This post has moved! Check it out on my shiny new website here.
This post has moved! Check it out on my shiny new website here.
This post has moved! Check it out on my shiny new website here.
After a couple of heavy-going titles this year, May was a good month for books.
Our book club read The Light between Oceans which was fabulous. Lighthouse-keeper Tom and his wife Izzy are the only inhabitants of a tiny island many miles off the west coast of Australia. When a boat containing a baby and a dead man gets washed up on shore, the couple is left with an agonising decision.
I don’t want to spoil the story for you, so I’ll stop there, but needless to say the story’s main ethical dilemma, interwoven with a complex web of loss and love, death and life, made for an absolutely stonking read.
I also read Spark, the second in Alice Broadway’s brilliant trilogy (I read the first book, Ink, last year). I wish I’d made time to re-read Ink before reading Spark, as the books are set in an innovative fantasy world, and I just couldn’t remember all the details from last year. But, as the plot came back to me, I found this book gripping – maybe not as much as the first, but I think the middle book in a trilogy is always going to be harder work, without the novelty of the first and the conclusion of the second.
However, I really loved the space there was to explore all kinds of questions about what constitutes ‘truth’, how the same event can be portrayed differently by different groups of people, how hard it is to shake off what you were brought up with, and so on. I can’t wait for book three!
We had a pretty awesome barbecue over the first bank holiday weekend with lovely family. (At risk of sounding Very British – hasn’t the weather been lovely? And it’s not even June. Well, it is now – but it wasn’t in May. When the weather was fab. Did I mention this?)
Also, the kids wanted to bake bread, but we didn’t have a whole lot of time to be doing with the rising and the proving, so we cheated and made soda bread (which is actually just as nice as normal bread, but don’t tell).
Our book club met at Bistro Guy for pizza. I know I go on about this place, but it really is something. If you’re local and haven’t tried it, you really must.
The kids made some fruit sparkler skewers – very simple really, taken from The Artful Year – which I totally love as a guide to process-oriented art (as opposed to “let’s all make exactly the same thing out of exactly the same materials”-type art).
Seems an age away now, but we enjoyed Eurovision. Actually, I’m not sure ‘enjoyed’ is the word – what is the correct adjective here?
We’ve had a lot more Karine Polwart in the car, and DesertDad has been making me listen to this Hans Theesink album – reasonably palatable Blues (to a non-Blues fan) – since he saw him live at the start of the month.
Stage and screen
I went with some friends to see The Play that goes Wrong after rave reviews from various members of my family. It wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea – it’s basically non-stop slapstick, and there were a few moments when my attention wandered – but there are also several genius comedy moments, which are executed brilliantly. There are still loads of places left on the tour, so if it’s coming near you, I highly recommend it.
The hubs and I have also been watching House of Cards (the British version from the early 90s). Totally absorbing, even for a non-politics person like me. The central character, Francis Urquhart, becomes more and more twisted in his relentless drive to become PM, and it does make for compelling viewing. We’ve just started the second series and I’m hooked!
And a friend invited me to watch The Holiday which is totally my kind of feel-good rom-com, with all the essential ingredients (crappy ex-boyfriends, wonderful British-American banter, and Jude Law). Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz take part in a holiday house swap, to get as far away as possible from their complicated romantic lives. Kate ends up in L.A., Cameron in Surrey. Romance (obvs) ensues. Much recommended!
Everyone has a role. So what’s mine? is a powerful, tear-jerking article by foster-carer Julie on behalf of Home for Good, outlining how we can support vulnerable children, even if we don’t do the actual adopting/fostering ourselves.
I loved these responses to Bishop Michael Curry’s Royal Wedding sermon: 9 Assorted Thoughts on That Wedding Sermon and 4 reasons people didn’t like the Royal Wedding sermon – and why they’re wrong.
And I resonated with 5 Valuable Work Lessons from Maternity Leave – so much so, in fact, that you’ll be spotting my own response to this in the next couple of weeks.
On the blog
I wrote about the challenges of parenting in The Day of Demands, the challenges of marriage (not least royal marriage) in Dysfunctional Families? There’s hope in marriage! and the challenges of adoption in my review of The A-Z of Therapeutic Parenting.
I was thrilled to interview new author Joanna May Chee on How to Chase your Dreams (and why so many of us don’t), and wrote a little blog about money, based on my first few months’ experience attempting to build a freelance writing career.
I waxed lyrical about this amazing Herbs & Essential Oils bundle (flash sale ends this Monday, 4th June so be quick if you want it!).
AND…I was slightly flabbergasted to find that my thoughts on Should children be allowed to run around in church? quickly became the second most-read blog post on Desertmum…EVER! (And I’ve been blogging six years, so this is quite an achievement!)
It clearly struck a chord with some, and I’ve enjoyed the various debates on Facebook, ranging from “No, they absolutely shouldn’t” to “We need to re-think how we do church so that no one has to stay in their seats at all”. Loved it!
(Although, had I known how much attention it would receive, I might have worked on it for a bit longer. I mean, it’s kind of like going out in jeans and a top, then realising everyone else is in a dress and, if you’d have known, you’d have smartened up a bit.)
Also, I started organising everything I’ve ever written about adoption in one easy-to-navigate Pinterest board: Adoption Encouragement and Honesty. Not everything is up there yet, but I hope you’ll agree it looks much more enticing than a plain old list.
Do have a look! And please follow/share with others who would be encouraged to find this free online resource library.
* We spent a beautifully sunny day enjoying Fountain’s Abbey. What a place! We just love it here. Oh, and we used the opportunity of being en famille plus one to attempt a family photo – no fewer than 18 times. The result? I think we got one where 5/6 of us look OK.
* I got me some NEW HAIR! (And then I washed it, and it pretty much went back to normal.)
* THE ROYAL WEDDING!!! Wasn’t it immense?! I’d quite forgotten how fun these are, and felt kind of sad that there won’t be another important one for a long time.
* I put up a hanging basket ALL BY MYSELF.
* And we had a glorious couple of days away sans kiddoes – the first time this has happened in over four years! I planned it as a surprise for the hubs – he’s pretty dozy, so it wasn’t difficult to pull the wool over his eyes. But it worked – he’d had no idea, and was pleasantly happy at the thought of no responsibility for two days. Look at us, looking all happy and carefree and like we haven’t cleared up a puddle of wee in 24 hours! (In case you’re wondering where we stayed – it was Gladstone’s Library – a residential library! How cool is that?)
Linking up, as always, with the lovely Leigh Kramer’s ‘What I’m into’ blog posts. Do check them out – you may discover a fantastic new blogger!
Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links. Click through, make a purchase, and I will make a tiny bit of commission at no extra cost to yourself. Why, thank you!
I’m delighted to be sharing a Desertmum ‘first’ with you all today – a blog interview! Woop!
One of the huge, huge blessings I’ve encountered since starting my ‘proper’ writing journey in January has been getting to know other Christian writers through online networks. It’s my absolute pleasure to be able to introduce you to one of these new friends today.
I’ve asked Joanna to share a few thoughts about chasing our dreams – something that’s been on my mind since I started to pursue mine this year. Read away…
I’m so thrilled to have you with us today Joanna! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
It’s great to be with you, Lucy! I’m Joanna, wife to an amazing man, and mum to four
wonderful teen kids. We’ve lived in several countries – Malaysia, Bosnia and Turkey – and are now settled back in England. We’ve had a few adventures! I love to write and teach, and have a heart to encourage and equip women to love their families and meet with God.
What’s the dream you’ve been chasing recently?
It’s always been my dream to write a book. And, in February this year, my first book Forever Loved: Eve’s Story was published! It’s the story of Father and daughter, as told by Eve, and focuses on God’s Father heart of love for Eve, and for us as women.
I still can’t believe I’m an author! Or that my book hit #1 Women’s Spirituality and #1 Christian Literature on Amazon UK in its first week of publication. If God can do that for me – an unknown, first time, self-publishing author – just think what he can do with your dream! God is a God of the impossible!
What obstacles did you face in seeing your book come to life?
The largest and most unexpected obstacle to getting my book out there was getting a cover designed! It took me 3 years to write the book (Mum with four children here!), but then another whole year back-and- forward with designers trying to get a cover I loved. I didn’t like anything they came up with, and got through designers and money. It was a hugely frustrating and difficult process. (You can read how my cover came to be, and see previous versions, in this blog post.) In the end, I designed the cover myself and just got a designer to tweak and perfect it.
During the book writing process, I also learned how to blog, how to grow an audience to market to, and how to self-publish. This involved a lot of research, and a lot of hard work. Fulfilment of a dream usually requires commitment, pushing through, and passion. The result is totally worth it!
How do we discern which dreams are God-given, and which are self-indulgent?
If we are pursuing God, then I’m not sure that any dream is self-indulgent! The Bible says
God gives us the desires of our hearts (as we delight in Him, Psalm 37:4). He is a good
Father; I think He gets really excited by the things that stir our hearts, and loves to see us
pressing into them.
Of course, there is timing. One dream may be for now. Another may be for future. The key is probably to ask God what to pursue when, and to go with what you have excitement and peace for.
What sort of things do you think keep us from pursuing our dreams?
So many things: lack of time, fear of failure, financial pressures, not knowing where to start, fear of what others will think, life overwhelm, feeling inadequate, questioning the timing and so on.
Are there particular obstacles for women, do you think, in pursuing their dreams?
There is one area I can think of straight off! I know many women dream to speak, to preach, to lead. Often this is hard because they do not have a platform to do so, or sadly, are not allowed or encouraged to.
The amazing thing is that the internet has totally opened things up for us as women. Anyone can create an online course, and teach or speak. Anyone can start an online community. Anyone can mentor others online. Yes, there are things to learn, but the internet truly makes it possible for you to pursue whatever is on your heart!
What advice would you give someone who felt God had given them a specific dream to pursue?
Go for it! Get excited. Dream big. Ask God for wisdom in pursuing your dream: how to start, and what to do each step of the way. Prioritise your dream. Carve out short time slots in your week to plan, to research, to implement. Even 5-10 minutes a day for a year adds up!
Search out others pursuing a similar dream – Facebook groups are great for that. Learn from them; receive support and encouragement. Find a friend to pray with and be accountable to. Know that God is able. He can work through you to make your dream reality. Receive from Him each day. He is your source and your strength.
I recently wrote a blog post titled Beautiful Mum … What’s Your Dream? where I expand on these thoughts, and share my own experiences of pursuing my dreams, as a busy mum with a million other things to do! I encourage you to read it … and go for your dream! There’s nothing more exciting in life than living with purpose and passion!
Joanna Chee gets excited about God! She loves to write, and is often awake in the night with a million ideas for her next book or project. Joanna blogs at JoannaMayChee.com and MumsKidsJesus.com, where it is her heart to encourage and equip women to love their families and meet with God. She is author of Forever Loved: Eve’s Story, a creative retelling of the Bible story of Eve, and a #1 Amazon UK bestseller. Connect with Joanna on Facebook.com/JoannaMayChee | Facebook.com/MumsKidsJesus | Pinterest.co.uk/MumsKidsJesus
This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I earn a little commission at no cost to yourself.
This post has moved! Check it out on my shiny new website here.
One of the joys of this blog is being able to share stuff with you which is far, far better than what I’m writing, so it’s a privilege today to point you all in the direction of The Life-Changing Magic of an Untidy Christmas, which was published yesterday over on Desiring God. It has little to do with what I’m going to write about, but was too damned good not to pass on. Have a read, see what you think.
A friend asked me yesterday whether I had any advice on speaking to small children about Santa, and since our day was also punctuated in other ways by Santa (Monkey and Meerkat had a visit from the Big Man at their preschool Christmas party – and were constantly talking about hanging up stockings on Christmas Eve), he seems a good topic for today’s reflection.
There is so much which is fun about Santa. He’s a novelty – someone who turns up just once a year, but is friendly and kind, and delivers exactly the presents you’ve asked for, all wrapped up in a stocking. How fun is that? And he doesn’t just do this for you, but – somehow, miraculously – for all the children around the world.
The real ‘Santa’, St Nicholas, was also a kind, friendly, generous man – he loved God, and from that relationship came a heart for the poor and vulnerable around him. The legend of him dropping three bags of gold into the slippers of three young women in his village whose father was too poor to afford their dowries – even if it may have been embellished down the years – shows a heart which was sacrifically generous.
During Advent, we have always taught our children that Santa was a real person, St Nicholas, and we tell them this story about his generosity. We use this book, but one which has been recommended to me by a lot of Christian parents is Just Nicholas (we don’t yet have it ourselves). Doing this, our kids have always known that Santa – as we celebrate him today – is not alive today, but that he was based on a real person. (We’ve also told them not to tell their classmates!)
This has not killed the magic for our family – on the contrary, I believe it has added a rich significance which merely believing in ‘Santa’ does not. Because Santa also has his failings. He only rewards you if you’re good. He watches what you do through the year, and keeps a list of your wrongdoings. He’s not interested in a relationship with you.
In short – Santa is only human. To base our Christmas around him would end in huge disappointment.
But celebrating ‘Santa’ as St Nicholas each Christmas is a way of pointing to Jesus in our celebrations. St Nicholas gave freely and sacrificially because he’d received freely and sacrificially from Jesus’ death and resurrection. The baby Jesus who we celebrate at Christmas grew up to be our Rescuer – the One who would put us right with God forever. He would not keep a record of our wrongdoings, but forgive us freely – and His gift would be available to all, regardless of how ‘good’ we were. As we remember St Nicholas, the gracious man who gave of his money, time and energy, we are more able to look up to the God who inspired him.
I genuinely feel that celebrating Santa can be a hugely significant part of our festivities. But elevating him to a position above Jesus is so easy to do – and, although we may not realise it, over-indulging in Santa at Christmas really muddies the waters for our young children. They don’t realise who or what they’re celebrating – nor why. Or else, the sacred and the secular celebrations (Jesus and Santa being celebrated equally, but separately) represent two parallel, but unrelated, Christmas traditions.
In Zechariah’s day, God’s people felt disappointed by their return to Israel. It wasn’t all they had expected, so they started to grumble, and turned to idols. But, through Zechariah, God made it very clear that these idols had no power whatsoever – His people needed to return to Him, who was able to do all things:
Ask the Lord for rain in the springtime;
it is the Lord who sends the thunderstorms.
He gives showers of rain to all people,
and plants of the field to everyone.
The idols speak deceitfully,
diviners see visions that lie;
they tell dreams that are false,
they give comfort in vain.
Therefore the people wander like sheep
oppressed for lack of a shepherd. (Zechariah 10:1-2)
In today’s terms, an ‘idol’ is anything which diverts our attention from God. Perhaps this sounds a little dramatic for something as innocent as Santa. Or perhaps it’s the innocuous parts of our culture which have the most potential to draw us away from Jesus.
* If you have children, think back over the last few weeks. How many of your activities/celebrations have been about Santa? How many about Jesus? Or do you combine the two?
* As an adult, what are the secular Christmas traditions (like Santa) which threaten to draw your attention from Jesus?
Lord God, you’ve commanded me not to make idols – and yet I do it unthinkingly in so many ways, not least at Christmas when so many festivities claim my attention and focus. Please re-orientate my gaze onto You, trusting in You for the satisfaction I can’t find elsewhere. Amen.
November can be a pretty miserable month – it’s cold, wet and dark, and it feels like we’re hanging around waiting for December to begin. To distract myself from the temptation to put the tree up on November 1st (did I mention I LOVE Christmas??), I kept myself busy with…
Having recently read ‘Me Before You’, it was only natural to want to know what had happened to Louisa, the main character, so I enjoyed ‘After You’ (JoJo Moyes) as an easy-to-read but satisfying ‘conclusion’ to the first book. I was just thinking that the story would work well as a trilogy – and then discovered that there will, in fact, be a third book coming out in the spring! Yay!
I’ve not yet finished, but am thoroughly enjoying, ‘Why Love Matters’ (Sue Gerhardt), something I’ve been wanting to read in full since coming across it on our adoption reading list two years ago. It’s about the vital role that early love and nurture play in the development of a child’s brain, helping it to regulate emotions, retain a normal level of cortisol (stress hormone), and all sorts of other interesting things. Gerhardt shows how a baby who does not have its emotional needs met, and/or experiences separation from its primary caregiver, is much more susceptible to poor mental health and even physical health in adulthood, amongst other undesirable states.
Now I am NOT a scientist, but Gerhardt has condensed a 50-page bibliography of current psychological research about the brain into a novel-sized book that even I can understand. Brilliant and thoroughly recommended for anyone, like me, who has a passing interest in psychology but not enough to do a whole degree in it!
Oh, and I was massively excited to be part of a new book club launch in my area! We’re kicking off in January, and you’ll be the first to know what we’re delving into!
For the first time, I got to experience my friend’s bistro in the evening. The daytime menu at Bistro Guy is what you’d expect from a decent, modern-British restaurant – local organic platters, decent home-cooked burgers, soups and salads – and we’ve been several times. But the evening is totally different, and I highly recommend it for any Yorkie who hasn’t yet been.
Guy provides a tantalising menu of ‘small plates’, all with a Japanese-Western fusion, and you simply order as much as you feel you can eat. Which, in my case, would probably be all of them – except for my bank balance, and the fact that we were eating before a show so were somewhat time-limited. I’d seen the menu before, but the reality was even better.
I started with Karaage chicken, Yuzu dressed fine beans and a wasabi emulsion – delicious flavours and beautifully tender – but it was so yummy that I’d necked the lot before I thought of taking any photos.
My Dad enjoyed a wild mushroom and garden pea soup: (Excuse the rubbish phone pics, they really don’t do the food justice.)
I tried a wild mushroom and leek filo roll, squash puree and parmesan crisp (only halfway through before I remembered to take a pic):
And then – the piece de resistance – whiskey-smoked duck, a feast for the eyes and tastebuds:
I absolutely loved the smoke-filled bell-jar – and the aroma when it was lifted off was absolute heaven. The duck was beautifully cooked and the flavours matched perfectly.
As if I hadn’t had enough amazing flavours, I finished off with the chocolate brownie, coconut pannacotta, red bean and ice cream:
An incredible meal.
Elsewhere, in what was probably my most stressful week of the year, our Suzuki teacher (and my boss) made me this amazing cake. Wasn’t that kind?
And a couple of fun pre-Christmas foodie traditions at home. I made a batch of Christmas chutneys for gifts:
And the kids (well, the younger three – the oldest has sadly opted out this year) helped to make our Christmas pud. And yes, we made it on Stir-Up Sunday!
It was a teeny bit stressful, rashly offering to step in to accompany a friend’s school choir in the middle of town at short notice this month – but, once I’d put in the practice, I absolutely LOVED being able to justifiably play Christmas music mid-November.
Did I mention I LOVE Christmas music??
Stage and screen
My Dad is a big G&S fan, so I invited him and Mum up here to see Patience. It was pretty good (for a not-so-fan), and I even managed to stay awake through it all – something not achieved by the other not-so-fan in the party. Spotting one of Mister’s teaching assistants in the chorus was a particular highlight.
I went to see Nina Conti with a friend and she was brilliant brilliant brilliant. We laughed so hard that we hurt – and it was the kind of laughter that you couldn’t stop if you tried. Her improvisation is so quick, her puppetry is amazing, and I’ve simply never seen anything like it. I can’t understand why she’s not better known, so have vowed to make it my mission to spread the word, starting with this video, which you simply MUST watch:
On the blog
Hooray for managing another blog post this month besides these monotonous run-downs. Turns out that Five Ways my Toddlers are Different from Yours hit a chord with people, and within days it had become one of the most-read posts on this blog EVER (that’s over-five-years Ever). I also introduced my #randomadvent blog posts, and would be thrilled if you wanted to pootle along with me during Advent. The easiest way is to sign up to receive them directly into your inbox – you should find the appropriate box in the right-hand column of this blog.
In other news…
* I’ve made an effort with Twitter. I’m @DesertMumBlog if you’re interested to follow me. Sometimes I say something good and no one notices. Other times, I say something predictable and it gets lots of likes and retweets. Twitter is a strange place.
* I attended Adoption UK’s Annual Conference – it was my first one, and it was amazing! This year’s theme was ‘Attachment and Trauma in the Classroom’ and so much of it was helpful to work through, both as a parent, and as a governor, seeking to make a positive change within our school community. Some of the speakers had really interesting experiences, like the headteacher who runs his school very differently since he’s become an adoptive parent, or the mum who started her own school because her son wasn’t catered for in the mainstream.
There was also a decent lunch, surely the mark of a good conference:
* We had a Baker Day (anyone else still call them that?) so I took the kiddoes to William’s Den – highly worth a visit if you’re local. Brilliant for toddlers through to older primary kids – like soft play, only hard.
* My wallet was stolen. I don’t actually mind, because the story’s a good one, and it’s always nice to build up one’s repertoire of dinner-party-worthy anecdotes (maybe I’ll share it on here one day). People were all like, “Oh what a pain, you have to cancel all your cards” – but I’m ashamed to say I had only one bank card and approximately five gazillion store loyalty cards for every single shop within a 50-mile circumference of my home. I’m a SUCKER for anyone offering me a paltry discount in return for a large chunk of my patronage.
* We got back into doing some interactive Bible stories over breakfast. It’s been a surprisingly easy habit to fall into, and the younger three kids love them. I use Play through the Bible, sadly no longer available, so if you’re interested, you’ll have to borrow a copy 😉 I feel we’ve cracked the habit in time for starting some Christmas stories this weekend.
* The younger boys (and I!) were very excited by this rainbow!
* We were then very excited by the snow! NOW, Desert readers, help me out with something. After each blog post, I am indebted to all the wonderful recommendations you come up with – most recently, for a new ironing board cover (still in progress…). So, when the temperature suddenly dropped by 20 degrees last week, my face very quickly started to resemble blotchy red sandpaper. Any great recommendations of a decent facial moisturiser which protects against the cold? We live in the North, you know.
* Last but very much not least…it’s our school Christmas Fair tomorrow, so I’ve been doing lots of bits for that. It’ll probably get a mention in #randomadvent, but for now let me just tell you what a total JOY it is to compare how far our school has come since last year’s Christmas fair. We now have a proper PTA, a committee, and a good bunch of enthusiastic and reliable parents to help out. I’m expecting great things!
And, oh gosh, it’s past midnight, which means that the Fair is today. Best get some sleep.
I am the Queen of unrealistic ambitions.
Approximately every five days I have a new business idea, or personal goal, or family-related plan which I will never – I repeat, NEVER – be able to see into action.
And so, it’s fully understandable that I began this year with the aim of writing an Advent devotional ready for this Advent.
I mean – what was I thinking??? I have four kids who each present their own set of challenges. A husband who presents more. I’m a school governor and chair of the PTA. I lead a house group, help run a toddler group, am on the Sunday kids work rota and occasionally lead worship. If I’m in bed before midnight, I count it as a minor miracle – and that’s with a pile of dirty laundry dumped by the machine, pots sitting unwashed, emails unreplied to and our bedroom still resembling the aftermath of a hurricane. (Still. After I’ve spent the whole year trying to get round to tidying it.)
So no. The Advent devotional didn’t happen. But then I realised something. I always begin Advent full of good intentions about sticking to a devotional, focusing my mind in the busy lead-up to Christmas. And it lasts for two weeks, max, before I lose the habit and drift off. Just like my over-ambitious life plans, even trying to read something for 10 minutes a day for 25 days is an unachievable goal.
Now it struck me that if I’m like this, maybe others are too. And doesn’t this, in itself, bring us back to the Christmas story? Our good intentions, our ambitions, our desire to get things right – we can’t possibly keep this up. And when it inevitably falls flat on its face – in life, or in the stresses peculiar to December – we are left with a small baby in an animal feeding trough, born as a refugee into a political unstable country. His vulnerability, at birth and at death, would become our strength.
So here’s what I’m planning to do: write a little thought here on the blog every day this Advent. I’ll share anecdotes from my day, or things I’ve been thinking about – and I’ll try and include a short Bible passage too. You’ll bump along with the Desert household as we carry out our Christmas traditions and enjoy the season – but, inevitably, you’ll be the first to know when things don’t go to plan.
If you’re looking for exegesis or coherent thought, then this probably won’t be for you. If you like the idea of ‘doing Advent’ alongside another desert wanderer, then please join me. I’m going to call it ‘Random Advent’ – I did think of joining the words together in some overly fashionable way, but #randvent just sounds like the wrong kind of hashtag. This is not that kind of blog.
I’ll be updating on Facebook and Twitter, obvs, so please like/follow me on those media if you don’t already, but the easiest, surefire way of receiving each Advent thought is to sign up to email alerts. You can do that on the right-hand column of this blog – just type your email address and click on ‘follow’.
I’m not promising it’ll be anything profound, but perhaps as we offer God our mundane and simple, He will do something extraordinary. It worked for Mary and Joseph.