Tuesday, 30 December 2014

The Saints Go Marching in...to 2015

Well it seems like I've been on an extended blog hiatus.

This wasn't intentional.

I'm never sure whether the blog is theological, kid-based, music-devoted, foodie or a mix of everything. It's probably a mix of everything. But I don't have time to DO everything, let alone blog about it. So who knows what 2015 holds....but I'm not closing the blog!

So this is a brief post to announce 'my' saint for 2015, courtesy of the Jen Fulwiler Saint Generator.

Being an Anglo-Catholic Anglican, you see, I'm pretty big on saints compared to the rest of my congregation and colleagues. Sometimes I reference a saint and people look at me like I'm an alien. (Like I said, I'm Anglo-Catholic.)  If 4thSister had been a boy, she'd have been named after one of my favourite saints, Maximilian Kolbe, for example. (As it is, she's Josephine - also a saint.) Theological reading and practice including but not limited to  Francis of Assisi, Ignatius of Loyola, Benedict, Augustine, Teresa of Avila, Therese of Lisieux inform and educate my holy living. We (shock, horror in the Anglican church!) go trick or treating, but we also celebrate All Saints Day properly.

Oops, sorry, I said brief, didn't I?

Anyway, with an imaginary drum roll I announce that my saint for 2015 is going to be:

(image taken from Wikipedia)

St Juan, eh? I don't know much about him, but I'll stick with him & hope he helps me to glorify God more in 2015. (My husband's a John. He has the same kind of role.) I hope to research and revisit in a few weeks - for now, he seems like a non-traditional type of saint (if there is a traditional type!) which is fine by me. The Saint Generator does allow you to change the saint if you don't think it's a correct fit. (On All Saints Day 2ndSister kept changing and changing her saint because no girly names were coming up.)

Finally - in case this Saint thing sounds completely off the wall, just try praying to Saint Anthony of Padua next time you lose something. I dropped my phone on a local road. Most things on it are transferable and it's protected, but I was panicking. My husband went out looking for it to no avail. I prayed to St Anthony. My husband tried ringing it, and a police officer answered. Turns out someone had handed it in streets away at the local police station! My husband had just enough time to drive and collect it before the police station closed and he had to collect 2ndSister from ballet class. I DO NOT THINK THIS WAS MERE COINCIDENCE!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, everyone. Who knows, I may be back for more regular blogging updates in the future :-)

Monday, 29 September 2014

10 Michaelmas Facts

When I was at a Very Posh University we used to start the academic year with Michaelmas Term. I never really knew much then, not being Christian and all, about the Feast of Michaelmas, but I was curious when reading today's Church of England Office for Michaelmas Day (aka Morning Prayer) so quickly read up, mainly relying on Wikipedia, as you do. So now I know:

  1. Michaelmas Day used to be a HUGE deal - both the end of bringing the harvest home,
  2. a quarter day marking the start of the next stage of the year,
  3. AND a day of holy obligation.
  4. It is the feast day of the Archangel Michael, who smacked down Lucifer, and also celebrates all the other archangels and angels 
  5. As the Months of Edible Celebrations website details, "Michaelmas is different from most other saints' days because it honors a spirit and not a human being."
  6. Importantly to me, our local annual large funfair in the city of Nottingham, still called the 'Goose Fair', originated as one of the Michaelmas celebration fairs.
  7. I love to take the kids to Goose Fair and eat hot dogs and mushy peas with mint sauce!
  8. People used to eat goose when they partied, as well as Michaelmas cake.
  9. Michaelmas cake can range from a type of bread, or bannock, to a sweet cake, and there are various recipes over the internet. I'd plump for a blackberry and apple crumble :-)
  10. There are lots of churches dedicated to St Michael and all the Angels. My nearest is a short drive away although I've never been.

Photos of Goose Fair rides from Wikipedia's page

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Back to School - the laidback version

We are now returned from our holiday in France. Photos and a post on that later, I hope. But meanwhile, in honour of days which mainly revolved around when the shops were going to open and what we were going to eat for dinner, I am stumbling around tiredly letting a back-to-school plan largely formulate itself:

1) Rather than properly wash the Autumn coats, instead hang them out in the breezy sunshine to air, ready for Wednesday.

2) Drink coffee.

3) Focus on the happy joy of our family life and ways, without flaunting them on Facebook, or wasting time looking at what other people do & how they flaunt it on Facebook.

4) Recognise that the times that aren't happy or joyous, and the differing needs of our four girls, are okay and although I can pre-prepare for school on Wednesday to help ensure a smooth start, I can't plan for every eventually, so I won't kill myself trying to.

Relaxing in France

5) Thank God I purchased new school shoes for the big girls before we went on holiday, and have an old pair of Clarks that remain sturdy and fit Rebecca.

6) Remember that although a glass of French red wine wasn't the answer to all life's problems, it can be soothing and remind one that sometimes, you just need to slow it down.

7) Pray. I can never do back-to-school alone. It's time to bring in the big boys. (By which I mean, erm, God. Duh.)

8) Idly philosophise as to whether to wash last year's schoolbags, which aren't completely worn through, or pick up new ones last minute if there are any left in the shops...

9) Realise how adaptable and mature the kids were on our travels and that they can cope with life's little adversities better than I can. (or, don't sweat the small stuff.)

10) Re-read this post every time I feel myself getting overwhelmed with the amount of laundry and back to school preparation I have to do :-)

A tout a l'heure!

Friday, 18 July 2014

Versions of the Lord's Prayer

I say the Lord's Prayer every day.

Not always the same version.

And not really through any sense of duty, or because "that's how Jesus taught us to pray", either.

I wrote before that maintaining a regular prayer life keeps me together.

And what do you know,I just happen to find the rhythm of a daily, regular prayer comforting and a way of stabilising a prayer life with our family life and all its commitments. It's almost like God had this is mind!* That whether you are attending a Mass, a Morning Prayer, a children's service, a non-denominational Christian worship in the hospital Chapel - there will always be the Lord's Prayer to encounter somewhere.

And if you don't - well, there's The Lord's Prayer cube. For those of you have never encountered this, it is AMAZING! It was a Baptism gift for 3rdSister - at the moment we use it most nights. (Sometimes we don't use the cube, we just pray it. She pretty much knows the whole prayer off by heart because of it.)

The Lord's Prayer CubeThere's something about holding and folding it in and out, as well - something similar to the beads on a Rosary, perhaps? - something soothing yet profound.

But all this praying The Prayer - encountering different versions at the different services we have in our Anglican church, for starters and in the non-denominational services in the hospital chapel - set me thinking.

I have my favourite.

Ssssh! Not favourites amongst my children (although at the moment, any that allow me to get 7 hours sleep are champions.) But favourite version of the prayer.

Because I have prayed it since I was small, the traditional Anglican text beginning "Our Father, Who Art in Heaven" was always going to have a hold on my heart.

But I'm not necessary a traditionalist (ahem, women in ordained ministry, people!), so there has to be other reasons, right?

Oh and just to be clear, I say what we Anglicans know as The Lord's Prayer. I don't say an 'Our Father' like the Catholics, although sometimes in my head I call it this. But to me - marked especially by the time I was loudly praying after my nephew's Catholic baptism - the doxology always goes on the end:
For Thine is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory, forever and ever, Amen. 
And this, this is where I prefer the traditional version. FOREVER and EVER. The Kingdom, forever and ever. That's just amazing in itself.

So where did "For the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory are yours, NOW and Forever" come from? The 1970s, that's where. And I know. I know that the Kingdom is everlasting and amazing. But that's in God's time. It's not now. It's still coming. I can't get my head around it completely in the now. And yes, I'm quibbling! But if it was all now, where would we have to go?

So this personal, ridiculous reason is why I like the prayer I grew up with.

And - I like the THYs and THINEs in the older version. Just because. (The same reason I had the thys and thines in my civil marriage service, which I think most people tend to avoid because they want something modern.)

And the only other variant I do like is when we say 'HOLY' is your name rather than hallowed. I mean what does hallowed mean, anyway? Other than to 'make holy', of course. See, I kind of like saying 'Your name IS holy' rather than 'We make your name holy'. Although some regard holy and hallow as synonymous. We could go round in circles here. Again, just a personal preference.

As for debts, trespasses, and sins - I don't really mind. All in all, it's the same to me. Stuff I shouldn't do. Stuff I need to set before God and make right with Him. Stuff I need to avoid doing if I can help it, in thought, word and deed.

Now, must be time to start thinking which Bible translation is my favourite :-)

* yep, I know, OF COURSE HE DID. (Why doesn't Blogger do footnotes?!)

Monday, 7 July 2014

Solid as a rock?

It may or may not be more apparent by now that I have issues with St Paul. I'm sure at some point I'll go into those at great, uninteresting length. (In short - he was flawed, I am flawed, he rubs me up the wrong way when he's bossy, he did good stuff too, I forgive him.)

I do know there is great inspiration in his writing and his ministry, and while my conversion wasn't Damascene, it was a huge about-turn (and I'm bossy too) - so you'd think I'd identify more.

But actually I identify more with St Peter.

I know, I know. It's not really very humble to identify with saints. But remember St Peter and St Paul were sainted despite their flaws. And I think I love them more because of their flaws. (And I'm not just talking about 1 Peter 3.) So I lay my flaws right down at Peter's feet. Because:


Denial is a word so many of us are so familiar with in today's secular lexicon, it falls off the tongue without much thought. It's not just an action, or a state of mind, it's a place to be - IN Denial. It's somewhere to hide, to be ignorant of what's going on around us. The classic head in the sand, or self under the duvet moment.

All humans tend to be good at denial.

Many, if not all of us, are superbly skilled at denying God, too, if not as historically as St Peter did.

I've often felt a tremendous guilt about my wilderness years, when I thought I was doing it all by myself, and wasn't I the clever girl.

It wasn't until a sermon on The Prodigal Son took me completely unawares and I realised that God didn't mind, because in the end I came home, that I started to release that guilt. And also I rediscovered Peter.

Or I should say Simon, who when Jesus first called him, still had his doubts. ("Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything.") But obeyed regardless ("But because you say so, I will let down the nets." - Luke5:5.)

Simon who was then named by Jesus as Petros, Cephas, Peter - "the Rock of the church". The foundation stone on which the early church was based. I like to think that this wasn't just Jesus having faith, or expectation. Rather, it was prophesy. Because despite - or because of - Peter's humanness, his temper, and his very literal and vocal denials, he had great potential as a faith leader. Peter + the Holy Spirit = Greatness. It was a done deal.


Sort of makes me feel a little better about the way I ignored God as a young person.

(And OF COURSE the church I attended sporadically as a youngster where I felt as if
 questioning scripture and church teaching was looked down upon so much I pretty much ran out screaming - yes, it was dedicated to St Peter himself.)

And a bit less guilty for keeping my Christianity at the edge of my life once it was affirmed.

And drifting along, recognising in the numinosity that I was being compelled into Christian leadership myself, but trying it on, then letting it slide? Well, that was OK too - for a while.

But in the end, I got through the denial, and I hope to realise my potential - to be everything God knows I can be.

It's not about what others think. It's about my relationship to God. What I owe to him. What I owe to the Church. How I can and will take that forward.

And if I can achieve a single speck as much as the apostle named Simon Peter did, how great that will be.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

The How but not the Why: Musings on the Dawn Chorus

I bloody love science, me. Finding out how the world works, from the early hominids to mitochondrial DNA. And I remember when I started University, someone asked me how a faith in God could be sustained when studying evolutionary biology, physical anthropology and all the world's religions. I was convinced then that I did not have any kind of faith, and had started a 3 year course in Archaeology and Anthropology, which I knew would give me all sorts of justifications for denying Jesus. So I never really had to answer the question. And I learned A LOT about how humans have sought to explain the workings of the world.

But now...now? As a Christian? Ask me now! Obviously I'm at heart at Anglo-Catholic - as opposed to a fundamental evangelical who takes The Word at its word. Also I prefer to read Genesis as a creation myth, i.e. a way of humans historically trying to understand the universe (sorry to those of you who this viewpoint offends.) Yet I find it hard to fathom how something, EVERYTHING, came out of nothing. So I concurrently hold a supernatural force of energy (God the Creator) responsible for our universe, other universes, the dinosaurs, the primates, and evolution. Which makes sense to (or at least works for) me.

I pretty much can't look at the infinite patterns of snowflakes, think about each person's unique fingerprint, work in a hospital or parent children without a constant background hum of this is amazing/I can see how all of this works/but simultaneously not understand it. Why, why, WHY?

But do you know what really, really made me question the 'why' today?

The Dawn Chorus.

It wasn't exactly dawn, but it was 5.20am, and I'd just put 3rdSister back to bed in the hope that she would snooze a little. (It was 5am yesterday, and she crashed by 5pm. Any prayers to ask for the end of this would be welcome!) So I lay there listening to the beautiful birdsong through the open window. (UK, humid weather, no aircon.) And it fascinated me. First, the workings behind it - I mean why do birds sing first thing in the morning (not to mention that early in the morning.) We are still figuring that out. The International Dawn Chorus Day website refers to 'nature's daily miracle', which I take to mean something we don't quite understand but think is wonderful :-)

But the main thing I don't understand, is why, if everything in the universe happened without some sort of intelligent design or benevolent creator who wants us to seek and find joy in every aspect of life, do I find birdsong so beautiful? I mean, it's completely annoying. It wakes us here in England in the summer, or keeps us from getting back to sleep after that (#motherof4) need to urinate in the early morning. It has its reasons, apparently, for the perpetuation of birds.

But that humans would regard it as musical, beautiful, miraculous - why, why, why? Why is there music anyway? Why although my Aunt sadly died this week was there still some good that came out of her passing? Why is every snowflake different and why were we endowed with the capacity to notice it? And so on. I know that scientific explication can begin to convey the HOW of the universe....but for me, it still falls short on the WHY.

Not everyone will look to God for the answers. Not everyone will just throw 'science' back as an explanation (including many, many scientists and mathematicians.) Some will say there doesn't need to be an answer - that the fact that we can't answer Why? means things just happened and we don't need to ask. I'm not one of those. I think that so many things that I see, hear and experience around me cannot be explained. And this is part of why I have faith. Because as well as being able to reason how the world works, I believe that there's got to be an answer as to WHY things are the way they are - often bonkers, inexplicable, wonderful, heartbreaking or literally supernatural.

And today, for me, that's God.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

7 Quick Japanese takes

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 151)


Well hello! I sent my husband on holiday to Japan for a week this week, resulting in a complete lack of blog posting and indeed doing much else other than make food for children, transport children, bathe children, put children to bed which, quite frankly, makes for a very boring weekly roundup so I am using my husband's week vicariously instead, because who DOESN'T want to see loads of stuff different from the norm?

Toilet Control Panel. Looks like fun, yeah?


A view of Tokyo from the 'burbs. Beautiful orange moon. Although Google tell me that it's due to pollution. Different perspective on the night sky, anyway.


While the 4Sisters and I attempted plaice goujons with sea salt and black pepper crumb for a new (and actually quite unpleasant) Lenten meal, FabDad's dinners appear to have been another thing entirely. Walking the Kumano-Kodo route for Buddhist pilgrims, accommodation and hospitality was apparently provided (paid for) in someone's home for a night at a stop along the route.


We are HUGE Studio Ghibli fans in this house, and much of our perception about Japan is coloured by their films. Happily, a misty mountain walk was described by FabDad as straight out of Ghibli :-)


We hoped that my husband would land in Japan for Cherry Blossom season, but sadly he's a week too early for everything to be in bloom. Still there has been some cherry blossom and other interesting sights.

Entrance to Buddhist Shrine


Much of the trip seems to have been about smelly buses and trains, although maybe that's my perception from the emails I've been getting! Still - train food looks good:



Thanks to my husband for providing an interesting week of pictures for my viewing entertainment, that I was able to share with my reader/s. Juxtaposed with assisting 2ndSister in making Sports Relief cakes (from bottom, clockwise: tennis racket and ball, tennis ball, bowling ball & skittles, football net & ball, soccer ball, cricket stumps, bat & ball)

Prepping for Easter

and 3rdSister with a bonnet for a very early pre-school Easter Fair, this pretty much sums up my week!

* with thanks to Jen Fulwiler @ ConversionDiary.com for hosting - head over there now and read a whole load of other Quick Takes!

Friday, 14 March 2014

7 thankful quick takes

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 151)


Thank you, Lord. For exercise. Honestly, it makes such a difference to my outlook (if not to my fluctuating figure, yet) so I'm thankful for a husband who can take care of the kids while I do a morning pool workout. This is MAJOR as I can't do impact exercise out of water, and trying to get out in the evening....don't even go there.


For worship songs. Sadly I haven't got my ass in gear about Lent and haven't got my favourite meditative CD in the car, but I replaced batteries on my bathroom stereo, finally, so I can listen to some songs properly.


All the Small Things. Not the Blink 182 song. Although, that too. But all the things like changing batteries, and having the kids outside to play, and all the other things which may seem standard and trivial and small but at the end of the day, are HUGE.

Oh Lord get us out in the fresh air and home before it pisses it down.


For the huge things, like the biggest event our town has ever seen that happened last night - an armed siege with hostages which ended safely. My husband rang to say he couldn't leave work as there were armed police who had told him to stay in his building away from the windows. Later he was evacuated from the building under armed guard and came to join the family. Trust us to rent an office next to the building where this happened. Four years ago we were camping in the Lake District on an idyllic family campsite and there was an insane gunman on the loose there.


For daughters. 2ndSister was home from school yesterday with a stomach upset yet still entertained the smaller children so I could get the online grocery shopping done.


For babies. FabDad and I still rejoice just in gazing at 4thSister in her final stages of babyhood (she turns one next week). The way she holds her head, the nape of her neck, the way she plays 'row row row the boat' in the bath. All treasure. And she eats anything I make for her (see below.)


This is my 'clean' look
For those who clear their plates without whinging, when they're having full three meals a day. I'm working on this in our house. Following our attempt at French Kids Eat Everything, 2ndSister's eating habits have improved, but an increase of fish and vegetarian dishes during Lent isn't really helping them appreciate that their tummies would be full if they filled them up. A special thanks to 4thSister for whom I can currently stew beef, potato, turnip, pepper, onion, broccoli and spinach, and it gets wolfed down.

Also - I'm thankful dance exams are over (low merit, high merit, distinction gained, hurrah!), that I booked 2ndSister's birthday party well in advance and that tomorrow morning I'll get 30 minutes at church in Morning Prayer. Alone. hah!

* with thanks to Jen Fulwiler @ ConversionDiary.com for hosting - head over there now and read a whole load of other Quick Takes!

Lent Lite

For a moment here I thought I was having Lent-lite.

And then I remembered that even though I didn't make it for ashing, that I was late with the kids' materials, I've cancelled my attendance at ecumenical Lent group and I'm re-reading a Lent book of poetry from a couple of years back, then I shouldn't be surprised when God grabs me by the ankles, dangles me from a great height and says

Look at this! Look at all this is happening! Because you made it so! Because you allow it to be!

Last week someone mentioned to me that having a 'whatever will be, will be' attitude only works if you're a willing partner in the exchange and do some of the work. I agree to an extent, but what we didn't discuss is that God only needs a

sliver, an
inch, a
glimpse, a
tiny glimmer of interest and willingness and then suddenly, boom! it all starts to happen.
From the moment I sat in a 10am service, having been slack and left all 4Sisters at home with FabDad, I realised how much I needed Lent. To be topsy turvy for a while. To think about what we don't have, and what we do have.To realise how the slightest  Bible reading and the deepest prayer can call us to arms, and remind us who we are, who God is, and why we take this time 'out', liminally, to rediscover this.

We didn't collectively give up confectionery this year -  it's generally restricted to weekends anyway - although I have been trying, mainly unsuccessfully, to cut down on sugar. We haven't really given anything up at all, although we're using Christian Aid resources again to think and reflect. But thankfully, when the sun came out on Sunday, suddenly we had the gift of fresh air, exercise, running children!

1stSister reluctantly came off Minecraft and an hour later was refusing to come in because she was enjoying riding her bike around the block too much.

I took 2ndSister to the park to practice riding without stabilisers and had some close time with her.

3rdSister wanted to scoot, skate and cycle all at once although all of these things elude her but she's just happy being out with the others. As is 4th Sister.

Tuesday, they begged to go out after school again and homework was done in record time.

Thank you God, for moving our asses away from difficult neighbours and a road busy with traffic, to a new estate where our privileged kids can get out and play like I used to when I was a kid. With some of the local under privileged kids, sometimes.

And as for me? I spend 45 minutes at a new aquaaerobics class which was perhaps the best euphoria I've had since clubbing on MDMA.

And these small, few things remind me I am restored, renewed, in Him. It can only take a small tweak, a little effort, to engender great change. We just need to reach out and trust. Say that prayer. Feel that prayer. Ask. Do.

A little like a Bible verse we had at hospital prayer this week, you think?

...your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matthew 6: 8, part.)

And if anyone needs an earworm, I remember this from Sunday School, and it's taken from the same chapter:

Seek ye first the Kingdom of God
and his righteousness,
And all these things shall be added unto you.
Allelu, alleluia.

Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by ev’ry word
That proceeds from the mouth of God.
Allelu, alleluia.

Ask, and it shall be given unto you.
Seek, and ye shall find.
Knock, and the door shall be opened unto you.
Allelu, alleluia.

Okay - 4th Sister needs getting up from her nap...

Sunday, 2 March 2014

7 Extraordinarily Quick Takes

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 151)


I have discovered this week that even if taking part in a blogging challenge, posting every day just isn't possible for me. Sigh.


I have discovered this week that even if I'm posting more regularly than usual, it still takes over my morning prepare-and-organise time in a way that's inconvenient and doesn't work. Bigger sigh.


Which is a shame, as the morning is the time when I'm bursting (ok, percolating, then) with ideas and I've realised this week that I do have stuff I want to share with the wider world, but have other priorities. God-given priorities. Yay!


I have also discovered that if you wash an orange Berol felt-tipped pen in the wash with a load of clothes, with its lid on, it will not leak on the washload and will also continue to write like it should. So this one lives another day to sneak into the washing machine :-) See, this week has not been an epic fail after all!


Tip - a mini-doughnut temporarily soothes a teething baby who is standing up clinging at you moaning while you rapidly try and finish your Quick Takes.


I need to congratulate myself again for keeping all4Sisters alive, fed, washed and entertained, even though I didn't blog every day. Although I just realised I posted on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, which is pretty much a record. And I've almost finished these Quick Takes, only two days late :-)


When she finishes the mini-doughnut, a nearly-one-year-old will scream like you are using her like a pincushion and extend her arms like Doc Ock until she gets another one. Back to intermittent blogging, people!

* with thanks to Jennifer Fulwiler @ ConversionDiary.com for hosting - head over there now and read a whole load of other Quick Takes!

Friday, 28 February 2014

Prayers at the Abbey

So....I'm meant to be linking up with Jen at Conversion Diary to publish a post a day.

Epic fail already! Yay!

But - this week the littles and I have two baked banana and pecan breakfast loaves AND visited Newstead Abbey, a special place a few minutes drive away.

Newstead Abbey - sigh.

It sounds like there are monks singing and stuff, and there used to be. It was also the dwelling place of Lord Byron who is buried in our Church. Now, it's owned by the local council and it's more of a beauty spot.

Picture of Newstead Abbey's gardens Displays a larger version of this image in a new browser window
Plan of Newstead Abbey grounds.

But it still has that feeling, of prayer, of silence.

And noisy squeals when my kids are running round.

It can be empty in winter, with its vast gardens just feeling like a spiritual spot.

Nearing Spring like it was this week, there are snowdrops and crocus and the beginning of all the other flowers we get in England. And swans and mallards and coots on the lake. I can't begin to describe how it conveys the wonder of God's amazing creation. I can't do the beauty of the place justice. How wonderful it's almost on our doorstep. AND, admission has been free from November through February during the week.

Newstead Abbey West Front
View of the (ruined) Abbey from the Big Lake

I've been going quite a lot with 3rd and 4thSister. Often just 4thSister in her buggy and me powering around, taking in the beauty, the grandeur and the wonder. Sometimes we stop to go on the playpark. (YES! There's a playpark, too!) We don't visit the cafe, but yes, there's one of those, too. In high season, the Abbey itself, converted to living quarters for the Byron family, is open for visitors. We have friends who married there.

So although monks aren't really chanting plainsong, God is always there. You can walk around and, as Anne Shirley said, just FEEL a prayer. It's restorative and nurturing. Tramping around is exercise. And you always find something new.

French Garden at Newstead Abbey (wide shot) Displays a larger version of this image in a new browser window

This week, 3rdSister and I chose to start at the biggest waterfall, then follow it under the bridge....over the stepping stones...watch the river split into two tributaries flowing around a small island...then up the hill, down the hill, under the weeping willow tree and across another bridge to the island itself. Poohsticks on the bridge on the way back. The river back together again, we followed its course to the second lake. A real adventure! We felt like partners in crime :-) 4thSister patiently observed EVERYTHING from the buggy (she's a watcher, this one.)

SO - it feels okay I'm not keeping up with a blogging marathon when life gets in the way :-)

(all pictures are from the Newstead Abbey website today, as I'm rushing...but we have HUNDREDS from years past. Maybe I'll share some in the future.)

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

I really don't think I should be here....

So many posts in such little time - can you tell I'm doing Jen's 'a post a day for 7 days' challenge? Head over to Conversion Diary to see who else is taking part and enjoy their posts!

"I really don't think I should be here...."

I was texting my friend who works at the biggest hospital in our city. I was IN the hospital. Not as a patient or for having a baby. No, this time I was training to be a Chaplaincy volunteer. Part of a roomful of people doing a 2 day course on how to be a ward volunteer, support people who wanted to talk to a Christian in their time of need, to talk to anybody, perhaps.

Bear in mind I'd done a placement in this area before for my ministry training. But that's not why I felt reluctant. I felt that God was dragging me here. I'd waited two years to do the course (4thSister arriving in the interim!) and now it didn't feel the same. I didn't understand why I was being brought here. During coffee break, I texted my friend. "I really don't think I should be here...."

And then, of course, it happened. A talk from one of the Chaplains about why we were there to do the work. And I understood again. From being in a place where I couldn't comprehend the amount of suffering around me, I began to see it as a place of healing. From feeling overwhelmed to feeling empowered, remembering what set this journey in the first place. In minutes. Seconds, perhaps. Sometimes, God works like that. (With me, anyway. I literally need a kick up the behind in the way He knows best how to do.)

Earlier in the week I'd felt that I should be working in a school, perhaps, and following a slightly different fork on the path. I don't think this is being ruled out entirely. But I felt I wanted to be working with children, rather than adults. Felt that they made me feel rewarded and see the point in what I do. I'm a big believer in the St Ignatius way of looking at our vocations, whether it's motherhood, ministry, music, more.

So I've only been asked to be on a team in the Children's Hospital, supporting children and their families. Asked to try it and, if I ENJOY it, if it FULFILS me - ME - to continue. If it's the right fit, for God's plan in my life. Again - Sometimes, God works like that.

Yesterday I had a whirlwind tour of the place. Oncology, renal, short stay, long stay. The school. The youth club. Indoor play areas. It is astounding, the breadth and depth of illness and treatment, suffering and salvation. It might be my place. To be like Jesus for people. I may not have thought I should be there, but God does seem to have other ideas.

The Little Children Being Brought to Jesus, The 100 Guilder Print 1647-49 - Rembrandt Van Rijn - www.rembrandtonline.org
The Little Children Being Brought to Jesus - an etching by Rembrandt

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Our Favourite Books for the Under 5s.

And for me, that matter! When I have to read the same facile Dora story every night it drives me mad - but the list below contains what I consider classics, and love to pull off the shelf and read with children of any age.

1) Anything by the Ahlbergs but especially Peepo and Each, Peach, Pear, Plum


2) Hairy MacClary - there's a whole series but this first remains the best in my opinion

3) The Big Orange Splot - metaphors of individuality, independence and freedom abound
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4) The Seven Chinese Sisters - great for a 'larger' family!

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5) The Pumpkin Soup trilogy


6) Eric Carle favourite's such as the Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Very Busy Spider, and Brown Bear, Brown Bear

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7) Dear Zoo and the accompanying counting books

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8) The Tiger who came to Tea - like the Ahlberg classics, this reminds me of an older England.

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There are more but this is a good representation of our favourites!

Monday, 24 February 2014

Two Littles. Plus Two Littles.

1stSister helping with candle duties at 4thSister's Baptism

This year will mark the tenth birthday of my first 'Little'. 1stSister hits 10 in October this year and most days it already feels like she's left on a train marked teenagehood. Yet I thought I vividly remembered the early years.

I do, viscerally, remember waiting literally years to be a mother to one Little, thinking I never would be, and then not knowing what hit me. Eventually getting into first gear, and then suddenly I had two Littles to look after.. 1st and 2ndSister have barely 19 months between them, so before they started school I did the whole 'two under two' shebang for what seemed like forever. Days which dragged. Days which weren't book-ended by school runs. Days where sometimes we wouldn't come in from the park, the Abbey, the baby and toddler group, until it was dark. Days of giving two breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. A bath together. Reading stories aloud to two. Not twins but twiblings, everything in tandem.

By the time the Littles had grown and were both at school, aged 6 and 4½, 3rdSister had arrived. The days of having two Littles to look after, bathe, constantly feed and provide activities for - gone. Now each day focused on getting to school, picking up from school. A long nap in the middle of the day for 3rdSister. One Little. A rest!

Not that having two children in school is a rest. The uniforms, the packed lunches, the homework, the extracurricular activities. But it was different. It truly felt that the days of having the Littles was gone. It was a rest from what seemed like almost constant physical activity from morning til night. Bigger girls who could entertain themselves, and the baby, sometimes.

But, wonderfully, we are blessed with 4thSister now. And although there is a bigger age difference (she's almost 1, 3rdSister is already 3½), the deja vu of watching them interact is uncanny. The Littlest clambering over the other. Giggles in the bath. 3rdSister washing the baby's hair. Nature walks together. Music time. Soft play. Yes, it's fantastic when all 4 Sisters are together again, but looking after two Littles can be so special. It's like we've been given another two to enjoy like we did the first. Enjoy a little more, perhaps, now we (ahem) know what we're doing, and are more relaxed.

Such a gift. Two Littles. And now another Two Littles. What a gift to watch them grow.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

let your light shine

I'm finally being commissioned as a Recognised Lay Minister in Pastoral Care today....eeek!!

I've been doing my duties informally for a while now, as I missed the original commissioning due to severe morning sickness - this was around 16 months ago, so yes, I've been a little busy having a baby since then and have only recently officially returned from maternity leave. But that's the thing about pastoral care - it doesn't have an off button, and if I go a day without an encounter or two, that's rare.

The service itself (which is taking place after we attend Junior Church followed by Holy Communion, so my kids are already going to want to be at home *sigh*) is fairly short but very serious and a little daunting. And there will be laying on of hands, obviously.

Which has 1st and 2ndSister worried, obviously, because

What if someone accidentally touches your BOOBS, Mummy?!!
They almost have me worried, too. Scary stuff!

In a way, however, I feel I'm already up to the task that I'm being commissioned for. As well as my three years of ministry training, hospital placement and recent hospital training with the chaplains - naturally accompanied by occasional "do you REALLY want me to do this, GOD?" moments - God's been sending me a few messages lately which have basically given me a huge kick in the rear end to get out and just do.

The most recent of which occurred yesterday at Morning Prayer, which at our church on a Saturday is half an hour of corporate yet silent prayer in the early morning, bookended by short prayers by our Priest who perhaps did not even know she was picking them out specifically for me, but did so anyway :-) It was like the week when every Bible I opened told me to let my lamp shine for the world and I realised the beginning of my calling. She actually recited those verses from Matthew yesterday before we said the Grace together. And during the quiet prayer time, I felt that it wasn't just God tasking me to go and do His work with the sick, the struggling and the needy - it was me empting my self out and letting Jesus take over.

Might I add, this still didn't stop me from being a mardy, pre-menstrual wife and mother on our annual visit to Hodsock Priory see thousands of snowdrops and watch the Sisters play with sticks and logs. But I'm hoping the Holy Spirit's working on that, too.

Snowdrops creating a white carpet in the woods at Hodsock Priory
Copyright - Hodsock Priory.