To The Mentees And The Mothers – An Open Letter

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If I could have, I would have hand written this note to all of  you with a fine writer and had it posted to your house. Here’s the next best thing.

Dear ones,

Thank you for believing that my journey is worth something, thank you for believing that by taking pieces of my story, it will help yours. Some of the pieces that glisten now were once broken and dull; Jesus has taken them into his wondrous workshop and spent time on them. You’re welcome to those too.

I want to remind you that you’re doing an incredible job, your children play, laugh, come to you for comfort and delight in the joy they bring you. I saw how you smiled at your son and your heart brimmed with love afresh; I know that look, I’ve felt it too. I love how you hold your 6 month old close, wrapped into your body – but I know you cry because some things aren’t perfect.

I’ve loved watching your journey, listened to you talk about the books you’ve read, the people who inspire you, the patterns you want to follow. I cried when I’ve heard of your pain, the loss of  a promise into the ‘old-familiar’ of a hospital where they see it everyday, but to you (and I) it was your baby and you have to wait for heavens hallelujah to embrace that child again. I remember seeing your face, being brave, but swirling inside. I know that feeling. I’ve felt it.

I know you feel you haven’t made the best choices, the right turns or danced to the same beat as your peers. But God. His redemption is now. His mercies are new today. Your strength is renewed in this moment. He is the God of fresh starts, I thank Him for that everyday.

And I hold your baby, giggle with your toddler, tease your teen because they are an extension of you and that is a sign and a wonder. I see the power of your prayers and the torment of the tears you have sown into this week and I praise God for the fruit of your toil, your labour and your longing. The years don’t go so fast when you live them fully. When we’re present in our children’s lives we live every moment.

That can be exhausting. That can be exhilarating.

I know you feel lonely at times. Sometimes even I miss that look amongst the crowd of masked faces. I like it when you take yours off and tell me. And we cry messy tears and make plans to make it better.

There are many inspired moments and methods and ways to do this and that, but I have to show you Jesus, He is the WAY.

There are many stories and successes and picture of grace and beauty; but I have to teach you through His Word. He is the TRUTH.

There are many elaborate celebrations, well-timed snapshots of light, life and creative callings, but life is the stuff we live between the clicking of the camera. Life is what I want to show you. He is the LIFE.

If my journey ever shows you the way, leads you into truth or draws life from your bones, it’s all because of Jesus.

There’s no such thing as super mum.

Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. James 1:17

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Brave And Beautiful Act Of Asking For Help

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Every woman must and will walk her own journey of motherhood treading carefully in faith and fragility

 

Micah was three weeks old when the excruciating pains in my body left me doubled over; just as I was beginning to recover and my womb had reduced back to that pear-like shape that the Miriam Stoppard books so beautifully describes. The bleeding and the after pain and the walking like John Wayne had diminished and then I got ill. It was a summer’s day; the warm sun was glistening and comforting on my home birthed boy who needed nothing more than a cloth nappy and a sleeveless white vest showing off his kissable arms. I traipsed my three children to numbing doctor’s appointments, chemists, blood test clinics yet no one seemed to know what was going on. I finally called in the cavalry; my mother-in-law held down the fort downstairs whilst I slept, held my stomach and cried between feeding intervals when she would bring Micah upstairs so I could nourish my son. What would be my final trip up to my doctor’s surgery with my brood resulted in two doctors trying to convince this super-woman-being-so-stubborn mother to go.to.hospital. My infection levels were really sky rocketing and my doctor commented on my obvious high pain threshold and said I shouldn’t have even been walking. I called Dave at work and all fell into place; like it should when we let go.

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I was admitted to a private room at the local hospital with a transparent cot by my side so Micah could stay with me; the interns and student doctors and consultants busily researched the appropriate antibiotics for a breastfeeding mother who refused to ‘pump and dump’ and with a final diagnosis of a major kidney infection (mostly major due to the fact they discovered one of my kidneys has been non-functioning since birth) I was cared for, medicated, hydrated and after two nights sent on my way to heal but mostly to realise that it’s ok to not be ok.

Authentic, wholehearted parenting means being exactly that – authentically you. Every woman must and will walk her own journey of motherhood treading carefully in faith and fragility. It’s that perfect place to be able to believe in ourselves and our ability to raise our children but being free to sing of our imperfections and ask for help when we need it.

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Let vulnerability reveal her freeing ways and watch; maybe a community of not-got-it-all-together mothers will gather around you.

You may not have a mother rushing to collect your washing, a neighbour eagerly ready with a casserole and home-baked ciabatta. You may not have sisters to help scrub and clean and de-ice your windscreen but you do have a voice. Let vulnerability reveal her freeing ways and watch; maybe a community of not-got-it-all-together mothers will gather around you.

It really is ok to not have it all together, to not get it right first (or second) time, to be in a mess or not quite know what your next move is. Grace is the forever giving and living hand of God reaching out and saying ‘let’s do this together’; and His grace is infectious and explosive and leaks out of us and makes us like Him. So let’s reach out to each other in heart and words and deeds and let’s ‘do this together’.

This is an excerpt from ‘Moments On Mothering’ – available on Kindle today!

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Just Another Day

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God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning

For some reason the 90’s hit ‘Just another day’ by Jon Secada was on the play list at our local Body Shop in 2002. I was working part-time as a supervisor whilst running a graphic design business with my husband. I loved the rich creams, the poignant fragrances and the free make-over we pretty much got before each shift!  It was early spring when the waves of nausea started, I didn’t so much like the smells then. I remember serving a customer and having to abruptly excuse myself to run up to the staff toilets to, well, you know!

My motherhood journey was beginning right there in the midst of customers, chaos, retail and the rawness of real life. I had to deal with the dire, the delicate and the dream of motherhood amidst the busy world around me.

My introduction to the rhythm of motherhood didn’t come from the bowels of the Body Shop toilet, although it was a big part of it for a while – it came from a change in my womb, in my circumstance and in my life. I fell in love with this kidney bean Boden that was causing disruption to my day. I woke up every day knowing that there would be growth, knowing a new day could mean anything and just maybe this would be the day when I didn’t feel sick!

And these ‘disruptions’ mark our day; from never being able to go the bathroom alone or the little step that gets pulled up in the kitchen as you’re just about to start a ‘quick’ dinner and you hear that voice “I’ll help you mama” or maybe now you’re laying awake in bed late at night waiting for your older teenager to arrive home.

Children change us, they stretch our hearts, homes and pelvic floor muscles to the greatest extent, and only one of those has any hope of returning to its former state (smile). And our days are full of moments; glimpses of wonder that bring a wide smile to any tired mama’s eyes, moments of mayhem when you’re desperately googling ‘how to deal with tantrum’ and moments that bring us to our knees knowing only Father God can help and heal this one.

I’m not sure what your day was like yesterday or what your hopes are for today but my encouragement to you is that it IS a new day. The possibilities are endless and there is always hope. There will be growth, change is inevitable and maybe, just maybe today will be the day when you don’t feel sick.

I love the Italian phrase ‘attraversiamo‘ which means ‘let’s cross over’. Elizabeth Gilbert brought it to our non-Italian attention through her 2006 bestseller ‘Eat, Pray, Love’. It literally means let’s cross over to the other side of the street. Or maybe today for us it means ‘let’s cross over to another day’. Let’s draw a line, not turn back and believe that today can be so much better.

Your strength will be renewed each day like the morning dew – Psalm 110:3

 

Social Media Straight Talk – ‘Advice To My Daughter’

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As a daughter of the king of kings, your purpose is not to turn heads but to turn hearts toward our Heavenly Father.

Today we’re celebrating the 13th birthday of our brilliant and beautiful first born, Nyah Bethia! We’re celebrating the faithfulness of God, the wonder of a daughter journeying into womanhood and the adventure of finally becoming parents to a teenager after working with and investing in young people’s lives for many many years (we love them).

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On Saturday we threw her a party; surrounded her with friends, family and significant women who have journeyed so far with her. We ate cake from vintage plates, took crazy photo’s, danced to an awesome play-list, my friends shared with her what they would say to their 13 year old selves (that was amazing, one to share another day) but more importantly we prayed, we gathered a circle of sisters around her and prayed over her life.

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I’m not going to linger on my blog today, more celebrating to do – but I wanted to share with you 13 bits of advice that my husband wrote for Nyah alongside the log-in details to her first facebook account; it is brilliant advice for for anyone starting up on social media, or for those of us who have been around for a while – check them out:

“Nyah, welcome to Facebook, here is some fatherly advice for you”

1. Real life is always more interesting. Don’t ever miss a moment for a megabyte.

2. When you feel the pressure to go with the flow of the latest cause, charity or viral “do good” thing make sure you don’t just respond for show. If you really care about it, pray, give, serve and DO Something… remember that the first person you can change is yourself.

3. Celebrate life. It is absolutely fine to share what you do and see and think with others. I don’t expect you to only communicate by carrier pigeon.

4. Some of what you see on social media will try to mess with your head. You will feel that nagging voice come in and tempt you to believe you are not enough. You are enough. You are more beautiful than any photo shopped scantily clad fake model. You are more famous to your friends and family because of your kindness and grace than they will ever be because of the fact that they happen to be in the spotlight for 15 minutes. You will be remembered for who you are long after they will be forgotten for what they did.

5. People are very selective about themselves online. Sorry but it is a fact that some downright lie. I don’t just mean the weirdos who make up false identities and try to befriend you. I mean real people. Don’t judge them. You are only ever responsible for yourself. But don’t be misled into thinking that everyone else has it altogether all of the time. You know your dad well enough to know that he might be brilliant at some things, but he falls apart if he can’t find his shoes in the morning. You won’t ever hear about this online (until today).

6. Authenticity is more important than conformity.

7. If someone adds you as a friend on Facebook, make sure you are their friend in real life.

8. Check your privacy settings

9. Before you ever post a status just to get likes or seek attention if you are feeling sad, scared, upset or worried, you might want to come for a hug from your dad first. Seek your father in heaven.
Then see if you still want to post it. Unless you are upset about your dad. In which case talk to mum. Or follow the usual family protocol involving your little sister.

10. Read your bible more than you read blog posts, statuses and twitter comments about God. Check your sources. And try to ask why they might be posting. Sometimes Christians want to sell their ministry, their ideology or their product and event more than they want to encourage you in Christ.

11. Facebook is an amazing way to encourage people and build connections around the world.

12. Don’t post anything online you wouldn’t say in real life or to someone’s face

13. Have a blast. Live your life. You will always be my daughter. I love who you are offline. Be yourself online.

You can find Dave on Twitter here.

A Reflection On Rest

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“Rest and be thankful.”
― William Wordsworth

I am totally your classic ‘always something to do’ gal; I would have been your nightmare manager at McDonald’s (never actually worked there…I was a Pizza Hut waitress through my university days though) singing gleefully on an early shift ‘if you’ve got time to lean, you’ve got time to clean’ and all that – I’m a little exhausted just thinking about it! My University friend, Claire, would despair at me for never being able to relax and watch a film unless I was doing something else; writing a letter, writing in a journal, making my life goals etc.

A few weeks ago my son, Micah said “Mum, please come and sit with me and watch a film…and DON’T bring your book”. I laughed (cried a little inside) and met his request; we snuggled under a big Mexican blanket (which of course invites other little ones…and the dog) and melted into a film together. After a while Dave appeared at the door after being out, with a look of shock and awe on his face and said “wow, Mum is watching a film with you”!

Okay, okay – it’s not quite my jam to sit and watch any old film,  I really don’t like T.V and I am very intentional with my time – but I have had to learn to add into the baseline (and schedule) of my life a rhythm of rest.

And before you start to feel really sorry for my kids and plan to whip them off to the movies without me; I am with them 24/7 people! We sit with piles of books, we linger over tea and conversation at the table, we walk together and I hold them, kiss their little Boden faces and tell them emphatically that I love them many times a day!

BUT, I am learning to rest on their terms at times. We have a such a mulch of personalities and love languages in our home (moi: INFJ, Acts of service and time come out pretty high on my love tank needs) and as much as I need to be energised and fueled for life, so do my family – with me in the mix!

A few times a week I like to bring them over to my side (insert evil laugh); twice this weekend I planted myself sprawled full length on the sofa with Big Magic in hand and shouted ‘it’s quiet (book) time’! My 4-year-old grabbed a couple of Donaldson classics and found a nook between my body and the sofa we were on and wedged herself in; the dog snuggled on my feet, my husband read the newspaper, my (almost) teen flicked through Spotify on my Kindle Fire to plan her birthday playlist and while Joel napped upstairs Micah adventured through his favourite dinosaur book. I could hear a gentle hum of a child, the flicking of pages, the deep inhale and exhale of a black Bassadore heavy on my feet.

The left-overs remained on the table for a little longer, the dishes were piled up in the kitchen and who knows if anyone had clean underwear for tomorrow; that moment, right there is where I was fully present.

Over the top of Micah’s hum and Sienna’s quiet recitation of ‘The Gruffalo’, I looked up at my husband and said “this is a thousand times better than watching T.V”.

And it was.

Fighting Insecurity – Time to Win!

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I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. Isaiah 41:9-10

It’s time my friends – I’m calling you out on this business of insecurity and the way it’s eating you up inside everyday. Listen up to mama Leah, I’m 40 now so you have to (smile), pull up a chair, let me fill your coffee cup and let’s talk.

I’m going to break this series into 3 parts so we can process together, learn from God’s Word and make some changes that could radically change our lives!

The raging war against comparison and insignificance is seemingly at its peak right now but we’re about to bring it down; I’m fighting for you, I’m praying for you and this will NOT rule you any longer. Life is too short and too precious to be sapped by insecurity; it’s a total waste of time, energy and attention and it has.to.STOP!

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When you stop living your life based on what others think of you real life begins. At that moment, you will finally see the door of self acceptance opened. ― Shannon L. Alder

I could start by telling you that you’re beautiful, you ARE enough and that God loves you just as you are (all of which are true) but your heart and your head has to believe it. Maybe you’re not at your physical peak right now (wink), maybe you’re at the breastfeeding, three months postpartum phase where nothing fits, everything is hanging out, the babymoon has worn off and you’re lucky if you manage to get a shower never mind blow dry your hair! Maybe you’re heartbroken, beaten down or discouraged by very real situations; being told by me that you’re beautiful by me doesn’t quite hit it does it?

But something has to change! You can’t go on avoiding gatherings where other women are present and you instantly feel intimidated, you can’t allow social media to put you in a stinking, bad mood everyday just because you scrolled your way through someone else’s seemingly ‘perfect’ world, you can’t go on gossiping, quietly seething or judging others on the 1% of their life you just so happened to ‘see’. It’s eating you up and it has to end!

Before I go on, let me let you into a secret; Instagram, Facebook and blogs are mostly snippets of life and loveliness in someone’s day. I genuinely don’t believe that these beautiful daily gallery exhibits are trying to tell you ‘I’m perfect’, they’re sharing soul and creating memories. We all face laundry, tantrums, bad hair days and chaos but it’s too ‘normal’ (and slightly boring really) to tell the world about so instead we choose to photograph the morning light catching the edge of our recovery cup of coffee after we’ve dealt with the second tantrum that day, right?

I genuinely don’t believe that these beautiful daily gallery exhibits are trying to tell you ‘I’m perfect’, they’re sharing soul and creating memories.

There are many real and raw issues in my home and daily dire but you know it because you have them too! Once you remember and believe that about ‘Miss IG’ with her crusty homemade bread and tea cups (totally me, I know I know) then maybe we can move on?

You’ve heard it before, ‘comparison is the thief of joy’ which is true but it’s so much more. Insecurity changes who you are because of how you view yourself, which impacts how you see others, and in turn affects how you treat other people; hurt people, hurt people. Fact!

Insecurity changes who you are because of how you view yourself, which impacts how you see others, and in turn affects how you treat other people.

So before we move on into part 2 and 3 with further insight, some bible and a bunch of top tips here’s a question for you:

What would you (and your day) look like if you weren’t struggling with insecurity?  How would you feel? What would you do? How would you be around other people? What would you achieve?

Write down your answers and come back for part 2 next week; we’re going to talk about how to be the ‘Leading Lady’ in your own life!

Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out – Romans 12: 2 (The Message)

Less Balance And More Crowd Control!

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If you’re interested in ‘balancing’ work and pleasure, stop trying to balance them. Instead make your work more pleasurable.

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I’ve never been particularly ‘fitness’ inclined; I did start a gymnastics class when I was a child and achieved a couple of ‘Coca Cola’ badges for my mum to sew onto my leotard (which I proudly annoyingly pronounced ‘Leah-tard’) but I just think the instructors felt sorry for me! I mean why balance on a bar when you can walk around the room?

I still feel the same today; I’m a little more aware of the need to intentionally work-out my body everyday but I’d still rather walk around a room than balance on a bar, a box or a tightrope!

The seasons of our life ebb and flow over the years; some come in like a crashing wave and knock us to the ground, others gently tickle our toes as a reminder things are changing. The problem with ‘finding balance’ in our lives is the need to repeat the wobbly, eyes to your toes bit over and over again. Balance can only last for a few moments, or if you’re really good a bit longer but no matter how great of a acrobat you are, eventually, everyone falls off, or has to get off.

So let’s keep our feet firmly on the ground and eyes fixed on Jesus, let’s assess the space that God has given us; look around the room, have we been invaded by unnecessary responsibilities, have people been ‘fly tipping’ or dumping in our protected area? Or do we just need to rearrange a little?

Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.

Matt 11: 28 – 29

Crowd Control

I am an introvert; I only discovered this in my 30’s which helped me greatly to understand why I felt so exhausted after a big event, party or church gathering. According to the Myers Briggs test I’m an INFJ (Introversion, iNtuition, Feeling and Judging); I can do the loud and the crowd, but only for short spurts of time, only if I can escape of my own accord (with a book – wink), and only if I can energise alone either before or after.

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This is me!

I don’t like being crowded out in any sphere of my life. About 12 years ago Dave and I were doing some exhibition work in London promoting our graphic design company we ran at the time. We had to ride the tube at rush hour to commute to the venue over the few days we were there. I’ve never experienced anything like it and HATED it! Just as you thought the person stood next to you was pressed close enough to your ear the train would stop at another station and a whole new load of people would get on.

Being crowded out is no fun for anyone, infact it becomes dangerous and hence the need at large events for ‘crowd control’.

Maybe it’s time for some crowd control in our lives; stop shoving yourself in the corner and letting the responsibilities of the day suck you up. YOU have responsibility for your own life, own it, lead it and take control again!

Remember, God has brought you to a place of space and you have room to grow, be fruitful and move in the land. He wants you to learn the unforced rhythms of grace; nothing forced, nothing heavy – and you’re not teetering on your tiptoes waiting to fall off; you just need to apply a little crowd control to your space.

“The willingness to show up changes us, It makes us a little braver each time.”
― Brené Brown

 

If you missed last week’s thoughts on ‘balance’ you can read it here.