then he’d go again and I’d be angry and hate him and know that I shouldn’t. I’d read my Bible and write prayers, learn the truth and wrestle with it, letting God slowly teach me how to do this stuff called life, with all its complications and hurts and pains.

There were times when I hated him with an energy I never even knew I had. Times when I stood in a field and screamed angry words at him, promising him he’d never come to my graduation, my wedding, never see his grandkids if he left us. Hot words pouring out as though they’d never stop.

When my Mum took him back time and time again and I would cry and shout and beg her not to, and she’d cradle me in her arms and whisper

‘It’s not him Emma, he’s not the man I married.’

But through it all, those threads of faith that God had started to weave held fast. First me, and then eventually all of us. Mum, getting tired of driving me to church each week and sitting waiting, wondering what sort of cult I got myself mixed up in, eventually came in with me. Walked through the doors and as she dropped the pretense she had been carrying, the burden of being strong and holding us all together, as it crashed down, she found Jesus held her up, and so did a bunch of lovely ladies at that church who dried her tears and told her stories of their imperfect lives and of God’s great love and grace. And so that love and grace became the thread that held her firm too.

One night, I went on a journey with my Dad. He was working at Spitalfields fruit and veg market in London, fighting for money and living in a bedsit in the East End. I didn’t know even a fraction of the violence and madness that his life had descended into by then, and we hadn’t seen him for months. But as we drove, he told me he’d been to see a man who had told him he had a choice to make.

‘I’m not going to become one of those Christians’ he told me ‘I don’t need a label’

But he later stood in the car park of the market in the small hours of one freezing night, and asked Jesus to come into his heart. He threw the knife he had strapped to the inside of his arm into a skip, and moved back home to my Nan’s, presenting her with a holdall of coke and drug taking paraphernalia to get rid of, and  going cold turkey for the last time.

And then one day, in the summer of 1993, I stood in that church and watched my Mum and Dad renew their wedding vows. And after months of living round the corner at my Nan’s house, being allowed round to visit us after school and taking my Mum out on dates, my Dad moved home.

24 years later and he spends his days travelling to prisons, army barracks, churches – anywhere that people will let him tell the story of how God rescued his soul. He came to my graduation, my wedding, he was there when my children were born. And so no, in answer to that question first asked in my room at uni, no I didn’t think it weird at all that I became a Christian and then all that happened. I think God knew what was going to happen and put into place a rescue plan – much like he does for all of us,

It isn’t everyone’s story, life doesn’t always have a happy ending – but it is ours. God weaving a thread into our lives before we even knew we’d need it, ready to pull it tight, and hold us fast.


I’d love your feedback on the outline of the book I am dedicating this year to write: the story of what happened to our family and how God rescued a teenage girl and held her fast through it all. I also need to think of a title, so if you have any bright ideas, I’d love to hear! And if you like it, please share..

Goals – why I’ll be being brave in 2017

My favourite place to sit and contemplate the world going by is on the floor of my bedroom; back pressed up against the bed, making the window just the right height to frame the sky. I sit there a lot like that, often when I’m looking for a little piece of my own peace and quiet, or need some way to frame the day and put it all into perspective. Often with a notebook and Bible in hand, it’s where I do some of my best thinking and praying, thoughts rolling quietly around my brain as the clouds roll across the sky outside.

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So it’s the beginning of the year, and January rolls across our lives like those big fat clouds roll across my window pane, and Blue Monday rolls right into us and for some, it knocks the wind right out of our sails and for others, we sail right on regardless. It’s a time of resolutions and plans for the year ahead, of goal setting and re-evaluating; some more out-loud and conscious than others, but we all do it I think – hopes, dreams, plans pinned out there on the line, flapping gently in the breeze, clouds rushing by overhead.

My plans this year are big. Audacious hopes that frighten me as I whisper them out loud, slowly, to the people I trust and love. What do you do with plans so big that they threaten to scare the very living daylights out of you? Where do you start when the dreams overwhelm and loom large and what if I fail? What if I don’t make it and now everyone knows and how will I deal with that disappointment? 

I whisper it in the dark. Disappointment.

Isn’t it the very thing that makes us all keep our dreams hidden down there in the dark? Frightened that if we bring them up and into the light they will crumble in our hands, leaving nothing but dust and ashes and that bitter taste of disappointment in our mouths? Frightened that we will disappoint ourselves, that others will be disappointed in us, that we won’t be enough for them to love regardless, that we won’t be enough for God to love if we aren’t good enough to meet our goals and if our dreams don’t come true, what then?

Our goals can help us aim straight, channel our energy and our time and our passion. They can help us focus and cut out all that hinders and distracts. Or they can overwhelm us, frighten us with their prospect of failing, of falling short, or disappointing.

And we chose. We chose to move, or we chose to stay. We chose to bring our hopes and our dreams and our goals for the year out into the light and let others help and cheer us on, or we choose to hide them away, frightened of others’ reactions and our own fear of disappointing ourselves and them.

This year – 2017 – I chose the former. I am choosing to share my dream – my goal for the year – with a trusted few and with you, my online community of cheerleaders and readers and people that encourage me with your support and friendship. My goal for 2017 is to write a book. A story of a family that was busted apart but that came back together again. That was broken in the most horrible and terminal of ways but that was healed and restored and so much more. It’s my story – the story of my family. Some of you will know it in part, have heard bits of it spoken either by me or my lovely Mum or Dad. And I’m hoping this year that as I journey through the dreaming and the writing and the worrying that I will disappoint you, or me, or God somehow in the process of telling it, that I will be brave enough to tell it well, and confident enough to know I’ve done my best, which is all any of us can do with the dreams we have in our hearts.

So next week I will be letting you in on a sneak-peek of the story. I’d love your thoughts and comments. And I’d love to know what dreams you are holding in your heart this year. Let’s share them as a community and encourage one another in love!

And to inspire us to be brave, here’s one of my favourite quotes. It’s by Marianne Williamson, and spoken by Nelson Mandela on his inauguration in 1994:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.