Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Pressure's Off!

Our first rainy day of winter. And I'm enjoying it. It's the first day I have sent my kids to school with shoes in a VERY long time, and Belle was not amused that she had socks on. I love that last winter was so long ago in her mind that she has forgotten completely what socks are and how they feel!

I had a revelation whilst driving the school route this morning. It was prompted by a conversation I had with a new friend last week. For the last 10 years, she and her husband and now family of 4 kids have not celebrated Easter or Christmas. For them, learning about the reasons behind all the present day traditions and celebrations led to feeling convicted not to partake in any of it, as when you really get down to it, it's mostly all pagan festivals we've kind of adopted as being the norm. So for them, they celebrate three festivals - Passover, Pentecost and the Feast of Tabernacles. Easter, and Christmas Day don't feature at all on their calendar. 

That conversation prompted something I recalled from 'God Grew Tired of Us' (heart wrenching title huh?) this profound documentary (a must see) on the orphaned boys from Sudan and
their travels, and the journey some of them made to America. The one man
(once boy) was interviewed at Christmas time in America, and his face 
painted a picture of a thousand words. He was utterly confused. 
He kept asking what this Christmas thing was, and why it was celebrated
like this, and what was with the Santa and the trees? The director than cut to a 
shot of how they celebrate it in the refugee camps - and the JOY, the pure 
joy was almost tangible.. No trappings. Nothing false - just real fellowship for a 
real reason.

And my revelation was this: if we CHOOSE see these times of year for what 
they really are - consumer driven festivals that happen to occur at set times each
year, then we can choose to celebrate the truth whenever we want throughout
the year. Why am I trying so hard to make these seasons so significant? Why not just live the truth all year round? I cannot tell you what a feeling of relief that brought me. I'm not going to spend hours researching how to make Easter meaningful, or print coloring in pages of tombstones rolling away or anything like that. I'm 
going to wait...and when I feel led, we'll talk about the birth of Christ, or his death in our normal daily lives.

I'm not sure we're about to embark on anything quite as radical as not celebrating it altogether, as there are things within these seasons that I love, but it's certainly given me much to dwell on.

Food for thought huh?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Meaning of Motherhood

(In spite of me still deciding, I just had to write....)

Picture three small wet and cold bodies. And one wet and cold mum. One wet and cold mom trying to dress said cold bodies. Four people rather chilly after swimming in a pool for 40 minutes. And one wet and cold mom that knows she cannot get warm herself as she must, after dressing said cold and wet bodies, get back into the pool for her exercise (as the feet, well, you know the story).

And you have a very disgruntled mum.

A mum who suddenly realized - Hang on a minute, I'm not enjoying this.

And then He spoke...these things to my heart.

He asked me if I'd be willing to lay down a little more of my life (note, my life...the life I think belongs to me. Whose life is it anyway?). And inwardly, I groaned. What Lord? More? Really?

And as I listened, I heard. I understood (scratch that, I'm understanding!).

Motherhood? It's about self sacrificing. It's about laying down one's life over and over again. Time and Time again we're called to let go... and I think it's just one of those seasons again as activities are on the increase and my afternoons are no longer 'mine' to call my own.

It's about dying to self.

It's about serving. Didn't like it much when He showed me I'm really not much of a server at heart. Na-ah. Not my cup of tea...but I sure like to be served. Sobering really.

And it's about choosing to see the beauty in the here and now, in the snapshot of what you see. Why do I want more time? For what? (See my earlier post). And, again He solidifies what I read a few days ago...

I fill the sink with the circle of bowl, and batter floats up in suds. I wash. I see my reflection in the stainless of the tap. I know you, those seeking eyes. You're the one in dire need of time, that thing we can't buy, what we sell of ourselves to get more of what we think we want, what we sacrifice to seemingly gain. They say time is money, but that's not true. Time is life. And if I want the fullest life, I need to find fullest time. I wipe a water spot off the tap; there's a reflection of me. Oh yes, I know you, the busyness of your life leaving little room for the source of your life. I'm the face grieving.
God gives us time. And who has time for God?
Which makes no sense.
In Christ, don't we have everlasting existence? Don't Christians have all the time in eternity, life everlasting? If Christians run out of time - wouldn't we have lost our very existence? If anyone should have time, isn't it the Christ-followers?....
...a question once asked of a pastor haunts through the rows of headstones and I hear it sure again. What was the pastor's most profound regret in life?....Being in a hurry. Getting to the next thing without fully entering the thing in front of me. I cannot think of a single advantage I've ever gained from being in a hurry. But a thousand broken and missed things, tens of thousands, lie in the wake of all the rushing...Through all that haste I thought I was making up time. It turns out I was throwing it away....
In our rushing, bulls in china shops, we break our own lives.
Haste makes waste.... and I hear this too, words of another woman seeking: "On every level of life, from housework to heights of prayer, in all judgement and efforts to get things done, hurry and impatience are sure the marks of an amateur".
In a world addicted to speed, I blur the moments into one unholy smear. I have done it. I do it still. Hands of the clock whip hard. So I push hard and I bark hard and I fall hard and when their wide eyes brim sadness and their chins tremble weak, I am weary and I am the thin clear skin, reflecting their fatigue, about to burst, my eyes glistening with their same sheer pain.
The hurry makes us hurt.
And maybe it's the hurt that drives us on?...
Hurry always empties a soul....
I speak to God: I don't really want more time; I just want enough time. Time to breath deep and time to see real and time to laugh long and time to give You glory, and rest deep and sing joy and just enough time in a day not to feel hounded, pressed, driven or wild to get it all done - yesterday.... in the beep and blink of the twenty first century with its "live in the moment" buzz phrase that none of the whirl-weary seem to know how to do, who actually knows how to take time and live with soul and body and God all in sync?
362. Suds...all the color of the sun. 
That's my answer to time. Time is a relentless river. It rages on, a respecter of no one. And this, this is the only way to slow time: When I fully enter time's swift current, enter into the current moment with the weight of my attention, I slow the torrent with the weight of me all here. I can slow the torrent by being all here. I only live full when I live fully in the moment. And when I'm always looking for the next glimpse of glory, I slow and enter. And time slows....This is where God is. In the present. I AM - his very name.
                                             (Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts)

 And these precious lives -  mine to mold and shape and change and imprint on for ever? Do I see them as a heritage or a possession? Can I come to a place where I take the time to see them as the object, the purpose of my day...instead of the endless list of tasks and activities that are not, and cannot be, in a relationship with me?

My goals, my day, sometimes overshadow the little people in my day. Knowing I have to squeeze an extra two swimming lessons in my week for Aragorn who has an aversion to proper swimming lessons means I have to create time ... and honestly? Knowing this at 0800 each day fills me with something akin to stress: when am I going to pack their lunch, how to fit in school before picking up Belle, Belle missing her nap, fitting in things after this etc. You get the picture. But still. BUT STILL. Those are not good enough excuses.

This motherhood thing? It's daily lessons in servanthood.

O God.

holy experience

go on over and check this out - for busy moms....

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Desired Direction

The silence is because I desire direction.

I have loved writing this blog. But I am aware that to me, it feels like I have lost focus.

What is the point of this blog? Am I blurring the lines between deep personal feelings, social commentary, and sharing my family life with far flung friends?

Can this blog tie all these strands together, or do I need to let some fly free?

Time will tell....

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Raw Relief

A short, sharp season of being visited by family is over.

And I breath a sigh of relief....

And yet I am left feeling raw.

How is it possible that flesh of my flesh and blood of my blood can leave me feeling so undone?

How is it possible that the woman who gave birth to me can seem to dislike me so much

...and that conversely I can have so little grace for her?

This relationship - this mother daughter bond - is supposed to be something so much more.

Something sacred.

Somthing intimate.

Something safe.

What is it about this world, that some have this remarkable relationship intact?

And that for some, all too often, this relationship is the one that has fractured?

God, give me your grace for Belle. Do something NEW in me.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Book on my Bedside Table

Ann Voskamp's "One Thousand Gifts" (she's the author of the blog entitled 'A Holy Experience'), is the book on my bedside table at the moment that is arresting me, chapter by chapter. Here's an excerpt from Chapter Two that I can just so relate to. May it pierce you as it did me.....

For years of mornings, I have woken wanting to die. Life itself twists into nightmares. For years, I have pulled the covers up over my head, dreading to begin another day I'd be bound to just wreck. Years, I lie listening to the taunt of names ringing off my interior walls, ones form the past that never drifted far and away: Loser. Mess. Failure. They are the signs nailed overhead, nailed through me, naming me. The stars blinking are blinking out.
    Funny, this. Yesterday morning, and the morning before, all these mornings, I wake to the discontent of life in my own skin. I wake to self-hatred. To the wrestle to get it all done, the relentless anxiety that I am failing. Always the failing. I yell at children, fester with bitterness, forget doctor appointments, lose library books, live selfishly, skip prayer, complain, go to bed too late, neglect cleaning the toilets. I live tired. Afraid. Anxious. Weary. Years, I feel it in the veins, the pulsing of ruptured hopes. Would I ever be enough, find enough, do enough? But this morning, I wake wildly wanting to live. Physically feeling it in the veins trembling, the hard part of the lungs, the seing it in the steady starts, how much I really want to live. How I don't want to die. Is that the message of the nightmares and dreams? To live fully alive ...or in empty nothingness?
It's the in between that drives us mad. (emphasis mine)
It's the life in between, the days of walking lifeless, the years calloused and simply going through the hollow motions, the self-protecting by self-distracting, the body never waking, that's lost capacity to fully feel - this si the life in between that makes is the wild walking dead.
The sun climbs the horizon, I throw back the covers, take another breath, and begin. I get to live. I get to live....

Which road through this brief land? What is all most important? How to live the fullest life here that delivers into the full life ever after?...

.How does one live ready, and always? Yes, ultimately Jesus. Yes, this premature dying to self, birthing into the cross-life, the grace cocoon, before emerging into the life unending. Without this Jesus, no, no one can be ready. ... 

But, someone, please give me - who is born again but still so much in need of being born anew - give me the details of how to live in the waiting cocoon before the forever begins? ...

In my reality-dream (dream-reality?), I gasp for more time, frantic for more time. But I have to wonder:more time for more what? The answer  to that determines the road these so-short days take. ....
 Food for thought huh?

Monday, March 14, 2011

The "Day" is Done!

I did it.

I started. I rode. I finished!

I just put my head down and cycled.....

and surprisingly, I crossed the finish line with a better time than last year! 5 hours 20, with a good few stops to ease some very tired muscles and a cramping sore foot.

But you know what struck me most about this Argus? The three men I sore who were riding with one leg - their other leg did not exist, instead they had a prosthetic. Incredible. These men who have risen above their circumstances to continue normal lives. They humbled me. They inspired me.

And to be honest? I am so glad this year's Argus is behind me. Now onto fully recovered feet!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Amazing Grace

A friend shared this blog with me (thanks M!), and I am loving the challenge. Particularly as it fits in with my lessons about grace, and my longing to parent in a grace filled way. This post really spoke to me, and here are some excerpts - to see more, go over to Practical Theology for Women

“When you give back what is earned or deserved, it is not charis—it is not grace. It is not favor or benefit, and it is not credited toward you as anything other than exactly what you are expected to do. Instead, grace does what is unexpected, undeserved, and out of line with reasonable responses. Grace is an unreasonable response—unreasonably good, but unreasonable nonetheless. When we give grace, this undeserved favor that does good to enemies and lends expecting nothing in return, then we give evidence of our relationship with our Father in heaven, because this is his calling card. He is kind to the ungrateful and evil. He is full of grace.”

I think, “Really?! I'm supposed to treat my children as I want them to be not as they actually are acting right now? I get that I'm not supposed to give an unreasonably bad response. But what about a reasonably bad response? Shouldn't they get what they deserve for acting out? But God says instead I'm supposed to give an unreasonably GOOD response. What does that even look like? And why doesn't that make my children's sin increase?!” 
Here is my suspicion--if I really treat my children with grace instead of punishment, they will sin more. It's not natural for me to envision a scenario in which a grace filled response to them in their sin and failure actually helps them overcome their sin. First, I have a mistaken perception of what grace looks like. Grace doesn't mean simply being polite or diplomatic. And most of all, grace doesn't suggest we ignore sin. In fact, grace is meaningless apart from a stark understanding of the sin in question. Grace engages over the sin. But not with punishment. Grace is what moves us from returning evil for evil with punitive measures (a hit for a hit) to returning evil with good by discipling their hearts and training them in new ways to respond to their own issues. 
Second, I am suspicious of grace because I have a shortsighted view of the future. I think if my children don't immediately change their behavior the moment I engage them over their sin issue, I have failed. If I don't reactively punish them, I think they'll abuse my grace. And maybe tomorrow, they will. But God's view for them extends well past tomorrow. It is of eternity. Every adult Christian friend of mine who gives positive testimony of a parent universally tells me of how their parents ENDURED with them through their hard seasons and how that perseverance drew them to repentance. 
The techniques we teach for child rearing are as good an indicator of our understanding of gospel grace as anything. It is interesting how reformed Christian teachers and parents who really should know better still embrace the very techniques that God called ineffective at transformation—law, punishment, and penance—and disdain or mock (as did the author in question) the methods our Father in heaven embraces in His plan for His children—a wooing with grace and kindness that draws us to repentance. We do this because we really don't believe Biblical grace works. We have for the most part graduated from a performance based Christian parenting model to a heart based Christian parenting model. Almost everyone in my Christian circles (which are varied) over the last decade or so has gotten that external conformity apart from internal heart change is of no value. But we still often attempt to change the HEART by external pressure. Through guilt, manipulation, or shame. “Look at ALL God has done for you! Why don't you love Him? Why aren't you obeying Him? He's so wonderful and you're just a worm. Your heart is wicked.” We're trying to get to our kids' heart, but we're using the same old tactics legalists use to change externals. Guilt. Shame. Manipulation. 
If you feel threatened by what you view of as grace based libertarianism (which actually is a meaningless term), it's likely because you don't really believe that grace works and that it's what is required by you. If that's the case, go reread Luke 6 and ask yourself if it's relevant to your children. But even if you are convicted that you do need to parent with grace (as I am), it doesn't mean you do it consistently in the moment. 
Perhaps you simply failed in the moment. You very much wanted to patiently disciple your children in the direction that God is taking them, but instead you got angry at where they were in the moment. I'm there on a regular basis. I am learning that the gospel equips me to deal with this without shame or condemnation. I face it and correct it.  And I have hope that this response won't always characterize me. 
Maybe you did it right, and it still fell apart. Or there wasn't any perceptable change at all. You're not sure if your reactions were right or wrong, and you see no noticeable good results one way or the other. What is the point of responding patiently in grace if it doesn't fix the problem immediately? God's long term view for His children equips you to deal with this without bitterness or the loss of hope. The gospel gifts you with perseverance and confidence in the eternal results. 

Food for thought huh?

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Oh yes people. It's less than 5 days away. 30 000 mad cyclists riding around the Cape peninsula in the largest timed event in the world. 109km.

Oh yes.

And my feet are still sore...It has been a challenge getting back on my bike after being banned from it for a few weeks. The good news is the agonising pain is gone. The bad news? My inserts are uncomfortable (but worth it if the pain is kept at bay) and my feet are still badly bruised and will take a long time to heal fully. My stamina is pretty non existent, and I am trying my hardest to get my head around the fact that I need to have very different expectations of this year's Argus.

It cannot be a race for me. It can only be a Tour. A sightseeing ride along with a  lot of people. I may not even finish if the feet don't hold out. Sigh. Having a real hard time adjusting to those expectations!

But I cannot not start. I have worked too hard for this. Suffered (!) too much....

Sunday, here I come....

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A challenging conversation...

Last week I faced my first 'disapproving' conversation as a homeschooling mother (of one), from a family member.

I did not respond well, at all, sad to say. Indeed I did not respond at all, I reacted.

And as a result I have been stewing for a few days, and am learning some really hard lessons.

This homeschooling journey is different, and goes against what is considered normal for many people, but especially the older generation. I think my friends and colleagues, and those people that live in the same town as me can understand it more, because it is all around us here - it is a viable and somewhat common, if not popular educational choice for our children.

But for an older generation...I need to have grace. And I have been challenged: In disagreements, others are entitled to their opinion, which does not need to affect me. That takes some maturity!

Secondly, the challenge is to guard the relationship from fracturing during this period of seeing things differently. I've been reading a book on Bono from U2 recently, and with all his Aid work he comments that you don't always have to see eye to eye to get along. Truth.

Isn't this always the hard part? Responding with love, not reacting with anger, hurt or even spite....

Grace and Love.

Food for thought huh?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Over the last few days I have been so conscious of being crippled and paralyzed by fear....

Fear does that to all of us.

It inhibits us from being ALL that we were called to be.

It strips us of our true identity...

And leaves us quaking in the wings of life.

I know this, because I'm living it.

And so I asked God - what is it about this Fear? From where does it stem?

And for me, the fear that leaves me breathless, strangled for air and all panicky, comes from comparing my self to others. All my fear comes from looking at who others are, what they do, how they live...and then feeling that I don't have it all/do it all etc.

There's a reason God originally gave a command imploring us not to covet...not to look at what our neigbour has and want tit too, (and I take the liberty for that to mean more than just material things).

And this fear prevents me from hearing the truth my friends are speaking, and in part I recognize them bringing me words straight from the throne. Truth that offers me life and hope. Friends, if there's one thing we do as parents, let it be that we train our children even now, to be able to hear and listen to the truth, and put away this fear. Learning it at 30+ is just hard work!

And the other things I fear? The completely irrational daydreams I have that involve things like "What if's" etc...that unfounded fear is a result of letting my thoughts wander around unchecked.

So the answer? I'm not entirely sure. But I am greatly encouraged by this:
7For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control. (2Ti 1:17, Amplified)

Food for thought huh?