Tuesday, 26 July 2016

When the Parenting Road Gets Rough // A Little Shaping and Moulding

Being a Mama has been the most profoundly rewarding and joyful role of my life so far. I truly feel so honoured and blessed to have been given responsibility for these three little lives. But being a Mama has also been the most painfully self-revealing, frustrating and exhausting challenge I have ever undertaken. Some days will go by in a blur of happy harmony... The kind of days I will return to in my memory when I'm aging and looking back on these years with rose-tinted spectacles. The kind of days when my camera is at hand and I capture the little details (like this day at our local pick-your-own farm!), take a deep breath and feel so very overwhelmingly blessed. But then there are other days when I fall in a collapsed heap at 7.30pm and feel guilty at the relief I feel that we've managed to get them all into bed in one piece.

This past fortnight has been one of the toughest runs of parenting I've had so far.

Defiance in a child is never an easy road to navigate, most especially because defiance in a child brings up all my own sin, as a mother, and puts it in stark, glaring light right alongside the sin in this particular child. This past week I have felt every emotion under the sun. The love for my children so incredibly strong, protective, consuming; countered by frustration, anger, disbelief and a general sense of being at the end of my tether.

Add in the 5am wake up calls from another of our children and you start to get the picture.
I could name and shame all the disagreeable behaviour we've been encountering these past couple of weeks. Never before has the saying "pick your battles" felt so apt... But the truth of the matter is, that when I point one finger at the aforementioned child, there are always three more fingers pointing back at me... And this run of behaviour has called me to take a good long hard look at myself too.

Elizabeth Elliot once wrote the wise words that... "The process of shaping the child, shapes also the mother herself" and these past two weeks are testimony to the truth of that statement. Never before have I felt so aware of my own inability and incompetences as a mother, never before have I felt so completely without answers; and being in that place feels awfully scary.

I like to be in control. And right now, there's a little person who's putting up a good fight to take that control for herself.

So many thoughts and emotions run wild when we're in the midst of a "battle", and restraining those emotions, and keeping some semblance of measure and self-control in the midst of it can feel like a challenge enough, without that little angry pout eyeing defiantly up at us. It's hard not to think "it's not meant to be like this", it's hard not to feel anger at the constant challenges, and most of all, it's hard not to just push on through demanding my will and my way.

And that's why seeking to train a child's heart is so much more complicated than simply instilling your will. I can do that. She's stubborn, but I am more so. The problem is that at the end of that, there are two people feeling frustrated, angry, misunderstood, and the whole event is most likely to reoccur the very next day (or ten minutes later...!)

Training her heart will take a step of humility from me... To desire her long term good over the immediate satisfaction of a "win", to remain consistent when I feel shattered and just want to give in, to demonstrate grace in discipline and model forgiveness when I actually just want to hold a grudge to make her see how frustrated I am.

To be like Jesus.

Humility. Grace. Forgiveness. Patience. Gentleness. Self-control. And standing firm and persevering in discipline and training, because I know that learning to respect your elders, to be kind with your words, to speak truth in love is what is best for our children.

These characteristics don't come naturally to me... and that is the beauty of it. In seeking to grow my little girl's heart, in seeking to shape her, I am, as Elisabeth Elliot put it, being shaped by the master-craftsman myself...

Oh, how glad I am that my worth and identity are not found in the successes or failures of my parenting!

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

A Little Thank You...

It's 11.15pm as I write this... darkness looms outside, I'm weary and tired and ready to roll into bed. It's been a long, emotionally and physically tiring day, but I knew I couldn't lay down tonight without thanking so many of you, from the bottom of my heart, for your prayers today. For remembering our little family, and most especially, our little Heidi.

It was good news.

For the first time, since she was 9 weeks old when Kawasaki Disease struck, Heidi's coronary arteries are the right size. Measuring in at around 2.4mm each, its a stark contrast to the almost 6mm they were at the height of her illness in that tiny baby body 3 years ago. They are not entirely uniform, there are hints of minute little ridges and bumps which are not concerning in and of themselves (and a far cry from the ginormous aneurysms that once lined them), but enough to make them want to be cautious and not over-confident. The decision has been made to keep her on the medication for another year. If, in a years time, the arteries are still within the range they should be, a decision to take her off the meds will in all likelihood be made. I guess I was slightly disappointed its not happening now, but also hugely relieved.

The meds feel like a safety blanket. Coming off them will be challenging.

Heidi was a dream the whole afternoon... thrilled to have Mama and Papa all to herself, she chattered merrily all the way there, only pausing for breath to devour her ice cream, and took the whole process in her stride. In the past I have always been nervous about how she will react to the different examinations but she happily and curiously watched all the goings on with easy-going acceptance. She was so relaxed in the echo itself, that I suddenly noticed her eyes bobbing, and desperately tried to hold the giggles back when we realised she had actually fallen asleep! Clearly she wasn't fazed by the whole experience then!

As always, the staff were so helpful; we received a lovely visit from my uni housemate, Ali, who works there, and James, our cardiac nurse, was incredible as always... sitting with us, listening, explaining and putting our minds at rest. God has been so very, very good to us in his provision of staff who genuinely care. It's been one of the hugest blessings throughout this long, hard ordeal... a genuine mercy.

We came home feeling positive, feeling hopeful and though this particular journey still isn't over, and I'm not sure it ever really will be, I can honestly say we have learnt more about God's faithfulness, sovereignty and goodness through this trial than in any other life circumstance we have found ourselves in...

And so, we continue to pray, that God will mould us, shape us, transform us and make us more like Jesus... that somehow, this whole journey will bring glory to God, and good to our littlest lady.

I tucked Heidi up tonight, mischievous, cheeky and grinning from ear to ear. Our feisty little firework of fun... kept safe, once more, in the Father's hands.

Thank you Jesus.


Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Weaving a Web in the Darkness // Back to the Brompton

“Sometimes it is very dark. We cannot understand what we are doing. We do not see the web we are weaving. We are not able to discover any beauty, any possible good in our experience. Yet if we are faithful and fail not and faint not, we shall someday know that the most exquisite work of all our life was done in those days when it was so dark.” 

They were so bittersweet, those dark days... agony lined with beauty. Despair upheld by hope. It feels such a lifetime ago, those dark days of summer 2013. The days where I would wake up, gaze across at my sleeping bundle and feel my heart sink with the weight of the "what ifs" and the "if onlys". It didn't feel like beauty then... it felt dark and confusing and agonisingly hard. I couldn't see anything good... though others said they were encouraged by our story, to me it felt only dark and heavy... and it felt like a very high price to pay.

It is strange how time brings healing, and hope and perspective. How God provides daily grace to bear the weight, until one day you wake up and feel the weight is less heavy.

You see, the irony of it all, is that very little has changed. Heidi's arteries, while in somewhat better condition than they were at the lowest valley of her illness, are still far from where they should be. Our three year old little girl runs with boundless energy, full of fun and feistiness, and yet is still kept safe by a daily dose of medication, and a whole heap of prayer.

My heart is far from sinking these days... I wake up and wonder at, and give thanks for this little life that the Lord has protected... I swallow back the retort and frustration when she pushes my buttons and rails against boundaries, in thankfulness. Of course, I lose my temper at times. She's a fighter; I'm stubborn. But somehow, the history brings me back time and time again, in the quiet of the evening when I have time to reflect, to some measure of perspective. Can I praise God for the opportunities he is giving me to practice grace and mercy and patience in the disciplining and raising of this little life we nearly lost? Will I pray that God will use this little life, brought back from the edge of the impossible-to-fathom, for his glory and her good?

Today we return to the Brompton.

The place where all the memories come flooding back. That awful day. The sick feeling in my stomach. The fear. The moment the reality of the seriousness of Heidi's condition hit.

And then the flood of inexplainable, overwhelming, stunning peace.

That place where the exquisite work is done. That place of vulnerability... of weakness... of nothing to offer but dependence. The place we never want to go to, but always hunger for more of.

The place where Jesus walks before us... "I know... I've got you... I'm carrying you... I've been there"

In that place, God moves. God works. God breaks down and rebuilds. God creates his most intricately detailed works in the studio of suffering.

It hurts, it's agony... but its beautiful and exquisite and utterly transforming.

Pray for us today, as we return to the place of old hurts and open wounds, that we will know the exquisite work of God in our lives... for hope, for beauty in the brokenness, for trust in the Saviour who has held us so faithfully through the dark valleys and the more recent mundane days of medication.

Please pray that Heidi would have grown into her arteries...
Please pray for no long term scar tissue damage that could cause further complications...
Please pray that our little girl's heart would be protected.

But most of all, please pray that her heart will belong to the Saviour who has carried her, sustained her and kept her safe this far...

Father, we trust you... we give it all to you, and pray you would continue your exquisite work in us.


"You rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith - more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire - may be found to result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ"
- 1 Peter 1:6-7 -

Thursday, 14 July 2016

On Change and Growing Up // Siblings in July

I stopped in my tracks as I sat down to write this post yesterday evening. Stopped, because I didn't see my two little girls and my baby staring back at me. The baby seems to have gone... And in his place is a little boy who's personality is shining through at the moment. He just suddenly seems so big. The chubby cheeks are thinning out, the rolls are starting to disappear (though he still has some pretty good baby rolls on those thighs) and the face is showing hints of the little boy he is growing into.

It's been a tough month for all of us. Whoever said people don't like change were right. We moved in with my very generous parents which has been wonderful, but all the changes (building work, moving, Papa away with work) has been tough on our littlest two particularly. Jonas has taken to waking at the crack of dawn and has made it very clear that if he's going to have to share a room with Mama, he's going to get the party started as early as possible. Heidi has found it tough and has pushed back in the way that three year olds know best.

Ava has probably been the least disrupted by the whole thing... School has been a constant for her amidst building work and moving house and Papa geing away, and she continues to thrive there. We got her school report this week and we were so pleased. I was so very, very wrong about all the fears I had about her little school, and I'm so glad I was!

But in the midst of all that change, they have each other, and they do have so much fun together! Jonas is coming more and more into his own and is increasingly finding his way into the girls inseparable little double act. They love him (sometimes a little too much), he loves them. It's mutual really, and I can't wait to see how the three of them really start to play together in the next few months! 

My little siblings in July!

Sharing Snapshot Moments // Snail Mail with a Twist (Touchnote)

There has always been a little piece of me that loved snail mail... from the youngest age, I wrote to my cousins, to pen pals, to friends I made on holiday. There was something lovely about an envelope just for you landing on the doormat.

As an adult, my pen-pal days are sadly over. Time is of the essence, and though I will occasionally write to a school friend who lives further afield, for the most part the busyness of life has stolen that little love from me. The letters that land on the doormat will be bills or junk mail, excepting the yearly delivery of birthday mail, and I've even noticed things slowing up on the summer holiday postcard front in recent years.

But all that changed with the recent discovery of the cutest little app called "Touchnote"... These guys have brought together my love of snail mail and my need for speed with the added bonus of a personal touch... let me explain!

Touchnote is an app which allows you, at the touch of a single button, to transform your holiday snaps into picture perfect postcards ready to send to your nearest and dearest. The app is SUPER simple to use on either a phone or a tablet; you chose your picture, tap in a caption, and write your message. You then simply plug in the address (or give the app access to your address book and it will do the hard work for you!) and whoosh, off goes your postcard!

The most fabulous bit about it is that, because the postcard is able to be printed in any one of their printing hubs across the world, the delivery time is super speedy, even for the furthest afield places! I could send a postcard this morning to Australia, and it would be there in four days, without any extra cost!

And they even come with the cutest little personalised "stamp"!

The postcards cost between £1.80 and £2.99 depending on how many you buy, which includes worldwide delivery, which is actually an amazing deal when you stop and think about it; no buying a random postcard of an 80s scene from the local area, no stamp or postage payment, but a personalised postcard, on the most gorgeous quality card, sent first-class to your loved ones! And all done from the comfort of your sunlounger while you click a button on your phone!

And so, this summer, our family have decided to embark on a journey of falling back in love with snail mail with a twist... to bring a smile to those we love with personalised postcards of our adventures! And so we thought we'd start right now, as the holidays begin, with a little bit of mail for our smallest family members...

Thrilled is an understatement!

And we wanted to share the love; we are genuinely loving using the app, and I just couldn't keep it to myself! So I thought I'd share it with you all! Just click on the link below, download it for free, and set yourself up for some awesome personalised postcards this summer - for Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles and Family Friends, what better way to really show what an unforgettable holiday you're having, than by sending them a personalised memento of your adventures?

The app is free and TOTALLY easy to use on your phone or tablet!

Just click here and have fun this summer!

* This is a collaborative post *
* All views and opinions are my own *

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

The Homemade Museum // Nurturing Creative Minds

There is something about the vivid and creative imagination of children that I just want to bottle up. Honestly, you could make a fortune if you could sell that stuff. I was listening recently to the infamous TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson in 2007 (over 10 million views people!) called "Do Schools Kill Creativity"... He has some really interesting thoughts - some of which I really agree with (although I do think teacher's work seriously hard to wean creativity out of a sometimes stagnant curriculum), but I digress... the whole point of the talk was that we teach children to follow the line, to fit the mould, we view intellectualism as one linear path, when in fact the greatest creatives in history have been people who have not fitted the mould at all...

A couple of weekends ago, Ava did a bit of a self-imposed "Nature hunt" in the garden. Our bog-standard garden, with the normal bog-standard garden bits in it ...  grass, shrubs, an apple tree and a few sticks and bugs around. Not exactly the ideal location for a nature hunt, but she got this idea in her head...

A bit later on, after a fair bit of coming into the house to collect masking tape and pens and suchlike things, Ava announced our invitation to come and visit her Museum...

And low and behold, there, on the garden table, was a sign stating...

"The Mozeen" (The Museum)

Her little creative imagination had made all these little displays... she had labelled everything..

* "To leavs"
* "Ston"
* "Woen leef - do not tuch"
* "A drokn leef"
* "and gras"

I caught myself wondering at this little four-year-old mind... appreciating nature, wanting to display it for all to see, thinking creatively about a bog-standard nature hunt in a bog-standard garden with "bog standard" nature...

And then I realised, since when had nature ever been "bog standard" to me?? Somewhere along the line, have I lost the wonder? The appreciation? The awe at the littlest intricacies of God's masterpiece?

I have in my mind an idea of what a nature hunt should be... A little girl, armed with a bag and a list of things to collect, probably wandering round some National Trust Property somewhere.

But here, my little girl used her own vivid imagination to create a little awe and wonder of her own in our back garden.

We have so much to learn from our littlest people... Let's nurture that creativity all we can!

Friday, 8 July 2016

Our Home Renovation Project // The Loft Conversion: Weeks 5-6

These past two weeks, operation renovation went up a level, and last Tuesday, as Jonas' bedroom wall was knocked down and the ceiling in the landing was removed, we made the executive decision to move camp with the whole family. We descended on my parents, just down the road, and have been there ever since.

The house is truly transforming before our eyes, and it's SO exciting to see it all really taking shape now! Not being there "full time" has meant adjusting from seeing a gradual transforming, to watching things change in leaps and bounds...

Here's the view at ours!

Looking up from the landing into our new loft space...

Peering over the top...

The stairwell...

The beginning of the staircase...

Beginning to take shape...

Truly, the most fascinating bit of this whole process has been watching Scott build our staircase... It is SUCH a skill and an art and takes true craftsmanship... impressive down to the smallest detail! And the stairs are wide; somehow we've managed to land on our feet with that one. The staircase is now completed, but I'll share those photos in the week 7-8 update. Needless to say, we are thrilled!

The skylight above pours light all the way down the shaft from the very top of the house to the ground floor!

And here's the view from the back! I can't believe how quickly this build has gone. This week, we've made decisions about light fittings and plug sockets and bathrooms and it feels like we're almost on the home run in terms of the loft conversion...

Only the whole of the downstairs to go! Oh help!