Friday, 29 July 2011

Seven Quick Takes Volume I, the AREN'T edition*

OK so here go the first 7 Quick Takes on my new Strength and Song blog!

It may be a little strange, but they are about 7 things I am thankful for that AREN'T happening right now - yes that's right I am saying thank you that there are lots of positive things out there that AREN'T happening to our family!


Firstly - we're singing Hallelujah* because we AREN'T going as a family to New Wine this year. We cancelled last year because I was about to give birth to ThirdSister, and after a trial go of camping in May, it was decided there would NOT be 1-infant-2-girls-2 adults on a campsite for a week of worship, teaching and fellowship, because we anticipated it would present more difficulties than we could survive right now (even with God's grace!). Obviously, the elder girls were upset as they enjoyed New Wine 2010 so much, but I know we will be much happier as a family not forcing ourselves to struggle through (and another, needier family has benefited from the places we provided for them.) Several of our friends are going and I will be making sure to pray for them and the family we provided for to have an amazing time! Also, there are plenty of other (see Take 3 below) opportunities for learning about Jesus and the world this coming week.


I'm also happy, if that's the right word, to be NOT pregnant. Accepting is perhaps a more accurate term. If it happens, it happens and I'll be joyful, but instead of having the topic on my mind I can now readily accept that there are other fish to fry - especially the year of ministry training ahead - and that not being pregnant means many other things. I can more fully the three children we have; eat tandoori  shellfish without worrying about repercussions; not be permanently nauseous; and so on. AND I can find the joy and meaning in God's plan for our family, instead of desperately trying to control things, which is something I always want to do, but don't always achieve!


I am *delighted* the children are NOT at school. We have over 6 weeks of time at home to enjoy one another, and learn more about the world, and our faith (and other faiths - did you know it's Ramadan for the whole of August?). So far, the children have honed their bedmaking and baking skills, visited the library and done SO MUCH READING, played in the garden, taken trips to the park, and visited with grandparents (oh and did I mention a 4 day trip to the coast?!). We have great plans for the weeks ahead, including one of our favourite art galleries, meeting up with friends and visiting SecondSister's godfather in London (and seeing Legoland UK.) I LOVE being around all three children, I LOVE not having to do the school run, I LOVE not having to make school lunches and I especially LOVE.......


...being able to teach my kids things about the world and our religion without being their primary teacher. We do (from time to time, not every day) making music, growing things, cooking things....Bible study, prayer, faith discussion about things like the East African drought crisis....we learn about art and ballet and books...and we do this in a joyful and profound way, during our time away from the structure of school, in a way I know I would not be able to perpetuate on a daily basis if I homeschooled. It brings me so much happiness to interact with my kids in this way and watch them drink up knowledge without being sat at a desk....but I am thankful I get to do this in addition to their fantastic Church of England schooling.

I am thankful that FirstSister and SecondSister aren't here tonight. They are having  sleepover with their grandparents and Daddy was over there earlier observing great fun - painting outside, a big bubble bath together, and general happy times. It also gave me an opportunity to nap when the baby did, enjoy a calm and delicious Indian meal with my husband, and have a bit of relief and time out from the intensive looking after that generally goes on around here. I do miss them, but I'll appreciate them all the more on their return AND.....

6. gave me the opportunity to enjoy the baby! ThirdSister turns 1 next week and I am giving thanks that she is NOT a baby anymore. I do miss the season of babyhood terribly, especially as she is already walking pretty confidently and babbling (and we are not pregnant, - refer to Quick Take 1)...but she's amazing as a toddler, and we got to hop into the bath together tonight and listen to 'Jesus Be The Centre' a favourite worship song (lyrics below), and it was EASY and FUN. And, I remember listening to the song from when we struggled with her settling at nights, and feel joyous and thankful at how far we have come since then.


7. And finally - I'm thankful I'm not a Muttering Mother anymore! Due to some unanticipated problems merging  two Google accounts, I've made a positive change and launched this new blog which I feel has given me a new lease of life, so to speak. It feels like a bit of a rebirth, and it's early days yet for the blog, but I'm excited about the posts to come!

Jesus be the centre
Be my source be my light Jesus
Jesus be the centre
Be my hope, be my song Jesus
Be the fire in my heart
Be the wind in my sails
Be the reason that I live Jesus, Jesus
Jesus be my vision
Be my help
Be my guide Jesus

*Thanks to the wonderful Jennifer at Conversion Diary for hosting. She's had some unconstructive criticism this week over at Catholic Register, but watching her conversion story on ESPN has been one of the highlights of my week!

** The group I sing with, Torkard Ensemble, issued us with our scores of Handel's Messiah yesterday - and we definitely sing H-allelujah with an H rather than the more familiar Allelulia of our hymnbooks today! Whichever - praise the Lord!

The Interview!

And yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand - Isaiah 64:8 (New Living Translation)

OK, well this journey really starts with an interview. Or perhaps I should call it a selection process. Anyhow, I was questioned by a panel of Bishop's representatives in our Diocese, whose task it was to discern alongside me not only my capability for entering my year of specialist study, but that it was God's will. Talk about pressure!

With this in mind, and given that I had been informed by the Diocese themselves and other applicants for both lay and ordained ministry that what I would go through would be somewhat different to a job interview, I didn't quite know what to expect. I was apprehensive about meeting the panel, but confident that God's hand was on it and if it was His will, then His representatives would see that in me. Still, I had moments of panic. Should I focus on trying to demonstrate any holiness in me? Talk about my thoughts of ordination or hide them? Would my slightly ageing post-partum brain remember any of the preparation I had typed the night before? What if, after my years denying my responsiblity to act on God's call, and finally accepting it, it went badly; what if they said "NO"?!

In the end, of course, OBVIOUSLY, because this is a God thing, I need not have worried. The only thing absolutely extraordinary and overwhelming about the process was that I didn't tell a lie, or pretend to be something I wasn't, or create an example out of thin air, as I (and others, I presume!) have done to prospective employers previously in secular job interviews e.g. "PowerPoint presentations? Yep, I've done loads of 'em" ( in my mind, at least.) Given the circumstances, the only option was to be myself, as God has created me, moulded me, enabled and empowered me to be.

And indeed at one point when I was speaking, almost conversationally, with the course leaders regarding my desire to professionalise skills that I am already exercising informally within our congregation and community - when I suggested that I had much to learn about when to talk, when to listen, when to pray and when to offer unsolicited advice - they actually suggested that BEING MYSELF was more than good enough for now, and BEING MYSELF was something I must continue to do in the future. My talents are God-given. Yes, I can be given guidance on how to use them, but my instincts, my responsiveness and my discernment are already somewhat developed.

Given that I spent years attempting to escape self and transform myself into various incarnations of the person I thought I should be (as opposed to the options that God had on hand and, now, seem to fit so much more easily), this is not only comfort, it's something that Scripture has been trying to make me see for a long while, and it brought into relief everything about the interview. I wasn't there to try to impress, to talk the talk and walk the walk, to show off impressive academic qualifications or try and hide them under a bushel while promoting my salt-of-the-earth people skills. I was there to BE, there to BE ME, to discuss my strengths, weaknesses, fears, abilities, to kind of strip myself bare, to be honest, to reveal the raw clay of my being and wonder about the future potential that God, the Diocese and I can work together to enable me to serve Him better.

Interestingly, the only thing that did stave off my apprehension on the day of the interview was playing the track 'Mighty to Save' and focusing on the line "Take me as You find me, all my fears and failings" - using the humility and honesty within myself to realise that, without Him, I am nothing. As I have focused on in starting that blog, He is my strength and my song, and there is just no use pretending otherwise, to interviewers, family, friends, believers, non-believers - and myself.

Mighty to Save

Everyone needs compassion
A love that's never failing
Let mercy fall on me

Everyone needs forgiveness
The kindness of a Saviour
The hope of nations

He can move the mountains
My God is mighty to save
He is mighty to save
Author of Salvation
He rose & conquered the grave
Jesus conquered the grave

So take me as You find me
All my fears & failures
Fill my life again

I give my life to follow
Everything I believe in
Now I surrender (I surrender)

[ Lyrics from: ]

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Who Am I?*

I am often a weary traveller through this life. But I am nevertheless a guide to others. I am a servant, a carer and a nurturer. I love to prepare food and feed people. I find therapy in baking cakes. I prefer to wear functional clothes but can see the pretty in adornments and the beauty in nature. I am a trained academic and a thinker, and I have a strong Christian faith. I love music in all its forms, and love to sing, both for praise and pleasure (often both at the same time). Books, I can devour by the trainload. I am there for people who need me. I like to sit and a drink a mug of good old English tea (strong, with milk, no sugar.)

I help lead a Pram Service for the under 5s in our community, and assist with Baptism Preparation sessions for the parents of children to be baptised in church. I am an Anglican with Anglo-Catholic leanings, who appreciates what other denominations and faiths have to offer (some of my best friends are Methodist and Muslim) and gets pretty charismatic from time to time. For the past two years, I have studied theology modules and completed assignments to allow me to apply to a specialist third year of Diocesan training, at the end of which I may qualify as a Registered Lay Minister in the Church of England. This week, I heard I been accepted onto that course. So for 30 weeks, I will be trained in the many aspects of Christian pastoral care, before commencing a placement in that area (prison? hospital? church? who knows.)

I have blogged before, but this is an opportunity to start something new, and journal through the developments in my faith journey, and my learning. It is not really that long since I came to rediscover my faith,  but now everything I have done in the past seems to signal the way to a future in ministry, in a kind of join-the-dots puzzle that starts to slowly take shape as the journey between each number is completed. I have three young girls (6, 5 and 1) and a husband to take care of, as well as my own spiritual needs, and those of others in the world. Yet, I feel God has put me on this path for now, so I will follow.

I don't expect that many people will join me, as this is pretty much going to be a personal journalling of motherhood and ministry and balancing the two, but everyone is welcome on board, to offer insight or (constructive) criticism. At this point in my life I just want to learn how to help others more, and consolidate this as my vocation. I am just seeking to learn. I value family rather than riches, joy rather than material possessions, and God's plan rather than mine (well, I try.) I sincerely hope that not all of this blog will be as self-centered as this introductory post! Time to buckle seatbelts - I think this could be an interesting journey, with many ups and downs!

* Oh yeah - 'Who Am I' is one of my favourite songs from one of my favourite musicals, Les Miserables. Seeing it live at the Palace Theatre, London, wasn't the experience I hoped it would be but I am almost as obsessive about the cast recording I have as Patrick Bateman is in Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho.