pray4schoolstart: week 6

week6

Folks, we’re there! Well, nearly. Besides frantically labelling everything your child has ever touched, and stocking up on tissues for whichever day it is in the next fortnight that you turn into a blubbering wreck as you stare, in disbelief, at this little baby who can’t be any more than three months old but appears to be starting school, why not pray along with me?

We’ve prayed these last few weeks for our children starting school this term, gradually drawing out our focus to include their peers, teachers, school leaders and communities. Now, in the final week before school really does start, let’s draw our prayers back to our children, focussing on their first few weeks of settling in, and drawing in aspects of the last few weeks of prayer.

I’ll be praying:

* for Joel’s first day, and first few days – that he would settle into his new environment, find his way around, make friends and develop good relationships with his teachers

* for all his peers – that there would be no anxiety, just excitement – that the class would gel together, forming good friendships with each other and with their teacher

* for me, as I meet other parents, that I would form good friendships too

* for the whole school community as children transition from one year to the next and staff transition to new roles/classes

That’s it. Praying that your child settles really really well, and makes an excellent schoolstart. Don’t stop praying!

the one plus one: a review

IMG_4950[1]It arrived in the post, and my heart sank when I felt its weight, when I opened the padded envelope and discovered 500+ pages. Accepting a book review assignment seemed a nice idea at the time, but for this incredibly slow reader who has, once again, over-committed herself to various other projects this summer, it seemed unmanageable within the allotted time frame.

Fortunately, we were about to go on holiday – and, never one to turn down a challenge, I worked it out at four chapters a day. Easy. If I just put my head down and did it, I’d get there. Well, what do you know? I’d devoured the whole thing in five days.

And really that should be all you need to know to make you rush off and buy your copy straight away. But I think you probably deserve a little more, so here goes…

The One plus One is an incredibly absorbing novel. It’s about a man and a woman, whose poles-apart lives are thrown together in a series of bizarre coincidences. It’s about the road trip to end all road trips. It’s about a little girl who whizzes through Maths equations like she’s an undergrad. It’s about a teenage boy struggling to find his identity. It’s about single parenthood, adoptive parenthood, and parenthood in general. Overall, though, the story is one of unwavering hope. The many struggles, obstacles, setbacks and lows which pervade the story serve only to reinforce the highs when they happen – and, ultimately, the book leaves you joyful in its tale of good overcoming evil.

This book is about contrast. There are the obvious ones (she works two jobs and lives on a council estate, he has a well-paid job in the city) but these sit neatly alongside more subtle ones. For example, the place where she lives, works and feels at home is the place where he has his second home, spending only small fractions of the year there. Moyes carefully describes the same town as both friendly/familiar and cold/shabby, depending on whose perspective you’re reading (each chapter is written from a different character’s perspective). On this point, if I were to make any criticism of the book, it would be that these perspectives could be slightly more contrasted – but, as they’re all written in the third person, I imagine that subtlety was the aim, and I appreciated the lack of crassness in switching voices.

An expert storyteller, Moyes weaves twists and turns to the plot, rounding each character with an expansive insight into their life and history. She articulates things so clearly and brilliantly that one cannot fail to identify them as snatches from one’s own life. We’ve all met people like the ones in the book – we all know of the places she describes. The book is steeped in reality, and yet has enough ‘would-never-happen-in-real-life’-type fantasy to transport you to another place. I loved this book, and I loved the people in it – I didn’t want it to end. (Fortunately, there was another Jojo Moyes novel at the house we were staying in, so I moved speedily on to that one, to ease the pain…)

With my very slow reading speed (I have an irritating need to speak the words out in my head as I read them), and parenthood limiting the disposable time in which to read, I have taken to attacking only those books which I expect to be life changing and thought-provoking. Looking back over the last year, I’ve read a book which totally changed my attitude to money, another which made me understand better the pitfalls of American evangelicalism, and another which was a fairly heavy theology of adoption. What I’ve been missing, I think, is that novels too can change your life. Novels can make you think, make you re-assess, make you see where you’ve been in error. The One plus One is certainly one of these sorts of novels, cathartic in its ability to re-align your thoughts about a whole number of issues – and I’m so glad someone made me read it.

This book was reviewed for Mumsnet, who kindly sent me a complimentary copy. All views, however, are my own. Want to read what the other Mumsnet reviewers thought of it? Click here.

pray4schoolstart: 5

pray4schoolstart

Well hello there, fellow desertparents – and, if you’re reading this, a hearty CONGRATULATIONS for making it to week 5 of the summer holidays without ending up in Rehab. Hoorah, we are nearly back to schedule, structure, and a slightly easier life!

And, if you’ve been following this blog over the summer, you’ll know that I’ve been sharing what I’ve been praying for my son as he starts school – not just him, but his peers, teachers and school leaders. As we enter the final fortnight, I thought it’d be good to widen our focus even more to include the wider community surrounding our children’s schools.

This week I’ll be praying for all the families represented by the children at my son’s school.

* that they will be able to provide emotionally and financially for their children

* that they will be supportive of their child’s education, supportive of the teachers and supportive of the wider mission of the school

* that all children would flourish, and that this would have a knock-on effect within their families, particularly those who might be going through hard times

* for strong, happy marriages/partnership, and great parent-child relationships too

I’ll also be praying for the wider community:

* that strong links would be made/sustained with the local church

* that there would be a great relationship with local businesses, charities, and anything else which enriches children’s experience of life, and enriches adults’ view of the world

* that immediate neighbours to the school would only ever have a positive impression of it

That’s it! Watch out for a book review coming within the next couple of days…then I’ll see you again next Monday for the final installment of pray4schoolstart!

pray4school start: week 4

p4ss

Hello again! Hope you’re having a wonderful summer, whatever you’re doing and whatever the weather. (As you read this, I’m enjoying a week away…but thanks to the marvel of modern technology (i.e. scheduled blogging), this post gets published without me. One day, this blog will even write itself.)

I hope you’re also enjoying some time to pray for your kids (or those you know) starting school this term. I’m not the best pray-er, but I’ve found myself challenged by my own blogs, and have really appreciated grabbing those tiny moments in between fetching a drink for a thirsty child and playing yet another game of Go Fish to pray for all the aspects surrounding my son’s schooling.

If you recall, we started with our kids themselves, moving on to their peers, then their teachers…and this week, we pray for those who lead our children’s schools. Friends: massive decisions affecting your child and their peers will be made by Heads, their leadership teams and governing bodies on a regular basis. Let’s pray for great wisdom for them, so that our children flourish and become the people God designed them to be!

* Pray for the Head, deputy/assistant heads, and governors at your child’s school – by name if you know names

* Pray for guidance and wisdom in decision making

* Pray for discernment, and an ability to judge situations accurately

* Pray for unity, agreement and good relationships within leadership teams

* Pray for the wise appointment of new staff – the most important decision that school leaders need to make, in my opinion…

* Pray that Christian school leaders would make a positive impact on their schools, and that many would be challenged by their witness

* You could also pray specifically for any friends you may have who are school leaders or governors, even if they’re at different schools to the child you’re praying for

* Joel’s son has a new Head (been there a term), so I will especially be praying for her as she settles in, that she would quickly get the feel of the school and take it in a positive direction – if you know of any new appointments at your child’s school, you could join me in praying for a smooth transition

* Let’s also remember our Scottish friends, who start back this week. I’ll particularly be praying for Joel’s second cousin, 6 weeks his senior and starting out on this big journey at the same time. Pray for smooth settling in, good relationships with teachers and peers, and a general blossoming of all the abilities God has gifted them with!

That’s all folks! See you when I return…

pray4schoolstart: week 3

pray4schoolstart3

Right, folks, we’ve spent week 1 praying specifically for the kids we know who are starting school in September, week 2 praying for their peers – and this week we’re praying for teachers and teaching assistants. They need a lot of prayer – believe me, I used to be one! Remembering the joys and challenges of my teaching career puts this week’s focus massively on my heart. I’m passionate that, if we uphold our kids’ teachers and TAs in prayer, it will have a positive knock-on effect for our kids – and their peers. Let’s get praying…

* that all staff would have a refreshing summer break, top up energy levels and feel motivated to begin the new school year

* that God would give them all the skills and ideas they need to do their jobs excellently

* that God would bless them with plenty of patience and energy

* that they would be freed to do their jobs well, and not succumb to unhelpful pressure for certain grades/results etc.

* that they would build brilliant relationships with all their students – for trust to quickly develop

* that they would work well in the various teams they find themselves in (teaching teams, departments, year groups etc) – for good morale amongst the staff team as a whole

* that God would provide opportunities for rest throughout the year, and that they’d take them (teachers are notorious for being workaholics…let’s pray against this for their good, and the good of our children!)

* that they would receive plenty of support from us and the other parents

We could also pray for specific teachers by name, if we know any of them already – as well as praying for any Christian staff in the school: that they would be a great witness to kids and colleagues alike.

Enjoy your week! (And tell the sun to come back.)

pray4schoolstart: week 2

pray4schoolstart2For those of you who are blissfully unaware, I am spending this summer holidays praying like never before. (Like – perhaps even every day. Or at least in those dull moments when someone wants a snack and someone else is on the potty and the phone goes and the doorbell rings and the dinner’s burning and you just throw your hands up in the air and ignore it all because it seems the only sensible solution.)

I’m praying for my son, who starts the exciting world of Big School this September. (You can catch up with week 1 here.) If you know a small person who’s starting school, why not join me in praying for them? This week, the focus is peers: those who will be starting Reception (or Year 7) along with your child. I’ll be praying:

* for all of the Reception kids to settle in well (good to remember that it’s not just about our own little darlings!), make friends and enjoy learning

* for the kids I know who are starting at the same school as my son – I’ll pray for them by name

* for there to be NO BULLYING, no exclusion of certain kids, no nastiness or name-calling or anything which would hinder any of these precious kids’ right to a decent education

* for none of the children to be anxious or worried about starting school

* for all to discover their gifts and talents, and have opportunities in school to develop them

* for those who know Jesus to shine like stars within their classroom

* for those who don’t know Jesus to have open minds and hearts, and take opportunities to find out more

That’s it, folks. Feel free to add things I’ve forgotten in the Comments section. (This is the blog-equivalent of a singer on stage holding the mic out to the crowd, getting them to sing the songs they’ve paid her to sing. Excuse the laziness. And have a nice week.)

pray4schoolstart: week 1

pray4schoolstart1Hello all! Whoop-whoop, cheer and shout, wave flags, blast your trumpet – for today, this blog gets its prayer on like never before.

If you have no idea what’s going on, read this. And then – let’s start praying for our kids as they start their new schools! Pray along with me if you like – there’ll be a different focus each week – or just ignore me! I don’t care, I’m not a prayer expert, and I’m just too excited that we can all be praying together to worry about who’s praying for what!

But – because you’d complain if I stopped the blog post right there, and ask for your money back etc etc (in a fantasy world where this blog is pay-to-view), here’s a little eye-opener into how my prayers will be shaped this week.

I will be focussing on praying for my son, Joel – as the weeks progress, I’ll be moving the focus out more widely to include his peers, teachers, school leaders and governors, and families/community. But this week, it’s him.

Why not join me in focussing your prayers on your child (or a child you know) about to start school?

We could pray:

* for our kids to settle well into the new environment/classroom

* for them to make friends and have fun playing and learning with others

* for them to develop the particular talents God has gifted them with – academic, sporty, musical, arty, culinary, outdoorsy… (aren’t schools SO MUCH BETTER equipped to offer all these things than they were When We Were Young? Oh dear, there’s that phrase…)

* for them to be kind and treat others as their neighbours, loving and including them

* for them to make wise decisions, when apart from us

* for them to remember what they’ve learned about Jesus at home, and learn to apply it in the new, complex situations they’ll find themselves in

Please comment below on what you’re praying for, or any encouraging testimony relating to your child and their new school. Thanks! See you next week!

P.S. I want to make this blog colourful and picturesque – but it’s week 1 and already I’m running low on school-related photo ideas. I’m hoping that there’ll be something school-related each week, which I can snap and put up here – this week it’s been all about the uniform, hence the pic. Next week – uh, a lunch box?? Suggestions welcome…