Christmas Ideas 2022

Pumpkin and chocolate chip bundt cake, recipe from sallysbakingaddiction

Here I am again with some ideas for Christmas presents! These seem to be quite popular posts so if you’d like to read last year’s, it’s here. Or you can click on the category ‘Tips’ and should find them there. As usual, there are no affiliated links here.

Last year I got my children:

  • Something to wear (Harry Potter PJs)
  • Something to read (a book…)
  • Something to play (a pack of cards from Theory11. They make really intricate and fun playing cards with different themes. I got Star Wars ones for various family members last year. I’ve just realised they’ve since made a Harry Potter set… so tempted!)
  • Something they need (eg. ballet shoes/ dressing gown etc.)

I know it’s usually ‘Something they want’ but I changed it for ‘Something to play,’ partly because I discourage them ‘wanting’ things in favour of contentment, and partly because I’d bought the Theory11 cards!

Books:

For an adult I recommend the Tim Chester book ‘Into His Presence: Praying with the Puritans.’ It’s a really pretty hardback book containing Puritan prayers, edited for a modern audience and put into helpful categories. It would be perfect for anyone wanting a bit of help with their prayer time (who doesn’t?).

Great joy

For children, I’ve told you before about Seek & Find in my interview with the author, Sarah Parker, and this year they’ve made a Christmas version (Seek and Find, The First Christmas). It’s fabulous! Beautiful pictures – fantastic use of colour and imagination. Anyone who portrays Gabriel as a black man in gold armour gets a big thumbs up from us! I recommend it for under 7s. You can read my review and find out more about it here.

This year I read my favourite Christian book of the past few years at least: Nick Tucker’s 12 Things God Can’t Do. You can read my review of it here. I’ve already bought it for my sister-in-law’s birthday and would gladly buy it again for a teen or adult whom I love.

Something different: If you’re looking for a good story for someone aged 10+, I highly recommend Judith Kerr’s autobiographical books, When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit and Bombs on Aunt Dainty which I read this year. Granted, they’re about 50 years old so not exactly hot off the press. They’re both told in a gentle style* and would be a sensitive way to teach young people about the Holocaust. In Bombs on Aunt Dainty, Anna is living through the Blitz and it’s the most detailed account I’ve ever read of that. It felt very topical to read this year since she writes from a refugee’s perspective, and we were welcoming Ukranian refugees into the UK. I’m looking forward to reading the third in the trilogy, A Small Person Far Away, but can’t recommend that as I’m yet to start it. (*Although there is one short but very sad description of a professor being treated appallingly in a concentration camp.)

Other Gifts

If you’re looking for a gift to help with hospitality, I recommend Dobble. I’ve probably recommended it before but it’s surely worth reiterating. Dobble takes about 20 seconds to explain to a guest, and they can get playing straight away. I love hearing shouts of, ‘Elephant!’ ‘Crocodile… argh!’ while I make last minute dinner preparations and my children entertain the visitors.. Kids love it and there are several versions. We’ve got three. Dobble Kids is the one I’d start with.

So Bomb bath bomb making kits – These are surprisingly good! Somebody kindly bought my 6 year old daughter a set and they’ve provided much fun and excitement. The best thing about them for me is that they soon disappear once they have a bath with them! I don’t need more stuff in my flat.

Discover the World Game. This is a fantastic board game. It’s simple enough that it’s easy to understand what to do, and it teaches children where places are in the world. Thank you to my mother-in-law who gave it to my children last Christmas. My 6 year old loves it the most but it’s probably great for 5-13 year olds I’d say.

Thrifty Ideas

If money is tight this year, remember you can give homemade gifts that people will love. Sometimes the smallest and most thoughtful gifts can be the most precious. Also, remember you don’t have to buy brand new things for people. Second hand is called vintage or preloved nowadays and is totally acceptable!

Last year we made baking jars for some families we know. Once we’d worked out what to put in them it was quick and easy to make them and they looked lovely. They also provide a welcome activity for little ones in the days after Christmas when it’s raining and they’ve already watched too much TV. Then they get eaten, so again you’re not cluttering up somebody’s house! It’s win-win if you ask me. You can find examples of these on Pinterest. Amazingly I don’t seem to have taken any pictures of ours last year. What was I thinking?

Too early for this photo?

Delight!

How do I worship God when I’m cooking the tea?

Hey lovely people. This week my husband and I make an appearance with the wonderful Adam Curtis and Leah Sax on their fantastic Delight Podcast and you can now listen to it either through their website, on Spotify or via your podcast app. It’s Episode 12. Please do listen! You’ll get to hear how we sound! More importantly(!) I trust it will be an encouragement. Well done Leah for her amazing editing skills!

We chatted about how we came to know Jesus, what it means to worship God every day of the week – and what to do when we don’t feel like worshipping him.

I also wrote a blog post to accompany our episode and it can be found on the Delight Podcast Blog. I hope this, too, encourages you to delight in the Lord above all else, in all of life. Amen!

***

P.S. If my previous blog post about Mrs Beaver got you thinking, the Delight podcast did a brilliant episode on hospitality recently too. It’s Episode 10.

Mrs Beaver, Mrs Weasley & Mrs H.

her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds. 1 Timothy 5:10

“Be warned, they’ve changed it a bit.” That’s what a friend said to me before I took my family to see the National Theatre’s production of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe in the West End back in August. This made me a little nervous. Had they removed Aslan? Did he not bother dying for Edmund? Would The White Witch Jadis turn out to be just misunderstood?

I was pleasantly surprised. It was really good! There was a strange line at the end about Lucy which muddied the otherwise-quite-clear message, but that’s not what I’m here to write to you about today. True to form, I’ve got thoughts about Mrs Beaver.

To me, there are very few more cosy and festive things to do than to read aloud together The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. And one of my favourite parts is when the children, cold, tired, hungry and afraid, arrive at the Beavers’ dam. (I love beavers anyway, they’re amazing! But that’s not the point.) They’re so welcoming and hospitable, feeding them a good hot meal, serving them tea and telling them about Aslan. It’s warming in all the ways.

Just as the frying pan was nicely hissing Peter and Mr. Beaver came in with the fish which Mr. Beaver had already opened with his knife and cleaned out in the open air. You can think how good the new-caught fish smelled while they were frying and how the hungry children longed for them to be done and how very much hungrier still they had become before Mrs. Beaver said, “Now we’re nearly ready.”

CS Lewis, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, Chapter VII, A Day with the Beavers

This simple, satisfying meal offered by disciples of Aslan is the antithesis of the Witch’s Turkish Delight which left Edmund feeling sick and wanting more. The meal with the Beavers is a picture of living in the Kingdom of God. It’s not nothing! (Even Spark Notes agrees with me, if you think I’ve gone mad.)

In the book, Mr Beaver and Peter go out and hunt the fish while Mrs Beaver and the girls prepare the meal and lay the table. In the National Theatre production, Mrs Beaver is out in the woods as a secret agent, utterly capable, while Mr Beaver is back in the dam, cooking the meal: a vegan hotpot. He’s also repeatedly foolish and incompetent and the butt of several jokes.

Why do this? Is it just a joke? I feel like the vegan hotpot touch probably is. But is our culture now afraid of presenting a female character as hospitable? Is it an insult to women to have them ‘just’ cooking a meal and ‘relegated’ to the role of hospitality? And what does it say about men? The strong, brave Mr Beaver was emasculated. These things seem subtle, harmless and even amusing. But they’re a rejection of what God has made. Husbands are usually physically stronger and thus able to go out and provide for their family. Wives are usually able to be mothers: to nurture, to make a house a home and to provide a safe place for weary wanderers. A culture which rejects God rejects this. CS Lewis did not, and neither should we.

Of course, women can work outside of the home and men can cook. Plus, being a vegan is not wrong! But in a culture that’s deconstructed both femininity and masculinity and doesn’t know how to rebuild them, I think we really need to embrace what God has said about the roles of men and women and not to be ashamed.

These were surprisingly easy to make!

We all want to be welcomed into the dam. We all love it when Harry Potter gets to stay with the Weasleys, with Mrs Weasley laying out their clean robes on their beds and whizzing up lashings of mashed potato for dinner. So I ask you, do any of us want to be the Mrs Weasleys of the world?

I don’t know if you’ve seen the latest adaptation of James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small. (For non UK readers, these are semi-autobiographical stories of life as a rural vet in Yorkshire.) The house they all live in is off-the-charts beautiful. There’s always a hot meal, a newly mopped floor and a warming fire. Who doesn’t love it when Mrs Hall, the housekeeper, provides yet another warming fry-up for the vets after a long night out on the hills? We all want the good roast dinner, the nice cup of tea and the clean clothes, neatly folded. Don’t we see the value of it?

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2

But are we willing to be the Mrs Beaver, the Molly, the Mrs H? I hope so. Don’t despise it. There’s such power in it. The world calls it needless drudgery, good for nothing. But it’s a lie. Hospitality is mighty, and Satan knows it. Why else would he attack it? So I say to you, Go Forth and Welcome. Who knows how God will use it for his glory?

And when they had finished the fish Mrs. Beaver brought unexpectedly out of the oven a great and gloriously sticky marmalade roll, steaming hot, and at the same time moved the kettle on to the fire, so that when they had finished the marmalade roll the tea was made and ready to be poured out. And when each person had got his (or her) cup of tea, each person shoved back his (or her) stool so as to be able to lean against the wall and gave a long sigh of contentment.

ibid.

7 Things I love about John

“I am the good shepherd” – Chapter 10

I love John’s gospel. I’m not sure we’re allowed favourites but if we are, then this is mine. Here are 7 reasons why:

1. The beginning. I mean. Is there any point in even writing about it? Just read it!

2. The ending. This little book is simply a masterpiece from start to finish. What other gospel ends so beautifully? After blowing your mind with Christ’s power and love and mission and grace, he tells you that he’s only just scratched the surface. 

3. The 7 signs. I love the fact that each of the seven miracles points to something really important about Jesus’ identity and why He came to earth. My favourite is probably the “one o’clock miracle” in Chapter 4 because of this book. It chokes me up every time! The father who travelled so far just to find Jesus and ask for his help, and the Saviour who can heal in a moment, simply by speaking. Although what am I talking about? Surely my actual favourite is Lazarus. Which brings me onto…

4. The 7 “I ams”. My favourite “I am” is the resurrection and the life, which I’ve written about here

5. The irony. The way John writes is often full of irony. Call me an English graduate, but I just love it. The soldiers falling to the ground when trying to arrest Jesus; Caiphas (the one who had advised the Jewish leaders that it would be good if one man died for the people); Pilate’s sign (King of the Jews). Also, is it just me? Or is the Jews objection to Pilate, “We have no right to execute anyone” ironic, too? (Chapter 18v31) Jolly well right, you bunch of murderous phylactery-flaunters. And all the while they were avoiding ceremonial uncleanness so they could enjoy the Passover! The PASSOVER! They really do take the biscuit. (Although who am I to judge? I’m a Gentile.)

6. The Life. The word ‘life’ appears 41 times in John’s gospel. I think I’m right in saying that nearly every time John uses the Greek word ‘Zoe’ that means ‘eternal life with God.’ This is the life I want!
“In him was life, and that life was the light of men.” (1v4)
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (10v10) Hallelujah!

7. The asides. I’ve left my favourite one till the end. Throughout his book, John gives us little narrative comments to help us to understand what’s happening. It’s so helpful! For example, in chapter 7 when Jesus promises living water, John writes, “By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.” John can’t seem to help but turn to the reader and check that they get it, like when Jesus declares that he will raise the temple in three days: “But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.” Even the way he ends the book is kind of an aside. And in Chapter 20 he tells us why he wrote the book! John does not want us to miss it.

So thank you and bravo, John. But as this is the inspired Word of God, really I mean, Praise God!

What’s that, you ask? My favourite verse from John? Well, that’s tricky. Chapter 1 is world-changing. Chapter 11 gives us hope in the face of death. But for now at least, it’s probably John 16:33. 

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Footnote: While I was writing this, I realised that some of the things I thought I loved about John are actually in other Gospels! Which is such a reminder of how slow I am to learn, and how all of God’s Word is precious treasure.

Resources for Starting Secondary School…

(… or homeschooling tweens!)

He looks ready…

Last week I posted a tip for helping your child settle into secondary school. After all, I think we need all the help we can get. Here I’d like to recommend some resources which I think are a great help, too. These will also be helpful if your child is educated at home.

First a little Health and Safety Warning: Once your children start secondary school their routine at home will change. You might need to find a different time to read the Bible with them. They need God’s living and active word more than anything.

Books

Chris Morphew books: These are written in a very readable, quite light-hearted way by an Australian author who writes books for youth and children. We’d previously really enjoyed his book on Mark’s gospel, The Best News Ever, and we’re enjoying this new series.

The books tackle questions that young people might be asking, especially as they navigate secondary school and adolescence. My daughter and I are reading through ‘Who am I and why do I matter?’ This is surely a question that is more pertinent now for adolescents than ever before. If our kids know the fundamental truths about who they are and how valuable they are, then they just might save themselves a lot of trouble.

The ‘Is Christianity really true?’ is a question my children have grappled with already as they attend/attended a richly diverse community school, surrounded by people of other faiths. My son gobbled this book down in about half an hour and really enjoyed it. Rest assured it would take most people longer than that, especially if you’re reading it out loud! But it is nice and easy to read, which is a real win for tweens (and busy parents).

I think with books like these, it’s good to get ahead of the curve with your kids if you can. By this I mean that it’s good to read a book about identity issues before they even realise they might be faced with that problem. So when you’re reading the books, don’t be discouraged if they don’t say, “This is answering all of my current questions, praise the Lord!” Prevention is better than a cure.

Podcast

I’ve mentioned the Faith in Kids podcast before, but it’s worth mentioning again as there are some excellent episodes about adolescence. Episode 88, Hope-Filled Teens, very much encouraged me the other day. Going back further, there’s Episode 67: Parenting 11-14s, and Episode 14 (or 13b), Lovewise Part 2 which is specifically about guiding children through puberty. Really helpful! Also, I urge you to listen to Episode 80, Navigating Gender and Sexuality with Ed Shaw. This is very reassuring and also a bit of a wake-up call. As you may know, I do think Ed Shaw’s book should be on life’s compulsory reading list, anyway! So do have a listen to these podcasts. They’ll make you laugh and maybe cry but they’re so down-to-earth and practical. They surprise me every time with how helpful and joyous they are.

If you haven’t talked to your child yet about puberty, I recommend the books ‘Growing up God’s way for Boys/Girls.’ We’ve used them to have frank conversations about how our bodies change and why it’s a good thing (really!).

How about you? Any suggestions? I’m a novice!

Video

If you’ve got Netflix, I highly recommend watching The Social Dilemma with your child. It’s a sobering and honest documentary about how social media is designed and why it works so well. They interview many, many people who’ve been instrumental in designing social media (for example, the man who co-invented the Facebook ‘Like’ button) and who’ve now left for ethical reasons. You don’t feel lectured and they’re not scare-mongering. But it’s certainly good to know how we’re being manipulated! I’d even suggest getting Netflix for a month just to watch it – we might do that with our son.

Finally, and perhaps controversially, I wanted to share a video with you about the adolescent brain. This is by Dr Dan Siegel who’s a clinical professor of psychiatry. There are some really helpful things to learn from educational psychologists and from psychiatrists about the adolescent brain. But we need to look at them through gospel lenses. We believe in sin and grace and a good Creator who is working in us by his Spirit. However, it is really cool to learn how the brain changes in adolescence. I think it gives us hope that adolescence is an exciting time for our children!

Please comment below with any other tips! I’m sure people would really appreciate it. (And by people I mean me, first and foremost.)

Talk to Me

You know how yesterday I was hanging nappies out to dry?

My son starts secondary school in September. Eek! As with most surreal notions, I think I live mostly in denial about this fact until it suddenly dawns on me at unexpected moments and I find myself welling up or wanting to give him an embarrassingly big squeeze.

It’s not that starting secondary school is a bad thing. I’m looking forward to seeing what God’s got in store for him in this new chapter. I’m hopeful that he’ll really enjoy meeting new people and learning new things.

But it does feel big, and my husband and I want to help him to be as ready as he can be. We also want to support him through what will sometimes be an overwhelming time. I know it’s only May, but the summer is usually so mad that I thought I’d share some ideas about this now, rather than leaving it until January when it might feel a bit tardy.

My daughter started secondary school last September, so although I’m not a seasoned expert in parenting secondary school kids, it is fresh in my mind. First and foremost, we need to be praying with our children, praying for them and teaching them God’s word. As well as this, a top priority for us is to keep our children talking to us. We can’t protect them from everything that might happen at school, but we can listen to them and try to teach them that it’s always safe to talk to us. We can help them to process their experiences and keep taking them to God’s word for wisdom.

I try to take my daughter out once a fortnight, ask her how things are going and pray for her. We tend to go to a wonderful and ludicrously expensive gelato shop, but the McDonald’s drive-through would work just as well and would have the benefit of us not having to make eye contact. A park bench would also do the job, especially with a flask of hot chocolate or a bag of crisps. We’ve been known to just crouch on a pavement with an ice cream, now I think about it.

There may be times when we do things like this with our children and it feels a bit pointless (if all they talk about is, say, their favourite condiments), but we can trust that over time it will help them. It also gives them the opportunity to talk to us about bigger things as and when they want to.

As my daughter started her new school, I bought her a little prayer diary as a way to show her that she could talk to me about everything that was on her mind and that we’d bring it all to the Lord together. This also helps us to focus the conversation a bit (“What are you thankful for? What shall we pray about? How is that thing going?”) and then we can see how the Lord has been answering our prayers as we look back at previous pages. Don’t be discouraged if your child finds this hard. Hopefully it’ll help to open up conversations. We bought this prayer diary but a plain notebook would do nicely – that’s probably what we’ll use for our son.

I’ve gone on long enough already, so I’ll post some more tips in a few days’ time. Meanwhile, if you need me you might find me weeping into a Leavers’ hoodie.

A Prayer of Lament for Ukraine

Based on Psalm 6.

Lord, Have mercy on our world. Please heal our brokenness, Lord, because your people, as well as those who don’t know you, are in agony.

We are in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long?

Turn, Lord, and deliver Ukraine;
    save them because of your unfailing love and grace.

Our brothers and sisters there, your children, are worn out from their groaning. All night long they flood their beds with weeping.

Their eyes grow weak with sorrow because of the brutality of war.

Please hear their weeping and cause the invaders to turn back.

Let your children know that the Lord has heard their cry for mercy;
    the Lord accepts their prayer in Jesus’ name.

Would you turn the hearts of those who seek to do harm and not good. Put them to shame and bring them to repentance. 

In Christ’s name we pray,

Amen.

Urban for Jesus

Loyal readers (plus people who’ve just stumbled across my blog!), I’m excited to share with you some articles I’ve written for the Co-Mission website. Co-Mission is a network of churches in London, which my little church is a part of.

I hope they encourage you, wherever you live. They’re mainly about living in the city but are also about God’s provision for us and his purposes for all of our lives. I’m praying they’ll be a blessing to you. Please do share them with others, too. Here they are.

Christmas Gifts 2021

Happy November, friends. May your hot chocolate abound. May your conker trees give generously. May you locate your children’s gloves in matching (or nearly matching) pairs.

Last year my Christmas gift ideas seemed to be quite helpful to readers, so I’ve compiled a short list of things we’ve enjoyed in 2021. In truth, it’s quite book-heavy. We do enjoy other things, such as rollerblades, cricket sets, balls of various kinds, jigsaws and felt tip pens – but I assume you already know about those.

As you know I don’t get paid for mentioning these things, I’m just recommending them to you, as a friend. If you’ve got any good ideas of your own, please share in the comments below.

Toys and Games

Balloon Ball from Grizzli Bear

My son received a balloon ball from Grizzli Bear earlier in the year and we love it. It’s a simple idea – a fabric cover which turns a balloon into a bouncy ball. They’re handmade by the lovely Jenny and they come in a variety of pretty patterns. A great option if you’re looking for something that’s a little bit different and not from a big manufacturer. She has lots of other lovely handmade gifts on her website so do take a look.

Dragonwood – I’ve recommended Gamewright games to you before (see last year’s post). This is the next level up from a simple card game, bringing in dice and dragons. It’s easy to pick up and my children (approx 7-11yrs) really enjoy it. I mentioned last year their cooperative games so do check that post if you’re intrigued.

Dutch Blitz in February 2020. Little did we know…

Dutch Blitz – If you can get hold of this in the UK, you’re onto a winner. We paid about £20 I think, which seems a lot for a card game but it’s been great value. It’s a simple idea that children and adults alike will find addictive. I’d say if you’re playing properly then it’s suitable from 8+, but you could probably play a slower, kinder version with younger children.

Games for older children and adults that we recommend include Carcassonne and Codenames. (We recently gave Codenames Duet to some 11 yr old twins and that went down very well.)

I don’t buy many toys now but if you look here and here you’ll see recommendations from previous years.

Books

Fiction:

The Wingfeather Saga, Andrew Peterson

My husband has been reading this series of books to our boys. My 10 year old says, ‘It’s funny, exciting and has a good story. It’s about three children who discover they are special and go on a journey to find a lost city, but find they are surrounded by fangs, stranders and the fork factory.’ So… yeah.

Marylinne Robinson (for adults or perhaps older teens)

Some people don’t like Marylinne Robinson books, for reasons which completely elude me. If your loved one wants a page-turning plot-twisting thriller, then don’t go for this. But if they like thoughtful, insightful prose and heartbreakingly beautiful character development, then the Gilead series is the answer.

Gilead is the story of an ageing pastor, writing his memoirs to his son. I was thrilled to read Jack and Lila this year, and am yet to read Home – that’s on my wish list this Christmas. I’m reading them in the wrong order but I don’t think it matters. Just a warning: Lila is sad, especially if you know any traumatised children. I was in tears on about page 2. But I enjoyed it and I am sensitive (and I’d like to stay that way). Jack is an agonising love story between a white man and a black woman. As a writer, I am full of admiration for Robinson. She writes the books I wish I could write.

(If you’re wondering, yes I do read fiction that’s not Christian! I got really cross with Philip Pullman not two weeks ago, as it happens.)

Non-Fiction:

Mere Evangelism, Randy Newman
I read this over the summer holidays and loved it. It’s a beautiful book, full of wisdom from CS Lewis and also Newman, an experienced evangelist. Absolutely inspiring. Read my review and others here.

Little Me, Big God

Zacchaeus is very close to my heart (we even named our son after him), so I’m hard to please but I love these little books by Steph Williams. They’re grace-filled and faithful to the gospel. The illustrations help the children understand the context and meaning. What a brilliant gift for a toddler or young child in your church or family.

Seek & Find, Sarah & André Parker

Previously I interviewed the author of the wonderful Seek & Find – Old Testament book. As I said then, my daughter loves that book a little bit too much. As soon as I knew the book well enough to say it in my sleep (which was a long time ago) I began counting down the days until the New Testament version came out. Hooray! It’s here at last. This would be a great gift for a child, I’d say roughly aged 2 to 6yrs.

Truth for Life, Alistair Begg
Just before I had my fourth child I was told about Alistair Begg’s podcast, Truth for Life. It was such a help to me, especially during the long nights with a colicky baby. I vividly remember listening to his talks on Ruth as I walked to A&E with my 3-week-old baby. I also loved hearing Alistair’s talks on the Psalms at a conference back in 2017. So all in all, I feel a bit like he’s my godly grandad and I can’t wait to read through this book over the next year. It’s also beautiful so would make a lovely gift. There’s a wee video about it here if you’d like more info.

For more book recommendations, please click on the ‘Books’ category on the right.

Something a bit different

This year I discovered a beautiful magazine for children called ‘Storytime.’ My daughter has been receiving it each month and really enjoys it. I’d say it’s suitable from 4 years as you can read the stories to your children. Some of the stories are a bit strange – I think they’re based on traditional tales so I suppose that’s what you get! But we like it and the illustrations are beautiful. A subscription would make a lovely gift.

Once again, if you’re short on money but long on Tesco Clubcard points, the Storybox/Discoverybox/Adventurebox magazine subscriptions are still available with points. (You can see my little one with her Story Box in the banner image above.)

Toilet Twinning

In case you’ve not heard of toilet twinning, it is the perfect gift for someone who has everything and cares about those who don’t have access to a proper toilet. You can now twin taps as well, if everyone you love has already twinned their toilet.

I feel I shouldn’t end this festive post on the word, ‘toilet,’ so I shall add that I hope you fare well with your Christmas shopping, and remind you to comment below with any bright ideas you’ve come across this year.

(P.S. I do receive review copies of books from The Good Book Company. However, I only recommend ones that I recommend.)

No Excuses

I saw Adele once. I was sitting in a little secret garden near my flat, with two toddlers, and she and her friends were right next to us – the only other party in the place. What a day! That’s Chelsea for you.

I really like Adele’s new single, Easy On Me. And never mind me, it’s already broken several streaming records and promises to be a big hit. She’s done it again. The tune; that voice. She’s amazing.

I’ve been thinking (as I do) about the lyrics: ‘Go Easy on Me, I was just a child, didn’t get the chance…’ She’s asking for understanding, for a bit of slack. ‘Bear with me.’

I suppose what she could ask instead is, ‘Forgive me.’ As my husband said, that would be a shorter song. No excuses, just a simple request.

As I see the things that trend on social media, especially for tired mums, and hear what is preached to our children in school and on TV, I notice a lot of ‘Go easy on me’ and very little, if any, actual forgiveness. I’m sure I’m not the only

It can seem harsh to say, ‘You’re wrong and you need to say sorry.’ But is ‘Go easy on yourself’ or ‘Don’t feel bad, you’re tired/young/trying your best’ actually kind?

If all I’ve got is excuses, I will spend my life trying to convince myself (never mind others) that I’m a good enough person. ‘Yes, that was a mistake but I didn’t know any better’ or ‘I did what I thought was right’ or ‘I was overwhelmed.’ This isn’t liberating. It’s a burden to carry with me for the rest of my life.

And it’s not the gospel.

Instead, if I look back at my ‘mistakes’ and regrets and say:
‘I was wrong, I’m so sorry.’
‘I was selfish, please forgive me.’
‘That wasn’t loving, I apologise.’
Then, the floodgates of God’s mercy open, and his grace washes over me, and I am clean.

When I make excuses for my children, I think I’m being kind but I’m not teaching them grace. Instead, I can teach them to own up to their sin, to confess it, and to receive forgiveness.

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:8-9.

I hope Adele can find true forgiveness. And I hope we can teach our children what freedom there is in holding our hands up and saying, ‘Fair cop. My bad. I’m wrong. Please forgive me.’