Faith, Parenting

The letter I wish I had read as a new mom

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Dear beautiful,

Congratulations! You have joined the prestigious, bleary eyed, milk stained, caffeine fuelled club that is motherhood.

Firstly I want to tell you to enjoy these precious few moments as a brand new family.

Ignore the phone, wave off visitors and bed down with your baby. Cherish each gurgle, each smile, each milestone. Hold your baby. Yes, I mean ignore the do-gooders who advise you not to carry them too much in case you spoil them, there is such a thing as the fourth trimester and baby-wearing has proven benefits for both mother and baby in these first few weeks. You don’t see 14 year olds being carried by their moms. This phase will pass as your child grows too big for you to carry so jolly well make the most of it now.

Your role as a mother will not define who you are.

This is an important statement for you to hold on to when you are knee deep in nappies and can’t remember the last time you looked in a mirror, much less brushed your hair. You are more than a cook and bottle washer, more than a cleaner and laundry attendant. You are an independent woman who is strong, confident, accomplished and gifted, no matter how you may doubt and question yourself. Can I really do this? Can I ever be good enough? Am I qualified? The answer to all these questions in God is yes. If He has called you to it He will bring you through it.

Rather than breaking new ground in ministry, just getting dressed and brushing your teeth is your greatest mission right now and that is OK. Your girlfriends are your world and social media helps you stay connected to fellow moms who are going through the same stages as you. These wonderful women that you have so much in common with will be the lifeline you need to sustain you through sleepless nights and tantrum-filled days so invest in your relationships even if only through midnight whatsapp messages and mid feed tweets.

Make your motions effect your emotions.

There will be days when you want to flop in a heap and sob uncontrollably after six days straight of sleep deprivation, and this is ok, but remember this too shall pass. Allow the hormonal (and non hormonal) emotions to wash over you but don’t wade in the waters of self pity. Ride that tidal wave like a boss and get yourself to the shore asap with positive attitudes and a lot of prayer. Also don’t take things to heart when your worries or opinions are not received the way you would like. You have a tendency to wear your heart on your sleeve a little too much so why not protect it and keep some things just between you and God. He knows your heart, He knows your desire to be loved, accepted and to belong which is why He sought you out to become a daughter of the King, part of the Kingdom of Heaven. This is also the reason He gave you a great marriage, a husband who knows you intimately and loves every part of you. A strong man who will uphold you and strengthen you in every area, a man who has got your back. Open your heart to him and to God first.

In the years to come you will face trials and tribulations but you will never be alone. God is with you, He is for you and He has gone ahead of you. You will overcome redundancies, health scares and depression. You will rise above doubts and dilemmas, bad decisions and bad behaviour. You will learn the difference between being a friend and being faithful and your personal faith will reach levels you never dreamed of.

Take courage and stand tall, the future is bright, you just need to believe it and grab it with both hands.

R

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Faith

Happy Dependence Day

a-declaration-of-dependence[1]Yes you read right, the title is not a typo on my part!

Across the pond, our fellow American friends (and many others scattered around the globe) are celebrating Independence Day, to commemorate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on 4th July 1776.

The 4th July is a date very dear to my heart but for an entirely different reason. You see on the 4th July I publicly renounced my independence and ran headlong in to the arms of my Father in heaven.

I was baptised on the 4th July 2004 after finding Jesus in the May of that year. I was a broken young woman, fresh out of a long term relationship break up, suffering with low self-esteem and such doubts about who I was and what I was doing that shook me to my very core. I was miles away from home (The Midlands) living in St. Neots, Cambridgeshire, unable to drive and much less able to afford rail fares to visit family.

It was in my loneliness and desperation that my loving God met me. He saw a fragile heart that couldn’t bear to be handled any more, and He picked it up with such tenderness and held it close. He saw the tears streaming down my cheeks and wiped them away with His gentle hands and He carried me in His arms until I felt able to stand on my own two feet again.

Miss Independent was something of a motto for me back then as I had always felt that I need to prove myself, to be fiercely independent, reliant upon no body and no thing, for fear of being hurt, betrayed, let down or disappointed. I put on the persona that I needed no one and wasn’t afraid to let the whole world know it, but in reality I was desperate for love, for affection, for relationship.

I first experienced God through the love of a dear friend and colleague, Beckie Gilbert, who saw in me what I could not. As we got to know each other better, I found out she was a Christian and held a weekly bible study group called a ‘Cell Group’ in her home. Being curious (read nosey) about such a young, cool chick who was so passionate about church, I wanted to see what the group was all about and I eventually asked to attend her Cell groups and my first experience has stayed with me for life.

The members of the group were a mixed bunch of singles, divorcees, couples and parents that you would probably never put together, but they had one thing in common; this tangible faith that I could almost see shining out of them. Even as they talked, and made tea, and passed biscuits around, there was just something different about them. They just had ‘something’. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what it was, but it was attractive and I wanted it. We met each week and sang some worship songs (that felt weird initially!), then shared the highs and lows of our week, discussed the word and prayed together. I was encouraged to participate whenever I wanted to or simply sit and observe the meeting, and I felt so very welcomed into this group that I quickly opened up to them. I have never felt so completely and utterly loved, accepted and embraced just as I am by any other group of people in my whole life.

After a few weeks of going along to the Cell group I figured I had better go along to church to hear the message first hand as that is what we were discussing each week, and so I first stepped over the threshold of Open Door Church in St Neots and was overwhelmed by the presence of God. There was a lot I did not understand, and some things that I found pretty unnerving, such as the gifts of the Spirit, but what I did know was that this was a place of love, a place of goodness, a place of healing and restoration and ultimately a place for family. Open Door was part of New Frontiers, and I went on to attend the Start course, which is very similar to Alpha, for new Christians or people exploring the faith. Four weeks in to the eight week course and I just felt the proverbial penny ‘drop’. I got it. I believed that this Jesus was real, that He loved me and that He died for me, and I wanted to know more. I prayed the prayer of salvation with three beautiful friends and leaders in the church on the lawns outside the school building where we met each Sunday, and as we prayed the clouds broke and the sun shone down in the most glorious moment. I was saved!

Shortly after the course finished, the church was scheduling a water baptism Sunday and I was all in. To some, this may have been to fast, but I knew that this was the right thing for me and that I needed to do it there and then. I felt so peaceful about it, so ready and most importantly so excited! From first experiencing the love of Jesus through a cell group in March, to completing my Start course and surrendering my life to Jesus in May, I then sealed the deal with a publication declaration to the world that I belonged to God, that I was saved through the blood of Jesus in the July.

So the 4th July was, and still is, a big deal for me. It is the day that I said to the world, I have decided to follow Jesus. I have decided to walk with Him, to rely on Him, to trust in Him and to serve Him with all that I am. I am no longer trying to do it all my way, but rather yahweh, I don’t want to be Miss Independent, but instead am proud to be dependent on the one who made me. 11 years on I am still learning, but wow, how Jesus has transformed my life!!

If you haven’t met Jesus yet, I encourage you to attend an Alpha course at your local church. Meet Christians, ask questions and most importantly ask God! Pray to him, you don’t need a theology degree to open you heart and your mouth and ask Him “God are you there? Are you listening? Do you care about me?” I guarantee He will answer you, He will speak to you through His word, through a song on the radio, through whispers in to your spirit. All you have to do is ask.

R

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Faith, Parenting

Can I help you with that?

“My do it!!” insisted my fiercely independent two year old son, as I tried to prize the Avengers backpack from his chubby little fingers. We had just been to the local park for a picnic and I had managed to keep the back pack away from my son’s eagle eyes by hooking it over the back of the pushchair on our way out of the house. Until now.

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You may be thinking, why not just let him carry his own backpack if he wants to carry it? It is his after all… The reason is that I knew that it was far too heavy for him. I had packed it to the rafters with drinks, snacks, wet wipes and other toddler paraphernalia in preparation for our park adventures, and as the bag itself is rather big for him anyway, I knew that the poor little mite would struggle to carry it further than a few metres.

IMG_4870Undeterred, my persistent son won his battle and I duly helped him to haul the overloaded backpack on to his little body. Buoyed by his success, he hopped along happily but within a few paces he began to struggle with the backpack, wanting to reposition it on his shoulders as it constantly slipped on and off.

A typical (and unashamed) helicopter mom, I hovered behind him, continually trying to step in to help my son, offering to take the bag or at the very least shorten the straps so that it fit him better, much to his dismay. On occasion he would concede and pass me the bag, only to regain his strength a short while after and try to take it back again. I found myself getting more and more frustrated as I watched him refuse my parental wisdom and offers of help only to see him visibly struggle a few more steps before being unable to carry it any more.

God whispered to me, “Precious daughter, that is how I feel with you.”

I stopped dead in my tracks, watching my son soldier on and felt tears burn my cheeks as God reminded me of his promises in the Word;

‘For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you’. Jeremiah 29:11

“You know that I have your very best interests at heart, please trust me my sweet girl,” God whispered, “I know the burdens that you carry and I know that they are yours, but you cannot carry them alone, so won’t you let me help you?”

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Gazing at my son, happily oblivious to mommy’s God-conversation, my spirit alert, heart softened and eyes shining with tears, I thanked God right there and then, that despite my protestations and endless quest for independence, he has never quit loving me, never stopped asking, ‘Can I help you with that?’

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God loves you and I more than we will ever know or comprehend. He loves us exactly as we are, right now, imperfect and impossibly independent. We have spent a lifetime living OUR way when all along we should have been living YAHWEH. God has a plan to give us a purpose, a destiny, a hope and a future, and that will mean addressing issues and bearing burdens along the way. But God never intended for us to do life alone. He promises to never give us more than we can bear and He also promises to help us carry it.

I love The Message version of 1 Corinthians 10:13:

All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit.

Just like I knew as a mother that my son’s backpack was too heavy for him, so too does our heavenly Father know what we can and cannot bear.

What is in your backpack today? Are you carrying the weight of a shame so heavy you feel it is dragging you down? Are you battling with a sin or an addiction that you have carried around for far too long? Do you bear the burden of unforgiveness, past decisions you have made or circumstances that were beyond your control? Do you cling to the grief left with you when your loved one left you? Are you tired of struggling on each day, fighting to place one foot in front of the other as you constantly reposition your load?

Jesus said; “Come to me all who are weary, for my burden is easy and light” Matthew 11:28

If you will trust him, and listen to his gentle pleas to help you today, Jesus will stand with you and shoulder the weight of the load you bear. He didn’t promise an easy ride, but he did promise a life-long road-trip companion. Please don’t fight the still small voice urging you to quit trying to do things in your own strength. Don’t wait until your arms are so sore from struggling that you cannot lift them up to ask for or even accept the offer of help any more. Please, please take a moment today to stop a while, reassess what you are carrying and take a load off at the foot of the cross.

R

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