her smile is unravelling…

2014-07-16 21.15.32Daisy is her pride and joy. She gets taken everywhere – to bed, to parties, on holidays, to gym club. Since Daisy arrived in our family two Christmases ago, she has rarely been put down. Recently, she spent an accidental three-month-long holiday at Granny’s – and jubilant was the reunion that occurred a few weeks ago.

But, just recently, I noticed something:

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Daisy’s smile is unravelling.

I was initially frustrated (Another Job Which Won’t Get Done) but then breathed a sigh of relief – after all, the most well-loved soft toys are the ones with loose thread, or a button sewn on in place of an eye, aren’t they? Daisy has always been loved – but now she’s starting to show it.


We have always been loved – but as we grow in realisation and understanding of that love, we may find that we start to become unravelled too. Our seams that we thought were so strong in holding our fragile lives together start to tear, gently at first, and then all of a sudden there’s a rip, and a hole, and a great big wadge of stuffing pokes out. Don’t we become desperate to poke it back in? Desperate to cling to the security of our former lives?

If your smile is unravelling, if your seams are bursting, if you’re getting a little grubby round the edges, then take heart in knowing that you are well loved. The breaking, the coming apart, the changing – it hurts a little (or a lot). But the God you cling to loves you and is changing you to look more like the well-loved child of God that you are. The process may be painful – but the end will be glorious.


Daisy’s smile will eventually go. There will be a short period of expressionless Daisy, and then I’ll most probably find a permanent marker, and draw the smile back on. Perhaps eventually her nose will be replaced, and her eyes. Maybe her stitching will need to be fixed. Daisy will never be the same again – perhaps she will not look quite so perfect – but she will be stronger and more resilient and just as loved.

If only I would let my old self crumble in the hands of my all-loving Father as easily.

that blog post what i wrote the other day…


The post I published a few days ago seemed to hit a note with a lot of people, having had three times as many views as my other best-read posts. Wednesday’s blog views were a new record – three times the previous record. There were lots of Facebook shares. Friends, this is the closest I’ll ever come to going ‘viral’. Hello, online presence (whatever you are)…

It may be ill-advised to follow it up with a second post – the tricky ‘second album’ which flops because it turns out you already released the only good songs you’ll ever write. Luckily, though, I’m not writing this blog for numbers or popularity or cash, and I have no expectation that the following words will be as widely read. They’re just a few things I’ve thought through since writing the last post – and, as usual, which have been sparked by many of your comments, here on the blog or on Facebook. Thank you for interacting with me – it keeps my baby brain ticking over!

I wanted to make clear – if it wasn’t already – that we have no choice over where we live. The ‘postcode lottery’, which some are able to avoid through moving to houses in the catchment areas of ‘good schools’, affects us – as it does so many families up and down the UK. Many are in social housing, with little choice over where they live. Others are tied in to rent agreements or mortgages which they can’t afford to change. In our case, this house comes with my husband’s job. So, for different reasons, we can empathise with those who have no choice over where they live, remembering that this choice which many of us take for granted is actually a luxury.

But let me make something very, very clear: this has not been a difficult decision for us. While I’m grateful for everyone’s positive responses to the school-choice we’ve made for our son, I’ve also felt a little guilty when reading some people’s comments, which make out like we’re some sort of incredibly pioneering missionaries who make desperately selfless, hugely sacrificial decisions. Whilst God does sometimes call us to decisions which are genuinely painful and difficult and humbling, He also prepares us well for carrying them out. In my experience, this means that something which may have been hard to do a couple of years ago actually becomes a joy, a delight. Why do we not always expect that God will change our hearts on things which matter to Him? This is what discipleship – and this blog – is all about. Moving forward. Not settling for a static faith.

Let me share a few things which have made this decision an easy one. Two of Mister’s preschool friends are moving up with him – God has provided friends before he’s even started. (The remaining eight preschool leavers are going to seven different schools between them.) We know a parent-governor at the school, who gave us loads of useful information last year, as we were deciding. She was honest about the school’s failures, but also positive about its direction and many positives. It seems that nearly every week now God’s putting people in my life who have some link with the school. I’ve met more people like me who are trusting the school, even though they could get their child into a different school if they wished.

I could go on. Do you get it? God puts us where we are for a reason. It all adds up. Deciding to send Mister’s to this school was not an agonising decision – it seemed the easiest decision in the world. Yes, God does call us to sacrificial living – but He often, very graciously, puts us in a position where we are joyful about those sacrifices. And, one day, we wake up and it seems like the sacrifices have gone altogether, so faded are they to insignificance. It’s not about waiting for a loud, booming voice to come from Heaven: it’s about learning to follow God more closely, day by day, as His word guides and challenges us. He will provide what’s needed for all that He asks of us, and He will never let us go.

why i’m sending my kid to a school in special measures


It was never meant to be the case.

The kids and I often walked past the fag-smoking, obscenity-shrieking parents at drop-off or pick-up time, but I knew we’d not be living here when the time came to make a Decision. As a teacher, the school did provoke my curiosity – but there was no point wasting time or energy finding out about it.

And then, gradually, as God revealed plans for us to stay exactly where we are, ministering in this area and living in this Vicarage, the Hypothetical turned to Actual. We were Actually going to have to make a decision – and this establishment, with its poor test results and shocking attendance figures, was our catchment school. The head of Mister’s preschool had warned us of the ‘rough families’ it attracted, and advised not to go near it with a barge pole. Our next-door-neighbour’s daughter, having spent a few weeks in the school, was told by one of the teachers that there was a “much better school down the road”, with the implication that this intelligent young girl would be better catered for there. She promptly moved school.

With these less-than-savoury second-hand impressions, you might have wondered why two Oxbridge-educated, qualified-teacher parents didn’t consider the ‘better school down the road’ – after all, the ‘better’ school is less than ten minutes’ walk away. Hardly unjustifiable in terms of the whole Sending-Your-Child-To-The-Local-School ethic. But, as we found ourselves falling more and more for this area, so we found ourselves falling more and more for the school over the road. Going into special measures last year (the lowest rating given by Ofsted, the national inspectors for schools) was the best thing for the place. There’s a new headteacher, new staff, new equipment, and stacks of funding for improving just about everything. The school has an optimistic feel. The children we’ve seen have been on task, polite and friendly. This is one of the reasons we’re entrusting our son to the school for the next few years. Another is because, as a teacher, I want to see this school improve, and know that it can only go so far unless it has a majority of parents who are committed to the place. We’re hooking up to this increasing mass of supportive families, and can’t wait.

But that’s only a fraction of it.

For each loud-mouthed mum screaming at her many, many kids outside the school gates, there are ten others who we don’t see because we don’t hear. They support education. They support the school. They want to do what’s right for their child. Actually, they’re not too dissimilar to me.


And the loud-mouths and the invisible ones – well, that’s just surface stuff. Underneath, there are a lot of hurting families living in poverty or chaos or both. I know this because all Reception kids are given breakfast during the first part of the school day. This is not a Breakfast Club for rich, working parents – this is because not every child will get breakfast at home. Also, we were told that it would be really good  if we could label all our kids’ clothes – but not to worry if we didn’t manage to do it, as the Reception staff would do it for us. In my sheltered Home-Counties upbringing, I never had to worry about my clothes being unnamed – but if you’re attempting to raise your family in the midst of abuse, debt, relational breakdown or whatever, whether to go iron-on or permanent marker is the least of your worries.

We need to be in this place. We need to learn that privilege is the exception, not the rule. We need to get to know families who can educate us about what life is like for them. We need to develop empathy, and discover how we can best serve those who struggle. We need to be here because Jesus would be here. It’s time to stop ignoring the poor.

Now please understand that I’m not criticising anyone who, in the same position, would have made a different decision. We each have different and complex criteria surrounding the decision-making process when it comes to our children’s education, and I’m not the one to judge. All I know is that when Jesus returns, we will need to account for the decisions we made – and, on this occasion, we feel convicted that this is the choice God is calling us to make.

Am I concerned for my son? That he will learn to swear? That he will follow the wrong ringleader? That he will be bullied? Yes – but no more than I would were he going to any other school. In fact, the environment he’ll be going into has made me pray all the harder for Mister: that he would be a leader, not a follower. That he would stand up for good. That he would be kind to others. That the prophetic word given at his dedication service – “touched by the hand of God for his generation” – would start to bear fruit.

God is in this school – and, we believe, wants to bring many of its students, parents and staff to know Him.

Sending Mister to this school was never supposed to happen – but, actually, it’s no mistake.

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