Thursday, 12 December 2013


Moving countries can turn you into a bit of a nut bag.
All the things you never noticed about yourself, about how you function and what you prefer and how you understand the world, all those things that you never have to look in the eye, well they pretty much stand up and punch you in the face when you step off the plane.

Falling on the tarmac of the runway.

Well, it's not quite that soon. That's just every time you come home from going home, continually confused flying back and forth from who you were and who you're turning into. Planes between worlds, connected by the internet, nothing making any sense.

Nope, the first time your identity crisis slaps you about is when you've been in the new country for a few months or so. When your subconscious - sluggish as it tends to be - finally grasps that you're
That what you thought of as home is a box of memories, punctuated by awkward skype conversations with people you can't touch. And if you try to, you look mental. That home has passed, gone, you committed to a new life in a place that is drowning you and you
You can pop back, and Lord knows we have, for operations and weddings and holidays and awareness raising and thankfully the reasons don't go away, so the journeys don't stop and there's always a future visit to look to. But it's not going home. When you're here you call there 'home' but also vice versa, seeing loved one's faces cringe a little when you call some far off location where they don't live 'home'. Calling everywhere home because nowhere is. Not sure where you belong and so you don't belong anywhere. Lost.

And suddenly you are aware that you're not, really, in England anymore. Ever.
You're in Ukraine.
But, your tiny brain rails, you are English! Not Ukrainian! YOU DON'T FIT HERE. EVERYTHING IS WRONG.
So you obsess, constantly, without meaning to, without trying to, while trying not to, on the differences, on the wrongness, on how you don't fit. But because you are up yourself, this gets projected onto the new home - you obsess over how actually they don't fit. Everyone else is wrong.

Everyone else is unfriendly. Or rude. Or judgemental. Or ignorant.
Ridiculous, stupid xenophobic reactions but these ideas have stamina and they will gather traction and they will hold you in their grip, trapped by hurt masking itself as superiority.
When we went home for Clare's wedding last month we chatted to our taxi driver about how he found the move from Pakistan to England. He was angry with England, he said 'everyone here pretends to be family orientated but they're not, they don't care about you'.
It was like an echo of my thoughts, but dumped on the country I've been longing for, my England. And he was so certain.
Like I've been so certain. Of so many opinions.
Horrible opinions, about how different people are here, navigating life through massive generalizations, and it is terrifying to be so certain about things that are so wrong.

Moved here, got scared and confused because it all feels so different and because I don't have England as a home anymore. So I let my brain go all defensive and accusatory. Found flaws in an entire culture. Idolised my own.
Took nationality as an identity - when you realise your national identity is different, you burrow deeper into 'I am British'. And your days, hours and minutes are spent noticing how British you are compared to the Ukrainians around you. Laminating badges in your mind and pinning them to everybody. Labels. Nationalism. Culture.

And you don't notice the cage you've built around yourself til you try to grow, but you can't because you built the cage too small. So all the fruit, all the beauty that could come from this missionary life is choked to death - never stood a chance - because you're in a tiny box with no room to grow. So you just get tangled and bitter and you say absurd things and wish ridiculous things. And the cage says ENGLISH on the door that you never open.

When you could have been turning into something gorgeous. When God has been holding you, meeting you, providing for you, gloriously and enthusiastically present this whole time but you never looked up cos you were fiddling with the dirt on the bottom of the cage. New branches all stuck in the bars.

But he's bigger than my silliness. And he can teach me, on a bus journey to Zhmerinka orphanage, through my headphones and the kindness of my team who let me sit in the back savouring the toddler-less peace that is a minivan drive through the frost, headphones in and ignoring everyone. He can grab me. I gave him that permission with every worship song I tried to mean, with every prayer week and Bible verse and journal entry. We go way back. So that cage, that nationalism? Like dust, mate. He's got me and he's not going to let me be lied to indefinitely.

He can gently, quietly remind me of who I actually am.
I'm not British.
Sorry, family and friends and your majesty the Queen, but I'm not yours.
I'm also not Ukrainian. Sorry, orphans. I know, what a loss.

I'm in Him.
He's in me.
It's called the cross, it's called looking at God come to die, God's blood on the dirt, His body in the dirt. His tomb empty. His hands, scarred so you can see through the holes, still healing women and children and men bewildered by their own powerlessness. Still overflowing His Spirit all over this world of us, in so many levels of denial but still needing that healing and it's called saying YES.
It's called walking after Him, with Him, carried by Him.
It's called the last ten years of painting with Him,
dancing with Him,
listening to Him at 3am,
chasing Him,
writing awful poetry for Him,
wrestling with the HOW COULD YOU and WHY DON'T YOU and
falling in love with the world he is making,
it's called
being a mini Jesus
being a Christian.

Not British. My friends here on the team aren't Ukrainian, or American, or Russian or whatevs.
They are Jesus'.

It's bigger than anything, this is the truth that the enemy was desperately jumping up and down in front of, trying to stop me from seeing. No! Look! They eat weird jelly! What a terrible country! You will never have friends here! You are too different! You should abandon the orphans! They're so ungrateful!

And behind him, bigger than him, bigger like the sun is bigger than my hands, stands Jesus. My Jesus.
He doesn't have to say a lot.
you're mine.

And I know I can be here. I can live here and I can be ridiculously happy. I can grow. We can all be here, this bunch of nut bags, this motley crew (not cru) of sons and daughters. Together, the same, loving the children who haven't ever been loved, loving each other with cookies and can-I-pray-for-you and let-me-babysit-for-you and let's go for lunch after church. And the grace of a community that have seen me sulking in my cage and instead of slapping me out of it, have stood and waited, have trusted me with their ministries and dreams and tasks. We're all the same, we're family, and nationalism is just this stupid Babel babble that makes wars.

We're His. I'm His.
And maybe when I grow up I can be a tree.


Sunday, 10 November 2013

some gratitude, badly expressed

I can’t do this.
Trying to live well, or at all, is unrelentingly difficult. Walls after ditches after tranches after oh for goodness’ sake what I am trying to do now? Who thought this was a good idea? When did I agree to this? And so on.

But it’s ok. Not because I’m a super duper Christian lady who spends lots of time with Jesus every day, not because I am filled with the power of He who defeated death (well, ok, a bit because of that, ok, a lot because of that) but what I’m trying to say is that this missionary life isn’t possible because of my brilliant Christianity.
My Christian walk is appalling. Really. You would be appalled. I’m like a walking advert for why someone should not follow Jesus. Such a flaming hypocrite so riddled with need and distractions and frankly a bit of a judgy bitch. John wouldn’t use that naughty word but he knows me very well indeed as being married to a woman with no filter can be illuminating. Poor hubby. He knows the terrible things I think about people because I will tell him them in a stream of sinful consciousness ‘these are my current thoughts, based on my current emotions, and in ten minutes I’ll change my mind but right now I’m saying incredibly judgemental things about so-and-so and if you’re really lucky I’ll dress them up as righteous insights’.
I don’t even know if I’ve read all of the Bible.
John’s read it all at least twice.
When judgement day comes I play the ‘I’m with him’ card and hope it gets me points.

Very bad at being like Jesus. Left to my own devices would shop online for cocktail frocks, for hours, then go read a book by someone low brow and eat a cake. Not so much into the caring about other people, just me.

If I was all by myself then this whole ‘missionaries in Ukraine’ thing would have been over a very long time ago.
But it’s ok! I’m not by myself! Other people exist!
Here is a list of things that other people do:
Well, the most obvious one is people send us money every month so that I can shop online for cocktail frocks. Or buy food and clothes for the kids and petrol for the Lada and pay our staff fees and that kind of thing. It’s amazing and I don’t think you’d find much of that outside of the church i.e. people who follow Jesus. People working their jobs and then saying ‘oh I shall take a large slab of this hard earned income and redirect it to the Washingtons, because it’s good to love people and orphans and Ukraine and all that stuff and I’ll be nice about it as well and never send them weird emails asking for accounts, in fact when I see them I’ll also give them chocolate and cuddles and not ask where all those cocktail frocks come from and why Fritha is wearing them to Tescos’. Mental. Brilliant. Beautiful. Not normal. 

I often need people to tell me things. Sometimes I need people to say ‘ooooooh you’re doing so well you precious little flower for the Lord here’s a virtual hug muffin’ (my real hug muffin is John HAH!) and those things are vital because when one is neurotic one can become a little insecure and it’s actually not possible to convey how kind words through the internet have kept us going. The other sort of thing I need people to tell me goes along the lines of ‘stop that. Put that down. No. Do I need to put you in Time Out?’ and those are difficult things but I need them too.
As an aside: If you’re one of the people who does the latter because you have known me for years, because you trust me and I trust you, because you have cried with me or giggled with me or drunk wine with me while shouting at the telly…that’s good. And you know who you are. If, however, you are one of the people who sends me bizarre emails from a place of having met me a few times, years ago, and you think I need a Bible verse with an opinion let me just point this out: I know the Christian answers. I am not interested in them. Please pocket your clich├ęs and your empty concern and go disciple a hamster. You’ll find it more receptive. Better yet, jack in your shiny Christian career, work full time for free, have a kid, move to another country, help orphans and exist in a missionary community and do it for longer than me with more success and then I might listen to you. If you’re not my friend and/or Jackie Pullinger I very much doubt that what you’re going to write will help and I suspect that you’re not so much interested in helping as in being more correct than me, which is tiresome and the last thing I need out here is religious vitriol. Jesus loves you, go relax somewhere and leave me alone. 

Too cross? Well…it’s been brewing. Naughty.

Another obvious one is praying.
We don’t pray enough, my approach to life seems to be ‘throw self in deep end shouting very loudly about all the things I’m going to do’ and I tend to forget to ask for help. Which is why it is very important to have many people around the world having conversations with God that look something like ‘Hi, LORD, so, Fritha’s in a pickle again, can you help her out? Thank you’ and then God says ‘well alrighty then’ and jumps in the deep end too and tows me out. And then we splash about having a nice time/ swimming lesson and then we go get some crisps from the vending machine. Of life.

I can’t do friendships very well anymore, especially having moved away and left this huge chunk of myself back in England with all the people I love. That was painful and I got scared that I was forgetting how to be close to people because I was in this weird self defence mode of not getting attached to people because this is YWAM and everybody leaves, and sometimes that someone is me. Do you know how painful it is to see your daughter try to climb into to laptop to cuddle her family? Do you know how difficult it is to clean soggy marshmallow off the screen because she thought she could feed Granny snacks via skype? Do you know how annoyed a husband can get that you actually just left it for him to clean?
So I don’t attach. But I have been amazed by the generosity of people – old friends and new – who on purpose attach themselves to me. I could be numb, too wrecked by this last year to be open to anything nice. But people around me are fun, and inspiring, and kind, and funny, and I haven’t had the chance to become a weird missionary hermit, I’ve had to remain in community and laugh about stuff. Or cry about stuff. But not numb and not alone.

So yes. I’m not alone. And it’s not like I’m supported by amazing Christians like what are in books, it’s just that together we make a whole, lots of bits of people clumped together holding each other up. Maybe when I’ve grown up a bit I can be one of the pieces holding up others.

Beth’s awake so I’m going to go and do kisses which is her trying to wriggle away and annoy the dog. xxx

Friday, 11 October 2013

whole heart

This one is a bit scary to write because there's a ledge I have to leap off but I'm too afraid and in the busy life that is my life writing this blog is hopefully going to be part of the run up. By the end of this, I might have jumped.

I might be flying.

Or I might cop out and huddle under a table somewhere refusing to look Jesus in the eye. We shall see. John's watching movies with the team downstairs and I could just jack this in, turn off David Crowder Band and go back to normal. We shall see. This might be too hard to write and too scary to accept. We shall see.

Lately I have been surrounded by women, by real life women and also whispers of women who others know well, women who have shaken my complacency. Women of such strength that I'm left in awe, capable of such holiness that their lives fly like meteors tearing through the sky that holds us back from heaven. Women who sacrifice like it's nothing, who live like what they want is nothing. Who adopt eight children in a foreign land. Who move to the walled city. Who pay thousands of dollars to return children to a new home they've not yet known. Who work, carry, create, clean, try, try, and try to make their homes places of refuge. Of joy. Of beauty.

I could write a press release that makes me look like one of those women. I live in Ukraine, working with orphans, I moved here with a seven month old baby and opened my home to a teenage girl, mother of two now. Blah, blahdy blah.

I've opened my home but I haven't opened my heart and so my home is a shadow of what it could be.
I should probably try to explain a bit - as if the wonderings of this wandering mind could ever be properly understood. Hah.

I'm here and I'm doing the job, I'm cooking and learning language and washing clothes and taking photos and so far so 'successful'. But there is so much of myself that I am holding back for nobody other than me. In the name of boundaries, in the name of comforts, in the name of avoiding hurt here I am looking like a missionary but unable to love my God or my girls because this heart of mine is reserved. For me. By me. Selfish and scared and cynical.
To explain further: Alla lives in my home and I care about her but would I be destroyed of she quits us? Would my heart break? Would I search the world to find her again?
Would I even skip a meal?
I'm not loving whole heartedly so how can  my heart be whole? Not possible.

My God is too wonderful to accept, or indeed offer, anything other than everything. Those women I am hearing about and meeting are women who have stood on the ledge, looked up to His sky full of the cross, full of His sacrifice, full of His love and they have flung their arms apart and leapt spinning into Him.
Not 6 days a week, not until the toddler's in bed and then it's movie time, not until they've had enough and it's me-time, not just when they're doing ministry, not when the person they've committed to is behaving in a pleasing manner. Not part time. No boundaries from God.
No boundaries with Him.
No secret areas of hurt. No topic off limits. No reservations. No privacy. No lies.

Life, offered with a whole heart flying into the blue, untethered by selfishness. Free.

He's asking this of me. He wants all of my life, all of my priorities, all of my time, all of my perspectives, all of my behaviours, all of my thoughts. Free.

And so I say this to Him, to you LORD of this bursting heart that only really feels it's own beats when I'm dancing with you. To you I say this...

Take this house,
take these hands,
take my days,
take my sleeps,
take my womb and my feet and my spine,

take the things I want
take the things I think I need

take the things I think are beautiful
take my time
my downtime, my stressed time,
everything I think I should be doing,
all my petty selfishness and my schedules that build the walls around everything I ever have to give,
my internet time,

my photo time,
my cooking time,
my life as yours. All of it. Don't let me put bits of me in a box away from you.

Sick of mediocre, sick of how unloving I can apparently be. I want more.

'Real love isn't afraid to bleed' well I think you were a lot afraid and you did it anyway. You can have all of me.

And then, maybe, Jesus, you can give Alla and Beth and whoever is next a mum who tears holes in the pain that this world builds around people. Maybe I could meet Alla's eyes without fear or suspicion, weilding weapons that scare the crap out of the devil. A woman who brings light into those nasty corners where the demons thought they were safe, a mother who proclaims healing over those who are hers and who stands over them like the lioness she was always meant to be. A woman full of the beauty of you who makes gardens flourish, a girl who couldn't care less about the praise of magazines but prefers instead to walk through life unconsciously drawing the beauty out in the damaged girls for whom she bakes cakes. A woman whose presence turns the scars of rape into flawless, spotless gowns for her brides. Who takes her joy when it is given and who trusts that it will come, who doesn't control or scheme or plot but instead flows around others, singing and sometimes headbanging and sometimes shocking everybody because controversy comes from what is honest. Who doesn't need anyone to say well done because she knows you have already done everything as well as it could ever be.

And I know this is a statement of intent, I know I'm small and that's ok. I know you just love that I'm trying to listen to you but can you take these words and make them truth? Can you take all of my heart and when I'm not offering it can you remind me that you still give me all of yours, everyday?

Take me down, take down my walls and open me to Alla. Open me to my kids, not just the ones that came from my body, give me love and all the pain that can bring because of the joy and healing that is so desperately needed in this house.

Make me whole hearted.
Give me a whole heart.
So your will can be done, and your kingdom can come, in this thing called life.

Hopefully in the post below this one there's a youtube video of the song I was listening to while I wrote this, it's amazing. Turn it up loud. Quite music is stupid.

Fall On Your Knees - David Crowder Band

Monday, 16 September 2013

my mistake

Hello, we're home!
Oh good grief there's already an exclamation mark, I must be feeling perky. Brace yourselves.

Before I go any further, here's a nice picture. This is her happy face. Can't think where she got that grin from. 

So we went home and here’s a list of tings (yup, tings, because I’m street) that were just lovely. If you’re not specifically named on the list please don’t be offended because my attention span is shorter than Beth’s and the only thing worse than that is my memory. So I love you but I might not remember to put you on this blog today. Plus I’m listening to my beloved writing support group, One Republic, and every now and again will be shaking it around the lounge and not concentrating on writing this thing. Responsible, I is not. Having fun, I is. 

Grandparents who babysit and Auntie Roadie and Uncle Annie, meals out with hubby and starlit walks along the beach in Greece, Beth in the sea after she’d recovered from her original aversion (which is what you get when Daddy gets excited and literally drops you in on your first day but that’s Ok because here’s a terrifying rubber contraption into which we have forced you why are you crying?)
Um. Beth weeing copious amounts on members of my immediate family because we'd run out of swim nappies, which is code for I wanted her to feel unencumbered and at one with nature. Pee freely my little love! On Granny!
So many, many faces of people that I have missed so much that it has hurt. Smiling faces.
Hugs, hugs from people who know me and love me anyway and all the cups of tea and that weird Narnia feeling of a year actually only being a day in the real world and your life was always here for you while you had your adventures. All the loved people and loved places solid and faithful and you're not forgotten and there is still somewhere on planet earth where you're considered normal. Sort of.
Brighton you vile stinky shopping heaven and your overpriced buses and oh Boots meal deals how do I love thee? Let me count the ways, you veggie crisps and prawn salads and fair trade chocolate dream factory.
The cinema! Even though the film was quite terrible! Yay!
I got to talk to Christine Angel and that woman's name is well deserved. She's a proper missionary.
Meeting a certain lovely boyfriend for the first time. Hanging for an avo with an excited bride to be. Crying for a true friend. Praying for her too. A day in the park with a family who inspire and accept us all at the same time and who we miss a lot.
Going off the HOOK because for two evenings I got to worship in my own language. When it comes to worship, yes it is possible for a human to physically go off the hook in the manner of a club or tune or event, on the inside.
Chips. Curry. Chinese takeaway. Pork pies.
Not working out for three whole weeks.
Getting a tan, ish.
Going snorkelling with John who demands that we swim to a really deep scary bit that turns out to be really boring so then he demands that you climb out of the sea via a rock face and then he demands that you walk back, past a restaurant, in a bikini and as you draw level with the bored and staring faces you trip and fall over and kind of spill out of your hastily purchased and inadequate bikini. Getting back to find that B has done another wee on Granny. Good times.
John would put golf in this but i'm not going to because golf is stupid.

Right, so I have to cap this because in 30 mins we're making Allachka (it's like a soppy way of saying someone's name here - Frithachka, Bethchka, Kate Middletonchka, Rhiannachka - I put some celebs in there because I am cool and relevant) go to bed because we're parents and there's routine and stuff now. It's lovely.
So to my point. Everything you've read thus far hasn't even been the point. How annoying. I would have put a jump thing in but I couldn't be bothered.
My point:
I communicated very badly with our church.

We did a very successful and lovely QandA with people, there was cake, we were interviewed at the front like proper Christians and we gave succint (ish) summaries of what we're doing and I even made a power point thing. People came away informed. Our projects outlined, our activities explained, Ukraine analysed etc etc.

As an aside, it is good that we did a feedback thing. The way I would explain how we afford food and stuff is as thus:
We do something that the world (in this instance, the Ukrainian or British government) is never going to pay us to do. But we believe that it needs doing. Our friends also think it needs doing and while God hasn't told them to get on a plane and do it themselves, they have been prompted to give us their hard earned money so we can carry on doing it. We live by faith and so do you.

Faith and love and kindness going round and around and changing the world. Money is involved. Because it's cold here and the kids need shoes.
So yeah, it was important to explain where the money goes. And because the need is so great, it is also important to set people alight for Ukraine (not, like, literally cos then they won't want to fund stuff), so that more money can come in to pay for more lives to be saved.

But the bit I missed out? The WHY.
My beautiful friend was asking me this over curry - chatting about how we're not doing it (Ukraine, YWAM, T- home, all of it) because of such and such but because of God and I sat there confused and speechless because i'd been in PR mode for two weeks. Projects, projects, orphans, orphans, power points and tea and hardy ha and honest but not quite the point.
So if we gave you the impression that we live in Ukraine to help orphans, I apologise. Let me correct myself.

We're in Ukraine because of Jesus. Not because he loves Ukraine, which he does. Not because he is broken hearted over how we don't care for our (they're ours even if they're in Ukraine not England because in this age of internet all ignorance is willful and we are responsible) children, and I think he is. Not because of telling people about who he is, what he's done and what is on offer. And that would be legit. It's a good reason.

But this God of ours isn't into what I can do for him, he's not even into what I can do for people.
He's about me, and him, and this dance and this life and this discovery of this self that He is. This galaxy of mystery, these unsearchable riches, this paradox of love and justice and Himself, Himself, Himself.
It's about relationship with Him.
All of it.

To love an orphan? To open your home? To give clothes and food and a bed and jokes and cuddles?
Yeah, that's not the point. That's just projects.
To love an orphan is not fulfilling, it's not even powerful.
And it only happened for me after a decade of hanging out with the scandalous, angry, happy, controversial, comforting, stunning One. Any power or fulfillment in what we're doing comes from the fact that we're where He wants us to be, bumping into Him when we walk round corners, looking up from our work and realizing with a jolt that we're working next to Him, learning new songs to sing about / to Him, finding out what He thinks about Allachka or B. Watching Him work. Discovering how he works. His hands. 
Sorry for making it look like we're grownups trusted with your money to do clever and effective projects for 'the Kingdom'.

Really, we're just in love. 

Thursday, 15 August 2013


So in two or three sleeps we'll be on a train then a taxi then a bus then a plane and then we'll be in England. Beloved England. And it'll be almost a year since we came to live in Ukraine.

So a year since...everything. A year of this. A year of Yook(raine).

What should I say on a momentous occasion such as this, what could be said now? I have bitched so much, complained so often that it may not be easy (for me or for you) to see the threads of gold that have tied this together, that run through what we have experienced and experimented in the last twelve months.

Don't get me wrong - the bitching has been justified. Not going to be polite about that one. You take your marriage and your seven month old and you fly into a storm of culture shock, pressure, misunderstanding, illiteracy, religion and orphans. You try being upbeat. You would be lying and we would not be friends because you and I could never get along. I don't fake it.

So yes, the thing you all know about this year is that it has been very, very hard. I know lots of missionaries and they aren't all missionaries anymore and I completely understand why. We were warned but we were naive and we fell down hard. Not in a spiritually triumphant way like what people write in books 'oooo I was so humbled by my struggles'. Nope. My spiritual fruit tastes bitter.
Sorry. You want tidy, happy endings and warm fronts and everything is fine because Jesus wants me for a sunbeam? Can't do it. And if I tried to properly explain the extent of, or the reasons for, the sheer impossible that is moving to Ukraine, I would just be annoying and self justifying and it wouldn't work anyway.

So yes. This year = hard.

Have I made that clear enough? ;-) Oh good grief I've resorted to emoticons in a blog I'll never be a proper writer...

So the goldy bits? What am I on about?
Yeah my fruit tastes bitter but it's ok cos my God's sweet enough.

I've been stropping about, thinking things and ignoring things and doing things and being lazy and busy and frantic and exhausted and somewhere along the way staffed a DTS and cuddled some orphans and got to take in a teenage girl who is already grafted into our family. Proud of her like I'm proud of B. It makes no sense and I don't know where it came from - that's a total lie, it's Jesus, stoopid - but it's good.
This life in Ukraine? If it was all down to me? Yuk. Rotten, bitter apples that don't make anything tasty or good.
But when I look back on this year my bitchy self can't obscure the beauty of what 'since we left' looks like. It's just gorgeous. I've messed up so many things and messed up so many times but there is still love in this house, it runs through like a river and it makes things live. Things have happened through our family that I could never be stupid enough to claim but my hands were allowed to be the hands that picked a wailing motherless baby out of her cot to snuggle into my shoulder and to learn what eye contact feels like. My hands were allowed to stroke her hair and to hold her hand.

My bitchy mouth silenced by the beautiful things my hands can do. My sour fruit transformed by that sweet taste the Holy Spirit leaves in your mouth.
My life is an apple crumble. Hah!

I forgot, recently, what joy and peace feel like because I wasn't expecting them. I still struggle to expect that God is good which is a little unfair and quite the slur on his character because my life is just flooded with the proof of his heart and of his care for me.
Money nowhere to be seen? have a massive 'pay day' oh and here's a bazillion pounds for the transition home
Visas are impossible? Nope, they're not, look...
Exhausted and ill? Meet Candy, she is from South Africa and she says I just told her to babysit for you today while you go sleep (*confession, I spent this morning watching Vampire Diaries not sleeping but it was very restful and I feel much better*)
Lonely? Tell me about itHad enough? Well here's your plane tickets home
And there's the stupid little things like this one republic album through these amazing earphones, like learning how to take nice photos, like the Bethel live album that our Bethel is obsessed with, like baths and bedtimes and paddling pools and grocery shops and oh yes. Life is good. He is good.

He is the golden thread, the river of life and living and He is the sweetness that makes this year worth something, He makes all things tasty.

And we're coming home.
Two sleeps. 


Monday, 29 July 2013


'For you are God,
and you don't miss a thing'. 

We drive a lot at the moment, Beth squashed into her car seat and distracted by cornflakes in a box, the Ukrainian summer ambling part (the Lada doesn't rush) and it is beautiful. It's also time to think. I've been mulling a lot lately about if God is good or bad - really, really, if we stop saying pat answers and making excuses for the Old Testament bloodbaths and the crusades and all that, if we're honest. Is he good? 

He is Him self and that's somewhat epic because of that whole he is the source of all and any intelligence thing he's got going on. You know, that whole being God thing. I wonder what that's like. 

I think for me one of the most challenging things about this faith is the tensions.
Is God here hugging me when I cry or is he off moving galaxies? Yes.
Is he one God or three persons? Yes.
Is God simple and easy to understand or endlessly higher than my intellect? Yes.
Does he want to punish sin or would he forgive a rapist? Yes.

Is he a judge or a loving daddy? Yes.

Lately I've been learning about how God loves his kids - kind of predictable because we fairly recently had a kid but all those sermonators weren't lying. When you have children you learn about God as a dad.
Sorry but i'm going to veer off into stupidly in love with my daughter territory for a minute. She smells so good that I think I could get high off her cuddles, she is so delightful that even when she's being a little git i'm proud of her 'strength of character', she is perfectly and wonderfully made. Everything she does is this ridiculous achievement that I call John in to see and also anyone within a two mile radius. You're welcome, world.

And I know all that stuff in the Bible about God being a good father but he's so big that surely that's a technicality, a formal relationship conducted mainly in a study or a library and then back to the nanny we go?

Obviously He doesn't let me stay there in my thinking. When me and B are rolling around in a giggling ball or when she's tickling daddy or when we're learning to rub noses and I could stare cross eyed at her face for hours
that's when a little voice whispers
'I feel this way about her too. And about you.'

Which is more than my silly heart can handle - I understand the logic, the relationship that we have with God because of Jesus, we're part of the family but to think that God wants to stare cross eyed into mine? That he is super excited about what we do? That he laughs when we laugh? That he invented rolling around giggling? That whole 'check out my boy Job' conversation, I see a proud dad there. And hens with wings for Jerusalem, that's a mummy metaphor. It's all through the Bible, this thread of us as his kids like gold running through humanity's story.

So loving daddy? Yes.
The judge. Yes.
Still good? When we talk about hell, judgement, discipline, punishment, Holy...still good?

Some beautiful friends gave John the Bethel Loft Sessions DVD (it's worship music and it's pretty and they've got some token hipsters in there so I feel quite cool watching it, get in) and there's a song all about how God knows us so intimately, like a dad. So far so la la la. There's a line that says 'You are God, and you don't miss a thing'.
I know it's meant to be about ourselves but I found myself sobbing over a girl that I've come to care for, she lives in an orphanage and I felt something of what God the daddy feels when he see what is being done to his children. He is God. And he doesn't miss a thing.

That should scare us.

He doesn't miss a thing. 

Our cheap clothes made by slaves?

He doesn't miss a thing.

Our fuel burning the earth?

He doesn't miss a thing.

Our selfishness,
our global disregard for others,
our willful ignorance,
our personal selfishness?

He doesn't miss a thing.

When we leave our lovers? When we break promises we never had the guts to make in the first place?

He doesn't miss a thing.

Children trafficked for rape? Children dying from runny poo? Brides burned alive for dowry?

He doesn't miss a thing.

He is God.
Because he is a loving daddy, he cares what I do to his other children, and he will not raise feckless sinners. He protects me from my sin but he also protects everyone else from it too.

So a judge? Punishing sin? And still good? I reckon so.

To repeat myself: He is God. I wonder what that's like.

Don't have to wonder, can see it, have been shown it, in Jesus. Loving to the point of pissing off many people who would like a more religious messiah thank you very much, loving enough to be completely inappropriate socially (that's my excuse), loving enough to get really angry at sin. Loving enough to take the worst results of sin - torture, loneliness, betrayal, injustice, despair, death - loving enough to say 'it's on me' and then to actually take it on yourself? To judge sin and to take the place, to take the punishment of the sinner? Justice is done and yet...I walk free. 

Turns out, being God will get you killed.

So a loving daddy or a judge? Yes.
It's basic stuff but it still blows me away, even without the cross I could happily understand his goodness. With the cross? The question becomes
'loving daddy
or judge
or astoundingly determined to win us, completely merciful and ridiculously lavish?


Tuesday, 9 July 2013

You know you're a very bad missionary when...#2

You know you’re a terrible missionary when:
1) You check face book every 4 minutes. Your husband calls notifications ‘reds’ and every time you log in you compete over who has the most reds. It is always you.
2) You get pulled over, again, by the Police, for not understanding the Ukrainian highway code, again.
3) Your husband tells the Policeman that he lives nearby. What he actually says translates as ‘I am a house’.
4) Said Policeman tickles your husband’s upper inner thigh and lets him go free.
5) Everybody in the whole world loves buckwheat, apart from you, you mainly eat chocolate.
6) You communicate with your house guest via google translate, so when you tell her that if she likes she can hang out in her room and relax or that you are going to be a bridesmaid what you actually say is:
‘You can be alone in his room’ and ‘I am looking for a bride’.
She is alarmed. You do not blame her.
7) You have produce. So much produce. Ukrainian soil literally spews forth produce.
8) Your toddler overdosed on cherries and did some truly terrifying nappies for you to change.
9) And blackcurrents.
10) And apricots.
11) You have a freezer stocked with cherry sauces that you will never use.
12) You panic about all the produce and try to make jam. This happens.
13) All the women in town are gorgeously, gloriously tanned. You are British. You are not tanned. You look like Edmond Dantes on the day he escaped prison.
14) Everyone you see (not usually the men) are wearing stunning maxi dresses.
You shop for maxi dresses.
There are no maxi dresses.
Where are the maxi dresses?
15) You shop every week in second hand clothing shops, and you love it because it’s all the stuff you couldn’t afford in England! A little bit mucky! With some holes in it!
16) You make John lemon meringue pie – the meringue goes wrong because you didn’t know to grind the coarse beet sugar in a coffee grinder (which you don’t own) and you forgot to prop shut the dodgy oven door with a chair. Still, the lemon bit was delicious.

Oh well, our kid is cute.

Monday, 1 July 2013

garbled today

Here she is, splashing about drinking rain water and ignoring mummy and being so naughty and so completely excellent. And yes, that is a rusty bucket. And yes, she got sick. Well done mummy.  

Commence bloggity blog:

Music is just the best thing. Sometimes I listen to these earphones and wish that these fingers of mine could create the experience that we get from those songs that grab your soul and soar somewhere more beautiful, more right, more home and more adventurous. I wrote once in my God book (journal, diary, prayers, private blog with more terrible poetry than I permit myself to publish on the internet) the following:
'God, make me like the exciting chords'.

You know what I mean? Those notes that make your chest thump, the bits of the good songs where your hands fly around and you change a little bit inside.

I've never been into the kind of music that's ever so clever but ever so dull - if you can't turn it up loud and have a good time you may as well turn it off. And go sit in a beige room drinking lukewarm milky tea and wearing boot cut jeans. In 2013.
Music is a taste of God - it's to be inside who he is, to experience something spiritual that everyone can feel. Living with Him is meant to be outrageously, astoundingly exciting. He invented the exciting chords. He is when the beat drops and the room roars and the world shakes.

If I know one thing well, it's Christianity.
I've done church a lot, 29 years worth. 

Some of it wasn't very exciting.

One of the things that hurts the most when you're following Jesus is how the media portrays you. It feels personal, and you have to breathe and remember that it's not. You follow Jesus so by default you're part of a religious group and the people that hate tend to shout loudest and they get heard and they get caricatured and then, alarmingly, you're a Christian so you're judgmental  ignorant, two dimensional, cultish, uneducated, emotionally unstable, bigoted, prudish, perverted, simple, outdated...many things.

All of that stuff I can take because it's a load of crap - we're all of us on this globe messed up and some of us are Christians. Jesus loves us all and he's not messed up, he's doing pretty well actually and he can carry us home.
The thing I can't take is the perception of Christians as boring.

Maybe because it's a little bit true?

I used to be bored, I got funneled through GCSEs and Alevels and I did some weed and a lot of drinking and some praying and some Bible studies and I kissed some boys and was bored bored bored but I didn't know it because I wasn't awake yet.

And then this little thing happened called faith hitting me in the face, I suppose that God touched my hand and I came alive. My heart has been overwhelmed with joy and with pain so many times - my joy in His presence, and sometimes His pain when I pray for the world that He loves. There is no going back, there is no retract, there is no other option than to keep living this even when I feel nothing for months when I turn around and see Him there we go again. Feelings and choices and determination but all of it ignited by Himself meeting myself. Those eyes.

And it's not just the experiences or the feelings or the heart stuff. My brain knows his character because of the Bible and because I pay attention during sermons and because I've studied this stuff and because of the stunning things around me but so often I have found myself bewildered by the boringness of our lifestyle as Christians. HE IS WHEN THE BEAT DROPS, people. He is the one who now laughs in the face of death, who turns over the tables and stomps about shouting at us and scooping children up out of the dirt. He is the one who offends all the proper people who deserve heaven because they're oh so righteous. If he was here in your town right now i'm pretty sure that if you wanted to follow him you'd find yourself walking into places that no 'good Christian' would go near. Where's the last place you would go to find someone and rescue them? Who do you judge? Who offends you?

Religion is a death dirge and it sounds ugly. Too often we sound ugly and we don't look much better.
He invented dancing. That's one of my favorite things about God - that no matter how we leap or fling or thump about...he did it first and he's doing it bigger. We've got glow sticks but he's got galaxies.

And the thing i'm trying to explain is stuck inside my chest and it's late and I've got to sleep but I think my point is that we're too religious and we don't want to dance with God. 

I think we should try it.

I know that my life isn't boring, I am often drowning in the difficulties of what i'm trying to do/ survive but i'm not bored. I haven't been bored in years. We were worshiping (sacrificing goats and pigeons, that kind of thing) at home the other day and it  hit me that this Transition Home could destroy everything I love. My marriage, my family, my relationship with God, my sense of home. I am so vulnerable from here on out and I am utterly terrified.

When B was born I struggled so much with how much she needed me, with feeling like I couldn't love her like she needed me to, I hated being depended on that much and I resented losing my personal freedom. It took a while for my heart to stretch to fit her in all snug and safe and now i'm asking, actually asking for that process to happen again. But harder this time, for so many reasons, it is going to be so much harder.

Because today I got on my knees and asked God to make my heart bigger so that it can fit more girls inside it to love them like I love Beth. Which is a lot. 

This doesn't feel like a boring song. It feels pretty epic.
So to conclude: I think that God is epic and that we should all learn to cha cha cha.

Good night. xxxxx

Friday, 7 June 2013


This week we met with the first girl who is (hopefully) going to be moving in with us so that she (hopefully) can avoid the nasty things waiting for her if she doesn't.
John has been finding my uncharacteristic silence on this matter both frustrating and confusing, it is not often that I process things inside my skull. Generally I get a bit shouty/ excited/ cross and this is ok because he has been known to claim to have married me 'because she doesn't know when to shut up and I hate carrying conversations'.

So this new thoughtful me has thrown him a little bit, he's been muttering and grumbling and prodding but I have found myself unable to engage in a conversation about this, I keep avoiding the question and wandering off in silence.
Why? I think it's because I've finally encountered something so precious and so fragile and so divine that to use words, even carefully, is to risk tainting it. This 'transition home for girls' is a piece of treasure that belongs nestled in my heart and it's not for grabby hands or silly soundbytes.

He asked me to write about it.
I can do that.

We were meant to be doing this T home for boys - they're apparently easier to help, less complicated and they can't get pregnant. But John read a prayer diary all about things happening to women in the world - we keep it in our loo and he has often emerged weeping, which is alarming until he explains that he was finding out about dowry murders or porn or something else that completely explains the tears.
So he started to feel like maybe God was pushing him to ask if we could do the home for girls, and our lovely Andrew bossman very kindly said maybe. So we waited not knowing if we were right or wrong or what needed to happen but content to dwell with good leaders and our good God and see what came of all this praying.
The day we got back from Croatia, Andrew picked us up and mentioned that some friends of ours knew a couple of girls who needed somewhere to go. John mentioned that when he was at one of the orphanages a few months ago he felt God light his heart up over one particular girl - she said hi and something in him leapt with the idea that maybe she could come live with us. He joked that it would be fun if one of the girls was this girl.

It is.

So that's the fun story - the less fun story is what has transpired for this girl in the past and the tragedy that would be her future. I don't want to tell you her details because they're hers to tell or to keep secret, her dignity is hers and I will not violate that.

I mainly want to try to explain to you why this opportunity is so beautiful, so cherished that I find myself unable to speak about it.
Imagine that you were rejected - you didn't get the cuddles or the rules or the protection needed from day one. That your brain never got the chance to form the connections it was meant to form - that the science of your growth got twisted from what was meant to be because you never got read to or played with or rocked to sleep. That your heart has always, always known pain. Imagine that you are vulnerable and tiny and you have never known a safe person's arms to nestle in, that the people who were trusted with your life saw it as nothing important and imagine not ever knowing that you are safe.

Because if you're a kid in an orphanage then you're there because your parents are dead or because your parents didn't know how to love you before themselves.
The little every day things of being a child are so, so developmentally important and if you don't get given that then life starts hard and becomes impossible.

The buzzwords might help me convey this: suicide, sexual abuse, physical abuse, substance misuse, unemployment, addictions, HIV. Nothing that these children deserve but that's what they get served up by this life. 

10% of kids from Ukrainian orphanages kill themselves within the first two years of being kicked out into the world. 
65% of the girls end up working in the sex industry. 
This isn't ok, engaging with this isn't optional, I don't care what you believe or what your politics are or how busy your life is - if children going through this 'life' abused and neglected and addicted and suicidal doesn't move you in some way then I suggest not at all humbly that you go and get. on. your. knees and ask Him to take your heart and smash it to pieces and wring it out and make it worth something.
We should be doing more.

So in this darkness, this conveyor belt of failure comes an opportunity.
A chance.
A chance to be accepted into a family, to find what you're good at and to chase that path and see where it goes. To wear clothes that you chose, to eat the food that you chose, to read the books that you chose, to stand on your own feet and hold your own life in your own hands. To reject despair, to begin to dream and to see dreams come true, to travel and to fly and to experience more than you could ever have conceived of.
To go from doubt to security,
to be given worth,

to be prized,
to be waved off everyday and welcomed home every evening,
to have arguments,
to fight,
to forgive and be forgiven and be held and to know that those arms aren't going anywhere.

It's the gospel.

Transition Home = this is who our God is, he who our help comes from, he who swoops in with his armies, his might, his hands that make stars like it's nothing and he who stands over you and says 'mine'.

So yes, it's precious, because it's him. Because he stands over orphans and says 'MINE'.
He who saves.
I want to be part of that, and the scary things like what if it doesn't work or what if I cock it up or we get taken out by how hard it's going to be, well they kind of don't matter right now standing looking down at the wave we're about to surf that could kill us but we can't go back now because we would die inside if we did. Because this is the gospel
, a reflection, a mirror, an example of Jesus on the cross. A metaphor that's being played out in real time. With lives at stake.

So yes, LORD, wring my heart and smash it to pieces and I know it's going to hurt but please may this be salvation for children. For your sake. Amen. 

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Always good

' For we are not long here. 

Hope is coming for me. 
Speak to me in the light of the dawn for mercy comes with the morning. 
And we have this hope as an anchor for the soul.'

(C.S. Lewis, Brooke Fraser and Hebrews mashed up. Yes, that's what a mash up is.) 

It's been a while, and this isn't because 'you haven't been feeling ranty' because as Chris knows well I am always feeling ranty.

It's been a while because I've either been living in places with no internet or living in places with no spare time to think let alone write.

But John has taken B to the seaside for an hour so I can sit and write something that I should have written about weeks ago when the whisper started behind my bones, the nudge that prompts these rants that shed the fear as I type. Dropped out of DTS craziness for a while and I don't have any idea how i'm going to shape the thing I want to tell you.

When I was at uni a good friend said that me and him were alike because 'we both struggle with life'. I was a bit taken aback because I thought i'd come across as quite cool and I felt a little exposed by his comment, a bit too seen.
I'm a grown up now (BAHAHA) and I have seen enough and been pierced by enough to believe that life is hard and we all struggle.
I don't believe that if you have God your life will be easy, that your situations will always be resolved or comfy or kind. 
There's a dangerous theology in some expressions of Christianity, the worldview that promises puppies and mansions if you obey the ten commandments. The theology that reduces Jesus to a guidance giving guru with a Paypal account. The theology that says that you won't get cancer, and if you do God will heal it, and if he doesn't it's because you lack faith and by the way you can get more security if you obey more rules you special little flower, because the rules and the rule makers are all about you. 

I don't follow that theology, but at the moment i'm not sure i'm on a great path of truth. I don't think i'm going to get puppies. But i'm not really expecting anything nice at all ever - moving away from home was/ is still really hard and I shut down a little bit inside. I wasn't expecting to struggle as much as I did/ still am but I fled from the questions that this raised and buried myself in survival.
I got hard and tough. 
Expected nothing but trial and the ability to survive trial. I will not remain a baby because babies are lovely but they're no good in a war and love is war so yes, grow me and stretch me and make me strong and give me these battles. For love - for you - I will fight. 
We were asked to help lead an outreach across the Balkans and thought 'well that's going to suck  in a variety of interestingly sadistic ways but hey ho, survival mode, let's be obedient and get on with it'. Head down and heart secretly a little bit sad. Ok, a lot sad. I was in a very sad mood a lot of the time. And quite angry. Lucky John.

I don't know how I got to a place where I expected my God to be mean to me all the time for the good of his kingdom. It's a pretty horrible kingdom if the staff training is suffering.
I knew in my head that the Kingdom of God is a place where prisoners are released, the blind can see and the lame can walk but apparently I thought God required depressed, savaged staff to make that happen. You can call me a friend of Job. Or just plain stoopid.

My intimacy, my trust in, my fun times with my God had kind of got squished out by the need to regulate my daughter's routine or navigate a food shop in cyrillic or clean a massive house with chickens in it.
I'd forgotten my first love, i'd forgotten what his smile feels like and that he likes to dance.
I'd forgotten that it's him who does the healing, not the torture. I'd been professing a God of love with my lips but believing in a task orientated dictator. 'Get it done, wormy, it's not about you and orphans need help'.

When you really need a hug but you've stopped trusting the person who invented hugs? Messed up.

So we shouldered our backpacks and got on a million planes, trains and automobiles and we ended up in Sarajevo. With lovely people and lots of sunshine. And then to the stunning Banja Luka. And then...our outreach led us to Hvar.
Hvar is a Croatian Island and it is ridiculously beautiful. There is sea that is blue and sky that is wide and sun that is warm and lemonade that is fizzy and boats that are floaty and tans that are happening.

And I started, over the last two months, to remember who He is.
He's not the sadistic taskmaster who is only interested in my personal growth and usefulness as a missionary.

What if he's kind? What if he saw all the things that broke me? What if he was there all along and it made him sad too? What if he knew that he would be putting me on this rock in the ocean to thaw out? What if he meant it when he promised to make all things new?

Life is not always good. The world is broken, yes, and this is a fight, yes, and the darkness is huge and sometimes we cannot breathe or see beyond the bodies and the smoke. But if I had looked up I would have seen him
after the crucifixion

with us again
cooking me breakfast on the beach 
and telling me where to find fish
and filling my net but not letting it break
and never ever going away again.

Because he is always good.
Not 'if you ignore the pain then you can see his goodness' or 'somehow the pain accomplishes his purposes and proves his goodness' but
with the pain, alongside it, by my side, as well as the hurts, there is also, always, Himself. And I am starting to believe again that he is kind. 

Wednesday, 27 March 2013


So a couple of weeks ago some friends and I watched a movie called Rock of Ages. I walked out after a bit because I got sick of being told that being in a boy band is a worse lifestyle than being a stripper. The fabulous 80's soundtrack couldn't hide the fact that women were being naked naked naked and that if you had a problem with this then you're an uptight, sexually repressed religious nut bag who - like all women - just needs a good time in bed and then you'll calm down and stop screaming hysterically about things like feminism and equality and rights...

In case you're reading this and you don't know me. Hello.
I'm 29, I have a gorgeous husband-man and we made a baby. Sex is involved in that.
Just sayin'. In case the rant that's coming up conjures images of neck high ankle low floral frocks and hair under headscarves and picketing funerals and shouting at people and hating everything and being terrified of anything secular because it's OF THE DEVIL and wanting everyone to be miserable like me.
That's not me.
I follow a God who is a lot more controversial, sexual, and imaginative than we will ever be.
Just sayin'.

So. My point is this. We can't dabble, people.
Just for a second, let's suspend our stupidity. Sex and the sex industry pretend to be two different things but they're not - 'i'm a good Christian man and i'd never pay for sex or watch porn but this movie is just good fun and those women may well linger at the back of my mind for days, to be owned and recalled when i'm in bed with my wife/ by myself...that's ok. I don't pay for sex. That's sinful.'

'And sex trafficking? The repeated rape and torture of women and children? That's terrible. 

Oh, it's awful that these things happen in those countries with their barbaric cultures but it's so good that we're sorted over here in England, there's no need for feminism anymore over here. We know how to do family. We know how to do sex. I pity those countries in Eastern Europe with their terrible sex industry problems.'

Just to rewind a little bit, we sent our troops into Eastern Europe and they got bored of watching people slaughter each other so they required entertainment. Brothels. Sex is comforting, and that's legitimate and i'm sure that our guys saw some horrific things and i'm sure that warm arms and a fuzzy beer filter helped. In the short term. Momentarily took away the pain of being amongst so much pain (100 people killed everyday in Sarajevo, for months and months, FYI) so the sex industry boomed. Where do you get enough girls to satisfy and please that many men?
You think little girls who have been loved and cherished grow up thinking 'when i'm big I want to spend my days and nights gyrating for drunk, faceless, often cruel men? I want HIV please, and oh if i'm lucky I could get pregnant and have a forced abortion. And I want to give all the money I earn with my body to yet another man. It would be really great if he could be violent as well. That's the dream'.

Not a lot of girls want that. And yet girls are fast becoming the number one biggest, and most lucrative, criminal export ahead of weapons and drugs. So where do you get the girls? Easy. You steal them.

So we sent our bored men to eastern Europe and they paid for sex with stolen girls and then the brothels stayed, and the demand is still there but it's on our soil so the cargo gets posted here. And our men are still up for paying for it, and our women are up for facilitating this trade, and our media sells sex so really are they going to do anything about it?

It's not like this is happening to our daughters.
They were daughters in Ukraine. But to us they're flesh. Naked.

Nobody chases a 13 year old orphan girl across the world to claim her back. Not the orphanage who took the bribe. Not the police who visit the brothels. Not Liam Neeson. Another Hollywood lie, thanks for that.
Sorry. She's giving herself over and over and over until she's useless and dead.

So maybe it's not their culture that's to blame. Maybe our culture isn't innocent in this.
Maybe all our 'no big deals' tumble and spin and accumulate and then we don't see when it is suddenly a huge deal.
Maybe we're the problem.
Maybe when our churches sit by and say NOTHING to the media when they imply that only slutty women get raped and it's their fault anyway because they were wearing provocative clothing.
Maybe it's when we take our church traditions from theologians who believed women weren't made in the image of God ('oh but he had such a revelation of Grace').
Maybe its when we judge women for not being beautiful enough -too fat too thin - and then slap her into the dirt if she decides to celebrate her beauty in a dress that shows a little leg. We cannot seem to stop contradicting ourselves.
Maybe it's because we tolerate everything apart from intolerance and so nobody stands up and starts screaming in the streets when a van carrying Chinese children to their next brothel in Crowborough gets into an accident and the confused, bemused, police find 11 year old sex workers inside.
Maybe we're so busy lining our nests with cool prints and big tellies and good food that honestly, fighting rape isn't a priority for us.
Maybe we are the ones that are sick.
We are the market. We're the culture that buys the sex. We've gone wrong somewhere.

So yeah, I stopped watching the movie when it started making prostitution look glamorous. Because to me that's just one more no big deal that is actually, definitely, a big deal. 

Thursday, 7 March 2013

I do


So today is Ukrainian lady's day - lots of ladies are walking around holding single roses and looking rather excited. It's a day (I think) where the country honors women and all they are, apparently with flowers and stuff like that. It's nice to bust out a stereotype every now and again.

My husband spoilt me rotten and couldn't wait to give me my present, and it's a wonderful present so i'm a very happy wifey this morning. (When it comes to romantic gestures and gifts, John's ethos has always been go big or go home. We'd been dating for two weeks when he brought me an ipod. At three weeks he proposed.)

One of the things we did when we got hitched was say vows to each other - statements of intent, declarations of adoration, promises before God.
Today is a day that's all about ladies and there's a tiny lady snoozing in the room above me, snuffling into mr.soft and singing in her sleep. So i'm going to write her some statements of intent, declarations of adoration, promises before God.
I love you.
I loved you when you were hidden in me, wriggly and safe.
I loved you as you were grafted into my heart. Permanently there.

I will speak to you truth – insights and wisdoms to light your way.
You are beautiful.
I will never offer you mediocre life. I will never teach you that to be a woman is to compromise your fire, your wit or your will. I will always, always dance with you.

If you want kisses, I do too.

I will never stop learning.
I will never stop asking for help.

I will grow as you grow.

I promise to defend you against lies, against robbery, against stupidity.
I promise to endeavour to build a home that resists evil.

I promise to love your Daddy forever, to show you with every embrace what kindness looks like. What it looks like to respect.
How dignity behaves.
How to respond to love.

I promise to trust him. Because he is a Daddy you can trust. I do so want you to know what it feels like to trust a worthy man, so you can walk away from the unworthy ones.

Whatever you do, I will accept you.
Whatever choices you make, I will be your mum.
I will always pray over you. And I will always pray for you. I will spend the rest of my life learning how to pray for you.

I promise to speak you into confidence
I promise to wave you off onto adventures
I promise to have fun with you
I promise to fight for your education, to ensure that your mind is set free. That you may soar.

I promise that if you need a cuddle, I will rock you to sleep.
I promise to believe the best of you, I promise to be shamelessly biased and uncompromisingly fair.
I promise to try to hold on to God's patience so that I can be patient with you.
I promise to create things for you,
and when you're bigger I promise to show you how to dream up your own creations. I will be nearby with plasters and soap.

I promise to be proud of you for every attempt you make,
I promise to boast of the things you tried, to cherish every gift and to celebrate every triumph more than my own. 

Because it’s his will. I will spend my whole life trying to be a mum who loves you in the name of the Father. 

So, my little woman so full of everything that is so beautifully human, made in the image of our beautiful God, these are my vows. These are my prayers.

That you would grow to be yourself. Amen. 

Friday, 25 January 2013

Bone of my Bone

So I think I have to write about religion because people who know me well know that if they call me religious I may well smack them upside the head. In Christian love.

But i'm not sure if I've ever really explained why.

Here is why: Religion is evil. Straight up, pure from the 'pit of hell' evil. It traps us in our (self) hatred, it pushes us to wage self righteous war with our words and guns and thoughts stamping around on people less good than ourselves because we're completely and secretly terrified that we haven't got it right enough to still that pit of fear in our stomachs, our questions we try to ignore in our heads and our gut level inability to love others more than ourselves. Or even to love ourselves in the first place. 'I'm failing but that's ok 'cos look at all the people failing harder than me. At least i'm better than them.'

I get told a lot that 'I like your writing but i'm not religious'.
a) Thanks!

b) Yup, you are.
Everyone is. We worship something, everyone serves something with slavish devotion. Something shapes our days, gives us focus, a taste of love and acceptance and everything is going to be ok. Until you fail again but you can just try harder tomorrow. Shaking feet on shaky ground.

Nope you're not religious. You're just trying to be cooler, thinner, hipster-er, cleverer,  wiser, richer, liberated, kinder, better...pick your religion. Beauty? Coolness? Style? Fashion? Occupation? Security? Atheism? Christianity? Islam? Sexuality? Your individuality? Your community?

Are you winning? Is it working? Come on satan let's fill our heads with lies and put our hands in the cuffs and follow where this road goes - more self obsession and failure and the same old cycles and relationships that don't work and nothing takes away the pressure like alcohol or cutting or earning or buying or achieving but let's keep going and trying harder but no, i'm not religious.

Lately i've been struggling with the whole trusting that i'm loved in my marriage thing. You know those women who wear only designer vintage, who create and dance through life like sexy queens and their babies sleep from week two while they run multinational corporations and adopt donkeys and bake cakes? That's not me. I get compared to Miranda Hart. Often.

I had a baby and they cut my tummy muscles and now I don't even wear mum jeans, I wear leggings. The other day I wore my old skinny jeans and people literally shouted out loud so shocked were they to see me in denim. I took them off after a few hours and put on pyjamas. I spend my life weightlifting a creature that likes to be carried at all times and gives me lovely gifts otherwise known as 'vomit down your t-shirt' and 'peeing on the floor and then playing in it'.

I have been going along with a few little religious rules that our nice culture feeds us - you have to be SEXY and HOT and COOL and STYLISH and DIFFERENT and here are some images of what that looks like, you crappy little failure. Sexy looks like promiscuous, hot looks like a pre-pubescent boy, cool looks like instagram and uniform individuality and so. much. effort. and stylish looks like a lot of money crossed with thrift store crossed with an eating disorder and different looks the same as everyone else.
But hey, this is our religion and these are the rules so I just need to try harder - run more, buy more clothes, get up earlier to straighten my hair and generally hate myself more every day. Change driven by guilt.

But. I have two people fighting for me and for my wholeness because they love me a lot.
The first one is my husband-man and he is strong. Strong enough to stand with me and speak truth into my ears and hold my shoulders in his big man arms until i'm still enough to hear him when he kisses me. Because he never signed up to religion - he stood in a room full of people that care about us and promised God that he would love me. As I am. 

Bone of my bone.

I have another person(s).
His name is unpronounceable in this language and it sounds like the verb to breathe. Or to be.
And he takes my religious tendencies and he asks 

Why? When all your questions and struggles are answered within my glorious self, when the love in which I made you and the faithfulness in which I died for you and the power in which I rose again and the friendship in which I came back for you

why would you bother with religion?
Why would you choose shackles?
Why would you hide from me?
Why would you avoid me, and the things I say that will destroy your comfy little misery?
Why wouldn't you choose me? 

To which the only intelligent response would be to get on my knees/ do a dance/ give away everything I own/ paint something/ hug my family/ make someone a cake/ sing my face off/ take someone's hand. 

So don't call me religious or I may have to smack you upside the head.