One True Christmas Gift

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Christmas is round the corner and we all know what that means.  There is a stereotype of a busy mum at Christmas, and I don’t know about you but I find that I am that stereotype.  I love Christmas – did I mention that? – but let’s face it, it’s a crazy time.  It’s a time when I make crazy decisions and I overreach to new and surprising heights.

Advent is a time when we feel pulled in several directions all at once.  There are children’s parties and grown-up parties (which non-parents just call parties), church outreach events, church social events, Christmas shopping, over-excited children, gift wrapping, travel, relatives, Christmas cards, sometimes Birthdays (e.g. mine), Secret Santas, school performances, more baking than usual and (we hope not but maybe) the occasional bout of flu.

So at this busy time, when we can become so much like Martha of Bethany, rushing around in a sweat and scowling because nobody is helping, it’s all-the-more important that we try to be like Mary, who sat at the feet of Jesus and listened to him – I assume it’s not just me.

There are many resources around to help us meditate on the Lord Jesus during the Christmas period, and I wanted to recommend this one to you – One True Gift – as it’s new and it’s a little bit different.  Sometimes a different angle can help us to refocus.

It’s by Tim Chester, who I think is brilliant.  If you haven’t read Total Church, which is now really old, then please do.  You don’t have time now, but maybe in January.  I really enjoyed reading his Advent devotion in John’s gospel, One True Light a couple of years ago.  He’s a good man and he communicates the gospel in a down-to-earth way, which is very helpful when you’re knee-deep in overambitious Christmas crafts.

The thing that makes this book a bit surprising is that it’s a 24-day meditation on Philippians 2, which isn’t usually seen as a festive passage of Scripture.  But since it’s about the Son of God coming to earth as a human baby, who would grow up to serve and even to die, and is therefore now raised up to the highest place from which he’ll return one day to judge the world, there are plenty of good reasons to meditate on this passage in the run up to the celebration of the astonishing and marvellous incarnation.

So while I’m doing my worst Martha impression in the run up to Christmas, here are three ways in which, by God’s grace, I expect this book will help me:

I’ll be rebuked by Jesus the servant:
“‘I’m willing to serve,’ we might say, ‘but not that person – not after the way they’ve treated me.’ Yet Jesus washes the feet of Judas knowing that Judas already has 30 pieces of silver jangling in his wallet.” (p. 47)
Jesus is my example to learn from and to follow.

I’ll be encouraged by the love of Jesus.
“Jesus died for your sins.  When he hears you grumbling and arguing, he didn’t turn away in disgust.  In his love he turned towards the cross, arms opened wide to take the nails.  And now in his love he turns towards you, arms opened wide to embrace you.” p. 77.
Jesus is my Saviour to love and to trust.

I’ll be awestruck by the incarnation:
“we are left with this conclusion: the baby in the manger is none other than the LORD, the covenant God of Israel, the Creator, the one, true God.” (p. 41)
Jesus is my Lord to praise and to worship. 

If you don’t buy this book, I do hope you’ll find another way to make sure you’re feeding on God’s word each day this advent, so that your acts of service and good works are done for Him, our Saviour and Lord and the true star of every show.  This book is very accessible, so I’d recommend giving it as an early Christmas gift to a friend or your mum, or anyone you think might be willing to take a closer look at Jesus this Christmas.  You can buy it here from the Good Book Company.

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How to fear God and love children

Does it really matter what children do in Sunday School?

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This week we’re celebrating 500 years since the Reformation in Europe – a time when big changes occurred in the church in order to get vernacular Bibles into the hands of people who’d never understood the Bible before.  They’d been going to church all their lives without understanding a word of what was said, and they’d hoped they were good enough because they’d tried to follow the rules the church had set out for them, and they’d picked up on some Bible themes from the stained glass windows.  Their actions gave them a Christian appearance, regardless of any understanding of the gospel.  This is a very brief and inadequate description but this isn’t actually a post about the Reformation.

I’ve been thinking about children’s work in churches (although most of what I will write also applies to teaching our children at home).  I’ve noticed that sometimes the way children’s work is done bears some resemblance to this pre-Reformation religion.  Sometimes children’s work is done more for appearances than for any actual spiritual benefit.  Children hear a story and/or do an activity, and probably come away with tangible evidence, e.g. a craft.  But this is mostly done to show others that the children are participating in the church service, and they’re learning Christian stuff.

These children come out of creche or Sunday school with a lovely craft, but with no relationship with God.  They have learnt some Christian morals, but they have no knowledge of the Word of God.  They have been shown role models, but they haven’t encountered the gracious God of the Bible.  (I think the role model topic might be another blog post in itself.)

Why does this happen? Maybe it’s because it’s the easy option.  But I can also think of two beliefs behind this way of doing things:

  1. Christian children are nice and well behaved.  Therefore, it’s good if children come to church every week, because we all want nice and well behaved children in our community, don’t we?
  2. Children can’t really get to know the living God who’s revealed himself to us through his Word.  After all, they’re only little.  They can’t even tie their shoelaces!  How can they be expected to understand doctrine? Let’s be realistic.

I guess there are many ways I could argue against these two points.  As usual, I’ll come back to Deuteronomy 6.  You need to read the whole chapter really but here’s one extract:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[a] Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 

The Lord has always commanded his people to teach their children about him, so that they’ll know who they are and what the Lord has done for his people.  For us New Covenant believers, we don’t just need to teach them about a rescue from slavery in Egypt, but also (and ultimately) about our rescue from slavery to sin, through our Saviour Jesus Christ.  And a Saviour is what we all need:

“And if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.” (Deut 6 v25)

Like the Israelites, we are unable to keep the law, and so we need a righteousness from God that is by faith from first to last. (Romans 1:17).  We desperately need Christ’s righteousness, and to stop trying to rely on our own good behaviour.  So why on earth would we think that what children really need most is to be well behaved?

And why would we think that they can’t have a relationship with the Lord?  In order to think that, you need to ignore all of the commands God gives to teach children his word (e.g. Psalm 74:5-6) plus what Jesus commanded about letting children come to him, plus just common sense.  Does a child know his/her mum and dad?  Do they know their siblings, their grandma, their neighbour?  Do they know their Sunday school teacher?  So why can’t they know Jesus?  Is he not real? Knowing the Lord is what they were made for.  Of course I know that their understanding of things will be different to ours (although don’t forget Jesus told us to learn from them (Matthew 18:3), but teach a group of children for a period of time and you’ll see some of them relating to their God.  Hopefully this relationship will lead to good behaviour (that’s certainly what I’m praying for my children!), but good behaviour without a changed heart is just a veneer.  Let our creche not be a Pharisee factory, because I’m quite sure Jesus wasn’t impressed by the Pharisees.

If you’re teaching creche or Sunday School, your responsibility is not to churn out well-mannered children who can tell you who Moses and Jonah are: it’s to faithfully teach God’s word to them, and to pray for their souls.  Don’t underestimate that responsibility.  These people are made in God’s image, and their precious.  If we fear God, we should teach his word with reverence to him.  And if your church isn’t doing this, then I would urge you to remedy that, even if it means you have to take charge of it (I know, as if you haven’t got enough to do).

Can I just say that I help run the creche in my church, and we do want the children to behave well, plus they do crafts, so I hope it’s clear that I’m not saying those things aren’t good.  But they’re really not the point of us all being there.  If we really believe in the power of God to speak to us by his Spirit through His word, regarding his Son our Saviour, then we’ll believe that for our children, too.  I hope you can see how this links to what I wrote at the top about the Reformation. Let’s do children’s work the great Reformers would be pleased to see.  We have the Bible in their language, so let’s not just show the kids some pictures and send them away thinking that all they need to do is try their best to be good.

And if you read this and feel encouraged that the children’s work in your church is good, maybe you could encourage the leaders this week, and thank them for faithfully doing the Lord’s work.

 

This reminds me of a post I wrote a long time ago called Hearts Not Garments.  

The Greatest Life

 

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“What’s your dream for your child?”

I was asked this by my son’s nursery teacher once.  She wanted to write it on a Post-It and keep it in mind all year.

What kind of things should we be wanting for our children?  Safety? Happiness? Education?  Fulfilment of Potential? Satisfaction? Wealth? A family? Health? Self Esteem?

Like most people who grew up in the Western world in the Nineties, I’ve watched a lot Seinfeld.  (If you’ve never seen Seinfeld but you’ve watched Friends, let me just say that Friends is a bit like a cover version of a Seinfeld track. If you’re too young for Friends, thanks for joining us here at the grown-up table 🙂 Try to keep up.)

In 2015, Jerry Seinfeld was named the highest paid comedian in the world, having earned $36million the previous year. When Seinfeld had been going ten years, he turned down the offer of $5million dollars per episode to make a tenth season, which would have earned him $100million per year.

Why am I going on about Jerry Seinfeld?  Isn’t this a parenting blog?  Well, I’ll tell you. The other night my husband and I had the pleasure of watching a programme about how he got started in comedy (Jerry Before Seinfeld – Netflix).  He talked about how he began his career doing unpaid stand-up in a Manhattan comedy club. “I remember thinking, ‘even if I’m not any good at it, if I could just make enough for a loaf of bread a week I could survive, and that would be the greatest life I could have.'”

Now, you can hear that cynically and think, “You’re earning more than that now though, aren’t you?” Call me naïve, but I believed him.  He’s worked hard in his career and I don’t begrudge him all that wealth.  I think that what he’s saying there is actually really beautiful.  I wonder if you’ve ever felt like that about something?  Have you ever loved something so much that you genuinely feel you’d be content to survive with that and that alone?  It’s the essence of many a love song.

I want to be that passionate – but not about comedy.  I know in my head that the only one who can satisfy is Jesus.  He’s more than enough. He even calls himself the bread of life: “Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)

I want to be like David in Psalm 27:

One thing I ask from the Lord,
    this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
    and to seek him in his temple.

Part of me thinks, “Well I used to be like that but then I had four children and now we need more than just bread to survive.  We need a lot of plums.  And school uniform, and petrol, and central heating, and…”  But are those just excuses?  Has my passion been diluted the more I’ve seen of this tantalising world? Have I just turned my eyes from the beauty of the Lord?

Nobody forced Jerry Seinfeld to take up comedy.  I doubt he was even encouraged to do it.  But he was pulled there.  Do I feel pulled towards the Lord Jesus?  Do I love him enough to want, more than anything, my children to follow him? Is that my dream for them?  It should be.

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.’ Mark 8:34-38.

I want my children to enjoy the good world God has created, and I want to give them freedom to explore and create and enjoy.  There’s more to parenting than reading the Bible to my children and praying for them.  But how much of my thought-time and head-space and conversation is taken up with concerns over comparatively trivial matters? Would I be content if the Lord said to me today, “Your children will have nothing in this life but their daily bread, but one day they’ll enter eternal rest with me.”? Would that be enough?

It’s good to be humbled and challenged, even by Netflix Original TV shows.

I’ll finish with a quote from Gladys Aylward, 20th Century missionary to China:

“I have not done what I wanted to. I have not eaten what I wanted or worn what I would have chosen; I have lived in houses that I wouldn’t have looked at twice; I have longed for a husband and babies and security and love, but God never gave them; instead he left me alone for 17 years with one book – a Chinese Bible. I don’t know anything about the latest novels, pictures and theatre. I live in a rather outdated world and I suppose you would say it is awfully miserable, isn’t it? Friend, I have been one of the happiest women who stepped this earth. I have known the heavens opening and the blessings tumbling out.”

Grenfell

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Taken by my friend from her home

Eleven weeks on from the Grenfell Tower fire, I don’t feel ready to write about it.

But it was such a significant event that I don’t want to be silent about it. I’ve tried to organise my thoughts for you, but I’m very aware of my limitations, so please forgive me that this brief reflection will be inadequate. I’m hoping that the links I’ve added might be helpful too.

This is hard, because my overwhelming feeling about the tragedy is sadness.  And sadness alone doesn’t make for a good read. I live in the same Borough (area of London) as Grenfell, and I live on an estate with seven tower blocks.  Does this make the horror and pain of it more real to me?  Maybe. I do think that being local makes it feel more real – it’s affected people I know.  I’ve seen the tower in real life, and it’s much more chilling than it looks on the telly.  And because it’s more real, it’s harder to accept and move on from.  Nor do we want to accept it and move on.

The big headline for me about this whole thing has been this: Terrible Things Happen.  We might say we believe that, but in this society I don’t think we really do believe it.  If, like me, you had a happy childhood and grew up in a safe and healthy place, you may live day to day thinking that the worst thing just won’t happen.  We’re able to go through life thinking this because, on the whole, the worst things don’t happen to us.  When tragic things do happen, we consider them to be breaks from the norm.  However, do we know how unusual that is?

Less than eighty years ago our country was living through a period of sorrow, loss, want and fear that my generation of Brits cannot even imagine.  And even leaving war out of it, medical advances and social reform mean that most of us are living with levels of safety, comfort and good health that our ancestors wouldn’t have dared dream of.  So most of us can go through life enjoying ourselves, overcoming challenges and ticking off our bucket lists, feeling pretty confident that one day, when we’re really old, we’ll die peacefully in our sleep.

But in other countries across the world (and of course for many people in the UK), life isn’t like that.  They wouldn’t need to be told that Terrible Things Happen, because they’ve always known that.  And now, for many people in my local area (and those across the country who’ve been engaging with the news), this concept that Terrible Things Happen has for the first time become a horrifying reality.  This is a dangerous, broken world.  There is good in this world (as we’ve clearly seen in the amazing response to this tragedy) but there is also pain, horror and death.

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Overwhelmed by donations

Some people might say that if a whole tower block of people can go up in flames, then there can’t be a good God in charge of this world.  I might be thinking that myself if I’d lost my children in a burning building.  A post I wrote a while ago, This I Know, seems appropriate at this point. But I also want to share three thoughts about this with you:

  • Grenfell is the worst kind of reminder of the value of human life.  Staring up at the burnt out shell which represents so many families, and so many deaths, we feel overwhelmed by the tragedy of it.  But if there is no creator God, it’s hard to say why we feel that people are valuable – more valuable than other creatures.  And if people aren’t special, because they’re not made in God’s image, then we have no logical reason to mourn them.  If love is just caused by some chemicals in our brain making us want to reproduce, then the loss of Grenfell is meaningless.  Whether we live in a towerblock, a country mansion or a beach hut, I’m sure we all believe this was a tragedy, but can you explain why you feel that way?
  • Deep in our hearts, we all want justice.  If there is no God, then there will be no justice for Grenfell.  People might go to prison because of cladding, or building regulations, or council funding.  I doubt it, but they might – we’ll see.  But nobody deliberately killed all of those people.  At worst it was neglect, which is terrible, but it’s not murder.  Even if the blame could be given to one person or a small group of people, they could never be punished enough to make all of this right again.  So many deaths, so many lives ruined.  We feel deep down that there shouldn’t be such inequality and that the poor shouldn’t be neglected.  I’m thankful that God has made us to feel that way and that somehow, God will one day bring about justice once and for all.
  • If Terrible Things Happen and death is real, then it matters what will happen after we die.  The trouble with living a happy, safe and healthy life is that we can pretend we’re not going to die.  Friends, how confident are you that you know what will happen after you die? And what reason do you have for that confidence?

As Christians, we have a King who went through horror for us, who experienced the worst injustice for us, and who did all of that so that we could go to a place where there will be no brokenness, no mourning and no pain.  This world isn’t how it was made to be, and that’s why we’re so sad about the things going on in it. But there is hope in Jesus, hope for a perfect world – a world of safety, justice and joy.  And this hope in Jesus is on offer to everyone – whether you live in a tower block or a Kensington mansion.

Arise, Lord! Lift up your hand, O God.
    Do not forget the helpless.
Why does the wicked man revile God?
    Why does he say to himself,
    ‘He won’t call me to account’?
But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted;
    you consider their grief and take it in hand.
The victims commit themselves to you;
    you are the helper of the fatherless…
You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted;

    you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
defending the fatherless and the oppressed,

    so that mere earthly mortals
    will never again strike terror.
Psalm 10.12-14;17-18.

Close Quarters – Smooth Stones

If anyone loudly blesses their neighbour early in the morning,
    it will be taken as a curse.

A quarrelsome wife is like the dripping
    of a leaky roof in a rainstorm;
restraining her is like restraining the wind or grasping oil with the hand.
 As iron sharpens iron, 
so one person sharpens another.

Proverbs 27.14-17.

 

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As I said, I’ve been thinking about space.  Here’s another thing I’ve noticed during the school holidays.

I remember reading years ago in the book Loving the Little Years something about rocks in a jar.  I think putting rocks in a  jar might be something people do (?), but I lent that book to someone so I can’t check the facts.  Anyway, I give credit to Rachel Jankovic for planting the rock-jar seed in my mind.  I think people maybe put rocks in a jar and shake it to make them smooth?  Seems a strange strategy to me but let’s just imagine it’s a thing.

Living in my flat with four children and a lovely husband can feel rather like being a rock in a jar with other rocks.  We bump into each other, a LOT, and not just physically.  The children do “get on” well, but they also annoy each other, and separating them for some quiet time is diffiult.  And it’s not just them, of course.  I’ve never been someone who particularly enjoys “alone time”, until now. I’ve started closing doors for a bit of peace, but it’s counterproductive because it just means that I get really irritated whenever anyone opens said door.  I close the bedroom door to get dressed, which I’m pretty fast at, and am interrupted six times with various emergencies like “he hit me” or “can I have an apple,” or maybe just my poor husband coming in for his belt, only to be greeted by a huffing and puffing wife.  Incidentally, from my open bedroom door there is a clear line of sight to the front door, so if that’s open there’s a clear line of sight to the outside world.  You get the picture.  Not ideal.

There is nowhere in my home that is out of earshot of anywhere else in my home.  So it can get loud and a little painful.  It’s intense.  We’re very much aware of each other’s and our own sin.  This can all get pretty tiring.  There’s no space to brood, or sulk or be antisocial.  So to use the rock-jar metaphor, it is as though we’re bumpy rocks that are being ground down in a pretty intense way.

What’s encouraged me during the school holidays as we’ve spent time in more spacious places or with a less intense schedule, is that I can see that my children are smoother rocks than they once were.  In fact, I’m pretty sure they’re smoother than they would be if they hadn’t been in such a small jar with so many other stones.  They’ve had the fast-track training course in dealing with other sinful people, and so they’re learning patience.  And living on top of each other means that we can nip things in the bud a bit easier than if we were spread out over several floors.  (They’re also heavy sleepers – hooray!)

For example, I’ve been trying to encourage (/begging) one of my children to be more helpful, because it’s not something that comes naturally to him.  And just when I thought this was getting absolutely nowhere, I noticed these holidays that he is actually becoming more helpful.  (While I’ve been writing this I’ve had to go and deal with one of my children about five times because he won’t stay in bed.  So we’re definitely a work in progress!)

Now I’m not saying this can’t be achieved in a bigger jar and with fewer stones, but this has just been my own experience.  I don’t actually know how it would have been if we lived somewhere else or had fewer children.  However, I’m encouraged that what often feels like an impractical or impossible situation may actually be one that’s helping us all to become more Christ-like.

This all helps when I’m thinking about getting all the stones back into the jar, to begin a new term in the 3-bed with the busy schedule and the growing children.  Also I think I will get a lock for my bedroom door.

As iron sharpens iron,
so one person sharpens another.

 

As always, please share this if you find it helpful, and gracious comments are most welcome 🙂 

Close Quarters, Creative Quarters?

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I’ve been thinking about space.

First, a word or two about the size of my home.  It’s a 3-bed flat, which is quite extravagant in central London, and it’s quite spacious for a 3-bed flat in Central London.  So we’re very grateful for our flat.  Without it, we wouldn’t live here.  That sounds obvious but it’s true.  So please don’t hear the following as a complaint, but rather a reality of our family life.

I think it is fair to say that our home is quite a small space for six people to live in.  I don’t think anyone would rebuke me for finding it crowded – which I do.  I sometimes wonder whether we’re just being completely ridiculous, trying to raise four children in this flat.  I mean, I think my brother’s hallway in Glasgow is bigger than my living room (which also serves as a dining room/craft room/play room/Bible study room/homework room).

I have no laundry room, no second bathroom (master/children’s/guest or other), no mud room, no yarn room.  I only mention these rooms I don’t have because they’re all mentioned in blogs or parenting books I’ve read.  And sometimes it seems hard to apply the priniciples from those blogs/podcasts/books to my own situation, since I don’t have the facilities to which those authors have become accustomed.

So does it matter?  Is parenting basically the same whether you have a games room in the basement or, well, not (i.e. no basement, or loft, or garage, or driveway, or porch)?

Well, one thing I’m realising more and more is that everyone’s situation is different.  Even living in identical houses in the same town, two families are never going to be the same.  This is obvious, almost embarrassing to point out, and yet I think we often worry when we notice differences in our families, as if that’s not a good thing.  So we can take encouragement from other families, but we shouldn’t expect to or even try to be carbon copies of them.  God designs diversity.

I was listening recently to a podcast where two mums were talking about being creative and wanting their children to be creative.  And I agreed with them, and I want that for my children, but I felt a bit sad thinking about how hard it is to be creative when there isn’t any room at home to swing a cat, never mind build one out of papier mache.  When my children want to do something with glitter, or glue, or even just wool, inwardly I groan because they can’t do it far away enough from my toddler, and also it’ll soon be a mealtime and we’ll have to move it all out of the way so we can eat.

And I don’t want to be the inward groaner.

But one thing occurred to me.  I can help my children to be creative, but I need to figure that out for my own situation.  In other words, I need to think creatively about how to enable and encourage creativity in my home, because of the fact that my home is small  (small and lacking in ventilation).  It also occurred to me that it might be a blessing for my children to have a mother who has thought creatively about how to help them with this.  Maybe it will flex some creative muscles in me that will make me a more creative mother. 

And that reminded me that God, our Heavenly Father, actually could give us a bigger home if he thought it would be good for us.  He’s not dismayed or baffled by my home.  So maybe he’s using it for our spiritual good.  And when I say maybe, I mean of course he is.

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6v31-34.

(Or you might say, “Do not worry, saying “where will they sit?” “how will they sleep?” or “what if they want to learn the drums?” For parents in the world run after these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them (perhaps not the drums).  But follow Jesus, and teach them to follow Jesus, and things will work out well for you, according to His will. So don’t worry!”)

Trials and Temptations

 

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Whoever drinks this water will be thirsty again…

I deleted my introduction. Will this do instead?

I’ve been thinking about what to do when a crisis happens and you still have a family to look after.  Of course, crises can vary massively, so these thoughts won’t be relevant to everyone.  I’m not really thinking here about people in life-changing-tragedy situations.  (At some point we do need to talk about Grenfell Tower, but I’m waiting until I have some idea what to say.)  I’m kind of thinking about times when you thought you were already stretched to your limit, and then something else comes along and shouts, “You call that hard work?”  Maybe a family member falls ill, maybe you get made redundant, maybe you lose a good friend.

The Lord knows what’s coming round the corner, but I do not.  So sometimes, storms come at a time I find very inconvenient.  During the storms, I find I’m tempted in new ways, and I wanted to share three of those temptations with you here.  I hope you find it helpful, even if you can’t relate.

Temptation One: Grind to a Halt
You know those scenes they sometimes do on TV in which one person stands still and everyone around them moves in a blur? Sometimes when something weighs heavily on your mind or heart, you feel like that one motionless person in a crowd of bustlers.  But when you’re a parent, the crowd is usually your family, and if you stand still and ignore them, things will happen.  They will get hungry, they will run out of clean clothes, and they will turn on each other.  Your baby will put things in the toilet bowl that should not be there, and your son who’s old enough to know better will draw on the walls.  Then there will be nothing for dinner, and you will feel ten times worse.
So while you might be working at limited capacity, I do recommend you keep doing some things.  It might help to put a routine in place.  For example you could try to put a load of washing in the machine every night before bed, which will come on in the morning and be ready to unload around breakfast time.  Some nights I really don’t want to do this, but forcing myself to do it just keeps things ticking along a bit better.  I always plan my meals, but when things are hard I try to plan more simple meals that won’t cause further stress. I sometimes fail at this spectacularly, but often it does help.  (Remember, there’s always brinner.)
You might not be able to do much, but you can do some things.  People may be relying on you (particularly small people), and stopping altogether is a downward spiral.

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Temptation Two: Running on empty.
In my bathroom we have a picture on the wall which is a page from Judith Kerr’s book, “The Tiger Who Came to Tea.”  It’s a picture of Sophie getting undressed for her bath.  The page reads, “And Sophie found she couldn’t have her bath because the tiger had drunk all the water in the tap.”  I think this is sweet because, to a child, that could totally happen.  Tigers aside, let’s face it, it’s impossible to empty a tap of its water. I’m no plumber, but I know water keeps coming.  Ask anyone whose child has plugged the basin and left the tap on.
Sometimes we can feel like we’re giving and giving, but we’re starting to run dry.  We soon have nothing left to give.  However, let’s remember that our God gives to us from the abundance of his ever-flowing grace.  He’s the spring of living water.  (Let’s face it, a spring is like a tap, but better.) I need to keep going back to Him to receive life, and stop trying to use my own strength or rely on anything else to get me through.  Food, friendship and music are all wonderful gifts from God, but I can’t rely on them to get me through the day.  I need to go to my Heavenly Father, feed on his word, and pray to him for help from the Helper.

Temptation Three: Burden my Children
Sometimes things get really hard, and your children just don’t get it.  They keep asking for things, they keep waking you up, they keep needing you.  That’s because they’re children.  I want my children to learn that they’re not the centre of the universe, and that they need to be considerate of others.  I also want to be honest and truthful with them.  But sometimes it’s tempting to tell them more than they need to know, as a short-cut to getting them to obey.  For example, maybe my husband loses his job, and we’re struggling to live within our means.  Then one of my children has a tantrum because he wants new trainers and I’ve said no.  In my frustration, I could lecture him about how hard it is for us because Daddy has lost his job, we don’t have any money, we’re worried about how we’re going to buy food, Daddy is really depressed and so you just need to forget about your selfish trainer desires, OK?  That would probably work, but would it be for his good?  Or just for my own satisfaction?  Perhaps instead it would be better to talk to him about what’s going on in his heart, and how even if we had the money I’m not sure it would be wise to give in to his tantrums about trainers.  I must remember that my children are children, and that I can teach them to be loving and considerate without giving them more information than they need at this moment.  Plus, if I say too much I will regret it and, again, feel much worse.

These are just three thoughts.  They’re not intended to make anyone feel guilty but I hope instead they might be helpful.  Finally, I wanted to say that it’s really important, when in a storm, to ask for help.  You need good friends, and you need to tell them what they can do to help you.  If they offer help in a general way, give them specific ways that they can help you. It will bless them and you.

Praise the Lord.

O Love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

O Light that foll’west all my way,
I yield my flick’ring torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.

O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.

George Matheson.
Click here for a lovely modern version of this hymn.