Win When Your Singing

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Sometimes I have a really bad idea.  Like when I think that my child can travel a long distance on a balance bike.  Or when I think that I can get on the tube in rush hour with a child, a child’s bike and a baby.   It seems that “overreaching” is often my downfall.  Ever the optimist.

But sometimes, less often, I have a really good idea.  My good ideas tend to come in musical form.  I think of a song, usually to help in a difficult situation, and it sticks. And rather than keep these songs to myself, I thought I’d share them with you in case they can be of any use in your family.  And perhaps you’d like to share with us any songs or other useful brainwaves of your own?

My most recent composition (she chuckles), is a teeth-brushing song.  A song for when one is brushing one’s teeth.  Or rather, for when your toddler is reluctantly brushing his/hers.  While I’m helping/encouraging my 3 year old to brush his teeth, I sing this song, to the tune of “I’m gonna wash that man right out of my hair” from South Pacific:
“I’m gonna brush that [weetabix] out of your teeth,
I’m gonna brush those [shreddies] out of your teeth,
I’m gonna brush that [yogurt] out of your teeth,
And send it on its way.”
You just insert whatever they’ve eaten into the song, obvs.  I’ve also discovered that as a bonus, this actually helps them with sequencing!  If we do the food in order (or reverse order), apparently that helps them with maths.  Whoop!  My son loves this, and it certainly distracts him from the fact that he doesn’t want to brush his teeth.

An old favourite of mine was partly thanks to Rachel Jankovic, who I think in her book “Loving the Little Years” writes about having little ropes or ribbons attached to her pushchair for her older children to hold onto while they walked around the shops.  She called them “stations”, but we’re not as fun as that.  Anyway, I tied a red plaited rope to my Maclaren and encouraged my then-2-year-old daughter to hold it while we walked along, to keep her close.  She wasn’t always keen, so I came up with this song to the tune of “Frere Jacques“:
“Red rope, Red Rope, 
Hold on tight, hold on tight,
Keeping up with mummy,
Keeping up with mummy,
Good girl, good girl.”
This worked a treat, as again it made her forget that she didn’t actually want to be obedient.  We still sing it sometimes, and the children fight over the red rope nowadays (sigh).

This one is a bit gross I suppose, so if you don’t have kids yet, stop reading now!  But when I was potty training my eldest and she was too small to sit on a normal sized toilet, but we were out somewhere and she had to use a normal sized toilet, I would hold her over the loo and sing this, to the tune of “London’s Burning
“Mummy’s got you, Mummy’s got you,
Do a wee wee, do a wee wee,
Well done! Well done!
Wipe your bottom, flush the toilet!”
Again, it got me out of some sticky situations if she was scared she’d fall in but clearly needed to go.  I would say, “come on, you’ll be fine.  I’ll sing the song!”  So dignified.

Another song which I’ve found really useful is the “Oh and Don’t forget” song from Show Me, Show Me on CBeebies.  It’s a great one to use on long car journeys.  I can’t find a link to the tune, but if you know it, you can make up verses like this:
“Steering, steering, hands upon the wheel,
Steering, steering, oh and don’t forget:
Windows, windows, wind them up and down,
Windows windows, wind them up and down (back to steering)
Wipers, wipers, swish away the rain,
Wipers, wipers, swish away the rain (back to windows, then steering, then another verse)”
Sorry if I’ve lost you on that one!

Another one I’ve stolen but definitely can’t take credit for is “I wanna hold your hand” by the Beatles, which sometimes helps my children to hold my hand when they really would rather just run in the opposite direction or into traffic.  (They do like to run towards traffic.)

We have other songs, but they’re more family specific, like the song about our door number (in case the kids ever need it!), and songs about our children.  I’ve mentioned before that Mike made up a song about dirty nappies to the tune of the South African National Anthem, but I’m not sure we know each other well enough for me to share that here.  But I would definitely recommend singing to alleviate boredom (such as when pushing your child on a swiiiing), or to cheer everyone up when things are hard (like when you’re not allowed to run into the busy road even though you really want to).  And when everyone’s in a really bad mood, you’ve got to whip out a Seeds Family Worship number or other memory verse song to give yourself some perspective, am I right?

So how about you?

 

Book Recommendation: Hope When it Hurts, Kristen Wetherell & Sarah Walton

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There is one great sign that you are loved more than you thought.  It is the cross.  And there is a still further sign that you will live in tis love forever.  It is the empty tomb.*

The cross is so precious to Christians – to those who know what it means for them.  But it seemed at the time to be a catastrophic end to a promising life.  Shattered dreams, hope lost.  And yet, the cross is where our King triumphs.  He pays our debt in full.  He breaks the power of death: our great enemy, our big problem.  Our God’s greatest victory was won through agony and apparent weakness.  And so it’s not surprising that as Christians, we suffer.

There are those who will tell you that suffering only comes from lack of faith, or disobedience, or even God’s mistakes.  But it’s a lie.  In this broken world, we should expect to suffer.  That’s why I want to recommend this book to you, Hope When it Hurts.  It’s a series of short chapters meditating on 2 Corinthians Chapters 4 and 5.  You could read one a day, or read big chunks at a time.  Either way, I think it’s a really precious resource.

This book explores the value of weakness: not only is weakness inevitable but it is also used by God to show his power and to bless us.

This book explores the blessing there is in suffering, as it draws us nearer to the all-sufficient God.

This book is honest about life – written by two women who are learning these lessons as they go along – and points us to the good, sovereign, gracious God who has a plan and will not abandon us.

If you’re not suffering right now, it’s likely that you will do in the future and/or that someone close to you is.  It’s also really important that we don’t trust in our earthly comforts but that we trust in God, through the “easy” times as well as the “hard” times.  Yes, we’re heading for a perfect world, but since we’re not there yet I think you will find this book to be worth its weight in gold.

If we think that suffering and blessing can’t co-exist, we will always be seeing shallow pleasures and comforts, and we will miss out on the deep blessings of walking closely with Christ in suffering.  The world to come means that we can be pained and privileged at the same time. (Hope when it Hurts, p.82.)

*From Jared Wilson, The Wonder-Working God, quoted in Hope When it Hurts.

Easter Teaching – it’s not too late!

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Hello, I wanted to re-post this blog post from last Easter, in which I shared how I’d used the wonderful book “The Garden, The Curtain and The Cross” to teach my children.  However, I don’t seem to be able to re-post things anymore so you’ll have to click on the link instead, please.  We really enjoyed it last year, especially making and tearing the paper “curtain.”
For another idea, hop over to “Resources” and scroll down to the Bloody Easter teaching (alternatively that link should work).
I think I’m going to try Resurrection Eggs this year, partly because my children enjoyed doing the first two with their aunt last week, and partly because the sales assistant in Oxfam managed to sell me a load of plastic eggs today…

“Food-Shop” Challenge, Week Two

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I just wanted to write a quick update on the plan to cut my food bill in order to send money to Tearfund for those suffering a famine in East Africa.

I didn’t run out of fruit as I’d feared!  Hooray for bumper bags of apples.  The Lord provides.

I was definitely more aware of my general spending throughout the week, which can only be a good thing.  Especially living in a city, it’s so easy to fritter away cash throughout the week.  A coffee here, a sandwich there – it all adds up.

We decided to do it for a second week, which I think is definitely a good idea because you might find you can freeze things or you bought slightly too much of something the first week and can eek things out a bit.  What I mean is, I found it easier the second week to spend less because I’d made some foolish mistakes the first week, like buying too many sausages.  Also we were all set for dishwasher tablets and nappies.

Also, my children surprised me by not minding at all about some of the changes that I thought they’d really notice.  Eg.  I bought a giant tub of cheap natural yogurt instead of exciting little munch bunch ones (other brands are available), and they are perfectly happy with that.  They are also, dare I write it, happy with bread and butter!

I was reminded on Sunday, hearing a talk on giving (coincidence?), that our main motivation for giving is the generosity of Christ.  “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9.)  We should always be giving sacrificially to the Lord, our of gratitude to Christ for all he’s given to us.  So this little food-shop challenge is an extra bit of giving in a crisis, but the ultimate motivation is still the same.  This is something else to chat to the children about – what a blessing it will be for them if they can grow up as cheerful givers.

 

“Food Shop” Challenge, Week One

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This week our family has spent less on food in order that we can send some money to those suffering famine East Africa (click here for the Tearfund appeal page).  It’s a pretty straightforward idea: we don’t really have spare cash lying around, so we need to go without some things in order to be able to give.  I know some people do things like live off £1 a day for 5 days, but when you’re feeding little ones that doesn’t seem like a very good idea.  It might not sounds like much, but our budget is tight already so it is a bit of a challenge, but definitely worth it.

There are several benefits, besides the fact that you’re able to help those suffering a famine:

  • It helps the children to have a global perspective, in their own little way.  As we eat our meals we can pray together for those in Sudan, Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia.  We can pray that it will help them to have concern for people in other nations as they grow up.
  • It helps us all to see how rich we are.  I cut our grocery bill by a third (it would have been more, but we needed nappies and dishwasher tablets – I know, first world problems!), but we’re still eating well.  They won’t go hungry, that’s for sure.  They just won’t be as spoilt for choice.  “It’s Cornflakes or Cornflakes, peeps!”  Knowing we can live comfortably for less helps us see how much we have.  This in turn should make us thankful to God for all he gives us.
  • It’s challenged me to have more concern for the poor.  Last night we had a homeless man sleeping outside our flat.  On the way past him, Ezra said “I think that man is poor, like us.” This led to a long chat with him about what “poor” really means!  It does not mean, you can’t afford a birthday party at the local soft play, or you can’t afford a Chelsea (eek) football kit.  But as I was putting dinner on the table, I was challenged by the thought that Spike was sitting out there, cold and hungry.  By going without some treats so we could send money to Africa, were we really showing care for the poor, or was it just a token effort?  So Mike took him down some roast pork and veggies, which were much appreciated.  Would I have done this if we weren’t already focussing a bit on the poor this week?  Would Ezra have said anything?  I don’t know.  But I’m glad he did.

So that’s it really.  Hope you find it helpful or thought-provoking as an idea.  We’ll probably do it again next week – and hopefully we won’t need any expensive things like washing powder.  I’ve done this before – for Napal that time –  but my memory of it is blurry.  (Maybe I was pregnant?) Hopefully if we do it often enough, our children will see it as normal and it will give them a more healthy perspective on wealth and poverty.  You might think it’s nowhere near enough, but I think it’s one way we can help others and teach our children to be grateful to God for our food, rather than taking it for granted and rattling through “grace” without really meaning it.

If we do things like this, let’s do it cheerfully.  God loves a cheerful giver.  As Chauncy the Raccoon says, “Those who are generous are blessed when they share their bread with the poor.”

For Ezra’s Sake

Dear friends,

Thank you for reading this. I’ve been wanting to talk to you about something but wasn’t sure how. You could say that in writing this open letter I’ve taken the coward’s way out. But hopefully I can express myself better this way, which is good because this is really important.

My best friend at school was Rachel (a lot of you know that!). We’re still friends now but inconveniently she lives 214 miles away. But back then, at the Comp, we were inseparable. Her mum was a PE teacher, but not in our school. I expect if she’d worked in our school it would have been hard for Rachel. It’s pretty inevitable that school kids complain about most teachers at some point or another. Few teachers escape unscathed from the cutting remarks of a hormonal adolescent mob. (I know this because I once was a hormonal adolescent, and later I was a teacher.) But if Rachel’s lovely mum (whose name I can’t even mention here, out of respect) had worked in our school, I wouldn’t have insulted her. I wouldn’t have made up a silly name for her, or rolled my eyes when I knew it was time for PE with her, or made fun of her when, for example, she wore something that didn’t match (I’m speaking hypothetically. She always looks fab). I wouldn’t have done that, of course. Why? Well, at the very least out of loyalty for Rachel, and out of respect for her mum. As a friend, the least I can do is not slag off her mum.

Maybe you can’t relate to this. Maybe you don’t like your mum, or maybe your best friend hated her own mum. Maybe you all got together and tore your mums to shreds on a regular basis. So let me try another example. Here are some pictures of my firstborn son, Ezra*.

I love Ezra John Brooks. He is precious to me beyond measure. I love the bones of him. I could eat him. When I listen to him explain something to me, my heart skips a beat. I heard him tell his teacher yesterday, “I’ll bring in my slip for the trip tomorrow,” and my heart swelled with joy. I know, it’s pathetic! What’s happened to me? It’s called motherhood.

So try to imagine for me, if you can, that you and I are together one day, running for a train. Infuriatingly, we just miss the train, arriving just as it pulls away, and you yell down the platform, “EZRA JOHN!”
That would come as quite a shock to me.
Or if you stub your toe and you shout, “Ezra $*!#ing John Brooks that hurt!”
Or maybe you order a glass of white wine and it costs £8. “For Ezra’s sake!” you exclaim.

If we’re together, and I hear you use his name like that, how will I feel? In my head I might think, “Hey, don’t blame him!” But the reaction would first and foremost be emotional. It would be like a knife to the heart, wouldn’t it? Hearing you use my son’s name like a swear word would make me feel like you were dragging my gorgeous boy through the proverbial mud. His name is part of him; they can’t easily be separated.  Now, I know you’d never do that. It would be a pretty weird thing to do! But even if people had, for some terrible reason, started using Ezra’s name in that way, I’m sure you wouldn’t use it. Not in front of me. And actually, out of respect for me I don’t think you’d do it while I wasn’t there either. “That’s my friend’s son” you’d think. “I’ll use a different word.”

Perhaps you don’t have a child of your own. In which case, try to imagine how you’d feel if I used the name of your favourite niece or nephew, or your boyfriend, or your Dad, or anyone you love and cherish. If I used their name when I was angry, or in pain, or sick of waiting, you wouldn’t just object intellectually: you’d be hurt.

Now here’s the really awkward part. If you use The Lord Jesus’ name as a swear word, that’s how it makes me feel. It’s a knife to the heart. He is my most precious thing, my treasure. He is ‘my North, my South, my East and West, My working week and my Sunday rest.’** He is so precious to me that my identity is wrapped up in him. When you insult him, you insult me (and vice versa). You may think this is crazy or weird, but it’s still true. So I wonder if I could ask you, at least when you’re around me, and even if it’s just for my sake, could you please, please not do that? I’d be so grateful. Some of you don’t do it, so if you’re thinking “I’ve never done that!” then thank you, and I hope you found this worth reading anyway. But I’ve written this more for the people who do use Jesus’ name like that. I love you, and I love spending time with you. I’d also really be so pleased if you could take this on board. Here are some words from one song which helps to put across how I feel about Jesus’ name:

What a wonderful Name it is
Nothing compares to this
What a wonderful Name it is
The Name of Jesus

You have no rival, you have no equal
Now and forever, our God reigns
Yours is the kingdom, yours is the glory
Yours is the Name, above all names

What a powerful Name it is
What a powerful Name it is
The Name of Jesus Christ my King.
(Hillsong, What a Beautiful Name)

Lots of love,

Me.

P.S. This isn’t the best reason not to misuse God’s Name, but it’s a valid one.

*I  picked one of my children for the sake of this article, but it could have been any.
**WH Auden, Twelve Songs (IX).

Ready?

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I asked for lots of “old lady” presents for my Birthday last month – and I was so pleased with them! Afternoon tea, tickets to watch the theatre at the cinema (it’s cheaper), and a book about Winston Churchill. This is the first of what may be several blog posts influenced by the big man himself, Sir Winston, First Lord of the Admiralty and Prime Minister of Great Britain (yes, that Winston Churchill).

The other day I read a speech he made to the House of Commons in 1911 when he was trying to introduce unemployment insurance. He talked about the fact that when the economy is doing quite well, we forget what it was like in harder times:

“Providence has ordained that human beings should have short memories, and pain and anxiety are soon forgotten. But are we always to oscillate between panic and torpor?”

I think (surprise, surprise) that he makes an excellent point. In many areas of life, we can so often act quickly and enthusiastically when something is urgent (e.g. you have 24 hours to do your tax return or complete your school application) or something is really concerning (e.g. you’re about to go overdrawn or get a parking ticket, or you think your child has a tropical disease). But the rest of the time, we can be a bit lazy and complacent.

We can see in God’s word that Sir Winston is right about humans being forgetful. Take the book of Judges for example: God’s people rebel, they get in trouble, they cry out for help, God saves them, they rebel etc. etc. Or consider Pharoah’s cupbearer in Genesis 40-41. Terrified about his dream, Joseph is the only one who can help him. Joseph asks him for one favour in return: “The chief cupbearer, however did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.” Then, when he’s panicking two years later, “Today I’m reminded of my shortcomings…” (Unbelievable!) Or in the New Testament, there are so many reminders to pray and keep trusting in the Lord (e.g. Philippians 4:4-7; James 1:22-25; 1 Peter 5:6-11), because we forget to do it, or we’re just lazy (or torpid, as Churchill would say).

As I wrote last week, we’ve been thinking about spiritual disciplines. I think many of us who struggle to keep up with regular, persistent prayer, find it much easier when we’re in a panic over something. My child is being bullied, or my husband might lose his job, or my mum has had some worrying test results. At these times, I don’t struggle to remember to make time to pray. It’s my priority. But when things are just pootling along nicely, I soon forget those concerns about provision or life and death, and then I might find my prayer time slips down the “to do” list.

So rather than “oscillating between panic and torpor,” would it not be better for my relationship with the Lord and with everyone around me (as well as my own sanity) if I chose secret option C? Perhaps we could call it Readiness. If I’m praying regularly for people I love, and thanking God for his ongoing provision, and asking him to help me serve him better, and the million other things there are to pray about, then when the air raid siren goes off I won’t be running around scrabbling to find shelter. I’ll be ready. I’m aware I’ve moved into a war metaphor now instead of an unemployment metaphor. Maybe it’s because I’m reading a book about Churchill, (did I mentioned that?) or maybe it’s because God uses a war metaphor when it comes keeping going in the Christian life:

Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled round your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (Ephesians 6)

Let’s put on the armour of God, so that when the unexpected happens (bullyinh, bereavement, redundancy), or even just the everyday stuff (tantrums, tummy bugs, mess) we can stand firm and not run around like headless chickens, as though we don’t have an awesome and powerful God who is in control of even this.

Related post: Fight for your Life.

As ever, please share if this is helpful, and leave a comment if you have any!  Thanks for reading.