leaving well

2013-01-30 21.30.07Later this year, we will be leaving York. It’s something that occupies my mind a lot these days, because I’m so determined to leave well.

I imagine that ‘change’ will be a big theme on this blog during 2013, so I’m not going to try and say everything I’m thinking here. Suffice to say that York feels like a best friend to me – a loyal supporter of my attempts at motherhood, a fertile soil for the cultivation of new experiences, relationships and ideas. Whatever the analogy, separating from York will be difficult and painful.

So I’m determined to leave well. I don’t want to wish away the next few months with dreams of the next place. I don’t want to sulk away the next few months with introspective gloom. Under the banner of celebration, I want to take every opportunity to spend time with the people I love. Usually, my conversation is littered with phrases like “We should…” and “Maybe we can…” but I’m learning to replace them with the more definite tones of “When are you free?” and “Let’s do…”. Everything worth celebrating over the next few months is going to be celebrated: birthdays, new babies, Easter, leaving. And I’m going to cram in as much time with friends as I possibly can.

Leaving has also reminded me of the things I’d still like to do in York and its surrounds. Go on the wheel, visit the Forbidden Corner, eat here again. There’s now more urgency to fix a date to enjoy these attractions.

I have been privileged to serve with a few different groups whilst we’ve been here: Tuesday Tots (our church toddler group), Mums’ Belfrey Group and Gracetots (under 3s group at our Sunday congregation). It’s a high priority to make sure that these groups continue to flourish, through training and commissioning new people to get involved. I don’t worry about this: I know God will provide. If He doesn’t, I shall have to have Words. 😉

The practicalities of a house-move – for me, at least – always force the ugly issue of possessions. We have far too much! So, rather than move it all to a new house, we’re going to attempt some sort of clear-out, and hope to sell as much as possible in aid of CAP, one of our absolutely favourite charities. (If you’re York-based, do come along and buy our junk…first weekend in March…email me for details.)

I know that no amount of planning and activity can hide the emotions I’ll feel when the time comes to go, but since I can’t predict those emotions, I’m happy to make the most of York while I can. And I have confidence in my God, who is constant, to go before us and plan good things.

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

Lamentations 3:22-23

say what you see

School science lessons are, generally, something I’ve forgotten. However, one simple activity I remember well. It was a lesson starter: we were given a sheet of paper, on which were drawn a handful of cartoon pictures, each one with a statement underneath. We then had to discuss whether the statement was something which we could emphatically say was true, with only the picture to go on – or whether it was merely an assumption.

Most of the pictures were straightforward, and I don’t remember them in any detail. But, unsurprisingly, the one which was trickier to work out is the one I remember clearly. A child was standing on a pond which had frozen over. There was a sign visible, which read: “Danger: thin ice” or similar. The statement was “The child is being very silly.” Well, of course he was. Our group was in total agreement. However, when we came to discuss our answers as a class, the teacher asked “How do you know he’s being silly? He might be going to rescue someone who’s drowning.”

Of course the point was made very clearly. Science is about testing things to see if they’re true. A good scientist must train themselves not to make assumptions with no evidence.

I’m not a scientist, but I do have trouble with assumptions. You see, I’m very judgemental. I’m not proud of it – in fact I hate the way my mind jumps to judgements about a person or a situation – but there we go. I’m a judge. There’s no better job I could be doing right now to refine and hone this part of my character, because whenever I see a parent with a small child, I’m liable to make assumptions. And, when I do, I’m instantly convicted. God is helping transform me into someone who lets Him do the judging, not me.

It’s so easy to do: I see a parent, pushing their child in a pushchair, and a mundane feature such as what the child is eating, what the parent is doing, or how the two are interacting, can lead me to come to all manner of unfair conclusions. Actually, I need to remember that the vast majority of parents are doing the very best for their children, and I should instead look to praise, build up, smile and encourage those I meet. Perhaps you identify with some of my struggles?

If you do, then can I encourage you that the next time you see a small child out in the snow with no hat or gloves, you stop inwardly berating the irresponsible mother, and just smile sweetly instead.

Because that irresponsible mother is me. And that child is Lois – who, for love nor money, will not keep a hat or gloves on for more than a second!

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Un-gloved and un-hatted Lois, enjoying herself in the snow!

parenthood and meeting together

The third in my (very slow) series of being a disciple as a parent (see the first and second posts) deals with ‘meeting together’. In the 1970s, this was called ‘fellowship’ – but I’m told by Al not to use that word if I want this blog to remain credible. And if it’s him telling me that – him who listens to Elkie Brooks and knows more sports statistics from the 1980s than now – then I’d better listen.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25

So…what is ‘meeting together’? Church once a week? Well, yes, partly. It’s good for us and our kids to grow up within a church family, getting into that pattern of meeting together regularly as a bunch of believers. And actually the kids’ groups in most churches model a really good form of meeting together. Even Joel, at just 3, is in a small group where there is opportunity to chat stuff through. But that doesn’t usually happen at ‘grown-up’ church!

So, much as church is important, of immense value is the small accountability group model: somewhere safe, with good relationships, where you can be honest with others. This could mean simply finding another Christian to pray with on a regular basis, and some of my friends do this. What a great way to grow your faith as a young parent!

One of the downsides to online ‘meeting together’, e.g. Facebook or Twitter, is that you tend to see only people’s highlights. Before long, you start to believe that everyone else frequents luxury spas on a weekly basis, has genius children who look great in every photo, and an incredibly romantic husband who brings home thoughtful gifts each night of the week. When you are in real relationship with others, you see everything: the highlights, the lowlights, the in-between-lights. I believe this is one of the reasons why we need to take seriously those verses in Hebrews.

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We’re not usually this serious…I asked them to put their heads down just in case they didn’t like this blog post and wanted anonymity!

I am incredibly fortunate here to belong to a daytime cell group for mums.* Every Monday afternoon, a group of mums gather together in our study for an hour to worship, read the Bible, chat about it, and pray together. For someone who rarely goes to the toilet without interruption from a Small Person, this is a Big Thing. Our children, meanwhile, are being superbly entertained in the lounge by some wonderful creche volunteers…

Honestly, these guys are unsung heroes. I try to tell them how much their work is appreciated, but I don’t think they believe me. While they’re building towers, bopping to nursery rhymes, sorting out snacks, reasoning with toddlers, rocking babies and being jumped on (often simultaneously), lives are being changed in the next room.

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The state of the lounge after the kids have had a go…

Does that sound overdramatic? Maybe. Sure, it’s a gradual thing, but when I look back over the last 12 months and see where God has taken me, I know I owe a huge amount to this group. My faith could easily have become stagnant during this phase of early motherhood. Instead, the input of others, their challenge, their making me think – God is using these things to draw me, and many others, closer to Him. And it’s something as simple as playing Duplo with my kids for an hour that enables this life-change – this growing of my mustard-seed faith – to happen. It’s not just knowing God is there somewhere in the background, it’s seeing Him do amazing things during these otherwise desert years. Exciting!

If you’re a young parent, how do you continue ‘meeting together’ with other Christians? If you can’t think of anything – have you ever thought about starting something? Meeting up with a Christian friend regularly? Or even getting together the mums in your church to start something?

*We actually call them ‘Belfrey groups’, just so you know, but for the purposes of this blog I’ll refer to them as cells, as that’s a more familiar term.