Wednesday, 30 March 2011

10 Facts....about my husband and me

Inspired by Betty Beguiles


When I was 14 I started hanging out with a boy in the year above at school. He'd been dating another girl. Not long afterwards he started dating her again. Yes, pretty short-lived! But our time was to come...


I was 21 when we met again at the opening of a local pub/restaurant where I was working as a waitress. We had both just moved back home after finishing our university degrees. He told his friend that night that he wanted to marry me. I believe this amused me no end!


He got a job where I worked and after a couple of weeks finally asked me out on a date. I had sworn off men big style but after our first couple of dates I was absolutely smitten. Within weeks we were inseparable. That was almost fifteen years ago.


He supported me as I continued my studies and moved job and home to be with me for the duration of my PhD. Now he is supporting me in my path to ministry. I am utterly convinced God made us to be together.


I actually, officially, asked him to marry me on February 29th, 2000. (Traditionally women are 'allowed' to propose on that date. Not that I was a traditionalist then!) We were married that same year.


I feel like we've grown and grown up together. I remember renting our first place, buying our first house. Songs, stories and movies that we've shared. He let me learn to drive in his car. He's held my hand in so many ways. (Not least me digging my nails in during labour!)


There are too many songs that mean something to list here. But we walked down the aisle to Suzanne Vega's 'World Before Columbus'. I still feel like everything in life was given colour when we started our relationship. And more so as I came to know God and motherhood in the context of our marriage.


There is not room to describe all the things he does for me. The main thing is, he does them uncomplaining, just to help me.


We never even thought we would be blessed with one child. Now we have three. Girls. (Pray for him during their teenage years, will you?) And that may not be the end!


Last year we celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary. Not with fireworks, a party or a trip to Paris. But with a quiet lunch together at the place of our first date while the newborn slept in the buggy next to the table. Happiness.


Post your own ten facts over at Betty's.
There's such joy in remembering these moments.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

7 Quick Takes


Okay, technically it's Saturday and all of my family are around but Jen did namecheck me and all so I thought I should post :-) We're having spring weather in the UK now, so I've been appreciating the sunshine and warmth and cherry tree blossom. But no, we don't have a porch, and I guess I do have this idyllic image of sitting on a southern porch drinking iced tea in the sunshine. (Where the kids are in this image, I don't know!) My husband and I did a flydrive around California-Arizona-Utah-Nevada for our honeymoon, and I think our love of the Little House series will take us to the prairie someday, but the images I have of the southern states from books, theatre, film and TV have a special allure.


Although it's both spring and springlike here, we've still been sticking to a simple Lenten dinner menu which this week has included Mexican wraps, omelettes and soup. I was inspired by one of my favourite blogs the Little House That Grew to make minestrone soup for the first time, and it was delicious! There's just something about a warming pot of soup with a hunk of bread that says home, I think.


We also held baby Rebecca's baptism on the first official day of spring here in the UK. It was a tad odd rejoicing in Lent (especially having a supper of delicious christening cake as obviously I forgot to eat any of the buffet) but as I've said before, her godfather also happens to have his own church services to host so we were limited for dates. It was an amazing day; our extended family are largely non-believers but we had so many of our church family there, plus friends from other churches (Methodist, Baptist, Catholic.) As someone posted on my Facebook, it was a church full of love!


For my assignment this month, I'm writing on Calvin, the Trinity and the Eucharist, transubstantiation (and otherwise). It's a tricky fish. Calvin's 'Institutes' are online and whether you agree with what he writes or not, you can't say he doesn't put forward a detailed and intricate argument! For me, it's of huge interest to read where Protestant reformation thinking began to diverge from existing church beliefs. I really hope to finish the essay before the school term finishes!


I had a whole day without the girls this week. I was so excited! More so than somebody should be about visiting 5 English churches on a bus tour. Lots of people were laughing at me. But I'm a history geek. Not to mention a church geek. And we saw some amazing places, inside and out. The oldest part of one building was from Norman times; an old monastery from the 11th century. And there was a vast Methodist building with school and community rooms and a seating area like a huge boat! I'm looking forward to doing the assignment on this church history module.


My husband and I have been exhausted this week. After a teething baby and her baptism at the weekend, we've had our middle daughter with an ear infection and our elder daughter sprained her ankle so badly it needed an x-ray to check it wasn't a break. I made singing practice (we're doing Vivaldi's Gloria and Bruckner's Ave Maria, which is a lovely sung Hail Mary - so restorative), but missed my Lent group. Though pulled it together to enjoy a meal at one of our favourite restaurants - a shared cold meat platter, 2 boeuf bourgignons with garlic mash and a shared piece of chocolate and chili cake with coffee. Nice to splurge; it's our first time we have had babysitters at home with our 8 month old baby! I fell asleep sitting up three times on the sofa after we got back though :-)


The meal described above isn't something we'd usually have during this Lent, especially on Fridays which are always fish days (we do Meat Free Mondays too.) Whether it's a prawn stir fry, fish pie or scampi and fries, on Fridays we have a fishy meal. Sometimes as a treat we go to the fish and chip shop and have takeaway fish and chips - I hope to do this on the last Friday of school before Easter. Now, I was always under the impression that fish and chips was a peculiarly British phenomenon. But it strikes me, after reading Rachel Campos Duffy on the popularity of it in Wisconsin, that the US fish fry is remarkably similar, especially due to its popularity on Fridays. Here in the UK, despite increasing secularism, hordes of people still flock to the chippy for their fried fish and chips on a Friday. Going to a restaurant for fish fry on a Friday night is less of a tradition, however. MMM...perhaps I'll have to take the kids out on occasional Fridays from now on, especially during Lent!


Thanks to Jen @Conversion Diary, including for the drive of blog traffic!

Friday, 25 March 2011


Today we celebrate the Annunciation - an angel comes to Mary and tells her that she's going to give birth to the Son of God. As I've written elsewhere, Mary had the grace to say - well, sounds a bit odd, but thank you for blessing me and yes, I will, because I'm your servant, Lord. That always throws me. Most things God asks me to do, I run a mile.

But we're not Mary, and we're not equipped as she was; thank God, we don't need to be. So I like to think God trickles in little bits of His grace for other mothers as and when we need it. If someone had said to my younger self, by the age of 35 you will be married, have 3 young children and be studying for Church ministry, I would not have been able to say, like Mary - sounds crazy, but I'll go with it. I would have run that mile (or marathon!).

But, not only He is a God of Surprises, He knows what makes us tick. And many times he knows we are capable of things that we would not have formerly considered in a million years. And He gives us the means to deal with these things, little by little. Marriage itself is daunting. Birth can be brutal. Dealing with the shock of a first child, difficult. Dealing with two?!! And then another? While simultaneously helping out others in our path? While looking after ourselves, spiritually, physically, emotionally? Who'd have thought it?

Nowadays the main thing I take from the Annunciation is not that sometimes God asks us to do something and we are expected to say yes, straight away, and be Marian about it, because we think that's what we should do. The main thing is, the words (taken from Luke 1):
"For nothing will be impossible with God."

Because, however impossible we think a task may be, God can help us. He knows the potential we have. He tries to direct us to use this potential. He opens up new windows/ wardrobes/ horizons to us at every turn. We just need to believe. In ourselves. And trust. In Him. Which, to some, seems impossible in the first place. But the seeds of possibility have been sown. And even/especially by taking babysteps, and starting to make small changes, we are able to give that Marian response and say "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." (Luke 1.)

Friday, 18 March 2011

7 Quick Takes Vol 10


I went to my Lent group last night. I could have done with the time at home, as there haven't been many evenings around here, what with a teething baby and my commitment to my lay ministry course and (gasp!) the start of some socialising. But I was so glad I went. It's an ecumenical effort this year, with Anglicans (UK equivalent of Presbytarians), Methodists, Baptists, Wesleyans and so on. (No, I don't know where our Catholics were, either; they are part of our Churches Together initiative and were invited.) There were 3 people there from the Lent course I did a few years ago; it felt like coming home! My spiritual advisor and her husband were also there. We had fun discussing things and also were very reminded about why we do groups like these - not just to come together, intra-faith, but to take time to revisit our ideas about worshipping, sacrificing, and helping. The course we are studying is called Square Mile and is basically calling on us as Christians so just help others in our community - no ifs, not buts, just do the mission - and there was some truly provoking stuff on the presentation. If Africans in poverty themselves can set up initiatives for AIDS orphans and widows, what is stopping the first world doing this???!!


This one's related to my evenings being a little bit more busy - babysitters are booked so my husband and I can go on a date! Now we just need to book the restaurant. Actually, we've been managing to carve out some proper talking time in our evenings, even if it's 30 minutes before we head up to bed. But I feel we're both putting an effort into getting to know each other's thoughts on things, rather than just talking about what needs to be done the next day, and I feel the benefit.


I posted earlier this week on how my sugar cravings have been a bit of a nightmare! I didn't intentionally give up anything for Lent, but now that I'm in the arena of denial, I'm embracing it. The children seem to be managing fine! It's made me realise how much I relied on handfuls of junk to propel me through the day. I'm getting past that. And yes, it's made me realise that I could offer up arrow prayers at those times instead :-)


I don't have as many materials for Lent as I do for Advent, so I ordered a couple that will be good for next year (this year's theme was keep it simple.) I also splashed out on my favourite purchase of the year so far (with my new Bible cover a close second) - a CD of music for Lent and Easter. I listened to all the extracts before I purchased, and got chance to listen to just the first two tracks yesterday, but was instantly uplifted and on that Lenten path. I recommend that everyone go out and buy it; it's worth the money.


I actually *am* due my period now (apparently the lack of sugar binges should do me good, but I'm not feeling it!) and I've downloaded a temperature chart and ordered a basal thermometer so I can learn what's going on with my body more. I did try this when we spent 2+ years trying to conceive the first time around (not to much success, evidently; as soon as I stopped focusing on when my fertile days were, I got pregnant.) But I've been doing some reading and would like to give it another try. Watch this space.


It's Red Nose Day here in the UK, which in a nutshell means people entertaining others in the name of charity, with money going to needy in places like Africa. My two big girls are interested, but my favourite things has been watching Comic Relief does Glee Club on the BBC this week. Two of my favourite Christians, Carrie and David Grant, are on the judging panel, and the groups of youngsters performing have been genuinely amazing. One of the groups sang a gospel number and I actually cried!


Finally, two things to pray for - our friend who is a journalist has been deployed to cover the crisis in north Japan. We're praying for him and his wife and two young children at home in Hong Kong. Please join us. Also, on a more celebratory note, baby Rebecca will finally be baptised this Sunday - probably with a teething temperature, red cheeks and a snotty nose if this week is anything to go by, but Jesus does meet us where we are, after all :-)

Have a good week, everyone, and thanks for sharing and thanks to our host Jen @Conversion Diary.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Wordy Wednesday : Lent, a week on

So, everyone, how are you all doing with your Lent challenges, or whatever you have taken on, given up, or strived to do?

Absolutely the best thing we have done as a family, in my mind, is to get the kids to colour in a step of Lacey's Lenten Path every day. It's keeping me and the girls focused on the journey.

And at that moment the journey seems to be going on forever!

I purged the house of sweets and chocolates (and biscuits) because of the girls - I dictated this one, that the family is giving up having these in the house, and they can do something extra than this, but they are doing this at least :-) But, this one came back to bite me on the bum because I've been suffering the most. MY Lenten challenge was to eat more fruit and veg, keep fit and look after my teeth. Verdict:

  1. I started off really well, but we need to make sure we have a plethora of fruit around the house at all times, and be bothered to peel and chop it for myself, not just the girls;

  2. My pelvis is pretty bust because I did a post-birth exercise DVD when my aquaaerobics was cancelled. And overdid it. Typical over-achieving, over-enthuiastic, rise-to-the-challenge me. Don't I know that God likes babysteps, not overblown successes?!

  3. I made a dental appointment. The next one my dentist has free is over a month away, so I am so glad I made it now!
But as for the sweets and chocolate.... I think I forgot what I do to carry me through the day. Last Lent I was pregnant, and didn't even try fasting. Even eating well and healthily since the birth, I would sneak in a square of chocolate, some midget gems or Haribo Starmix. The baby is now 7 months old, but I'm still in the habit of that little sugar rush to propel me through the next hour or two before I boil the kettle for my next caffeine rush. I find myself suffering in a way I never expected. (And chomping down on other things instead, which aren't necessarily healthy either. Like adding sugar to my tea!) By the weekend my mood was low because I'd had so much less sugar than usual. Today, when the baby has been up with a temperature what feels like all night, I want the comfort.

But do you know what? This ain't suffering. Suffering hasn't even begun. Suffering is my friend holding up the due date (today) of the child she miscarried last year. It's a baby who doesn't understand where the pain in her head is coming from, and screaming in agony. It's a mother who can't soothe or comfort her child (and obviously there's a religious analogy in that). The father who knows the things h/His child will have to go to achieve so much to help the suffering of others (ditto.) The sister and friend who slowly watches someone age and die from leukaemia, begging God's help. It's the lost and the injured, the bereaved and the dying, in Japan and other countries in need. It's the wife of the journalist who has to leave his young family to travel to a disaster area. It's many other things. And it's so much more than craving chocolate. I get this. I KNOW.

And I think, it's only been a few days, and I am getting over the worst. It is teaching me patience, humility, how to deal better with frustration, and the importance of my needs being satisfied. It doesn't compare to the real suffering that people endure, but it's still a lesson. I haven't binged on chocolate. I wouldn't think of raiding the sweetie tin. My husband did ask if my period was due, but largely, the family are helping me with this. And I think the days will get easier.

So, first part of Lent - a learning curve along the Lenten Path; a pilgrim's progress if you will....wonder what's around the next corner?

Thursday, 10 March 2011

3 Small Successes


1) I'm just rejoicing in the simplicity of Lent at the moment. I'm savouring the taste of food more and already realising how many luxuries I used to stuff in my mouth. I'm getting those 5 minutes with God in the morning and evening, and not worrying its not enough. It may not last for the whole season, but it is a wonderful start.

2) I blitzed the filing pile. There were things in it from our trip away last October. AND, I finally took the 3 Christmas CDs out of the car CD changer! It only has room for 6 CDs. We have not been listening to the Christmas ones for months now so our listening has been very limited.

3) Do you know what, I can't think of a third. This week is less about celebrating how awesome I am, and more about realising that it's okay when I fail. So I'll finish by posting this excerpt from the Lenten prayer for today:

Please, Lord, remind me that "perfection"
isn't the crazy, "successful" way I try to live my life,
but a perfection of my most authentic, real self.
My "perfection" might be holding my many flaws in my open hands,
asking you to help me accept them.

Amen to that.

Thanks to Danielle and all those others who post their successes.

Friday, 4 March 2011

7 Quick Takes*


I finally ordered the cake! For Rebecca's Baptism, I mean. They seemed a little concerned about the size of it compared to the decoration but I wanted to keep it simple - just a cross in the corner, and 'Rebecca Mary', in the middle. I am focusing on simplicity for Lent, after all.


I also realised that the Baptism is also the first day of Spring, which says all sorts of things! I am so fully immersed in baptism being the sacrament which opens up all sorts of possibilities to us, including the reception of God's grace. I guess this is due to my being baptised as an adult, at which point everything started changing for me in amazing ways.


I'm holding in my thoughts this week all the would-be mothers I know who are hoping for children in the future, that this will come to be. Miscarriage and fertility issues can make it difficult for people to keep trusting in God. For me, my impatience to conceive helped bring me to Christ, but for others, it can work the opposite way, and I pray for them now.


I'm still really excited about the date my husband had at Cafe Rouge when we were on our holiday. I made a promise to myself that Friday date nights, at home or out, would be resurrected. So, um, tonight I'm heading out to the (Women's) World Day of Prayer service at a local church with my friend Mary. And the Friday after I have a singing rehearsal. Must try harder.


Husband and I have started to become like ships passing in the night again
due to both our voluntary commitments since nights with the baby got easier. I am thankful that we are able to do simple things like lunch together and have to discuss things about the business we run. It's often difficult to communicate above the cacophony of girls' voices!


About the Women's World Day of Prayer. Some women over from Chile are hosting. Our vicar is speaking too. And there will be cups of tea served afterwards. And that's all I know. Men are invited along too, although it's women who organise the thing. But I am holding the world's women in my heart today, especially those who have a hard time being a woman in their culture. This includes my friend who gets commented on by her husband if the house isn't up to his standards of cleanliness or if she leaves the house in jogging bottoms to take the kids to school.


OK, I want to bring some joy in here today! I'm still smiling about Betty Beguiles' new couch so thank Hallie Lord for hosting the Quick Takes today. Let's give thanks for those friends - and strangers - who go the extra mile for us, who pray for us, who help give us a break when we need it and listen to us without judgement. To me, this includes the online community of blogging moms who I thank profusely. Have a good week!

*Thanks to Jen @ Conversion Diary and Hallie @ Betty Beguiles for hosting 7 Quick Takes.