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What if this is as good as it gets*? Or TOLO

Good morning! Today we have a guest post by Miriam White, friend and mother-extraordinaire, on a really pertinent topic. Enjoy!

“These are the best years.  They grow up so fast – make the most of them.  They’re only little once.  Enjoy every moment!

I seem to have been told this a lot recently.  Maybe I don’t look as though I’m enjoying myself and need the encouragement.  Or maybe seeing my three young boys running me ragged brings out the wistfulness in parents of grown up children looking back with rose-tinted glasses to an elusive golden age of parenthood.

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My response is pretty negative.  Really?  This is as good as it gets?  How depressing.  I was hoping that at some point it might actually become more enjoyable, fulfilling and rewarding!  Surely people wouldn’t continue to have children all the time if this is really the best it can be.

I know parenthood is about the children and not the parents.  I know it’s not about what you get out of it, it’s what your children get from you.  But I didn’t have children for their sake, I had them for mine.  I wanted them – I felt that in some way I would enjoy having them, loving them and caring for them.  And I would benefit from the reflected love and pride in who they are and who they become.  It’s not as if we have a duty to have children, it’s a choice we make (in most cases).

It can be very easy to lose yourself in the hard slog of motherhood in the early years.

To get through, you tell yourself that there’s ‘light at the end of the tunnel’.  Most things are just phases and they’ll come out of them eventually.  So, the early sleepless nights will eventually get better.  At some point you’ll be able to leave the house again.  When they’re a bit older, going out for a meal won’t be quite so exhausting and might even be enjoyable.  And then they’ll start school and you’ll get some time back to yourself.  The tantrums will reduce; you might be able to reason with them occasionally.

And these things are all true.  But it can feel like there’s not much reward for all the hard work in the early years.  And to be told that it doesn’t get any better is not helpful!

However, I read a few things recently that have made me think differently about my reaction.  One of them is this:

50 things about motherhood that will make you smile

The reality is that every age has its ups and downs. So, while some things will get better, new challenges will come in.  It’s too easy to miss the good things about the early years while you’re waiting for the hard things to be grown out of.

What if these ARE the best years?!  Let’s not live in the future all the time but learn to be content in the state we’re in (1 Phil 4).  I don’t want to look wistfully at someone else’s children when mine are grown, wishing I’d enjoyed the early years with them more.  I want to enjoy any and every moment I can of every age.

Links that might be of interest:

http://www.stevewiens.com/2013/03/12/to-parents-of-small-children-let-me-be-the-one-who-says-it-out-loud/

http://happinessisajourney.com

Lovely poems here  especially ‘just for this day’

Don’t let yourself become so concerned with raising a good kid that you forget you already have one (Glennon Melton).

Life is what happens to you when you are busy making other plans (John Lennon).”

*Quote from the film As Good As It Gets

Image credit:Miriam White
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Covet

Dear mums (and dads, and others!),

I’ve been meaning to write a follow up to the last post about praying with children (note to self: write blog post about finding time to write blog posts), but haven’t managed it yet in between all of the sicknesses (mine), tantrums (not all mine) and general life chaos (definitely mine). And so here’s a post about that very thought. I want to do 2 things; firstly, to draw your attention to this article http://www.raisinggodlychildren.org/2013/01/dear-moms-jesus-wants-you-to-chill-out.html,

and secondly, to think super-quickly about a little point from said article, “don’t make homemade bread simply because you see other moms posting pictures of their homemade bread on Facebook.”

We all know that to covet is a sin. But think how easily we slip into it – more so than, let’s say, stealing, which we would perhaps have stronger guilty feelings about. This is something that I see creeping into my own behaviour. If you’re a stay-at-home mum, then it’s easy to look at Facebook, Pinterest (this one perhaps more than others) and blogs without being called into question for doing it. We don’t have a boss looking over our shoulder, or someone who goes through our internet history. Perhaps we’re looking at other houses, decorating, parenting styles. Or going to a play-date at a friend’s house and thinking ‘that’s a great toy/playroom/puzzle/craft idea…I need to do that’. It seems harmless enough – almost like we’re complimenting the other mum on their choices. But actually it’s generating a feeling of not having enough or doing enough. I’m not sure that it’s particularly easy to feel content with what you have. It seems like it should be an active feeling that requires a bit of work, rather than a passive feeling that we’re born with. Let’s work hard this week to register all of our many blessings.

lots of love and relaxing thoughts to you all x

p.s what do you think? do mums find it harder to resist coveting than everyone else? Are you a working mum and find it a similar problem?

p.p.s praying with children part 2 coming up next…see here for part 1

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#justpray

Many of you will have seen the news articles last week about the Lord’s prayer featuring in an advert, that was then deemed unsuitable for viewing in a cinema setting.

It got me to thinking – how extraordinary, that prayer is such a controversial subject. Surely it’s a subject of non-interest, to those who are…not interested? What was the first response to the tragedies that happened in Paris on Nov. 13th? #prayforparis. A twitter hashtag that was used extremely widely, even by those who would not consider themselves to be practising Christians. So what does this mean? Who is everyone praying to?

It seems that it is a facet of human nature, to call for help when in trouble. The natural response is to look around, as the meme says, ‘for a more adultier adult’ than yourself, to ask ‘what’s going on? help! I can’t do anything about this myself!’. How wonderful that we are built with this inside us, so that we use it whether we want to or not!

I’ve had a little idea bubbling in my head for a little while, about the links between meditation, and children’s behaviour. Some of you may have seen this news article http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-tyne-21865083, and also this one…

It occurred to me, that seeing as prayer and meditation are very closely linked, it would be an excellent thing to do with our children. And by that I mean, teach our children to pray in a very direct way, such as these meditation classes do. Perhaps even as way to control or understand behaviour. Perhaps even talk them through it step by step…wait a minute…the Lord’s prayer….step by step….

Look out for my next post on this very subject!

Happy Saturday!

Video clips credit: Youtube.com
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Practical out-workings

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The word practical is so moreish, and real-lifey. It sounds really sensible and boring. I like practical people, and practical things. So whenever I come to think along philosophical lines with regards to being a Christian, I like the word to pop up at some point, just to see if the concept will hold true in the real world.

So, with that in mind, what have I been thinking about recently?

I heard a talk on Sunday about the physical evidence of our faith; if we were ‘accused’ of being Christians in court, would there be enough actual evidence to find us guilty? This evidence is sometimes called ‘good works’, which sounds a bit old-fashioned to me, so what does that really mean in real life?

How does that affect me, as a mum who’s trying to live as a Christian?

Well, I thought about it for a bit, and my favourite way of describing ‘good works’ is as visible-to-others responses to faith inside my head/heart. Which is much longer. ha.

Right so let’s make this quick because children all over the country are destroying things as we speak/read…

By definition, this stuff should come naturally to us, so I can’t give you a list for yourselves. And I am top of the list in terms of lazy so I also feel the full weight of guilt because my faith doesn’t show much. Here’s what I was thinking of trying this week…

  1. Reading my actual book-Bible in front of my kiddies, because I want to. My eldest is so used to seeing me on my phone that he wouldn’t ask what I was reading on there. Maybe during quiet time, maybe at the lunch table, not sure which is best yet.

Hm. One’s enough for now!

Do you have any tips? Share them with us, please!

Happy Monday everyone!

Image credit:Rachel Otter
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Older children and loving God – guest post by Esther Worboys

One day they’re cute, toddling around, listening to everything you say (!)… the next they’re spotty, answering back and full of issues…  It was lovely of Rachel to ask me to write a post about parenting older children (admittedly they’re now several months older than when she first asked) but like most of us, I don’t really feel I have any answers, but am just learning as I go.  It’s great to be able to learn together though and support each other on this journey, so hopefully something of what I’ve written here may be of some use, just as the posts I’ve already read have helped me.

So here’s what I’ve found so far about bringing my kids up to love God (four Fs although it wasn’t intentional!):

  • Make it “Fun” – it’s important that kids have a happy experience of church.  Having friends their age on a Sunday may not always be possible, but making an effort to take them to activities where they will get the chance to mix with other kids is important.  At home there are ways we can make what may otherwise seem a duty quite fun – we do the readings on the iPad and we also discovered a Bible Quiz app that asks questions based on the chapters for the day.  These are little things but they do make a difference – I’d love to hear of any suggestions anyone else has.
  • Be “Flexible” – we make sure our kids regularly come with us on a Sunday but, in the same way that we all have a holiday sometimes, we do give them licence to miss it occasionally.  This has led to some interesting and open discussions with them about why we do that.  Our answer (and you may disagree) is that God is our priority but that we want them to come to love Him as we do because they want to, not because we’ve forced them to.  We explain that if we make them miss every party that is organised on a Sunday, they may grow up resenting Him.  It seems to be working as the first thing Charlie wants to know when he receives an invitation for a Sunday is whether he can still go to Sunday School.
  • God time is “Family” time – we all know that children learn by example, so we must make every effort to set them a good one.  Praying together, reading the Bible together, going to church together, and above all discussing issues and questions openly and honestly as a family, I believe set a good foundation for our children.
  • Admit your “Failures” – following on from that, it is important to be honest both with yourself and with your kids and admit when you’re wrong.   Children see clearly through hypocrisy and there is nothing worse for their faith than a “do as I say, not as I do” attitude.  And, as we all know, we won’t get it right all the time (in fact most of the time I’m afraid to say!) so it’s really important not to beat ourselves up, but as Helen said in her blog post, to forgive ourselves.  Again, this teaches that nobody’s perfect (even parents!), but that we’re all trying our best and dependent on God’s mercy.

God bless us all as we try to do the best we can to bring our children up to love and serve Him.

Forgiveness – A Guest post by Helen Roberts

Forgiveness – A Guest post by Helen Roberts

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Today’s post comes from a lovely guest writer, Helen Roberts, mum of 2 yr old Henry.

 

Can we teach young children forgiveness?

I can still remember the bowl of baked beans flying off the table and going on the rug, the sofa and the picture on the wall. I recall taking my son upstairs and sitting him on my lap, and then I counted very slowly to 10. And I was thinking, why I am so frustrated? Why won’t my child eat anything? And he looked at me with those big brown eyes, and he didn’t even have the ability to say the words, “I’m sorry, I know you are angry,” but he knows, and I know. We embrace, and I take a deep breath and we carry on.

And I’ve been thinking about forgiveness a lot recently, as my husband and I try to be consistent in creating loving boundaries, and showing that to every action there is a consequence. We are still counting slowly to 10 as we calm down together, and now my son can say “sorry Mummy”. So we’ve made a start, but how can I continue to teach forgiveness to my toddler?

As a parent, I think one of the big things I have had to learn over the last two years is to be able to forgive myself. To realise that as much as I try to be a good mother and set high expectations for myself, I have limits.

And that is what I want to teach my son about forgiveness. I want to create a safe space for him to make mistakes, because we all do. And in this space, whether it is home or elsewhere, I want it to be a place where we can be open and share; and to be able to say, “I’m sorry”.  In that space we embrace and we start afresh.

As believers, and indeed mothers we need to be able to show our children that we have been truly forgiven. That we have a relationship with our Heavenly Father that is open and honest. To be able to forgive we have to let go of the negative feelings that we have towards the person or situation that has hurt us. We need to heal, and we need to feel released.

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. Matthew 6.14

Sometimes when we try to forgive others it can feel far removed from the relationship we have with God. But of course the two are inextricably linked. If we cannot show forgiveness and grace to others, how can God build a relationship with us?

For toddlers, everything seems personal to them, and they can feel so easily hurt even by the little things in life. Forgiving others is hard to do when we are still feeling hurt. Even as adults, forgiveness can take time as a wound or friendship is healed. So as parents we need to guide our children through the process of forgiveness:

  1. Words
    Choose vocabulary in your family that works for you and your child. Sorry, I love you, let’s start again, let’s move on, what can we do to make X smile again? It doesn’t matter what it is as long as it is simple and understood by all.
  2. Embrace
    God wants a close relationship with us, what better way to show that to our children when we forgive than by giving them hugs and by teaching them to hug others too?
  3. Reinforce
    It may take time for children to forget the hurt they feel. Reinforce the forgiveness by helping them focus on the positive e.g. What can we do to make everyone feel better? Can you think of some nice things that X has done for you?
  4. Relationships
    We need to model forgiveness in our marriage. Children will perceive when there is resentment and hurt between you and your spouse. They need to hear the words of forgiveness and they need to see the actions of grace too.

If we don’t teach our young children the steps to true forgiveness, it will be so much harder for them to forgive as they grow older. We need to give them the ability to release any anger and hurt that can affect them in childhood so that they have the tools of forgiveness and strong, loving hearts prepared for adulthood.

Image credit:Helen Roberts
Sister’s Day 2015

Sister’s Day 2015

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Last Saturday I was privileged to be able to go along to a really fantastic and uplifting ‘ladies only day’ in Solihull. It was my first day out without the kiddiwinks for quite a while – cue lots of comments along the lines of ‘have you been given a day pass?’ or ‘they’ve let you out have they?’ haw-haw. Words can’t really do justice to the wonderful mood there was there (may have been enhanced because of childlessness and opportunity to use own handbag with just keys and wallet in rather than usual monstrous sack full of things to deal with every imaginable child-induced situation)….. The theme was ‘Listening to God in our busy lives’, and this is something I definitely need the solution to! The day was split into several areas within this theme such as ‘Barriers to listening’ and ‘Benefits of stillness’. So I made some notes as it went along, as there was a lot of applicable and helpful ideas that I thought I would share with you. Here are my favourites, hopefully you’ll find some of them useful too.

1. Martha, Mary and Manufacturing busyness

The account of Martha and Mary in Luke 10 is such a PERFECT illustration of what we are trying to achieve isn’t it?! We’re all a mixture of the two, trying to find that right balance between our Christian lives and being a mother. The account speaks for itself, and feeling guilty about not being able to be more like Mary can be a positive motivator to forgo the cleaning for once. Manufacturing busyness is also something that we can’t deny that we do – if we have spare time, we fill it! Is it a badge of honour? Do we learn it from all our female acquaintances? Do we feel competitive to be a Supermum?

2. Balancing our lives

It takes effort and organisation to make time for God. We’ve learnt those skills by being a mother – we just have to be (in my case, mildly) organised don’t we?! So, we should carry those skills over into making time for God. Prioritise, learn to say no, and ask for help.

3. Barriers to listening to God and solutions

– Reading – If you’ve no time to read the Bible, how about listening to it? Put it on your phone, your iPod, as a cd in the car, whatever.

– Prayer – If you need some motivation for prayer, how about starting a prayer journal or thankfulness book – it can really help to see how God has worked in your life and answered prayer over months/years.

– Social media – If you find that you default to social media or Internet browsing in your down-time, then why not make it spiritually positive and read blogs (like this one 🙂 )

I really found these ideas very helpful to think about so hopefully they will speak to you in some small way too.

Image credit:Rachel Otter
Blogs and other media

Blogs and other media

This week’s post is some recommendations for Christian blogs written by women, brought to us by Emma Neate. Do you have any favourites that you can share?

“Here are some suggestions to begin with…

1. Rachel Held Evans is a Christian writer and blogger who quite often has a fresh, Christ-centred perspective on current issues. I don’t necessarily agree with everything she puts out there, but her humility makes me warm to her, and the content certainly gives me food for thought: http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/

This is a good example of a post in response to women being told that they belong at home: http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/men-titus-2-treatment?rq=Sweating

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2. Kat Lee has a website which hosts regular podcast interviews about Christian motherhood, mostly interviews with people who have written parenting books (she’s interviewing them partly so they can promote their book) but they normally make a few good points: http://inspiredtoaction.com
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3. Christian radio. This is been a recent discovery, but I love it! Ucb is the name of the station, which, if you’ve got digital radio you can find under ‘u’. Lots of practical lifestyle anecdotes, nice music, and NO ADVERTS! I put it on in the kitchen when I’m cooking and that way I’m having a spriritual recharge whilst also feeding my family – gotta love killing two birds with one stone!”

Image credit: both images are snapshots from the recommended websites
Children’s eyes

Children’s eyes

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As parents, we need eyes in the back of our heads. Perhaps, as Christians, we need eyes lower down – around knee level. I was thinking last Sunday about this bit,

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.”

Matt 11:25,26

and this bit,

Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away.

Matt 19:13-15

Jesus seemed to think that children have a unique view on things that adults really find quite hard and mysterious. Perhaps, then, if our Christianity is not working out how we’d like it to, we should lower our perspectives, and not our expectations. I don’t fancy the idea of becoming a parent and suddenly my Christianity has to be less somehow – that’s just going to be disappointing. But if it could be on a different level, equally challenging, then that’s ok with me.

Mum of two and part-time editor Kate Pearce says,

“Mums are busy people. FACT. There are always clothes to be washed, dinners to be cooked, lunchboxes to be made, and the list goes on. To this end, I find myself somewhat time-poor. I no longer find time to do the Bible study that I would like to do and perhaps had the luxury of time to do pre-children. Instead, I try to look at God through the eyes of my children. We read simple Bible stories together and I attempt to answer their questions. I try to see God in the world around us. On a muddy puddle hunt we admire God’s creation. The beauty of the flowers and the buzzing of the bees. At the moment, I may see God at a child’s level, but what an awesome lesson that is. I hope to learn and grow in my knowledge of God along with my children.”

Esther Worboys commented on a previous post saying,

“I know my two are older, but I also find that I often feel closer to God when I see Him through their eyes, when we have conversations about what He has done for us, and their simple trust and belief is quite inspiring.”

Image credit:Rachel Otter
A Quick Recommendation

A Quick Recommendation

This week has been a week of illness and displacement, as the entire back section of our house is being rebuilt – so I’ve been slow with writing up my blog post! So today I thought I’d send out a little recommendation (for those who haven’t seen it already) for a fantastic Bible app for kids, called ….. Bible for Kids app (clever), before sending a more detailed post later in the week.

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This little app is a wonderful goldmine for children. It contains simple, animated and interactive re-tellings of Bible stories in bright, Disney colours, with great little questions to answer, things to collect and funny animals. You can choose whether to read the text yourself, or have it read the story aloud. This app is great on a phone, and really great on a bigger-scale iPad or laptop. Hours of fun, seriously. And it affords some valuable child-occupation minutes whilst teaching them about the Bible, and therefore guilt-free on the children-using-technology scale (up there with the CBeebies and Peppa Pig app which I’m sure are educational). Enjoy!