The Choice – part 1

I am a sucker for a romantic movie, and my favourite one of all time is The Choice (closely followed by The Notebook). Both movies feature couples whose love beats all the odds and whose choices affect their entire lives.

We find a similar love story in the book of Ruth, a woman who was faced with a series of choices that would change not just her life but the lives of all mankind. But first let me give you a bit of the backstory.

The story of Ruth was written at the same time as Judges, and in this book we learn that the Israelites had no strong spiritual leadership. There had been several Judges appointed to bring law and order, but they had failed, and now ‘everyone did whatever seemed right to him.’ Judges 21:25

We all know that a lack of leadership can lead to vigilante style law. A lack of rules leads to rebellion, and this was certainly true of Israel at this time. This was not a stable economy, or safe society. A famine had broken out and the book begins with choice number one; Elimelech decides to flee his home town of Bethlehem with his wife Naomi and their two sons Mahlon and Chilion.

Elimelech chooses Moab

After leaving Bethlehem, Elimelech settles in the land of Moab, but shortly after dies. His sons remain in Moab and take Moabite wives, Ruth and Orpah, however both of Elimelech’s sons die, leaving Naomi and her daughters in law destitute. In this day and age, it was not safe for a woman to be alone. Not only could she not provide for herself, but she could not protect herself either. Despite her deep grief at losing not only her husband, but her two children also, Naomi makes a choice to trust God. She decides that she will return to her homeland of Bethlehem upon hearing that ‘the Lord had paid attention to His people’s needs by providing them food.’ Ruth 1:6

Naomi chooses God

In choosing to trust God, she chooses to return home, but the she goes on to do another very selfless act. She tells her daughters to return home to their families. After many tears, Orpah decides to leave and is never mentioned again. Ruth on the other hand chose to stay and her name is mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus.

Ruth chooses Naomi

So much can hang on one decision. Ruth’s decision to stay with Naomi was not made on a whim, it was made on the basis of the faith she saw rise up in her mother in law despite such abject grief. It was made on the realisation that God could and would help her, if she followed Him. That even in her darkest days, through the hardest moments, God was still God. This challenges me so deeply. On my darkest days, can I truly say that my words and actions reflect God and who He is? Do my life choices speak of the faith that rises up in me in response to difficult circumstances?

Do others see God’s hand in our choices? Our faith in our responses?

Ruth didn’t just stay with Naomi, she left all that she knew behind. She chose to embrace a culture and a God that she had not been brought up in, she left was her family home. Ruth also went one step further in making vows to Naomi. These were a covenant promise before God. She vowed to travel with Naomi, to live with her, to make Naomi’s people her people, to worship Naomi’s God, to die where she dies and be buried where she is buried.

Those are some pretty big promises to a woman who is not a blood relative. But what happens next just blows my mind. As Ruth left her bloodline, God placed her in His royal line. Because of the choices that Ruth made, she became the great grandmother of King David, an ancestor of Jesus Christ.

As I reflected on this, I wondered how God felt toward Ruth, and why she was chosen for such a great honour. In the movie The Choice, local ladies man Travis meets his neighbour Gabby and is totally captivated by her. She gets under his skin in a way that no one else ever has, and he has a phrase he uses with her; ‘You bother me, baby.’ I believe that Ruth bothered God. I believe that she was so loved by God, that He could see her beautiful heart and He wanted to honour the choices she made.

This is just the same for us today. YOU bother God. You bother Him so much that He wrote the greatest love story in the world; He sent His Son to die for you. God sees your heart and He wants to use you to show His love and mercy the world over. He wants to place you in locations and situations that you could barely imagine just so He can pour His grace and favour into your life. You bother God, and maybe, just maybe this is the time you need to choose Him to be at the centre of your life. 

R x

 

When the waves rise

The skies are clear but my eyes are clouded. A storm rages in my soul. I feel torn in a million different directions, my heart beats I am staring at the waves rising around me and I want to run for high ground.

They say knowledge is power but the more I learn the more I wish I didn’t know. My head is filled with questions and my heart reels.

We are en route to the coast and these few days away with my tribe couldn’t be more timely. I feel like we need time to ponder and pray; to recharge and refocus. At home I am so busy looking at the waves that I forget to look at the One who walks upon them.

When the waves rise, look at the One who walks upon them

Family is everything to me. They are truth, consistency and unconditional love. They are ‘home’. I have craved unity and togetherness my entire life, searched for a place to belong. But the generation that was supposed to nurture and build up chose to tear down and destroy. Those we were supposed to follow didn’t speak love or truth and our hearts were left wanting with unanswered questions.

When it feels like your life is flooded with doubts and disappointment, where does that leave you? With empty hands and a broken heart.

Jesus loves making something out of nothing.

When we have nothing to give Jesus pours in love and peace. When we are hurting He brings healing. He gave the blind sight and He raised the dead to life.

In the beginning the Spirit hovered above the waters waiting to make his move, ready to command the waves to surge and recede.

If, like me, you have unanswered questions, if you feel the storm surrounding you and the waves surging, simply whisper “Spirit lead me”.

Just as the Holy Spirit waited with anticipation when God spoke the world into motion, he is ready and waiting to move today. Let Him still the storm and hold your hand, as you walk on the waters together.

R x

The Home School Diaries #3

I got it wrong today. Okay not just today, but spectacularly so on this occasion. This time it was with my middle child, my easiest by far and my least demanding. He is so often overshadowed by his more vocal siblings or overlooked as he is generally happy to go with the flow.

We were doing our daily devotions (yes I know, the irony is not lost on me) and I was asking him to read aloud from his Bible, like I do every morning. He was dragging his feet, messing about and flicking through the pages at a snails pace. My impatience boiled over, my little boy crumpled, his tears tumbled and my heart broke.

I drew him into my arms and said I was sorry. He said he didn’t understand how to find what I had asked him to read and I realised he needed me to explain it better. All too often I expect so much of him as I am busy dealing with his two year old sister (I had already dealt with two potty incidents before I finished reading my devotional page aloud).

I lifted my son onto my lap and I asked if he wanted me to sit with him and talk it through with him. He looked up at me with tearstained cheeks and nodded. We then spent a happy half hour together, my boy snuggled on my lap while I spoke softly and encouraged him. I showed him the different parts of the Bible, how it is made up of the Old and New Testament, and contains 66 books. We looked at the content page and we found today’s scripture together. He read it beautifully and we finished our devotional with smiles on our faces and love in our hearts.

Being a mom of three, I feel constantly pulled in every direction, and never more so than when it comes to teaching my children. They all need different approaches, different atmospheres, different content. But one thing that they all need is love.

The one thing that my children need most is my love

I need to teach them from a place of love, of patience and of acceptance. I am their mom first, educator second. My job is to love the bones off those kids so that they feel safe and cherished, which will empower them to learn. I need to not bark out instructions but learn alongside them.

That is just the way that God works too. He is a loving Father who wants to love the bones off us, if only we will let Him. He doesn’t want us to flail around or panic because we don’t know what to do. He wants us to come to Him and say Papa I don’t understand. Then He can swoop down and scoop us into His arms and talk us through it.

When I experience the love of God it makes it far easier to love in all circumstances.

As they say, every day is a school day, and this new homeschool mama is on a learning journey too.

R x

Dear Harry and Meghan

Two days in to being parents, congratulations! The adrenalin is still running, hormones flowing, body aching and heart bursting. You are besotted with your beautiful boy and cannot bear to take your eyes of him for fear of missing something. Netflix has nothing on watching a newborn sleep.

Any parent will tell you that raising children is the most exhilarating and exhausting, beautiful yet bewildering role they have ever had. Being a mother was, and still is, my greatest ambition and my greatest achievement. But it has not been without its challenges, namely around maternal mental health, which was overcome with a lot of love, faith, prayer and communication.

I want to encourage you both that you have a winning formula to start your new role as parents. When we watch you in public, we see warmth, love and respect, a genuine affection for one another that overrides the world around you. This love, this bond is your greatest source of strength as you navigate your new normal.

To any new parents I say this; keep checking in on each other. Sleepless nights can strain solid marriages, teething tests a mother’s bond to breaking point and tantrums can make the most patient parent tear their hair out. These seasons of motherhood are messy and miraculous.

It’s normal to find the days long and the nights longer. It’s natural to go into survival mode as the days blur from one to another in the early weeks and months. My advice to all new parents is to keep looking at one another. Keep locking your gaze and speaking words of love, encouragement and understanding through your eyes in the way that only couples can. Talk often and openly about everything and anything.

Be patient with each other, hold hands, hold your tongue and hold on for the ride. And above all, trust God as you embark on the best role there is.

Enjoy every minute.

R x

Photo Credit: Chris Allerton ©️SussexRoyal

Sitting in the Son

Sitting in the Son. Yes the spelling is intentional. Because God knows I need His presence today. I didn’t make it through ten minutes of church because my two year old had other ideas. My ten year olds behaviour has been disgraceful on and off all week. Our belongings are scattered between about sixteen different bags that are rammed into every available space in our car. Tempers are rising as fast as the temperature. It’s safe to say we are ready to go home.

I hate leaving Wales because the mountains and the ocean soothe my soul like nothing else on earth. But I also hate the temporality of holidays, and by the end of the week away I find myself craving the comfort and familiarity of home.

But where is home? It doesn’t feel like Birmingham. With its rising crime and pollution filled air. It doesn’t feel like the hustle and bustle, the traffic, the sirens. But it is where God called us all those years ago. He asked us to serve and serve we have. Through redundancies, depression, anxiety and adoption, we have served. After a much needed year of selah, where we have leaned on God like never before, we are finally steady on our feet. As I start to feel my strength returning and as we get ready to start a new adventure, it should come as no surprise that the devil starts knocking.

You can’t do this. You won’t do this. You are going to fall again. You are going to mess up.

His whispers mix with my thoughts and mess with my mind. But Jesus. Oh Jesus.

When He was nailed to the cross, my fears and failures were nailed with Him. When He rose from the grave victorious, I too rose with Him. He won the battle for my life so I could win the battles in life.

Jesus said I am with you today and always. You are not alone. I’ve got you and we’ve got this. You are loved, you are precious, you are a child of God.

Oh Jesus.

Don’t listen to the lies of the enemy of your soul. He will do everything He possibly can to derail your destiny. Listen to the one who defeated hell and holds the keys to hades in His hands. Listen to the one who loves you so completely and unconditionally, just as you are. His words in the Bible and His actions on the cross shout louder than any of the devils whispers.

Today I am sitting in the Son. Because His presence calms the storm in my heart, soothes the troubles in my mind and restores my soul.

R x

Everything I never wanted

It is Mothers Day, and this is the first one as a mom of three that I am actually looking forward to. Last year I was dreading the emotions (or lack thereof), that I would feel when my children bundled into bed with me.

I consider myself crazy blessed as a mom of three, but I wouldn’t wish my motherhood journey on anyone. Before I had my first child I knew a little about postnatal depression and knew of people who experienced it, but I learned so much more when I actually experienced it. I had moderate postnatal depression after my second son was born.

I put my tiredness down to juggling two, I put my desolation down to long days and sleepless night. It took me five excruciating months to get professional help with my maternal mental health and medication and conversation helped me through one of the darkest times. Fast forward a few years to the adoption of our daughter. A perfect princess to complete our family, yet when she arrived, my world came crashing down once again.

Motherhood seemed to be everything I never wanted

It seemed so unfair. I wanted to feel happy and proud but I felt terrified and trapped. I wanted to cherish and treasure my babies but I was angry and ashamed. All I had ever wanted was to be a mom, yet not once, but twice my mental health suffered as a result. I had done everything ‘right’, prepared, planner and prayed, yet postnatal and post adoption depression and anxiety tried to crush me.

But it failed.

Because my God is greater.

If you are facing tough times please know that you are not alone.

God will never leave you nor forsake you, even if you feel like He has.

I spent hours, literally hours on my knees crying and screaming out to God to fix the mess I was in, to take away the pain. I didn’t feel Him but I know He was there. And now as I look at my babies, I look back and see that while I was holding on to hope, God was holding onto them.

He cradled my baby when I couldn’t.

He soothed troubled hearts while mine was overwhelmed.

He did what I wouldn’t, then when I was ready He gently handed them back to me.

Mama, if you are reading this in the wee hours of the night because you cannot sleep, or with tears rolling down your cheeks because you know how it feels to want to just run away from everyone, everything, please know you are not alone. I was there, twice. I made it through and you will too.

Check out our Facebook group Moms on Mental Health for friendship and support with other mamas who have overcome depression or are still battling through it. We are stronger together and we would love to cheer you through the dark days.

R x

Just a mom?

You are more than just a mom. Those words actually make me wince.

Today is International Women’s Day and social media is all lit up with phrases like ‘you are more than just a mom, you are a woman, you can rule the world’. Hashtags like #girlboss #bossbabe #girlpower and #thisgirlcan constantly remind us that we can have our cake and eat it, that our identities are not found in the mouths we feed or in the nappies we change, but are found in the very core of our being, in our passions, gifts and talents.

As the next generation of powerful women, we are called to use our passions and become entrepreneurs, CEO’s, politicians and public speakers. We are women, hear us roar, and we are destined for greatness.

But what if you are destined to be a mother?

But what if you are destined to be a mother? What if, since you were a little girl, all you have dreamed of is holding your very own baby in your arms and raising a family?

What if you just wanted to be a mom?

I am a big advocate for women achieving all they can be and more, and I don’t want to offend anyone who thinks I don’t approve of their life choices. Your personal path in life is exactly that; personal. I love that women can run FTSE100 companies and manage to run a household at the same time. I love that women can hustle with the best of them in the board room then come home to read bedtime stories. I love that women can lead our country, do all these things and more, providing that they are happy and fulfilled while doing them.

As for me? I have always just wanted to be a mother. Sure I have talents; I am a voracious reader and as you might have guessed an avid blogger to boot. I love networking, communicating and being creative. I am passionate about writing, in pretty much any form, from web content for a client, to worship songs on my piano. But I don’t see myself as a writer who is also a mom, I see myself as a mom who is also a writer.

I don’t see myself as a writer who is also a mom,
I see myself as a mom who is also a writer.

Rightly or wrongly, motherhood is an identity that I truly identify with. I see it as less of a label and more of a mantle bestowed upon me by God Himself. Yes, there are days when I might gladly trade my beautiful children for wild animals, in the hope that the animals will be easier to control, but by and large, motherhood is, in my humble opinion, the greatest role I will ever have. And if you don’t agree with my thinking, then guess what? That is ok too!

Alongside my husband, I am responsible for shaping three little lives. I am responsible for keeping them safe while teaching them how to eat, drink, speak, dress and navigate this dark world in which we live. As a mother, my role is to ultimately prepare my children for life without me, and I don’t want this responsibility to fall on anyone else’s shoulders but mine.

I am so incredibly grateful for my self-employed businesses, which means I get the best of both worlds; the freedom to raise my family and the finances to help support our home lives. I love my work and I don’t take it for granted. But I do want to acknowledge the stay at home mom’s who have chosen to commit to the most incredible, selfless and, at times thankless, job of raising their family full time.

On International Women’s Day 2019, whether you are high flying career mom or homeschooling hippie mom, (or both!) please remember this:

You are not just a mom, you are a manager of a human being.

And that, my friend, is pretty awesome.

R

Loving me

Love. Love is a many splendid thing. I can sprinkle love like confetti wherever I go, with a smile, a laugh, a hug or a gift. But loving me? I find that incredibly challenging.

I can give advice to a friend, help her with decisions, encourage her in a new venture and tell her she looks beautiful. But I can then go back home and rip strips off myself. You aren’t good enough. You aren’t strong enough. You aren’t liked enough. You aren’t successful enough. If I heard you talk yourself down like that I would take your face in my hands and plead with you to see your worth, your value, your beauty. But me? Not so much.

Why do I do it? Is it because I am British and ridiculously modest, or it is because on some level, I genuinely think I’m not good enough?

It seems so much easier for us to give love rather than receive.

No one wants to blow their own trumpet, but I think that self-love struggles are down to a lot more than self-deprecating humility. I blame a lot of things. Firstly societies perpetual need for perfection plays a major role. That coupled with celebrities splashed across social media and broken families can leave us in a spin. We are living in a reality TV bubble that is not real life, trying to Keep up with the Kardashians, then wondering why we are floundering. Constant pressure to be, to do, to achieve weighs us down. We either spend our weeks keeping up appearances on Instagram then hiding away at weekends, or we live wildly and extravagantly on Saturday and Sunday, then spend the week eating beans on toast.

We think we need to be seen a certain way, we need to do a certain thing, and then we will have joy, happiness and success. But the truth is that the only way to feel true happiness is to love yourself.

The only way to feel true happiness is to love yourself.

Loving yourself means embracing your idiosyncrasies; the figure on the scales, the wrinkles around your eyes and the moles across your back. It means seeing your insecurities and recognising them as beautiful vulnerabilities. It means learning something from mistakes, rather than dismissing them as failures.

Loving me isn’t easy. But it is a journey I have started and am committed to staying on for the long haul. If I don’t speak kindly to myself, if I don’t look after my body and carry myself with grace, how can I expect my children to do so? I look at my beautiful babies, each wonderfully unique, with awe, excited for their future. But they are already self-criticizing at ages 5 and 9. When I hear them say, ‘I’m so dumb’ or ‘I look stupid’ it breaks my mama heart.

That’s how God sees you. When you say I am too fat, too thin, too old, too young, too thick, too scared, His Father heart breaks. He sees beauty, wonder, creativity, humility, gentleness, kindness, goodness and boldness. I imagine God swooping down, taking my face in His hands and saying, ‘Baby girl, you are everything I created you to be, you are fearfully and wonderfully made. I know every hair on your head and every word on your tongue. I have a purpose and a plan for you.’

When I find loving me too hard, I don’t try, I just let God.

He designed me just as I am, my perceived flaws are His fingerprints, my imperfections His indentations. I am not a failure, and I am not an accident. I am loved by God unconditionally, and you are too.

R x

Finding me

All I have ever wanted is to belong. Isn’t that what we all want?

I grew up surrounded by abusive relationships, marriage breakdowns and bitter individuals. I have seen families torn apart by anger that was incited decades ago. I was fought over in the courts. I have never known, nor perhaps ever will know the full story behind the turbulent childhood I had. But what I do know, is that I have always sought to belong, to be accepted, to be approved of.

Thinking I could rectify the past with good works, I have always strived to be good – good at school, good at horse riding, good at art. I was always in the top sets and always pushing myself but this was never enough to gain the love and acceptance that I craved.

I went to university to study, one of the first in my family to do so, and I thought would impress, but it didn’t and I left without graduating.

I felt like a failure. But God.

He didn’t need me to do anything to impress Him or make Him take notice of me. God had watched me all along, He never took His eyes off me. He knew me inside and out, and He was insanely jealous for my affection. When I turned to Him, aged 21, He became the Cornerstone in my life, the anchor for my soul.

But I still strived. It’s all I knew to do.

I thought I could make up for the past by creating the perfect family. I pinned my hopes and dreams on creating the perfect home, the perfect family. I married an incredible man and we begin to build our family, but even so things began to unravel.

Sometimes it’s only when we are on our knees that we remember to look up

I found myself spiralling in anxiety and depression wondering where it had all gone so horribly wrong. I found myself floundering, utterly lost and asking Who am I? What am I here for? Do I need to be a Wife? Mother? Speaker? Writer?

I cried out to God and His reply was simple; You are my daughter.

Ever impatient, I asked, so what am I supposed to do?

His reply; Do what you love.

I sat back reeling, because I didn’t know the answer. What did I love? Jesus, family, friends? No the answer to finding me wasn’t in who I loved but what. And slowly over the last five years God has been peeling me back later by later, to rediscover my loves.

Do what you love ~ Father God

When we bought our first house, God whispered into my heart to get a piano. I found a beautiful vintage one on FreeCycle and arranged to collect it. My husband thought I had gone insane and that it was a fad that I would get bored with, but three years on I still play my piano almost every single day.

Our house is in a busy area and it wasn’t until we lived somewhere so urban that I realised how much I craved the great outdoors. We make an effort to get the children outside the city and into the woods, fields and mountains as often as possible. Both Dave and I grew up in the countryside and we continue to feel such a pull towards a simpler, rural way of life.

And then there is my writing. I have written as long as I can remember. Poetry, stories, songs and later blogs. But only in recent years have I realised the power in sharing my musings. I have always searched for a niche, not feeling that I fit into the usual parent blogger or lifestyle blogger categories. God gave me incredible tools in essential oils to support my emotional and physical health, and lately I have used this platform to share more about my wellness journey with others.

So what have I learned in all this? That God has given me gifts and talents. He has given me hopes and dreams. And He doesn’t need me to ‘be’ anyone or ‘do’ anything. In the same way that I take delight in seeing my children come alive in their giftings, so too does God delight in me. I don’t need a label, or a category. I just need to rest in the knowledge that I am a child of God and do what I love.

I am still finding ‘me’. But there are less layers to peel back and she is starting to peek through.

R x

Why there is power in pruning

I am no gardener. One look at my forgotten borders will tell you that. However once or twice a year I will get a sudden surge of enthusiasm to trim edges and plant bulbs in the hope that something beautiful will burst forth in the summer months. So, it is of little surprise to me that my blooms are never anywhere near as impressive as those of my neighbours, who have lovingly tended them.

We have a lovely rose bush in our garden that is climbing up a trellis, and one year my mother in law cut every single flowering head off and put them in a vase. As beautiful as they were on my windowsill, I was horrified that she had butchered my beloved rose bush. I was convinced that my plant would not survive the massacre, much less ever flower again that year, yet the roses came back three fold a few months later.

I had never understood the importance of pruning until now. You see pruning isn’t just a way to control growth, it is the way to increase it. By pruning a rose, you cause the plant to produce a growth hormone called auxin which helps it to grow to its optimum. Pruning strengthens the very vines that connect it to its life source, the stem, so that when they grow and flower they are able to bear much larger, heavier blooms.

Pruning isn’t just a way to control growth, it is the way to increase it

2017 was a year of pruning for me. We voluntarily stepped back from ministry as we focussed on our family, but the stepping away felt more like stripping away. Who was I if I wasn’t a worshipper on the platform? Who was I if I wasn’t a pastoral leader looking out for our area? Or preaching on a Wednesday morning?  Who was I if I wasn’t ‘known’ or ‘seen’ by others? I truly believe that my heart to serve has always been from a place of authenticity, and a desire to make Jesus famous, not myself. But when all the ‘stuff’ was stripped away, I felt exposed, vulnerable and a little lost.

I am a ‘do-er’ by nature. My strength finders list includes activator and achiever, and I like to muck in and get my hands dirty. Even being a stay at home mom, my ultimate life dream isn’t enough, and I run two businesses to keep my mind busy and my bank account in the black. My husband says I can’t sit still for two minutes and he is right. I am constantly flitting from one thing to another, and frequently have two or three tasks on the go at any one time much to his annoyance. But as I gradually reduced my tasks and increased my time, panic crept in.

Don’t panic in the pruning

Stepping away from gifts that I loved was like watching the full blooms of my roses being cut down. I know they are still there, but I wanted them to be connected to the vine, not placed in a vase. I never feel more alive than when I am serving in the house of God, either in worship, preaching or in pastoral care, and I found myself frustrated at serving in my home instead. The pruning season felt painful; I didn’t feel free, I felt like a fish out of water. No longer ‘busy’, I had too much time on my hands and too many thoughts in my mind. I found myself questioning my destiny, my purpose, God’s plans, and during these times of sadness and self-pity I was forced to sit and be still.

Be still and know that God loves me.

Be still and know that I am loved regardless of how or where I serve. That I am perfectly positioned in His will, right here, right now. That my purpose in the Kingdom of God is as important on a platform as it is in a playdate. That my service to my children and my husband is as valuable as any song I could ever sing, or any sermon I could ever write.

And as I rest in the stillness, the pruning season will ensure that my branches are stronger than ever so that I can grow new shoots and produce better blooms.

Pruning prepares for producing

I don’t know what season this finds you in. Perhaps your blooms are budding, waiting to explode in glorious technicolour, maybe you are already in flower, displaying your gifts and fragrancing the world with your own unique aroma, or perhaps your petals are beginning to wane, and you are bracing yourself for the dead-heading. Wherever you are, know that God is working. He is cultivating the ground where you are planted. He is watering the seeds of your faith. He is tending to your shoots and leaves, and He is removing the dead-heads so that they don’t block the Son.  You are standing in the light of Jesus, connected to the vine, and as the ultimate gardener, He will remove what isn’t necessary to strengthen you for the next season.

Don’t panic in the pruning, you are being prepared to bring forth beauty.

Go ahead and bloom like never before.

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5 

R x