Thursday, 28 February 2019

7 years a mama

This month my eldest son turned 7, not only does it make 7 years since his own birth, but it also marks 7 years since I was born a mother.

People usually forget to consider the mother's birth-day when the children's birthdays pass but I think it's an important thing to honor, especially with the first born.

For me it is a significant moment every year as I reflect on how far I have come and who I am now as a person on this journey of motherhood and life.

Motherhood has changed me so much.  It has expanded my capacity to love far beyond anything I could ever have imagined pre-children. It has also stretched my capacity for patience and self-control and has taught me how to sacrifice myself for the sake of others.

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7 years ago I was the centre of my own world, my husband and I did as we pleased, answering to no one really.  We went on lovely relaxing holidays, we did nice things together like going on bike rides and strolling leisurely round National Trust houses and taking afternoon tea in quaint cafes. I went out with my friends and had a job where I was able to measure my success and know when I had done a good job. I had a clear separation between my work time and my own time.  I was a teacher, so the dependable school bell transported me through the day in chucks of time where I was either with children teaching or doing my own thing.  I arrived, the bell rang, the children came, it rang again and they left, I had a break, the bell range again, more children, then lunch, followed by more children and finally home time, which marked no more children till another day, and an evening where I could do my own thing (as an art teacher my marking was significantly quicker to complete than say that of an English teacher).  In my free time you'd find me working on my own art and craft projects, trying to sell through my Etsy shop, writing blog posts, doing craft fairs and entering exhibitions and competitions

Life was very predictable, I knew what to expect, what was expected of me and I knew where the rewards and treats would come in.

Very quickly after my first was born, life couldn't have been more different I went through a huge adjustment and learning curve.

The first challenge was the lack of the hourly bell.  As mad as it sounds, it threw me massively to be under the control of this tiny unpredictable human who had no time scale, deadlines or countdowns.  I longed for the predictability of the school routine, but shunned the child training guides that would have satisfied this craving, in preference of a child led approach.  This was the first step of self-sacrifice.  I was choosing what I felt was best for my child rather than what would have suited me more at the time.

Fast forward 7 years and two more children and I am in a place where my life is almost completely at the mercy of my children.  I choose activities I think they will like, my schedule revolves around them and their needs, naps, snacks, meal times, bath times, play dates, home ed groups.  Even weekends are dictated by the moods of the children and what they can or can't cope with on any given day. A trip to a playground or walk in a woods is a likely most weekend, like dogs my children need regular walks.  I have totally lost my life and given it to my children. Gone are the bike rides in favor of walks to the park, gone are the leisurely National Trust strolls, replaced by raucous romps round National Trust gardens and whistle stop tours of the house with regular cries of "don't touch that!" and "that chair's not for sitting!". Elegant afternoon teas are a thing of the past, in favor of picnics on blankets, with any restaurant experiences leaving us sweaty with the stress.

I realise I am not painting a very pretty picture of motherhood here and that it won't be like this forever, (I hope one day to eve be able to enjoy an afternoon tea with my sons!) it is hard work most of the time, and yet, I feel so much richer as a person for the experience.  I never knew how it could feel to have your heart leave your body and split into three new hearts.  My ability to experience compassion and empathy for them  is sometimes painful.  It's makes you wonder why we do it!
My ability to hold my patience is so much more than when I was a teacher, (which leads me to believe I would be a far better teacher because of this experience of motherhood.)  And my ability to sacrifice my own desires for my children sometimes astonishes me. I could not have imagined how I could have tolerated one, two, sometimes three extra bodies in my bed at night, hot and sweaty, wriggling and twitching, moaning and crying all night long, and yet I have learned to contort myself into the most unique positions in bed (sometimes even evacuating myself altogether) in order to accommodate them.  Who knew I could sacrifice my last piece of chocolate or cake for two big eyes so sweetly asking for a bite.  Or given up on nights out with the girls, restaurant meals with my husband, time to ourselves, in exchange for being there to breastfeed my babies and toddlers.  I really never knew I had it in me!

I have very little time for my own work or creativity now.  Evenings snatched here and there to write a journal article, the odd afternoon to plan a retreat or make a painting.  The great irony is that pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood have awakened in me a vast and unquenchable desire to make, create and write and teach.  I have an abundance of creative ideas, but a painful austerity of time!  I think often on how I could have been so much more productive all those years ago had the ideas and motivation come to me then, when I had so much free time (though hilariously, at the time, felt I had hardly any!  Little did I know!). It's some sort of bitter twist of life that the creative urge and abundance of ideas has come so strong now when I have so little time to fulfil it.  I wonder why that is?  Will it stick around once the children get older and I have more free time again, or will it disappear along with the sweetness of toddler-hood and early childhood?

7 years a mother, wow!  I have come so far.  There are many more grey hairs now much more baggy skin, an aching tiredness like I could never have known, and a love so strong it sometimes brings me to my knees and forces tears from my eyes.

Someone once asked me if, knowing what I know now about motherhood if I would choose to do it all over again.  And I thought about this question.  Would I choose the pain and discomfort, the tiredness, the absolute invasion of privacy, the sacrificing of my body and time, the stress and the upset, the crazy-making noise and constant demands on me...

Yes I would!

I would choose it again, not just for the three amazing humans that I have helped to rise and who I get the privilege to know, but also because of the person that has birthed inside of me, the person who has grown and expanded.  I am part of a bigger thing now, it all starts to make sense, this life here on earth, my purpose has become much clearer.  I would never want to go back to that selfish, narrow minded person that I didn't even know I was before, I feel like an upgraded version of the person I was before, like I had a new update installed which is not a good way of describing this strange expanded knowing and understanding I feel now, but it is the best I can do (I really am very tired you know)

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So yes, in spite of how hard this gig is some days (most days) I would do it all again in the blink of an eye, without hesitation, for I would never have known the feeling of creativity that comes from creating life.  And although I won't get to see the results at the end of the year as I did in teaching, there will be no assessment sheet on how well I am doing as a mother, I really won't know for a good 10-15 years if I did ok at it or not, I know that perhaps the results are immaterial after all, because perhaps the results aren't the children at all, the results are me.  Did I learn from it?  Did I change and grow?  Did I become a better human because of it?  Yes, yes, YES!  I surely did, and will continue doing so and I look forward to seeing the human that I become in 10-15 years time as much as the humans that they become.  Because those 7 years ago when a boy was born, so was a mother, so I am only 7 years old after all.

Sunday, 20 January 2019

The Baptism of Jesus Sunday School Lesson

This is a lesson I created for a Sunday Schoool lesson but it could work equally well in a home ed environment. (This post containes affiliate links)

The Baptism of Jesus is a really great story to tell to children as there are so many intersting physical elements to talk about; there's John the Baptist's hairy clothes, all scritchy and scratchy, and big bushy beard all wild and fluffy, there's his diet of eating locusts and honey all crunchy and sticky (yuck!), there's the water splishing and splashing and there is the dove flapping and flying.

In this Sunday School lesson I decided to focus on the dove for the meaning of the story.  I kind of worked backwards on the lesson plan; I started searching for ideas for how I could deliver the lesson by searching through fine art images of The Baptism of Jesus, there are so many beautiful interpretations I highly recommend taking a look.  This led on to me looking at stained glass windows that featured an image of the story, I looked at both traditional and contemporary designs.  I thought it would be really nice for the children to create their own stained glass window but to simplify the idea for the 3-5 age range I was teaching, I thought the could use the image of the dove.

This led me to consider where else in the Bible a dove features and what the meaning of this is.  I thought of Noah's ark and the dove delivering a twig of olive leaf showing that the people had been saved from the storm, also sacrificial doves that were used to save people from their sins, and then of course the dove of the Baptism story which showed that Jesus was sent to save us from our sins as a living sacrifice.

I thought about how I could introduce the story's focus on the dove by asking the children what birds meant differed things, I thought we could discuss ideas like owls making them think of the dark and night time, robins for Christmas, and parrots making them think of pirates!

I planned to read the story of the Baptism of Jesus, I used this version below, but you can use any version so long as it mentiones the dove:

 I then planned a short prayer to read at the end.

The class would have gone really well if I hadn't forgotten to take the sticky-back-plastic that I needed for the stained glass windows!!  This epic disaster was thankfully averted by a roll of extra wide sellotape which I found on the side somewhere (thank you God!)  I really like using the stick-back-plastic in this way as it eliminates the use of glue altogether making it a nice clean activity.
If you have more time or older children you could get them to cut all the parts of the craft out themselves.

If you would like a copy of this lesson plan you can download it bellow,  I have also included the power point presentation of artworks that you can use.

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Sunday, 11 November 2018

Romancing the Soul

A while ago I read a book called "Captivating" by Stasi and John Eldridge (I highly recommend it for any women who want to know themselves better and any men who want to know their wives better), it's a book the really resonated with me and helped me go deeper into my relationship with myself and with God.

In the book the authors talk about how Jesus romances us. Now that's a funny concept isn't it, we often don't see Jesus as someone who would be trying to allure us and bring us to him.  I don't know about you but I have sometimes felt like he is quite a distant figure, someone we should be trying to emulate, but far too perfect to get near to, but it's true; Jesus wants a personal relationship with us and just like a good potential husband, doesn't force us into that relationship but intimately and gently and gloriously woos us.

I had forgotten all about this part of the book until a friend enthusiastically reminded me of it recently, she explained how she had seen some beautiful Autumn leaves and she thought about Jesus alluring her to him with their exquisite colours and textures, drawing her eye to their beauty.

The idea is that Jesus gives us all sorts of gifts as a way to bring us to him, to romance us, just in the same way as when you are dating someone and they bring you flowers and jewellery or chocolates, little things to let you know you are special and that they care a lot about you and that you deserve beautiful, lovely things.  These dates might become marriages and (in my opinion) good husband will continue the romance throughout your lives together by surprising you with little things he knows you like, not always a physical a gift, sometimes an extra long hug, or doing something nice together or just doing the dishes. Jesus is just the same.  Just as a peacock shows off his beautiful feathers to attract the peahens, so Jesus shows us his beautiful creation to attract us to him. He wants us to know him and draws attention to himself all the time in the beauty of nature and in little every day surprise moments. Once you have found that relationship Jesus doesn't stop romancing us. He keeps reminding us daily how special we are to him, that he thinks about us and that he want's us to love him as much as he loves us.

It was on my morning jog that this idea was fully brought to life for me today.  The Autumn leaves covered the footpath ahead of me like a beautiful seasonal collage, and the light shining in the trees illuminating them from behind like a canopy of  stained glass, lit up the footpath.  I was enchanted and suddenly had the thought to thank Jesus for this beautiful sight that he had given me.  Seeing my enthusiasm for his gift, the presents continued!  The footpath opened out into a grassy area that sloped uphill away from me, and I had to pause to admire the glory of the scene for longer.  The dew on the grass glittered and hundreds of spider webs sparkled in the sunlight creating a blanket of delicately shining jewels and silvery lace.  It almost looked like frost.  Ahead of me, another gift, the sight of a Jay hopping about in the grass.  Jay's always make me think of my Nanny, as she once gave me a beautiful turquoise and black jay's feather that she had found in the garden and saved for me. A delightful memory to fill my heart with joy. I continued on round the lake, enjoying the warmth of the Autumn sun and the beauty of the light and trees.  As I began to head home someone walked past me who must have recently been smoking a cigarette.  You might be surprised to hear that I enjoyed the smell!  There seems to be one or two brands that remind me of the brand my Granddad smoked and I was instantly transported to my Granddad's breakfast room where he would sit puffing away and I, as a young girl, would curl the smoke around my fingers as it gently rose from the end of the cigarette.  Another fond memory, a gift that Jesus knew I would enjoy.

As I approached home I noticed a beautiful little snail with a yellowy shell and pink skin crossing my path ahead, it shell was almost translucent, I stopped and picked it up, moving it to the safety of the leafy verge.  An opportunity for me to show kindness to another earthly being.

Later my husband spotted an old wasps nest in the bushes near our house. We retrieved it to dry out and look at later.  How special I felt that WE were the ones who found the wasps nest waiting there in the bushes, we will have the privilege of admiring it's intricate structure and papery layers. God fills our world with beautiful things to romance us and bring us close to him.

So, how has Jesus been romancing you recently?  Have you noticed it?

Try to take note of the little gifts he brings in the week ahead and know he is trying to get your attention and bring you close to him. He is a generous a loving God who knows you intimately and loves surprising you with little gifts that will make you smile and remind you of his love for you.