7: joy to the world

Whilst wrapping presents yesterday, I had as my soundtrack the rather wonderful Postmodern Jukebox Christmas album. One of my favourite tracks on this album (and one of my favourite carols generally) is ‘Joy to the World’. If you haven’t heard PMJ’s version of this, take a listen now:

I love the carol, as the words express some of the amazement the shepherds would have felt on hearing, from the angels, that their Saviour had come. And I love this version, because it expresses the sheer exuberance I can imagine the shepherds would have had, but that we struggle to feel today.

It got me thinking – why do we struggle to see the wonder of the coming Saviour? The angels announced Jesus’ birth to the shepherds with such powerful words:

“…I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord…” (Luke 2:10-11, emphasis mine)

This news was expected to bring ‘great joy’ for everyone. Why do we not feel this ‘great joy’ when we contemplate the miracle of God sending His only Son to live amongst us? And why do we not get so excited that we now have a ‘Saviour’, a ‘Messiah’, who will literally be ‘God to the rescue’ for us?

I guess, partly, good news dulls over time. We’ve known this truth all our lives; even if we haven’t believed, or still don’t believe, it to be true, we’ve always known about the historical figure of Jesus. It is no longer ‘news’ like it was to the shepherds, that very first Christmas.

But mainly, I think, God’s people (in this case, the shepherds) knew how much they were in need of a Messiah. They knew they couldn’t enter God’s presence apart from time-consuming and costly rituals. They knew that their wrongdoings would always come between them and a God who was 100% holy. They needed rescuing – and they knew it. It had been foretold for hundreds of years, and was something they were expecting. Sure, they were probably expecting a powerful, famous political leader, and not a refugee child born to working-class parents, but that’s for another day.

I believe that we don’t share the amazement of the shepherds because we’re not aware how much we need a Saviour. Over the years, humankind has devised systems and structures to distract us from the existence of God and our need for an unbroken relationship with Him. We have built walls to give ourselves security and protection, to the point where we don’t realise we need God. We have learnt to trust in our economy, our career, our salary, our house-purchase – or, if it all falls through, the welfare state. We have layers upon layers of people around us who we hope will meet our emotional needs, provide financial stability for us, help us move up the career ladder, and so on.

But strip it all away, and at the core of our being is a deep yearning to be in close contact with the One who made us. And the external things in which we put our trust? They might provide income, a temporary security, the keeping up of appearances – but they don’t deal with the heart of the problem: we can never be perfect, and we need rescuing from ourselves.

Jesus – humble, peace-loving, revolutionary – came to lead us to God. He came to show us that we need a Rescuer. He took the horrific punishment that should have been ours – the punishment deserved by all humankind from the start of time to the end because of our wrongdoing – and ended the grip that our failings have over us. Only He could take this punishment, as only He was perfect – were He not, then He would have been dying merely for His own sin.

Let’s not forget this Advent that we need rescuing. Then we can start to sense some of the amazement of the shepherds – Is it really true? Can it be that God has sent a Saviour to rescue me? What love, what sacrifice!

* Spend a few minutes meditating on the amazing news that your Saviour has COME!

Dear Lord, thank you for sending Your Son. Thank you that I have a Saviour – a way out of the mess of this life. Please grow in me a sense of exuberant joy this Advent, and give me opportunities to sing of how wonderful this is! Amen.

Advertisements

6: the agony of the ride

IMG_3398[1]

I want to say one more thing about the book shop analogy.

It ends well. It ends with a sense of satisfaction and fulfilment greater than the alternative. But it does not always feel satisfying, or victorious, or joyful.

When I was floundering in the book shop, unable to find anything I was looking for, my mind (and the woman next to me) started to say You should have looked online. This would have been much quicker on Wordery. Why not leave it and buy later, from the comfort of your own home?

We flounder in our Christian lives, too. We can’t see where we’re supposed to be heading, and the bit we’re in currently feels dark and hard, with an infinity of questions and doubts. We really wish, sometimes, that we could take an alternative path. You should just do what everyone else is doing. Things would be so much easier if you weren’t trying to follow Christ. Why don’t you just take that short-cut? 

It is often in these times, though, when everything feels like a long, hard slog, that we grow the most. It is often in these times, once we’re through them, that we look back and see clearly what God was teaching us. And, if these times seem to drift on and on, with no obvious feeling of getting through them, we find that God is drawing us closer to him, honing and refining our character to be more like Him.

As we reflect on how 2017 has been for us, whilst looking towards the baby Christ in the manger, let’s not forget that he never promised an easy life:

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matthew 7:13-14)

But, as we read here, he did promise a road that leads to life – and, ultimately, that is where I want to be, hard and dark though it may sometimes feel.

For more on this subject, read this excellent article: The Road I would Never Choose which, by coincidence, popped up on the Desiring God website just as I was planning to blog on this topic.

* Whether you’re travelling a narrow, difficult part of the path at the moment – or you can remember a time when you were – or you feel that your entire Christian life seems to be made up of sacrifices and suffering, spend a few minutes in silence, asking God what He wants to teach you today.

Father, thank you that your Son, born humbly in a manger, would grow up to be our Saviour. Thank you that, whatever suffering I’m enduring, He has suffered more. I can’t express how astounded I am to know that You would make that sacrifice for me, but I want it to shape how I respond to life. Please help me to put You first over comfort, ease, security and convenience. Amen.

5: the thrill of the ride

IMG_20171204_114216[1]
Me, Christmas shopping. Not quite got the hang of a selfie. Give me time.
Yesterday was my Christmas shopping morning.

Any parent of small children will know that those pockets of time where you can go out shopping for presents without having to resort to buying a fresh bag of chocolate coins in each shop with which to placate the increasingly restless small people in your buggy must be seized with both hands, feet, and whatever else you can lurch towards them.

I found myself in Waterstone’s – a shop I love, but use mainly for browsing and picking up things which look interesting. When I have a specific title to buy, I almost always shop online. So yesterday morning found me standing in the entrance, wondering how the heck you go about finding a specific title in an ACTUAL BOOK SHOP.

The newest titles were at the front, obviously, and I mentally kicked myself for not noting down the publication years of the books I was looking for. I hoped to God that they weren’t recent titles – as this section of the store was a meandering mess of biographies, celebrity chef titles, and hardback novels in no particular alphabetical order – and strode confidently through to the A-Z section of the store.

Book number 1 – no show. Book number 2 – not there. Book number 3 – missing. Just as I was wondering whether I had in fact mis-remembered my alphabet, a woman next to me struck up conversation. (Londoners, take note: this is what Northerners do. It is not out-of-the-ordinary. It is not the point of the story, from which I am about to make some deeply profound spiritual application. It is just a thing that people do.)

“Funny,” she said. “I have three friends who, totally independently of one another, have each asked for the same book.”

“Oh,” I replied. “My Mum seems to have asked for four books which don’t exist.” And then, “Aha!” as I spotted the fourth book sitting unceremoniously on the shelf. Phew. Alphabet memory intact.

“Well you know what’s very good – Book Depository online. You just type in the title and it brings up the details.”

“Yes…well I often use Wordery…but, you know, I like Waterstone’s and it’s nice to support an actual shop, isn’t it?”

“Well if you need anything, Book Depository is really excellent.”

“Great, well, yes I do shop online most of the time, but just thought I’d use a real shop today, seeing as it’s Christmas and I have this time set aside to do my Christmas shopping.”

“Or do you know what else is good? Blackwell’s online. We go down to Oxford to visit my daughter and we always pop in – they’re very good in there – and their website is excellent, very quick delivery.”

“Great – well, thanks, I’ll remember that,” I ended, before I allowed someone 30 years my senior to tell me of Amazon’s existence, and I drifted off (this is how a Yorkshire Shop Conversation usually ends) to consider that perhaps one or more of the titles would be found under the ‘Crime’ section. How was I to know whether they were crime novels? Did my Mum even read crime? I looked again at the title of one of the three missing books, which had ‘murder’ in the title. Oh yes, of course, silly me, she does enjoy a good murder, and that, indeed, counts as ‘crime’. I found the title immediately.

The next one, by luck, I found on the ‘Buy One Get One Half Price’ table. (There is absolutely NO LOGIC as to what is on this table, as far as I could tell.) And then I wondered if the final outstanding book would also be found there – and, by some incredible stroke of luck, it was. So I took my books to the long queue for the till, whereupon I had a brief but jovial bit of banter with an older gentleman about the length of the queue (ONLY IN BRITAIN DOES ANYONE EVER DO QUEUE BANTER), and proceeded to pay for my books, gaining a new Waterstone’s loyalty card to replace the nearly-full one I lost when my wallet was stolen – probably the card I was most sad to lose, if I’m honest.

I promised you a daily Advent reflection, and here I am having rambled on about my morning in Waterstone’s with not so much as a nod towards the Christ-child. Well, I did promise you reality, and here is my reality: speaking with pensioners in a bookshop about websites where you can buy books, and isn’t-it-a-shame-they’re-not-opening-the-upstairs-till-today-of-all-days.

But here’s the link to a small thought for today: the thrill is in the ride. Yesterday I spoke about how we’re waiting for heaven – and yet how we mustn’t close our eyes to what God is doing in our lives and communities right now. I want to go a step further today to suggest that, while we wait for heaven, there is an adventure God wants to take us on which beats any other way of doing life. Today, I could have typed four book titles into Google, and bought them all within seconds. Quick, efficient, easy. Job done. But then I’d have missed out on the fun of going to a real bookshop – the sight and smell of all those books, the quirky conversations, the loyalty card, the sense of walking away with real, weighty novels, as opposed to an ‘order confirmation’ email being pinged to my inbox.

It cost me more, in time and money, to go to a real shop than to buy online. And it costs us more to follow Christ than to follow our own desires. But it was so much more enjoyable, unpredictable, and interesting to go to the bookshop. How much more, then, is life with Christ? It’s impossible to say what exciting journeys, twists and turns God will take you on next, as it’ll be different for everyone – but I can promise that it will be thrilling. (You can read about one of my twists here.)

Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life  will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? (Matthew 16:24-26)

Yes, we know who’s ultimately won the battle – and yes, we know (roughly) what will happen at the end of this life. But the excitement is in how we get there. Don’t opt for the easy life – you might miss the thrill of the ride.

* Take a minute to think back over the last year: what unusual or unexpected things has God done or allowed in your life?

* Meditate on the above passage. In what ways are you needing to ‘deny yourself’ right now? (Very briefly, for me the answer is material security – we don’t own a house. This hasn’t bothered me till the last few months. God is teaching me – and I’m SLOWLY learning – to fall onto Him, rather than to crave a seemingly ‘secure’ financial investment.)

Father God, thank you that you love me enough to guide me in the right way, even when it means pulling me away from things which seem attractive and secure. Thank you that what you offer is so much more thrilling, and help me to see that this Advent, and to steer towards you at every turn. Amen.

 

 

4: ‘the now and the not yet’ of advent

IMG_3382[1]
Our Christmas star, which we switched on this weekend. And yes, I believe that is bird poo on the window.
About a week ago, Mister whined, “I wish it was Christmas tomorrow!”

“Really?” I replied. “But then there’d be no Christmas fair, no Christmas jumper day, no Christingle, no decorating the house, no trip to see the lights, no Christmas stories, no Advent calendars, no school Christmas dinner, no class Christmas party…you wouldn’t really want that, would you?”

He saw my point.

At the same time, we have Monkey – who, at the age of 3, is really starting to understand more of what Christmas is about – regularly saying to us, with a melancholy tone, “Oh…Christmas not here yet”.

I try to explain that Christmas Day itself comes in a few weeks’ time, but that we can enjoy getting ready for Christmas now that it’s Advent.

Waiting is hard, isn’t it? And I think we can go one of two ways with it. Either we are so desperate for what we’re waiting for to arrive (the day when all my children go to school! Yippee!) that we miss out on the here and now (I’ll miss them when they’re gone). Or we get so caught up in the waiting, that we lose sight of what it is we’re actually waiting for.

A few years ago, I went with a friend to see the Tour de France come through York. The waiting was fun – there was a bouncy castle for the kids, various freebies being thrown out from passing advertising vehicles, and we had a plentiful supply of snackage to keep everyone happy. It was tempting to go home after an hour or so – after all, the kids were only young, they’d had a trip out and a bit of fun – who was complaining? But that would be to miss out on what we’d made an effort to see in the first place. When it came, it was quick (that’s the point – it’s a race) and over very soon. But the excitement that swelled through the crowd at that point was very tangible, and we were thrilled to get caught up in it. I’m glad we didn’t go home!

As we spend this Advent, not only waiting for Christmas but waiting for heaven, let’s not make these mistakes. Let’s not get so caught up in the things of this life that we forget who we were made for, and where we were meant to live. In John 17, Jesus says this about his disciples (but I think we can apply it to ourselves also, as modern-day disciples):

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

(John 17:15-19)

So, firstly we are to be sanctified – made holy, set apart. We are not to cling so tightly to the things of this world that we compromise who God has called us to be.

But secondly, let’s not fall into the trap of focussing only on heaven, and missing what’s around us. God wants to redeem us, our friends, our communities, our churches, our workplaces. Are we missing the transformative work He is doing, and the role He has for us in it, because all we’re concerned with is our ‘free pass’ to heaven?

* Think of one area where you need God’s sanctifying power to make you more Christlike. (For me, this is definitely patience!)

* Think of one area in your life where you can see God’s transformation over the last few weeks/months/years. It could be an aspect of your character, or one of your friends, or a situation, or a community group, work venture, or church ministry. Praise God for it, and ask for more!

Dear Lord, this Advent please come and sanctify me. Please chip away at my character to make me more like the Christ whose birth I’m preparing to celebrate. And please keep my eyes open to the many wonderful things you’re doing in my life, my community, and the lives of those around me. Praise you for your transformative power. Amen.

3: the first disaster of advent

IMG_20171202_212928[1]It wasn’t going to take long for something to go wrong during the lead-up to Christmas. 2nd December. (Can anyone trump that?)

In the scheme of things, the breaking of a decoration which cost £2.50 is not really a disaster – it would definitely make it onto one of those lists of first-world problems. The fact I rather liked it, and that it was only purchase a week ago, makes it a bit of a shame to have gone so quickly. The fact that my three-year-old is still throwing things which aren’t balls despite goodness-knows-how-many-months of trying to drum into him that you don’t throw things which aren’t balls is perhaps more of a concern than the breaking of a small, insignificant tree decoration.

There were disasters a-plenty around the time of Jesus’ birth:

Disaster no.1: parents aren’t married, in an age where to give birth out of wedlock would make you an outcast of society.

Disaster no.2: Mum gives birth in a stable. My friends have given birth in taxis and in stairwells, but no one (yet) in any sort of farm outhouse.

Disaster no.3: Parents and new baby have to flee a tyrannical King, and find themselves refugees.

…and I could list many more. But, actually, none of these disasters had the power to change history. None of them could prevent the Son of God himself being born as a tiny baby, who would grow up to model life as God intended it, then suffer a cruel death in our place, and rise from it in a glorious victory which would defeat death forever for those who believe in Him.

In fact, one might argue, these disasters actually help us to grab hold of the Christmas story and empathise. Jesus knows the ups and downs of life because he lived them – right from day one. He knows what it’s like to be rejected, cast out of society, a refugee, and homeless. This is the Jesus who invites us to get to know him this Christmas.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

* Meditate on the above passage. What events in your life right now threaten to separate you from the love of God in Jesus?

Dear Lord, thank you for assuring me of your love. Thank you that nothing can separate me from it. You know my situation, and the temptations pulling me away from you. Please draw me near to you, and help me to stay close now and forever. Amen.

2: what are we celebrating?

IMG_20171201_202724[1]
Missy’s reindeer craft from the school fair.
Yesterday was our school Christmas Fair. It’s an important event in the year for us as a family, not only because our older two attend this school, and all four kids look forward to the event, but because for the last two years I’ve organised the event. Desert Dad kindly takes the afternoon off work to take the kiddoes round the fair while I help to run it – so it’s a real family affair.

But besides the usual Christmassy celebrations of Santa’s grotto, present wrapping, stocking fillers and hot chocolate (with Bailey’s, no less), this year’s Fair – for me – celebrated something else. Last year’s fair was a mammoth effort, for we had no PTA, no committee, and were stretched for helpers. This year, we have a proper PTA with a committee, and a growing number of enthusiastic parent helpers, as well as the support of our amazing staff team who worked their socks off all afternoon. Yes it was hard work – but not the burden that it was last year. Things are changing, and the Fair was a celebration of that change.

Now, if we believe that the birth of Jesus was significant, then it’s only right that we use Christmas to celebrate not just his birth, but the very many things that it represents. Jesus’ birth brought peace – and so we spend this season acting peaceably with our neighbours, friends and work colleagues. Jesus’ birth brought hope – and so we rejoice in the hope He has brought us this year, perhaps through the birth of a new baby, a miraculous healing, or a glimpse that life may be turning a corner for us.

I believe that Jesus’ birth brought us into community – with God, and with each other. So it is only right that I spend some time this Advent celebrating the community that He is building at our school – the school which was so dire for so long, but now has such a well-knitted team of children, staff, parents and governors, who are rooting for each other. I will praise God that, this year, He has established this PTA which is bringing the school community together for fun events, as well as raising money to support our children’s education.

* What are you celebrating this year? A new friendship, good health, the growth of a voluntary project or business venture?

* What has Jesus’ birth brought you, relating to the above? Community? Release? Joy? Peace? Favour?

Dear Jesus, I praise you for your birth, and I praise you for all that it continues to mean in my life. This Christmas, help me to reflect on your goodness to me this year, and remember to thank you for it. And though things in my life are not perfect, and there is still suffering, thank you that when you return again, you will bring us to a perfect home with you. Please keep my eyes fixed on this. Amen.

 

what i’m into – november 2017

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…

Books

Image result for after you jojo moyes

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!

Image result for why love matters

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!

Food

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.)

IMG_20171110_185017[1]

I tried a wild mushroom and leek filo roll, squash puree and parmesan crisp (only halfway through before I remembered to take a pic):

IMG_20171110_185030[1]

And then – the piece de resistance – whiskey-smoked duck, a feast for the eyes and tastebuds:

IMG_20171110_190720[1]

IMG_20171110_190730[1]

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:

IMG_20171110_191444[1]

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?

IMG_20171116_175529[1]

And a couple of fun pre-Christmas foodie traditions at home. I made a batch of Christmas chutneys for gifts:

IMG_20171122_100932[1]

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!

IMG_20171126_172002[1]

Music

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

IMG_20171121_204942[1]

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.

IMG_20171111_151335[1]

* 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:

IMG_20171111_132654[1]

* 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.

IMG_20171117_130848[1]

* 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. IMG_20171129_125507[1]

* 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.

IMG_20171127_133729[1]

* The younger boys (and I!) were very excited by this rainbow!

IMG_20171130_124602[1]

* 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.