Monday, 31 January 2011

Monday Blessings on Monday!

January seems to have flown by in a breath, here are some more simple things for which I am well and truly thankful for:

475. Bright sunshine and a walk along the beach in January.
476. Chips, Cake and Coffee - shared with a friend.
477. My puppy dog's fluffy coat reappearing.
478. Having plans for the future.
479. Buying beads to make presents.
480. Finding wool on sale and making a scarf.
481. Happy hours whiled away at work.
482. That first cup of tea in the morning.
483. Fluffy slippers keeping my feet warm on cold days like today.
484. Excitement of what the week will bring.

If you want to know more about counting your blessings click the link below to find out more about Ann Voskamps Attitude of Gratitude and how this community shares its blessings.

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Friday, 28 January 2011

Exciting News

How I have managed to hold off for a whole 2 weeks without totally spilling the beans on my blog about a certain trip I really don't know.

Just before Christmas my kinship care support worker came back to work after 6 months off.  She took one look at my husband and I and said that we looked totally knackered.  (Nice to meet you again too I thought).

I hadn't realised just how worn out we were, she took it so seriously that she managed to get us funding to have some respite care for my niece.  Respite care in the form of a short term (ie weekend) foster family.  That suddenly threw up all sorts of emotions.  Does this mean:
  1. She thinks we are failing.
  2. We are failing!
  3. She thinks we can't do this job.
  4. I can't do this job.
  5. She thinks my niece would be better off with other people.
  6. I think my niece would be better off with other people.
Fortunately I have a husband who is far more rational than I am on these sort of matters.  There were so many reasons why going into a foster care environment would not be of benefit to my niece, that they far outweighed any advantages that we would gain for a weekends rest (we would still have our own children to look after!).  His analysis of the situation was that I was the one that most needed a break (remembering that he did have one back in November).

We had some BA airmiles that were going to be worthless in a few months time if they didn't get used so my husband suggested (not for the first time it has to be said) that I go away.

But where to go that uses airmiles.?????????

To make it worth using the airmiles in needed to be a long haul flight....... .  Now for two years I have been corresponding via twitter, facebook and blog with a very lovely lady called Katharine, we have found out that we appear to have an awful lot in common.  We have often dreamt and joked about meeting up for coffee one day.  In a message to me at Christmas she said that she hoped another year wouldn't go by without us meeting in person.  Why haven't we met so far......she lives in Boston MA in the US of A.  A shortish long haul flight away.  So where am I going on my own this time next Friday - you got it!  I cannot wait, I am so excited, meeting Katharine will be great but so will having 4 days by myself! I am really hoping that without the need to be watching over my children I might find the rest that my brains so needs.  I certainly won't be completely childless while I am away, Katharine has 5! However they will not be my responsibility.  I am staying at what looks like a fab little guest house, called The Beech Tree Inn which is only 15 minutes in the car from Katharine's house.  Katharine is coming to meet me at the airport, my husband is taking me to the airport which also means we can take the opportunity to go and have lunch with sons God-parents gorgeous friends of ours, before I get my early evening flight.

So just another week to go.  How slowly do you think time might drag?  Mind you I have got a lot of work to do before I leave so that will probably while the time away a little.  Katharine I really can't believe I am actually going to get to see you!

Monday, 24 January 2011

Blessings of the Season.

I have managed to get out in the garden this last week and clear some of the debris that the Autumn and Winter has deposited.  It was so worth clearing it and I am so thankful for finding:

 465.  Peeping white drumstick primulas.
466.  Peeping snowdrops in the lawn.
467. Peeping narcissus.
468. Peeping bluebells.
469. My husband sweeping up all the leaves and getting them out of our garden.
470. Managing to not over do it in the garden so that I could still walk the next day.
471. No lawn in the back garden and lovely raised beds that I can manage.
472. Winter sunshine.
473. Sneaking to the cinema in the afternoon while the children are at school.
474. New beginnings.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

When God Answers Prayers

I had a pretty rough ride last weekend.  Looking back now I know that it was because I did not like the answer to a prayer that God gave me - very clearly.

My niece (for whom my husband and I kinship care) had some contact with her father just before Christmas.  This was the first contact she had had from him for over 6 months.  During this time he has moved from Lincoln in the UK to Calgary in Canada.  He sent her a letter saying that he wanted to get a better relationship with her.  There followed from that letter and a small gift several days of lots of emails flying between them and then they stopped. She sent him several emails saying that she wanted to know when she could go and live with him and he never responded.

There was then no contact again, she went to her therapy session last Friday and came out saying that her therapist wanted to meet her dad.  This has been brought up before but she has never asked her dad to come (now that he is in Canada it seems even more unlikely that he would).  I tried to explain gently that I was not sure that he would do that, which brought on a torrent of anger towards me from her as to why was I so horrible about him.  Unfortunately I saw red and said it was because I thought he was a *insert rude word*.  That was not supposed to happen but it did.  I then tried to explain how hurt I had been by him for what I saw him do to her mum and how I see him treating her now.  I dropped her back to school and spent the rest of the day all churned up wondering what was going to happen next.

As it happens, there was no terrible backlash (as I had expected).  That evening my husband and I sat down with her and he asked her what had happened.  I then apologised for using rude language about her dad.  My husband did his best to try and explain that we have always tried to not speak much about her dad so as not to prejudice her opinion of him.  If she wanted to know more details of how we have come to have the opinion that we have we were happy to talk to her about them but if she didn't want to then we would continue to try and keep our mouths shut.  There were lots of tears, another step in her grief journey was shown (anger at her mum) and a desire to have her past completely wiped away.  It was very hard, my wise husband then gently prayed with us for her and for her father as well as for us all.

Saturday morning a parcel arrived from Canada.  The letter inside was very nice, showing lots of interest in wanting to know particular things about her life and showing that he had looked at her facebook page.  There was a small gift and a book that he had enjoyed that he thought she might like.  It did not answer any of her questions about wanting to live with him.  THIS IS NOT THE ANSWER I WANTED TO OUR PRAYERS.

I wanted him to just disappear.  Not for any malicious reasons (or not many anyway!) but because I can't bear seeing her hopes continually raised and then dashed.  However she wants a relationship with him and we have absolutely no right to do anything to stop that from happening.  It is hard, very, very hard.  My kinship care support worker is divorced with now grown up children.  She said it sounded very much like an acrimonious divorce situation.  She explained how hard she had to work to make sure she didn't 'diss' her husband in front of her children so that they could make their own relationships with him.  The difference for us is we were never married to her father and we don't know the full details of all that has happened between him leaving the family when she was just 3 years old and my sister dying.

He feels like an enemy (even though I know he doesn't want to look after his daughter, so we don't need to fear him taking her).  I know that God wants us to love our enemies.  I know that God wants us when asked by an enemy for our cloak, to not stop him from taking our tunic also (Luke 6, 27-31).  This is just such hard stuff to do when your emotions tell you otherwise.

Instead of dwelling on this I have decided to find a good side to this story.  My niece has a very delicate faith, she is of the age where she is just starting to step out onto the tightrope which is adolescence.  She does not think she is worthy of being listened to by God.  Her face when my husband said to her on Saturday after receiving her new parcel, "What did we pray for last night?" was such a wonderful picture.  Then when she realised that the parcel had been sent before we had even said the prayer, showing just how much God knows us and what we need, before we know ourselves WOW! (Mathew 6,8).

With my mind set back to God this week is progressing well, long may it continue!

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Monday Blessings on Tuesday.

On Saturday in the middle of the treacle I felt I was wading through, I made an active decision to spend the day being aware of all the blessings that surround me in my home all the time:

 455. Lots of food in the fridge for the weekend.
456. Satisfied appetites.
457. Adoring looks from my puppy.

458.  A Health Service that is affordable and helps keep me reasonably well.

459. Just a sleeve and the band left to do on my knitting project.
460. Labour saving machines that help keep the household ticking over.
461.  Instant answers to prayer, even though I don't particularly like the answer.
462. A job I am really enjoying.
463. An exciting holiday booked.
464. A daughter who knows when I am feeling sad and sensitively tries to cheer me up.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Ten Highs and Ten Lows of Kinship Caring.

Kinship caring is looking after a child under 16 who is not your own, not adopted, not fostered, but who you are looking after and belongs to close family or friends.  You can find out more about my kinship journey in previous posts that I have written here and here. I care for my niece who is now 13 years old, she came to live with us after my sister (her mum) died 2 years ago.  Today has been a very tough day and it might well get worse yet as when my two biological children have gone to bed there is some big talking that the three of us are going to have to do before bed.

  1. Every time I look at her I feel sad that my sister isn't watching her grow up.
  2. It is incredibly difficult to know when she is truly feeling ill, unlike how I can tell with my biological children.
  3. Facing her grief is harder than handling my own.
  4. Seeing her rejected over and over by her father.
  5. Seeing my 9 year old learn about things such as self harm.
  6. Knowing that because of her attachment disorder there is every chance I will not get to see whether we are making a difference until she is an adult.
  7. Going to visit friends and staying over is logistically more difficult.
  8. Leaving her with a sitter as we could our youngest two is not possible because of her behaviour problems.
  9. Going on holiday as a family is so much more expensive.
  10. We can never fill the hole that she feels not being with her 'real'  parents.
  1. The pride you feel watching your biological kids accepting a new member into the family.
  2. New friends made.
  3. The friendships that matter becoming so much deeper.
  4. The sense of achievement you can feel they manage the smallest things, eg. getting a thank you out of the blue.
  5. Taking the time of work which meant we could get a puppy.
  6. Being ahead of the game knowing more about secondary school before my biological eldest's friends parents (those that don't have older kids!).
  7. The privilege of being alive.
  8. Discovering that my marriage is made of strong stuff.
  9. Knowing that without God this could have been so much worse.
  10. Watching the three kids play together, like they have never known any different.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Nearly Half Way

I feel really encouraged today looking at my 1000 gifts journey, I am getting towards the half way point.  Not that I ever intend to stop counting all the small blessings in my life as well as the big, but for an organised person like myself seeing a milestone is always an encouragement in itself.

445. Watching my 9 year old busy herself in the kitchen, cleaning and washing up (pretending to be me!).
446. Sloppy kisses from my 11 year old son who shows no signs (yet) of withdrawing his extravagant hugs and kisses for his mummy.
447. My 13 year old telling the truth when she would normally not have.
448. Knitting and dreaming in quiet moments.
449. Delighting a friend with a simple gift.
450. His Peace that knows no end.
451. Snuggling up with my husband in bed after two nights of him working through the night.
452. Work plans coming together.
453. Seeing answers to prayers for our church starting to appear.
454. Being one week closer to having our double glazing fitted at home.

Read more about the gratitude community and 1000 gifts by clicking the link below:

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Sunday, 9 January 2011

Proud Moma Moment - A Different Christmas.

At the end of October we went and stayed with my sons God-Parents and had been having a conversation with them about Christmas.  Their children are much younger than ours (3 and 1 year old), they are both Anglican ministers and run a Parish in Cheshire together.  Christmas therefore is an extremely busy time for them.  So far they have managed to keep 'Santa' out of their Christmas celebrations completely.  We were having a discussion about how that might continue and it got me thinking why I chose to go the route I did with my family.  I have to be honest and admit that it wasn't something I felt I made a conscious decision about.  My children are not the eldest within the wider family, so maybe I just picked up the traditions that my siblings and parents had already put in place.  I feel quite ashamed that I did not put more thought into it.

In November I was reading another of Ann Voskamps posts at Holy Experience and it shook me to my core, it once again took me back to why as a family we do the things we do at Christmas.  In her post she describes how 10 years ago when her son was 5 years old, he suddenly asked why people get presents at Christmas, when everyone normally gets presents on their birthdays and this was Jesus's birthday.  Her reaction to this was to invest in presents for Jesus and not for their family members - a tradition that they have carried on ever since.

This year I was working up until Christmas Eve, the first time since I started paid employment within the church.  I found this far more focused my mind on the reality of Advent and Christmas.  Boosted by the idea that Ann took on for her family, I chatted with my husband and we decided to talk to the children about it.  This meant no longer talking about Santa leaving presents, we knew our eldest two (13 and 11) didn't 'believe' in Santa but knew we just talked about him with a twinkle in our eyes, however I was not totally certain about my youngest daughter (9 years).  We sat together after a meal and I told them about the blog post that Ann wrote.  We chatted about Santa and why we have always followed the tradition that we have - honestly.  They were all very interested and understanding in our discussions.  Then came the point when I made the suggestion - "How would you all feel about not having presents from your parents/carers this year?"  I quickly reassured them that we could still do stockings (small things including lots of sweeties), feeling that cutting everything out might just be too overwhelming.  I also pointed out that they would still get presents from wider family members and friends and we would still buy presents for them to.

It was during this conversation that we started talking about the stuff that they often got, usually one main present (a toy, etc) and then lots of smaller presents of things that to be honest I would at any other time of the year buy them anyway.  For example, wellies, pyjamas, new underwear, new school bags, etc.  We all agreed that generally we are in the very luxurious position of being able to get the things we need in our life. My husband and I most definitely did not 'need' anything and I knew he found present buying very very stressful. We then started chatting about what sort of things Jesus would like for his birthday.  With some very gentle encouragement they started to understand that he would probably want things for those that don't have anything, or at least very little.

So on the afternoon of Christmas Eve we sat down together after lunch with an Oxfam unwrapped brochure.  I gave each one of us a sum of money and then read through the brochure so we all knew what was in it.  Once I had done this we went round in turn and said what we would like to spend our money on.  I was so very proud of them all, there was no moaning, no mournful looking faces.  Instead we were laughing and playing a little game of guessing how much things might be before I gave them the answer.

It was really lovely when just after the New Year we received a whole load of cards from Oxfam showing all the items that we had purchased, we were all able to again reflect on what we had chosen for Jesus.  The photo at the top of the page is just a small number of these cards, but things like a toilet, a shelter, home care assistant and clean water were just some of the things we were able as a family to give to those who needed it.

I have to confess that we did still treat the children - we brought one family present - a games console, the first time I had purchased one of these for over 14 years (and then it was for my husband as we had no children).  However we didn't let them see this until they had already opened other family/friends presents and their stockings and been to church, and needless to say it has been a great hit.

My youngest summed up the whole experience this Christmas a couple of days ago with "can we or at least can I do this again next Christmas please".  I most certainly think a new tradition has begun.

Friday, 7 January 2011

A Good Friend.

Today it is my dear friend Ko's birthday.  I have known her since the year we moved to our present home 8 1/2 years ago (where we knew no-one).  For her young years (I can say that because she is younger than me!), she seems to have had to cope with far more downs than ups.  When I first met her it was in the creche of the church we both belonged to about 6 months after we had moved there.  She was dropping off her two children, 3 yrs and a 3 month old.  She explained to me that her eldest a little boy had come with his 'daddy' book this morning as he was missing his father - he had died about a month or so previously.  She had been widowed just before her 30th birthday with two small children.  Our contact over the next 6 months was occasional.  We had some play dates with the children (our boys are the same school year).  Another vivid memory I have was about 6 months later when she told me she had met some-one through an Internet support forum for those who had lost their partners. It was probably the first time I saw the heavy weight that she had been bearing being lifted.  There was a sparkle in her eyes, that was probably when I first really started to get to know her and she was fab!

I read an (as yet) unpublished book that another friend has written last week.  In it she describes a sunset,  I hope she won't mind me sharing the analogy she uses (I won't write it beautifully like she does, you will have to buy the book for that).  It has to do with the fact that a sunset is only beautiful and coloured because of the dust in the air.  It is these imperfections that cause the light from the sun to reflect in different ways, without it there would be nothing except plain sun light.  I can look at my friend Ko and see this.  She is beautiful not just from the outside but from the inside.  These last couple of years since the death of my sister, she has been the one person my age (I do like to consider I am younger than I am) who I know has a bit of an understanding of how I have been feeling.  This has natural drawn us closer,  She married her second husband on my birthday 5 years ago and their second baby together (yes they have four in all) is mine and my husbands youngest God child.

Today we were supposed to go and have a nice birthday lunch together, however her hubby has just popped round to say that she has woken up and been ill so gone back to bed.  Something always goes wrong on her birthday - last year it was snow that prevented them from going to the a pre-booked show in London!  However I know that we will make up for it soon and just pray her a very speedy recovery and I want her to know just how much I love and adore her.  Happy Birthday Ko x.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

A Precious Gift

My wonderful husband had asked me a few nights ago for a few tips on how to use window movie maker, I offered to show him but he declined my offer saying he wanted to have a go without me seeing - intriguing I thought.  Then this evening he showed me why - I feel so amazingly blessed, the only problem I have now is trying to do one of the boys in our house!  All the pictures are from 2010, what a busy year we had!

Monday, 3 January 2011

New Years Gratitude.

I am very embarrassed to find that I have not written down any blessings since 10 December!  I am even more embarrassed to have to confess to have not even taken time to think about them.  Time to rectify that I think.

330. Safe journeys over Christmas to the east midlands to see my parents.
331. Contented children on Christmas day though there was very little under the tree.
332. Time spent with friends.
333. Time spent with just the five of us.
334. Discussions with eldest about being adopted.
335. Being able for the first time since Sally died to cook a Christmas Dinner for others. (The last time had been for her).
336. The central heating getting fixed between Christmas and New Year, when our usual workman was on holiday!
337. Early nights and late mornings.
338. Time to read!
339. Friends taking the children overnight so that we can have a morning without them!
440. Seeing the children wearing the gifts that I made them.
441. Not having a terrible hangover when I really did deserve one.
442. Singing down the telephone with the whole family on speaker phone, We Wish you a Merry Christmas to my parents.
443. A visit to my Grandma with my youngest, who coped with a 'demented' conversation so well.
444. My loving God who is always there, even when I might ignore him.

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Sunday, 2 January 2011

Two years on!

Today is my blogs second birthday!  191 posts have been done and I have loved every minute.  Not every post has been easy to write.  My biggest blog highlight this year has been joining in the Gratitude Community with Ann Voskamp over at A Holy Experience.  It can be a real challenge sometimes when weeks are too busy and the body is failing to look for blessings in the small things we are surrounded by.  However the benefit to teaching the heart and the brain to look for these things has certainly made me far more aware of how God is interested in every part of my life and rejoices in all the moments that I share with him.

So I wonder what this next year is going to develop in my blog life.  I hope that I continue and definitely improve with my new work blog Life of a Children and Youth Pastor.  I hope I can continue and improve on my publishing my blessings on a Monday.  I would love to get some more of my crafty bits and pieces photographed and shared.  A few hopes is all I have at the moment, that is what I really enjoy about blogging, when ideas come and can enjoy exploring them in writing.  When they don't I can continue to read all my fellow bloggers posts and revel in the enjoyment they are having with theirs.