Wednesday, 9 May 2012

New Blog Site!

My new blog site, which seems a lot better than this one (which keeps crashing!) is

Look forward to seeing you. Bring a friend ;-)

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

This blog site keeps doing strange things. When I have figured out which is a better site to use, I'll move.

Anyway... I am an advocate for Compassion UK (I previously wrote about it here:

I read this wonderful piece this morningA group of American bloggers are in Tanzania on behalf of Compassion International, to raise awareness of the amazing work done by Compassion. Beautiful words, beautiful pictures. I love the one where the little boy has fallen asleep in his arms. It reminds me of how God works with us.

Sometimes, in gatherings of Christians, something strange happens. God seems to be forgotten. Once, when I looked for God in such a gathering, and asked ‘Where are you?’ I listened to the ‘words from God’ given by one man and was troubled. I watched the group of people who had come to the church, not because they were interested in participating in the life of the church, but because their leader(?) had been invited to speak. When he did speak, the patting-himself-on-the-back tone perplexed me. The fact that it was directed at his ‘groupies’ (for want of a better word) was baffling. There wasn’t anything wrong in his words, but they lacked any real substance; I learned nothing about the character of God.

As the first hour wore on, I sat there confused. My heart was troubled. ‘God, where are you?’ became my silent prayer.

My son needed to go out of the room so my husband stood up to take him. As they opened the door, a member of the congregation was lying on the floor having an epileptic fit. Sat at the back of the room, I realised what was going on and immediately jumped up and asked the resident doctors to help. Their composed gentleness as they knelt and assessed the woman’s condition was burned into my brain as they quietly assured my husband he could shut the door.

‘Here I am,’ said God, 'in this act of kindness.'

When I saw the photo of Shaun with the little boy, fast asleep, I sensed it again.

‘Here I am.’

Not trumpets. Not singing. Not the loudest, nor the longest, or most vehement preaching. Not the loudest, shake-the-roof worship music. Not even the building falling down with shouts of tongues and prophecy.

‘Here I am.’ God said. ‘In this act of love.’

Elijah walked a whole day into the wilderness. He stopped and sat down in the shade of a tree and wished he would die. 
It's too much, Lord,” he prayed. “Take away my life; I might as well be dead!”
 He lay down under the tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said, “Wake up and eat. 
He looked around and saw a loaf of bread and a jar of water near his head. He ate and drank, and lay down again. The Lord's angel returned and woke him up a second time, saying, “Get up and eat, or the trip will be too much for you. Elijah got up, ate and drank, and the food gave him enough strength to walk forty days to Sinai, the holy mountain. There he went into a cave to spend the night.
 Suddenly the Lord spoke to him, “Elijah, what are you doing here?”
He answered, “Lord God Almighty, I have always served you—you alone. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed all your prophets. I am the only one left—and they are trying to kill me!”
“Go out and stand before me on top of the mountain,” the Lord said to him. Then the Lord passed by and sent a furious wind that split the hills and shattered the rocks—but the Lord was not in the wind. The wind stopped blowing, and then there was an earthquake—but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was a fire—but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the soft whisper of a voice.
 When Elijah heard it, he covered his face with his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. A voice said to him, “Elijah, what are you doing here?”
 1 Kings 19:4-13 GNT

‘Some people brought children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples scolded the people. When Jesus noticed this, he was angry and said to his disciples,
         Let the children come to me, and do not stop them, because the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I assure you that whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.
   Then he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on each of them, and blessed them.’
Mark 10:13-16 GNT

God is not where we expect him to be. 

Monday, 7 May 2012

Camping Outside When Even the Fridge is Warmer

Camping in near-freezing temperatures is less fun than expected so we came home early. It's just as well because today I am, again, exhausted and laid out on the settee. 

It has to be said that suffering mild hypothermia proved even my general good-naturedliness has its limits. We left on Friday evening and didn't arrive until gone seven. Frank, the ever good-natured, ever-patient husband, was valiantly attempting to complete both the set-up of the main trailer tent and the awning. The trailer tent bit takes about 10 minutes. The rest took about three hours, as it got darker and darker and colder and colder, with HRH muttering about lights. 

The Raclet Flores (courtesy of

The following morning, after speedily getting dressed in as many layers as she could, Squidge (aged six) declared she was going to run outside. I was too cold by this time to do anything other than watch the kettle like some folk watch the lottery draw. Twenty minutes later, after determinedly running around the outside of the field, she came back into the tent, sobbing and holding up little red hands for me to see.

"Mummy!" she cried. "I'm cold!"

"Why have you been running around outside, then?" I asked.

"I was wunning [sic] so I could get warm." She said, and burst into tears. 

After having convinced HRH that hanging around the men's loos was probably not a good idea and might lead to people thinking he was being strange (define strange...) we were all bundled into the car. Which has heating. 

Wonderful heating. 

Hot heating. 

And in half an hour we were walking into Debenhams, tears abated, on the hunt for the cafe.

So there's me with my flowery wellies, baggy jogging trousers, fur coat, bedraggled hair stuffed under a bakerboy cap, slightly desperate look on my face, walking into an upwardly-mobile department shop with my more or less equally dishevelled family. A neatly-dressed woman in black walked towards me with her arms raised and a determinedly optimistic expression.

"Would you like to try this new perfume?" She asked (I think this shows a real enthusiasm for the job and ought to be highly commended - Debenhams bosses take note).

The next morning, when the sun finally appeared, we decided to head home. Tinkerbell (the nine-year-old) decided to 'write a newspaper'. On one side she had the headline 'Good News' and on the other 'Bad News'. Under the 'Bad News' section, she wrote 'When we were camping, a girl called Maya stole my skipping rope'. Under 'Good News' was 'We will find her and make her give it back!' A private detective in the making.


Anyway, there is always learning to be done, if you're open to it. Our chilly trip taught me that to be cold really is horrible. I realised how much I take for granted my house, with its heating, and our lovely soft, warm bed.  I have lived in a house with no central heating, and I haven't always had a nice bed. But I have always had a bed, and a roof.

Last year, we let our flat to a man who had a chequered past, problems with alcohol, and was at the time sleeping under a railway arch. He was thrilled to be given the chance to have his own flat. Now I have some notion how grateful he must have been. It was bad enough for two nights, but living like that is a different kettle of fish. 

It's not been plain sailing for this man since he began the tenancy. He is still carrying all the emotional baggage that has caused him trouble in the past, but on the grapevine I heard he was attending a local church, a place that offers support to homeless/vulnerable adults, and I do hope that, with support and prayer, he will choose to begin to turn his life around and recognise that, as a human being, he is worthy of life, and love, and respect. So few of us realise that we have choices about who we are and what we do, especially if life has not been kind, or we have become so used to making bad choices that good choices seem impossible. But that's where grace comes in.

I'm still learning how to make good choices, to not listen to the lies about myself from the past. A great help has been this book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. Learning to begin every day with thanks is a wonderful healer. Some of the writing is a little twee for my cynical English taste (it's a national sport), and the style is very colloquial, which I found awkward, being used to concise Standard English, but the heart of the message is simple, powerful and unforgettable.

I reckon the process of learning to make good choices takes a lifetime. How about you?

NB names have been changed... 

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Where would our nation be without wellies?

The kids are enthusiastically helping get things ready for a weekend's camping in this miserable delightful English weather. One particular item is indispensable:

I would like to propose this as the new national anthem, to be sung every time a Briton wins an Olympic gold. Imagine, they raise the flag and, in harmonious unison, everyone yells, "If it wasnae fur yer wellies..." 

This island ain't called great for nowt, eh?

Because I have been a little bit poorly, and because I had an op a fortnight ago, I have fallen behind on my studies. My operation was a bit of a non-starter. They didn't find what they expected to find, but they haven't told me anything else. And now the same old pain that caused me to seek medical advice in the first place is back :-/

The car's in the garage (my husband had to take the girls to school on the bus this morning at 7.30!) and we're supposed to be using our trailer tent for the first time tomorrow. Although I've made a list of everything, I'm not up to packing. My husband, bless him, has valiantly taken on the task of earning a living, looking after the children and doing most of the housework. It's an impossible task, but he's still my hero ;-) 

So we have a messy house and I have about two months worth of Maths to learn in less than a week. The deadline for this assignment is Wednesday. All assignment scores count towards your final result, so I can't not do it. And anyway, if I don't learn this stuff I will fail the final two assignments, which are to test your knowledge of the whole course. I've managed to do the first 10 of 24 questions, which is not bad, but now I'm stuck. I'm also disappointed because I had been getting really good grades and the idea of not heading towards a first dents my ego. Maybe it needed to be dented, but I still want to pass. It would mean so much to me, after all these years.

Statistics, data distribution, lower quartiles, upper quartiles, etc., etc., here I come!

And the saddest thing is that I actually find Mathematics entertaining. Like a dog with a bone.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Nada te turbe, 
nada te espante,
todo se pasa;
Dios no se muda.
La paciencia
todo lo alcanza;
Quien a Dios tiene,
nada le falta;
Solo Dios basta. 

- St Teresa of Avila

Let nothing trouble you
Let nothing frighten you
All things pass;
God does not change.
Patience wins everything;
Whoever has God
Lacks nothing; 

God alone is enough.   

The other day I posted a picture of a broken vase, representing how I was a few years ago, and quoted Jesus' words in Luke 4: 

‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.'

A day or so later, I read in Shaun Groves' blog here that the Greek word thraou, translated as oppressed, means “to break into pieces, shatter.” What I had known intuitively, spiritually, was shown to be true

It is through the broken things of this world, the weak and the vulnerable, that God reveals himself. That's why in the sermon on the mount we are called blessed. I'll save that one for another day...

Today I received a letter from a young lady who has spent six months at a Christian residential centre for young women so broken it is their last resort. In her time there, the God of love has brought her from a life of unsustainable, constant pain and despair into a life of light and hope and promise. 

Only God can do that.

It has been our privilege to help in a limited way financially. I say that not to show how 'good' we are but to show how God keeps his promises. I knew we were supposed to help this woman, and that we would be able to continue to do so, and God has not only allowed us to help, but we have been blessed in other ways. Frankly, giving money is the easy part. Anyone can do that. All the hard work has been that of the staff and especially the young woman herself. Her courage has been amazing. God has been faithful. I am in awe.

Sometimes those barbs sting you, don't they? Ping, ping, ping. Fiery darts. Little lies that work their way into your system without you realising.

You don't dare to dream because 99.99% of all your dreams have been crushed. And each time you picked yourself back up and carried on, only to be crushed again, and again, and so many times you can't remember. 

Eventually you stop playing along. Dreams, if you allow yourself to have them, go about as far as next Tuesday. Possibly Friday, but let's not get too crazy.

And being alone most of the time can sometimes bring back the other barbs: 

You're alone because you're boring (something my ex-husband used to take great pains to tell me, at least once a day).

You're lazy and useless (again, credit to my ex-husband, though he would usually add a few f-bombs and the c-word was a favourite name to call me).

You're alone because you don't deserve to have a normal life. Your peers from school all went to uni and got good jobs, married decent men, had children at a time that suited them. So what? You obviously didn't deserve that. 

You may never have chosen to be a mother, but you are one so you don't get to have your own identity. You certainly don't get to have dreams. You don't deserve it, remember? 

You can't ever put yourself first. That's just inordinately selfish.



The thing is, being open to God has taught me a lot about life and about me. There is still a tinge of regret there, because so many things were stolen from me. But now, this means I follow the path where my feet are treading and I don't have to look back, or forwards. My destination is the most amazing imaginable and travelling without any self-created map is an adventure and an extraordinary experience in trust. 

Being alone can make me lonely. Or it can make me spend time thinking about my creator, and how he moves. It makes me more and more aware that 'in him we live and move and have our being.'

I am learning that it's ok to put myself first without being hit by torrents of guilt. In grace, free from guilt, I can ask how I expect to love if I don't love me?

Maybe, as St. John of the Cross seems to say in 'Dark Night of the Soul', one needs to let go of all experience and expectations and only then, in the deep, dark despair, can God really reach in and hold us, call us precious. 

And whenever I think I have had it bad, which is not to deny my experiences, I look at the world and know how many more live in the depths of poverty and slavery and despair and then I think I know what I am supposed to do with all this awareness of suffering. I use it. I let God shine through my brokenness and into the brokenness of others. Not many people can do that. That is a gift.

I'm heading to the Celebrate Recovery conference in Derby in June. Another step in my adventure. I didn't know I was going until I felt the God-prompt. And when I look at my life like that, not knowing what may happen but knowing I am in the middle of an adventure, and that no matter what nothing can separate me from this love, things are ok.