Friday, 31 July 2015

"So you want to be a Stay at Home Mum" {a letter from me, to you}

Dear mother,

So, you're thinking of becoming a Stay at Home Mum?

Maybe you are already a Mum and this is going to be a new start for you?

Maybe you are about to become a Mum for the first time, and you will be choosing to stay at home with your new baby?

There are so many thoughts that must be going through your head right now.  I know, because I was there. It was a long time ago, but I was there.

I must admit, I didn't think I would be here, nearly 14 years later, with 8 children, and a blog. But, here I am, nonetheless.

I didn't really have any friends in the same situation that I could simply "follow".

For us, it was a no-brainer. We very much felt that God had called me home to be a mother. After all, He deigned me to be the one to carry my baby through a pregnancy, and then to nourish it from my very body after it was born. Staying at home to care for my child and the children that came after, was the natural thing to do.  Moreso, the Bible showed me that was what I should do.

"teach the young women to be.... keepers at home".

That is what a young woman is instructed to do in Titus 2.

I have also to love my children.

If you put those two things together, the best place to love my children, and to train them, is if *I* am with them in the home.

We looked to history. It was always the natural thing for mothers to do.  Only after WWII did women begin to leave the home and go out to work in the "workplace".  Yes, for centuries, women have worked to bring in employment, but they still looked after their own children.  They had them working alongside them, in whatever they did. Why? Because it was as natural as breathing.

That was what it was like for me. The choice. Natural as breathing. I wanted to be with my child all the time.  I didn't want to miss a thing.

We had some very difficult financial times in the early days. My husband hadn't long left Bible College, and we were living by faith. He started in a Church, but the salary was not huge.

More children were given to us. Educational choices faced us.

Still, I chose to stay at home with my family. Nurturing them and raising them, to God's glory.

There have been some really hard days.

Let me tell you honestly.

There have been a LOT of hard days.

There have been days where I could happily have run off. Happily.

I would ask myself this one question.  That still small voice would whisper it to me.

"Why are you doing this?   What is your guiding light?"

"Because God wants me to, and He has designed me to care for my children.  He has led me to do it"

"Why not give up?"

"Because God will provide all of my needs".

That's the most important thing for any Christian SAHM to remember.

WHY you are doing it?

Your reasons may not be quite the same as mine. They may be similar, but not the same. But, WHY are you doing it? 

Keeping your eyes on that will sustain you through the difficult days, because, they will come. 

When they baby is crying for the hundredth night in a row.

When you've been cleaning vomit off beds for night on end.

When you're so tired you could fall asleep on your feet.

When things are a struggle financially, and it's tempting to return to work. 

Cling to WHY you made the choice in the first place. If it's centred upon Christ, and honouring Him, He will honour you. He will carry you through. 

Find all the promises in His Word, and claim them.  Apply them to your journey.  Let them sustain you and strengthen you. 

Do what you can, BEFORE you enter the role of a SAHM, to be prepared. Think about money first. Think about where you live and what you have nearby. 

Above all else, think about it being God's calling. If He calls you, He equips you. He will provide your every need.  

You may need to adapt.  

You may need to make big changes.  

You may only need to make small ones. 

You may need to change your priorities, plans and goals in life. 

Whatever you need to do, keep your eyes on the WHY. When you remember the why, you'll see the how. 

I am doing it to honour God. 

Not to "be the best".

Not to hear a "You're doing great" from anyone else.

Not to be "Mother of the Year".

Not to follow some advice from a book. 

Simply, and wholly, to obey God's call in my life.

THAT is what keeps me grounded.  

THAT is what keeps me humble.  

THAT is what keeps me going.

Following after God, and relying on His strength. 

You can do it, too. 


"With God, all things are possible."


With love, prayers and a desire that others may know the peace and satisfaction of following after God's plan for them,

Caroline
x










Friday, 24 July 2015

When days are hard {you know better than I}

One of my all-time favourite Bible accounts is that of Joseph. There is so much to learn from his life, and, of course, so many parallels to the life of Christ.

We have recently been struggling with ill children, and we have been watching some of our Bible story DVDs. If you have never watched "The Prince of Egypt", or "Joseph: King of Dreams", then I highly recommend them. They are made by Spielberg, and whilst there are some inaccuracies, they bring to life these great Old Testament lives. We discuss with the children when there are elements that are perhaps more for artistic effect, rather than accuracy, so that they understand. It doesn't, however, take away from the impact of these events. 

In the Joseph film, there is a brilliant song, whilst he is in prison. It's called "You know better than I".




I thought I did what's right
I thought I had the answer
I thought I chose the surest road
But that road led me here
So I put up a fight
And told You how to help me
And just when I had given up
The truth is coming clear

[Chorus]
For You know better than I
You know the way
I've let go, the need to know why
Cause You know better than I

If this has been a test
I cannot see the reason
But maybe knowin', I don't know
Is part of gettin through
I try to do what's best
And faith has made it easy
To see the best thing I can do
Is put my faith in You

[Chorus]

I saw one cloud and thought it was the sky
I saw a bird and thought that I could follow
But it was You who taught the bird to fly
If I let you reach me, will You teach me

For You know better than I
You know the way
I've let go, the need to know why
I'll take what answer You supply
Cause You know better than I







Every time we watch it, the children are generally ill. When the children are ill, I find it REALLY hard. I am a fairly stalwart, laid back person, until my children are unwell. I don't like that little ones can't tell you how they feel, and when you can't take away what they are going through.

At times like that, there is so much for me to learn. And, the words of this song sum it up so well.

Ultimately, in times of testing, THIS is what we all need to learn.

"You know better than I".

We try to do things our own way, we think we are doing our best, but trials WILL come. Why? Because God knows better than we do.

Like Joseph, we so often look back, and say "but God meant it unto good".

His ways are perfect.

His timing is perfect.

It's so easy to ask "why", but as the song says, it's as simple as this - we don't need to know why, because "you know better than I".

My life, so far, has been a dawdle compared to Joseph's. He went through bullying and unkindness, being sold as a slave, and then being falsely accused and sent to prison. It wasn't even a prison as comfortable as ours. It was a horrid thing. In it all, he acknowledged God's perfect plan.

I fail so often, and don't trust when I should, and this is a lesson I need to be reminded of EVERY SINGLE DAY.

If I just stop, and acknowledge God's sovereignty, my eyes are pulled away from my circumstances, and see, instead, God's goodness and grace, even in the trial.


"his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment:"
Deuteronomy 32:4



There's no "It's not fair", in the Christians vocabulary. God is just.

There's no "why can't life be more perfect", in our thoughts. God is perfect in His works.

Life isn't easy. When God leads us along the path HE has chosen, and guided us through, it's not always easy. What brings peace and comfort is that He is with us, and knows best.

He knows better than I, and I am SO thankful for that truth.








Wednesday, 15 July 2015

A key to surviving large family life {training children to help in the home}

I must start this post with a caveat. I am not finished my parenting journey, and I am not perfect. I don't have all the answers. I only ever share what MY experience is, which may help someone else.

There. I've said it. Glad to get that off my chest first.

As I type, my 12 year old is making dinner. I didn't force her. She's not doing it under coercion, but willingly. She's dong it to be a help to me.

I love her.

One of the most common questions I have about having a large family is "Isn't it a lot of work? How do you cope?"

My answer is simple.

They all pull together to help.

In the immortal words of Bob the Builder "Working together, we get the job done"!

Now, the very important key to all of this is simple.

My children didn't just naturally incline themselves to doing jobs.  No siree. I can unequivocally tell you that it doesn't come naturally. Admittedly, some children have a natural bent towards being more helpful, but it's certainly not consistent, and generally only if THEY feel like it. And, let's face it, most of the time jobs need to be done when we DON'T feel like it. Right?

That said, the key is TRAINING.

My role, as a mother, is train up my children. If they aren't going to do something naturally, then I need to teach them HOW to do it.

I have chatted to people, in times past, about the children doing jobs.

"My children don't help like that! How DO you do it?"

Well, folks, if you don't expect them to do it, and you don't train them to do it, it ain't likely they WILL do it. Simple.

I'm not some super-mother who has magical powers like a modern day Mary Poppins. (I wish)  I am a tired out, often impatient, yet persistent mother, who tries very hard to TRAIN her children how to do jobs around the house. I don't always succeed as I would like, but I try.  It's not easy, let me tell you. It requires effort from ME, first and foremost, but it's totally worth it.

So, two things I will quickly deal with.

WHY?

and

HOW?


Why do we train our children to help in the home?

1) God is a God of order.

I know that family life can be messy, and it comes with the territory of having lots of people around. As I tell the children, if each of them leaves just FIVE things lying around, that's FORTY things lying around. It quickly multiplies into chaos! Having things around which show you are living in the house, doesn't mean we never try to do anything about it. God didn't create this earth in chaos. He designed it with order, with everything in its place. One process follows on from another in order for life to continue. If one part is knocked out of place, by an external factor, chaos ensues. Isn't that the same in our homes?? If we want to follow God's design for His creation, we should try and have order in our homes, for them to function well.

2) We need to be good stewards

In the Bible we read about the parable of the faithful steward.  We need to be those who care for the things that God has given to us. I don't want my children growing up thinking they can leave things lying about all over the house, to be stood on, squished and destroyed. If things are put away, and tidied up, they will be looked after far more carefully.  Children need to learn that things have a value, and have to be earned. It's one of the reason why we don't shower our children with "things" for no reason. They either receive them for a special occasion, or they EARN them. If they don't learn as children, they will become adults who don't care for their things. God generously gives us all we have, we need to train them to be thankful and look after those things.

3) Learning not to be lazy

Training children to tidy up, from a young age, is teaching them a good work ethic.  The book of Proverbs tells us to look to the ant, and learn no to be lazy. In all labour, there is profit. We gain, in some way, shape, or form, from anything we work hard at. Not being lazy, with tidying and chores, teaches them that a tidier house is easy to maintain.  It teaches them that they can have free time once a job is done. It teaches them that it's satisfying and rewarding to see a job done to completion. It teaches them that working hard is a blessing to others. Being lazy only brings trouble. And lazy children become lazy adults, all too often, and then they bring that into the workplace. That results in unreliable employment, once others find out you are lazy.  We are training our children to be reliable adults, by teaching and training them to help in the home.

4) It makes our home a welcoming environment

I once visited a home, a long while ago, and it was SOOOOO messy. I knew the people, and they just didn't care for their appearance or their home. I couldn't relax in there. It was dirty, messy and disorderly. (Admittedly, I also find houses that are ULTRA tidy not to be relaxing! It doesn't feel like a home to me, but that's just a personal thing. At least they are working hard to keep it tidy.)

The thing is, we should be folks who desire to create a welcoming environment to others. If our homes are a royal mess, people won't feel welcomed. It gives the message that you don't care enough about others to even ATTEMPT to tidy for them. And I am talking people who you arrange to come and visit - not the "drop ins". They have to just take you as they find you!!! As I already said, a house with lots of people can get crazy and messy by just LIVING there! But, if you know people are coming, you show you care by creating a welcoming place for them. If you have lots of children, you are training them to be welcoming hosts, and to consider others, by training them to help in the home.

One of the incidents that made a HUGE impact upon me, as a young mother, was when we visited a home of a large family. Their daughter was one of the eldest children. We were eating breakfast with them before heading on an onward journey. The daughter and the mother stood to the side of the room and SERVED us at breakfast. I assume they either ate before us, in the kitchen, or after we left, but they put the effort in to do everything they could for us. It was BLISS!!! It really made an impact and taught me the importance of training our children to have the desire to serve others, and make them feel welcome. Order, not chaos. Helpful, not a hindrance.


5) As a testimony.

We are being watched.  As God's people, others look on to see how we are behaving, and how we live. When we have a life filled with disorder, people see, and whether we like it or not, may judge us. Now, if they happen to drop in one day and we have been clearing our toy cupboards, and it's a mess, then that's understandable mess. If they judge us for that, it's their own problem. Or, if we genuinely are struggling with ill health or the struggles of having lots of little children who can't help so much, that's a situation where people should extend grace.  But, if we never seem to care about the chaos that is around us, it's not a good testimony. We tell the world that other things are more important than caring for our belongings, and the home we live in. Good stewards should care for their homes, and all that God has given them, and be a testimony as faithful servants of Christ.


So, HOW do we train our children?

1) All of our children have a DOMINION. I remember watch the Duggars, and I think they had a "jurisdiction". That made a lot of sense to me! It teaches the children to take responsibility for an area in the home, and they are then solely accountable for its care and tidiness. I don't give the little ones a dominion, because it's quite a big job, but all of my oldest 3 have one, and the fourth has an area she is mostly responsible for. So, 7 and up, I've done it. I taught them what needed to be done in that area. That's a key thing. I TAUGHT THEM. They needed direction to know what TIDY meant!  Then, I have to CHECK on them! I look to see if they have done all they should, and get them to sort out anything they have missed. They do it on a Saturday, and in the week, everyone helps sorts out those areas that are theirs, as spot tidying. The deep cleaning and tidying is their dominion, though. It works for us, and could be done, on a smaller scale, with younger children. Their dominion could be one area of a room, or one element of a bigger job. But, the two key factors in that are teaching them and watching them!

2)  Tidying up generally

I know some people have chore charts for different times of the day, but we work it slightly differently. After breakfast, the oldest 4 have a job to do. Emptying the dishwasher, clearing up after breakfast, sweeping up the kitchen, and taking out the recycling. (Does everyone else have so MUCH recycling??? It's CRAYYYY-ZEEEEE) It means that the kitchen area gets a good tidy up in the morning, to start off the day. After the other meals they all just pull together to get the tidying up done. Lunch time clear up is still a bit rusty, so I need to work at that. Dinner time, Daddy is usually here and he allocates jobs when we are done. Usually one of them has set the table, so they get lighter duties after dinner, to keep it fair. One clears, one stacks the dishwasher, one clears up anything to go in the fridge or the bin, and someone else wipes up. Many hands make light work!

3) End of the day

I try very hard to get a few areas tidy before Daddy gets home. Depending on the season of life, it's not always as I would like it, but we TRY! The hall and the lounge are the places we try and get tidied up, because we know he feels more relaxed if those areas are tidy. Some days it's not quite done, but he quickly sets to giving them jobs to get it finished up. We end up with a scurrying hoard of children, putting things back where they belong.

4) Trying to make tidying fun

There are a few things we throw into the mix, every now and again, to try and make tidying fun! Yes, FUN! It works better with the little ones, who are more green behind the ears. Aherm.

First, we do speed tidying. We will stop what we are doing and do as much as we can in 5 minutes. I find it's important to set them achievable tasks, then they feel like they have accomplished great things. Then, we do the "tidy ten things". They have to go and pick up ten things and put them back where they belong. We also do paring, when I get jobs and pair the children up to do them as a team. I will often give a reward for the pair who do the best job. I will pair a younger with an older, which works best. Sometimes we do it with their names on lollipop sticks, and sometimes I will just write it on a piece of paper. I have done it when our friends visit, too, and they enjoy the novelty of tidying with someone "new"!

I also find that the little ones like to tidy groups  of things. So, I will get a child to find all the cars, or all the play animals, or things that are blue. They enjoy the challenge of that!

Of course, they also have to learn that tidying can't ALWAYS be fun! Sometimes we have to do things in life, just because they need to be done. It's as simple as that.

And, I don't know about you, but i often have children saying "But, Mum, *I* didn't make the mess".

To which I reply....

"Welcome to my world, dear"

Many jobs in the world are to do with sorting out other people's "messes"! I was a physio, and a lot of the time people were suffering from a "mess" they got THEMSELVES into!

This, however, is one of the most important lessons I teach the children about working in the home.....

We do it because we are all part of the same family - the same team.  Whatever way you want to look at it, we pull together to make family life work. There are times when, as the leader, I can't do things as I would like. It's not child cruelty to enlist the help of the children more than normal. It's LIFE! It's FAMILY! If I can raise children to be willing to help others, where they see a need, I think that will be a job well done. It's all about learning to be selfless and pro-active. Seeing a need and meeting it in any way we can. Right now, I often have to tell them how to do that. However, more and more, they are starting to see for themselves, and offer to be helpful. Years ago, life like that was NORMAL.  Nowadays, children have a life of ease, with everything handed to them on a plate, and I really think the parents don't do them ANY favours, to train them to be takers, and not givers.

One last thing.  How would I like to IMPROVE things?!? There's ALWAYS room for improvement, right??

Firstly, I want to DECLUTTER!!! WE have wayyyyyy too much stuff. Having a lot of children can lead to a major issue. People want to buy them something for each Christmas and birthday, when you already have all the things bought for the previous children. They don't NEED anything else!!! I am starting to get inventive about gifts, and last Christmas most family members willingly clubbed together so I could buy each child one significant gift that we couldn't afford otherwise. Something really special and higher quality. That worked really well, and the children appreciated their special gifts. But, we still have loads! I figured that adding to things we already had would help. It did, and it didn't. We now have a LOT of Playmobil, Duplo and Lego, but it makes such a mess when they play with it, and tends to "migrate". I don't want to get rid of it all, but I think I will cut back.

Secondly, I want to be more consistent. A lot of the time when the tidying doesn't happen, it's MY fault for not implementing it more diligently. Children are little sinners. I am a big sinner. Our hearts are all inclined to self, and sometimes self has to be sacrificed in order for jobs to get done - PROPERLY! I also don't check properly after they say they have done, to make sure it's MY kind of done. Subsequently they end up off doing their own things, saying the job is done, then I have the HARDER task of getting them to come BACK to the job, to do it properly. Argh.

Thirdly, I need to train them better about being thorough. One of my children was asked to tidy up after making dinner today. The child very kindly and willingly made pizza for the children, from scratch. When it was cooking I asked that everything be put away, as that is what I do whilst dinner is cooking. I use the cooking time to clear up. The said child THOUGHT they put everything away. The next thing we knew, there was passata ALL over the counter, splattered everywhere, like some kind of tomato blood bath! Thankfully, the child realised their error, saw the humour in it, and cleared it up brilliantly. But, he was reminded that if you do a job properly in the first place, you won't have extra work to do later!

I must also clarify that these things don't always happen in our home without blips. It gets in a mess, regularly. I have to go around, like a sergeant major, getting them to do it. I sometimes despair. I sometimes feel like doing it all myself. If I do THAT, they will never learn. It would be majorly counter-productive! I'm also telling you what works for ME! It's not set in stone. It's not the law of the Medes and Persians which cannot be altered. I'm just trying to do my best, in an imperfect world, and hoping that something that we do, or why we do it, may help someone else on their way.

Above all else, we try and remember that we do "all to the glory of God". Not for our own self satisfaction, but because we want to bring honour and glory to HIM! Yes, that includes tidying the house.

So, on that note, I'm off to finish off tidying the bits that the children missed, so we don't start the day behind tomorrow.




Friday, 3 July 2015

Fun in London {the joy of encouraging friendship}

I just logged on to Blogger to write a new post, and was reminded of the topic of a recent post - singing God's praises.  Admittedly, I have had lots of occasions in the last two weeks when singing praise was easy. Days of blessing and encouragement - joy and laughter.  In the middle of it all, we have had a trauma, where I had to FIND things to praise for. It wasn't too hard, but they weren't the things that were at the front of my mind.

I have so much to share about, and I don't quite know how to divide it all up! Fitting it all in one post may be overwhelming for YOU, the reader! So, I will split it up, and start at the start.

Two weeks ago, I hammered out my  blog post in record time. They were thoughts I had wanted to share, but my time was short.  Why?  because I was heading off for a day trip to London! I LOVE London. I love that it is jam packed full of history, waiting for me to learn about.  I love the architecture. I love the interesting places. I love the feeling of jumping betweens the centuries, as you go from place to place. Brand spanking new sky scrapers shadowing the ancient and mysterious.

LOVE. IT.

The thing is, it wasn't the city that was calling my name that day.

Nope.

It was a PERSON!

Someone whom I had I never met.  Never ever.

It was another one of these *whispers* INTERNET acquaintances.

GASP.

The good news is that we have a mutual friend, who was able to confirm we were both safe and reliable!

Melissa is Heidi St John's "virtual assistant".  (That means she assists from a distance, not that she's a computerised character - meeting THAT would be just plain WEIRD!) I had the joy of meeting Heidi, and some of her family, THREE years ago (where does time GO?), and had been in touch with Melissa when working with Heidi on the blog hop a couple of years ago.

Melissa came over to the UK on a Church missions/choir trip, to Exmouth, in Devon. When she knew I lived near London, she asked if we could meet up.

Now, I don't go out much.  I am the joyful mother of my children, and I firmly see it as MY job to care for the children full time.  Robert works outside the home, and has enough to do without me constantly asking to do this, that and the other. So, when I ask to do something it's not the norm, and I massively appreciate him saying "yes". Which he did! (I read a blog post recently which suggested you shouldn't need to thank your husband when he looks after the children, because it's his job, too, but I disagree. Something as big as this is NOT his job, and I thanked him immensely! - I digress!)

I was so excited about not only going to London, but meeting Melissa. I know you don't fully know what someone is like from the Internet, but having met Heidi, I was confident we would get along. Which we DID!

Melissa, not being familiar with London, left most of the planning up to me, but told me what she wanted to see. She requested Westminster Abbey, which I hadn't visited, and to eat somewhere that was an "experience".  So, I got planning.  I like doing that kind of thing. I got us tickets for the open topped bus tour. If you are ever in London, it's a GREAT way to see a lot of the city.  There is a live guide (a dead one would be gross, I know....) - as opposed to a recorded tour - and you can hop on and off where you want. You also get a river trip. I got mine with Tesco vouchers, which made it FREEE-EEEEE. (We all love free, right?) I researched the Abbey (note to self - next time book your ticket online and avoid the 30+ minute wait....), and then thought about eating out. I asked around and found something that was an "experience".  A restaurant on a river boat! Eat dinner, and see London where you sit. You don't get to do that just anywhere.

Having arranged where to meet, and the agenda for the day, the day dawned bright! The sun was shining, and it looked like a great day to tour London. After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing, Melissa and I found each other! It was a joy to finally meet, and we got chatting straight off. I know.  Strange.  ME, chatting.  I know.

Melissa's first port of call was Buck Pal.  Otherwise known as Buckingham Palace, of course. We were on our way to see the changing of the guard.  Now, anywhere else, a guard change would be some guys marching up, changing places, and marching away.  Not in the UK. Ooooooooh no.

Pomp.

Circumstance.

Grandeur.

A lot of marching up and down a  courtyard by two very hot looking standard bearers, whilst two military bands from two different regiments play a lot of music.



It was busy, and getting to the front of the fence was a challenge, but we got there. It certainly gave Melissa a snapshot of the full glory of our military in full dress. And, you've gotta love a military
 band!



Our initial view, from the wrong side of the street!



The new "guard" arriving, with their band.  This is the RAF.




These are the Household Cavalry.  They are based down at Horse Guards, at the bottom of The Mall. 


These are the two guards, marching up and down.  One from the regiment ending their guard duty, and the other from the one coming on duty.  They marched backwards and forwards in diagonals, across the front of Buckingham Palace. I am sure there was some kind of order to it, but it looked random to us! 


These bad boys were coming OFF duty.  If there is something that is iconically British, it's THESE guys! They are wearing Bearskin Caps. Yes, made from bearskin. Here's a snippet from Wikipedia....

"The standard bearskin of the British Foot Guards is 18 inches tall, weighs 1.5 pounds and is made from the fur of the Canadian black bear.[6] However, an officer's bearskin is made from the fur of the Canadian brown bear as the female brown bear has thicker, fuller fur and is dyed black. An entire skin is used for each hat.[7] The British Army purchase the hats, which are known as caps, from a British hatmaker which sources its pelts from an international auction. The hatmakers purchase between 50 and 100 black bear skins each year at a cost of about £650 each.[8] If properly maintained, the caps last for decades."

They are Foot Guards from the Grenadier Guards regiment. You can identify which regiment by plumes on the Bearskin, positioning of buttons, and the badge on their collar.  In case you wondered, I am no expert. I googled it.... and found this site useful. 


This is the bands playing in front of Buckingham Palace.  We couldn't see the Grenadier Guards so well, but the RAF band was at our end. 



This is the Grenadier Guards departing. The barracks fro all these regiments is just around the corner, at Wellington Barracks. Not too far to go back "Home".  I'm pretty certain that the tour guide mentioned that all these chaps have to have served on active duty for a certain length of time, before getting to the stage of home guard duty. These are all seasoned military. 


There was a slight problem with the day, which I discovered at this point. I had my phone. I had my camera. I made a foolish assumption.  That I had brought  a spare battery that was actually charged. Nuh-uh. *face palm*  So, from this point onwards I have very few photos. Also having a phone that wasn't so full of other junk that it has SPACE to add more photos, would also have been good.  Note to self....

I did get a few snaps on my phone, outside Buckingham palace, and on the bus.


This is the Victoria Monument. I wrote a blog post about it, several years ago, which you can read here. It tells you more about it. 


This is Nelson's Column - immortalising the great military genius, who won a great victory 200 years ago, at the Battle of Waterloo. He was a pretty 'armless guy..... boom boom. Read more about him here


From there we walked down The Mall - the long road that connects Buckingham Palace to Trafalgar Square - to get on the bus.  It's a lovely tree-lined street.  I like it a lot.  The us then brought us around some famous landmarks until we got to Westminster.  We hopped off and went to the Abbey.

This was interesting to me, on many points.

I LOVE the history.  The poor lady verger showing us around found out quite quickly that I was, erm, enthusiastic about the history.  I hope I didn't embarrass Melissa too much. There are many kings and queens buried there.  It's full to capacity now, so monarchs will no longer be interred there. I believe The Queen Mother is buried in Windsor.  Knowing our current Monarch's love for Windsor, I imagine she, too, will be buried there, when the time comes.

The interesting points?

Well, the history, of course.  Buried there, and remembered there, are MANY well known Brits.  You aren't allowed to take ANY photos in there, so I can't show you. There are poets, in "Poets Corner", including authors, too. Musicians and composers - Handel has a fairly prominent spot. Then, there are scientists and explorers.  David Livingstone is there. Well, all but his heart, which remained in Africa where his "heart" was. This is one of the interesting points. The C of E verger, when I vented my interest in Livingstone, said something along these lines. "Of course, the work of David Livingstone as one who helped abolish the slave trade, is far more significant than anything else he did - he only had one convert as a missionary, and they changed their mind later".

You WHAT???

SERIOUSLY?

Melissa and I exchanged a look over that one.

A wry, shocked look.

That man laid the way for MANY missionaries to forge into countries where the people did not know the Saviour.  He did GROUND-BREAKING work. Yes, his work in abolishing the slave trade was brilliant.  To ease the suffering of this world is wonderful.  Eternal salvation? No comparison.

ANYWAY.

We moved on.

More incredible building work and detail.  Truly stunning. Until we got to two more parts that had me rolling my eyes, I'm afraid. "Saint Edward's" tomb.  So revered than he was canonised. Who are WE, as mortals, all sinners before God, to elevate ANYONE to "sainthood"?? We are all equally sinners, and none of us can do anything to merit a higher place in life. We can only claim Christ's shed blood, and atoning sacrifice, to lift us from death and judgement. We will never be anything of ourselves, and anything others see in us is Christ alone, and doesn't deserve the "sainthood" awarded by men.  Sorry.  Rant.  The Bible is very clear on this, and it drives me a little scatty.  Moving on further brought us to the Lady Chapel.  In memory of queens?? No.  "Our Holy Lady, the Mother of Christ". As much as she was chosen by God to bear Christ, the whole point WAS that she was just a woman, like any other woman. Privileged? Yes. Undeniably.  Requiring special titles and reverence, above any others, to be worshipped and given Sainthood? NO!

The other thing that had me eye rolling was the Verger's obvious dislike for the Reformation, and Oliver Cromwell. They had "destroyed" parts of the beautiful abbey.

Boo hoo.

It's a BUILDING!

Beautiful.

A testament to the creative minds that God has created mankind with. Genius of its day, in the way it was built. Skilled craftsmen put it together. But, it's NOT the Church. It's not the building that matters.

It was definitely worth the visit, although fairly pricey. Especially if you love history and architecture. and fascinating facts.

Next, we hopped back on the bus to see more of London. On the way round we THINK we saw the cavalcade of cars for Michelle Obama.

Great.

We love her.... honest.

We got off the bus at the  Tower of London. (That's a place I want to visit!)  We then got on the river cruise back up to Westminster. It interesting to see the city from the perspective of the river. Once again we had a live commentary, which was interesting.

When we reached Westminster we had a few minutes to spare, so we went and had a wee look down Downing Street. The PM wasn't at home, and as Melissa very politely observed, you can't see much anyway. Our PM's residence is slightly less salubrious than the American head of state. Not very British, really. Hey ho.

We then headed out for dinner.  Now, Melissa wanted an "experience".  When I stepped on the boat and sat down, I thought it was going to be a VERY interesting experience. I forgot I get travel sick on boats, and that boat was bobbing up and down on the River Thames!!! I had a slightly panicked moment, where I thought I was going to have to run off the boat and go to McDs instead. But, I got used to it, thankfully, and despite the odd moment where it got a bit "bobby" again, I survived!

The dinner was lovely, but that wasn't the highlight.

This was THE best part of the day. I got to have a lovely chat with Melissa, who encouraged me beyond measure, as we chatted about parenting, relationships and home schooling.  The Lord had appointed our meeting, in His own perfect way, at a time I needed it most. It was uplifting and I appreciated it SO much. Chatting with a fellow sister in Christ, and gaining the wisdom and perspective of another, was just priceless. It filled my heart and soul with renewed enthusiasm, and a sense of "things can be ok". She challenged me to think outside the box, and to be brave enough to do things differently to what I was used to. I'm not even sure she fully realised how much the whole day was a balm to my soul. I told her it was a blessing, but, really, it was a deep, full and satisfying blessing.

It was ALL of God.

HE is the great Master Planner of our lives.

He equally allows struggles and trials, but when He brings blessings? - it's like a cool drink of water in a desert.

That whole day was incredible, and in God's perfect timing. He blessed me with a day that is one of my perfect sorts. Fascinating things to see, and fabulous company. For me, it can hardly get better.

Hang on.  It could.  I forgot to mention my fun trip there...

I went on the train, and brought a book with me. I don't often get the chance to read in peace, these days. So, a train journey seemed ideal. I brought a book with me that I have "started" I don't know how many times.  I WILL finish it.  IN the mean time, it's blessing my heart every time I dig into it. It's also incredibly amusing.  It's called "Unglued", and it's written by Lysa Terkeurst. Lysa writes in a way that is so REAL! You can totally relate to what she is writing about, especially, in this instance, if you are an emotional being. I had several "laugh out loud" moments, and this one really tickled me.....

"That's what makes raw emotions so complicated.  They come from nowhere and run us slap-over.  Which is why it's so important to prepare in advance for what will surely happen during your next trip to Target - or while attending the unpredictable family reunion, driving unruly kids in the car pool, or dealing with difficult people at the office. Or when, at the next Bible study meeting, you happen to sit by the woman with the special ministry of discouragement".

I pretty much spat my mint tea out at that quote!

Boy, have I met those kind of folks in my lifetime. The special ministry of discouragement!!!

We should ALL be encouragers.  It's not some special spiritual gift.  It's what EVERY Christian should try to be.

That's what made my day so special.  Melissa encouraged me.  She built me up, and helped me to see how, by God's grace and guidance, I could do the job of parenting and wifehood that He has called me to do.



(It's a bit of a dimly lit picture, but we were trying to get the London Eye in the background!)


I wonder who you will come into contact with today, or in the next week?  Are you exercising the spiritual muscle of encouragement.  You will bless others richly, if you work at being an encourager.

I had such a precious day, and I am so thankful to God for the friendship I have forged, through God's intricate plan, of seemingly random connections, for HIS glory! I love that we are all part of God's body, and even though we don't live near each other physically, we are joined together. We can build each other up, and encourage one another, through our mutual love for the Saviour, FROM the Saviour. So, so precious.

Thank you to Heidi for the first connection.  Thank you to Melissa for being brave enough to meet the random, unknown Scot.  Thank you to God for His goodness.




Monday, 29 June 2015

Encouragement for mothers {podcasts from Heidi St John}

Today, I started writing a post about what I've been up to. But, I now have a poorly boy (who may have an ear infection), and a grumpy baby, so it just ain't happening.

What I CAN quickly share about, is a fantastic resource that I have been meaning to tell you about.

I have followed Heidi St John's blog and FB page since before I met her, three years ago. I have read her books.  I have some of her Bible curriculum.

But, what I have been INCREDIBLY blessed of, lately, is her podcasts.

For those who don't know (there must be SOME, right?) - a podcast is a short audio production, that you can listen to online, or have downloaded onto your audio device of choice. Personally, I have the Podcast App on my apple devices, and it automatically goes on there.

Heidi's podcasts are straight from Heidi's heart.  They are on subjects ranging from parenting, to marriage, to homeschooling, to current events. Often she will invite one of her valued friends to talk alongside her. It's helpful to hear the input from these other sweet ladies, too. Heidi, in her own fun and witty way, shares both wisdom from God's Word - her central "selling point" is the authority of the scriptures in ALL our life - and her experience as a mother. To hear advice from someone who has "been there, done that", is invaluable.  

If you are a mother who could do with a spiritual and practical encouragement in her life, then look no further than Heidi's podcasts. You will smile, and you will nod your head furiously as you agree with her sentiments, and you will say a hearty "amen" to her Biblical truths. 

On a Sunday afternoon, I have taken to sitting with a hot mug of something or other, and hunkering down to listening to her latest podcasts. They only last about 15 minutes each, and air three times a week.  They are designed to suit the busy lifestyle of a Mum, so they are short, but very sweet. My soul has been so blessed, as I have listened in.

What is ALSO very helpful, is that Heidi links to a whole load of useful resources, related to the topic of the podcasts, on her website. Look up the podcast you have listened to, and you'll see them listed.  Books, websites, and other fantastic resources, all in  one handy spot. 

You could treat yourself to 15 minutes of peace and quiet by sending your kiddies off to do something in another part of the house, whilst you listen.  You could pop your headphones in and listen whilst you do chores, or make dinner. (Just check the subject matter before putting it out there in a "listened to by all" mode...)

What I hear from Heidi's podcasts reminds me of the verse from Proverbs....






That word "pleasant" has this expansion in Strongs - 

נעם
nô‛am
no'-am
From H5276; agreeableness, that is, delight, suitableness, splendor or grace: - beauty, pleasant (-ness).

You will find yourself agreeing with Heidi, being delighted in the content, find it all most suitable and  heard words filled with much grace.  Like honey, it will provide an injection of "sweetness" into your day, as you hear her speak.

I am sure you will be encouraged and blessed if you listen in.  

Please pray for Heidi as she seeks the Lord's leading on what to talk about, and let her know if there's something YOU would like to hear about! You could drop her a message on Facebook, share on her page, or get in touch on her website. She's open to suggestions, and loves to hear any ideas you may have.  

So, head on over to her website to learn how to listen in.

You'll love it, I'm sure! 



 


Monday, 15 June 2015

Praising God {tune my heart to sing Thy grace}

Do you love to sing in your home?

We are a family who sings together every chance we get! We sing in family worship. We sing at the end of the day. We sing in the car. We sing along to music playing in the home. We sometimes sing as we walk along. We have even had people sing in the bathroom!

We also have a piano in our home. I learnt to play the piano as a child,  but have woefully neglected it in more recent years. There is one fairly major reason. Our piano is old, and it doesn't sty in tune very well at all.  I think there's nothing worse than playing or listening to music that is out of tune. It just sounds wrong, and offends my ears! Of course, with a piano, if it IS in tune, you can make a pretty good attempt at a tuneful rendition. The notes may not always be "right", but it's in tune. The violin, on the other hand?!... I used to play the violin, including in the school orchestra. I have horrible memories of the Radetsky March sounding both slow and torturous, played by a bunch of amateurs. Not pleasant!

Yesterday, Robert quoted one of my favourite hymns in his sermon.


Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,

Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.


That second line really stuck out to me. 


"Tune my heart to sing Thy grace"

God is worthy of our praise.  He deserves our praise.  And yet, so often our hearts are "out of tune", and we don't praise Him as we ought to.

So many things can make our hearts "un-tuneful". 

Sometimes it can be our circumstances, with very legitimate feelings of grief or depression, as we go through trials and struggles. Such feelings can really make our heart feel out of tune.

Many are things that we DO have control over. Discontent. Ungratefulness. Selfishness. Misery. Rebellion. Lack of love. 

Whatever the reason for our heart being out of tune, we need to come to the Lord, every day, and ask Him to "tune our heart" again, to sing His praise. Why? Because we MUST praise Him! The Bible tells us we ought to, and so we need to obey.

18 times, in the Psalms, we are instructed to "Praise Him". 33 times we read of those who "praise the Lord", or that WE should praise the Lord.  Then there are the verses that specifically instruct us to SING praise! It's not just something that you should do if you feel like it - SING His praise! It's a command!

Is your heart heavy today? Are you struggling with a heart that is not "in tune", to be able to sing praise to God?

Ask the Lord to get out His divine tuning fork, and get your heart into tune. Have you seen how a violinist tunes his instrument? The pegs need to be turned, to make the string the perfect tension.  Not too loose.  Not too tight. Then, finer tuning needs to be done, with tiny little screws, getting the perfect tuning.  In order for our hearts to be in tune, the Lord may have to "turn the screws" in our life. It may not be a painless experience, being brought back into that perfect relationship with God, that we ought to be in. But, it needs to be done in order that our hearts can sing His praise as we ought to. 

If we only stop and consider God's goodness and mercy, we will have every cause to sing His praise.  As the hymn says 


"Streams of mercy, never ceasing,

Call for songs of loudest praise."

His mercies stream forth, every day. As undeserving as we are, if we but stop and think about it, even in the midst of despair and trial, God's mercy in never ending, and we MUST praise Him.

It may just start in our hearts as a simple, yet meaningful "thank you, Lord - thank you for your grace and goodness". But, as a stream begins as  tiny trickle, in the mountain top, the more we praise, the stronger the current of our praise will become, until our hearts roar like the mighty torrents of the greatest river, praising God with our whole heart. A heart so full of praise for God, that everyone around us knows of our love and adoration for God. 


"I will praise thee, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvellous works."
Psalm 9:1




"O to grace how great a debtor

Daily I'm constrained to be!"


Daily, we should seek to see how much in debt we are to God and His grace, and seek to sing His praise from high and low.

Ask the Lord, today, to get your heart in tune with His, and start singing His praises!


"Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; 
To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever. "
Psalm 30:11-12







Friday, 12 June 2015

The art of deceit {when mothers pretend}

How often have you told a lie, or at least a half truth?  Do you consider yourself as someone who is deceitful?

If you are a Mum, you have probably mastered the art of deceit, and I think it needs to end.  

Pressures of motherhood have become so immense, and  we feel that if anyone asks "How are you", we must say "Fine thanks".

When the reality is this...it's so often not true.

Our mouths say "Fine", whilst our heart screams "I'M NOT FINE!"

We put on a smile, which masks what lies beneath, and the words come out.  The deceit of motherhood.

"I'm fine, thank you".

You've done it.

You've heard it.

But, what needs to end is not so much the words that come out of the mouths of weary mothers.

No.

They need to not feel that those are the words they must utter at all.

The only way that will happen is if people stop judging, condemning and criticising, and instead start showing love, compassion, patience, kindness and support.

Us mothers say "I'm fine", because we fear the response that we will get if we are honest.

We come to expect condemnation from those who will assert that struggles equal failure.

We shy away from honesty because we come to expect the response of "Oh well, it's hard being a mother. Never mind, it will pass".

We dread the reaction of "Well, YOU chose to have all those children!", accompanied by a wry smile.

We get despondent at the lack of community and compassion from those who could help and support.

We get disheartened when we get looks from others if we admit the struggles we experience with our children.

What we need is people who are willing to come alongside mothers and support them.  Let them know it's OK to be honest.  Let them know that it's OK to need help.  Let them know that telling people how you feel is allowing them into your life to HELP, not hinder.

Countless mothers feel discouraged because others make them feel small for being honest. People make them feel like a failure for being human. And so they continue to practice the art of deceit.

Precious fellow mothers, it's OK to feel tired.  Being a mother IS tiring.

It's OK to admit that your children are sending you to your wits end. No child is perfect, and they all send us to distraction, regularly.

It's OK to not be caught up with all your housework.  It will still be there tomorrow, and before you know it the children will be grown.

If you know a mother, especially with young children, be a support to them.  Let them know it's okay to be honest.  It's okay to share how tired they are. It's okay to admit your struggles. Ask them how they are, and let them know you ARE interested, and you care. Don't even ask if you don't want to know, because there's nothing worse than the vacant look of someone who asks "How are you" as an empty platitude, or conversation filling "nothingness".  Listen. Give them a hug.  Speak words of peace and love to them. Say what you mean and mean what you say.

Maybe you are simply a mother yourself, who knows what it's like. Remember to come alongside new mothers and let them know. "Hey, you're not on your own. I know what it's like.  It will be ok".  Even is you are a busy mother yourself, and struggle to have time to give, just letting others know you understand may be the balm their soul needs.

Maybe you have time to spare? Perhaps you could do something to help someone in need? Do the ironing.  Babysit.  Run errands. Make meals. Find out what their needs are, and see what you can do.

Maybe your have time to support in other ways? Just sending a note, a text message, or an email, with encouraging scripture, may be what they needed RIGHT at that moment.  God has a way of doing great things through small means.

Above all else, remember that we are all part of the same family.  Families should show love in every part of their life, unconditionally. The same is true, even more so, for our spiritual family. The scriptures say that if one member is hurting, the others should feel it.

"...the members should have the same care one for another. 
And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it."
1 Corinthians 12:25-26  


And, we are told to have an honesty with each other.


"speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another."

Ephesians 4:25

Let's not be women who make mothers feel they have to say "I'm fine".  Let's be women who provide community, encouragement and support for other Mums, and let them be honest.