Motherhood Unplugged – Be Whoever You Want To Be!

Motherhood Unplugged –
Don’t Be Cruel to Yourself.


Be whoever you want to be!
Mama of one, mama of ten, working mama, stay at home, stay at work, stay single, live inner city, live on an island, eat tacos for dinner, be vegan, run, pole dance, have coffee on an IV in the mornings, slurp green kale and matcha tea smoothies before 5am………
Whatever you do, do what works for you and your loves without the pressure of explaining your journey to others.
Because, as my gorgeous hubby says, “Honey, at the end of the day, the only thing that matters are the people who have a piece of your heart and The One whose eye’s see it all”.

I read a quote the other day that said, ‘Eve was not an afterthought, but God’s grand-finale’
I love the fact that women are God’s grand-finale! Not forgotten, or tacked onto the end, but saved until last.
The perfect moment of the ‘best is yet to come’.

I was a teenager when I began modelling. Every young girl’s dream right? The glitz and glamour of looking pretty.
But the real reason I began modelling was because prior to this stage, I wasn’t a very confident person, particularly as I towered above all of my peers and stood out like a sore thumb.
My mum thought if I learnt the art of modelling, it would teach me how to walk with poise and grace and be proud of my height, whilst also instil a sense of worth and pride in my body.

This did happen, in a fashion, as I became comfortable with my height, and the modelling agency took me on for work.
I was only 15 and the world of modelling was both daunting and exciting.
The agency built up my portfolio of professional photos and these pictures were then distributed to their clients. Castings and photo-shoots followed and I soon became busy within my fascinating new world.

“Go with the strength you have”

However, I barely recognised myself in some of the shots, after the makeup artist painted and sculpted me and clothes were placed, perfectly on my bird-like body.
The best angles were found of my face and also the worst were discovered and highlighted.
Was I aware that my smile wasn’t exactly aligned?  Basically, I have a slightly droopy mouth on the right side of my face.
I also have a lump on my neck which I have had since birth, owing to a lifelong thyroid condition. This, my agent, informed me, should be covered up. Always.
I should never show my neck whilst I was working.

Each photo that was taken of me was scrutinised by a magnifying glass. Like an insect under a microscope. Every single picture would be examined and flaws highlighed.
To be discarded immediately.
Always seeking perfection. This period in my life deposited great chunks into my heart (I grew to love my height and I learnt how to walk gracefully, with excellent posture)- but the withdrawals were heavier.

It created in me a lifelong habit of not much liking having my picture taken, certainly not without putting a mask on first.
I struggled to show my face void of makeup and particularly, now I am in my 40’s, lines and wrinkles have appeared which bear stories of growing children, lack of sleep and just plain ageing.
All a perfectly normal part of life and living.

“But why oh why should we fit in when we were born
to stand out?”

And yet I still remain critical of my features.
As though my mind, which was moulded in front of the flash of a camera, has been set on this default pattern of scrutiny and harsh judgement. The likes of which I wouldn’t ever pass on to the worst of my enemies.

The thing is though, I do want to see ‘real’ in other people. I very much respect and admire women who are brave and post pictures of themselves with their flaws.
Except, when they talk about their flaws, I don’t see them at all.
I just see beautiful women, created by God, being real and rocking their awesomeness. It is beyond refreshing.

We are so cruel to ourselves. We nit-pick every single flaw, duck, dive and hide from the camera. Instantly delete those photos our husbands took of us because we believe it’s not our best angle.
There are some days for me still, that I would honestly show more kindness to anybody else on this earth than I would myself.
Women lie to themselves and believe those lies every single day.
With such scathing criticism of our bodies, our worth, our very existence.

But why oh why should we fit in when we were born to stand out?

Whilst being in my 40’s has revealed more than wrinkles and sags, it has made me become a realist.
My dear old Nanna used to say to me when she saw me prim and preen myself before going out, “Who the heck do you think you are gonna meet girl? – the Queen!”
Basically, what image did I have in my mind that I was trying to attain? Her comment always brought me down-to-earth and I am so grateful for her honesty and candour in my formative years. I clung to those words when I was being picked apart on a catwalk or in a photographic studio.

Be whoever you want to be mama’s but wear that badge of ownership with tenacious pride!

Our lives of six children, home-schooling, church ministry, business owning, slow-living, country off-the-beaten-track, with a shake of hippie living are not ‘the norm’.
Nope, not at all. But you know what? I just don’t care because there is such freedom in radically pursuing the path untrod. Your unique story unfolding.
The one that is a shade of messy aubergine, quirky mustard and delightfully free sage.
This is my life and it looks entirely different than yours but that’s the whole point. We are created to make a mark on the world and my mark looks wildly different to yours.
Just as it was meant to be.

So the three things that I use as a reality check in order to be more confident are these:

1- Who am I trying to impress?

If it is my husband, he has seen the very worst of me and loves me still.
If it is other people – I want to be liked and loved for me, not what I look like or what I do or how I live my life.
Different isn’t bad, it’s just not the same.

2- The ideal/perfect image I may have in my mind – doesn’t exist.

The ideal family, the ideal mother, the ideal face…..
Listen – it doesn’t exist. Ever. Full stop.
Blame photoshop, or the media or the skinny models portrayed (sorry cos that was me many years ago – totally blame me).
So, because perfect doesn’t exist, Let…… It……. Go.

3- I will be happier when – I fit into my skinny jeans, grow my hair long, get married, have a baby……….

Well, I do fit into my skinny jeans and my hair is crazy long now. I have been married for 25 years and birthed six babies. But I am no more happy having done those things (as much as I am grateful!) because happiness isn’t an elusive feeling, it’s a choice to be content in the present, no matter the circumstances.

I saw a brilliant poster the other day that said this:

A real woman
Has curves
Is skinny
Has muscles
Is whatever the hell she wants to be!

Here’s to being whatever the heck we want to be!
God’s grand finale, in every splendid, perfectly, imperfect way.

And by the way, in case you were wondering, I never did meet the Queen, despite my efforts in front of the mirror.
Nanna was right. She was always right.
With age comes great wisdom.

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The Worshipping Mother Isn’t Who You Think!

The Worshipping Mother Isn’t Who You Think.
She doesn’t wear her special worship hat just on Sunday’s. For if she did, she may never sing and meet with her King.

I am absolutely loving listening to the song, “Come to the Alter” by Elevation Worship.
You can listen to it here……
If you can, take a few moments – and pause – before you read on.

I remember the very first time I attended church after the birth of our first baby. It took us hours to get ready and even longer to get out of the house.

In we walked, feeling so very proud of our sweet girl sleeping in the pram (phew and phew).
We took our new seats in the area for parents of small children, thrilled that we were now officially part of the club!
Close enough to the crying room and creche, in case a quick exit was needed but still very much in the service to enjoy it to the full.

I flinched every time somebody scraped their chair, or lifted the light muslin gauze that covered our little girl’s sleeping form.
I remember being worried about germs from other small children. Not to mention the thought that an adult might cough over her and give her some fatal virus.
I was a bundle of nerves.

As soon as the worship team took to the stage, I was concerned the drums may damage her little ears – (why hadn’t I factored that in?) chastising myself silently whilst trying to look ever so chilled and relaxed.

That particular day we struck gold.
Baby didn’t wake up throughout the entire service. In fact, she didn’t even make a peep.
She slept right through her next feed and as I was too scared to wake her, I let it slide.

I remember standing next to our Pastor and his wife, waxing lyrical about how good our baby was and what a lovely nature she had. And yes, wasn’t it amazing that she slept (I later realised most newborns do sleep constantly during the day!)
But this morning, all I felt was pride and overwhelming gratefulness that we had smashed the first outing to church – seamlessly.
I was officially a super mum.

What I didn’t realise, whilst I was basking in fake new-parenting-glory, was the fact that my engorged breasts were – ahem – leaking. Everywhere.
It wasn’t until I felt drips run down my squishy belly, that I was aware of the cringe-worthy, embarrassing situation.
I mean, my Pastor of all people!!
A quick look at my chest revealed the most enormous milk spots, bigger than my baby’s head!
I had soaked through, not only my massively padded nursing bra, but also two super-absorbent fabric nursing pads.
The mortification was real and we high-tailed it home, me in tears and also our newborn, who had by now woken and was red-faced, tight-fists, screaming blue murder for the milk she knew was the reason for my tears milk.

That was nearly 21 years ago and five more children later, I have mellowed somewhat regarding attending church with children.
That said, I had many, many, many years of being a Worshipping Mother, with my little charges hanging off me, tugging at my arm, telling me they need the toilet NOW!, intervening with sibling squabbles, throwing them a muesli bar to keep them quiet and a plethora of other little tricks that all mothers have up our sleeves.
And regularly, we would leave church with me in tears, declaring “it was just too hard”.


The thing is – The Worshipping Mother carves out little spaces of spiritual nurture, during the week.
Not just on Sundays.
My very wise, precious soul-sister explains it this way:

Worship happens in the mundane moments.
It is the ten minutes of waiting in the kitchen, for the oven bleeper to go off, whilst you are in the middle of preparing dinner for your children, who are most unlikely to actually eat it, that we meet Jesus.
Rich songs of praise burst forth from our hearts, alongside watching the stove for scalding boiling water and wiping snot from our children’s noses.
Or when we are alone in the car at night, driving to a meeting, feeling exhausted and overwhelmed and a praise song wafts up to our ears and hits us with the soothing and ministering words, perfect for our worn and tired hearts.
This is The Worshipping Mother – mostly exhausted, very much overwhelmed. And in that moment – she meets Jesus.
He fills her soul full to over-flowing with the touch of his presence, whilst mama sits amongst the empty crisps packets, discarded juice boxes and kinder-surprise wrappings.
She is still God’s daughter and He is still her King. And not just on Sunday’s”.

This wise mama also said she recalls when she realised she was a Worshipping Mother herself.
Her newborn son was sleeping in his pram one Sunday morning, and with arm’s raised, she realised her hands were clutching a tiny pacifier, at the ready in case her little one started to fuss. It was in that moment, that her new self was revealed. She was a Worshipping Mother. A mother – but still a daughter of the King.

We are surely everything and all things combined, which is what makes us so precious.

Jesus whispers to us in the tender moments of church and the harried, stressed-filled hours of shepherding tired and grouchy children to the table, bath and hopefully (finger’s crossed) -bed.

He knows how impossibly stretched our hearts feel and how utterly incomprehensible it is to wake up at 5am, to pray and read the bible, knowing full-well that will be our children’s start time as well.
He gets us because he created us.
Just like He formed and moulded our tender mother’s hearts, to nurture and give and give and give and give some more, when we feel there is nothing left to give.
And he knows, before we do, when we reach that point of being completely at the end of the line and unable to mother anymore.
In fact, he knew one hundred paces before it even happened.
Because HE IS THERE.

He sees us because He is our Father. Come to the alter for His arms are open wide. Bring your sorrows and trade them for joy sweet sister.
And because of that very reason, The Worshipping Mother has to be the most awesome, inspiring, faith-filled, butt-kicking, life-shaping, mama of them all.

 

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Motherhood Unplugged – Am I Beautiful?

Motherhood Unplugged – Am I Beautiful?

If you were asked how to describe yourself in a few sentences, what would you say? Would you speak in kindness and affirmation? Would you say you’re beautiful?
To be honest, when I was recently asked this question, my first words weren’t particularly nourishing and that bothered me. A lot.

So, here is my answer after a couple of thinking days:
I am a child of the King and beautiful and precious in His eyes.
I am a wife and a mother but also a daughter, sister and friend.
I am sometimes anxious and often feel the weight of other people’s emotions.
I am sensitive and quirky and very spontaneous.
I am calm, love the quiet and altogether very sensitive. 

I am nowhere near perfect but am learning that perfection is a slippery slope towards failure.
I am a runner, a lover of cake and a creative soul.
I am a bearer of scars and the recipient of healing through kindness.

I have the heart of a gypsy, the soul of a wanderer and the spirit of a lion.
I am exactly who I was always meant to be.

A few days ago, Princess Eugenie married her long-term partner, Jack Brooksbank at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle.  And in a show of courage and inspiration, the Princess made a point of wearing a dress that exposed – rather than hid – a scar left over from a childhood operation.
The Queen’s granddaughter had major surgery on her back to treat a curvature of the spine at the age of 12 and in revealing her scar, she hoped it would honour those who had helped her on her journey with the condition of scoliosis. The Princess also wanted to make a point, being that  “you can change the way beauty is” and following the wedding, her bravery has indeed influenced many others to also reveal their hidden scars and embrace beautiful.

“True beauty isn’t about having a pretty face.
It’s about having a pretty mind, a pretty heart
and a pretty soul.”

In a stereotypical sense, most little girls long to be a princess right? But a princess with a curved spine? That’s not part of the fairytale story. 
The princesses we see in the storybooks have clear, porcelain smooth skin, big shining blue eyes and long wavy hair. She is sweet and kind and often unaware of her stunning beauty, whilst she patiently waits for her handsome prince to complete her life.
But she definitely does not bear scars. Or a crooked spine.

In light of our Motherhood Unplugged series and being asked how I view myself, it also made consider how we, as mothers, view beauty in this current era?
I daily scroll through the snapshots of many, many mothers and their Instagram grids. Perfectly colour-co-ordinated squares of, well frankly, beautifully turned out women.
And whilst I SO understand that we all want to show our best features and lives, what happens to the mum that doesn’t feel attractive?
Who has just had a baby and her jelly belly and stretch marks are the reason why she doesn’t want to undress in front of her husband. Or the mum who can’t remember the last time she had a haircut or her cuticles pushed back to reveal pretty nails?
Or the depressed mum, who is so sleep-deprived and struggling with the task of keeping a little human alive that she can’t bear to face the outside world. And try to look normal.
What about those women?

Yet, I freely admit, I too struggle with the same sort of authenticity on social media. Whilst I can write about my flaws and downfalls, I don’t particularly want to post a picture of me looking less than my best.
Do I want to reveal a photo of me when I have first woken up, with my wild and knotty hair, bags under my eyes and those neck wrinkles that take a few hours to un-crease!! Heck no!

Why? Because I don’t want to be judged. There you have it. I don’t want someone (whoever you are) to look at me and go “Euch that’s not attractive!”
I don’t want to be criticised or put down or for somebody to think I am ugly.
So I/we, filter out the normal, the mundane, the things that we all struggle with, like bed hair, grumpy moods, messy homes, arguments with our partners, annoying children.
And in doing so, we filter out our true selves.

We want to be in the shot next to our adorably behaved children, with matching outfits and not a smear of snot or dirt on their colour-co-ordinated clothes. We want our hair done, smooth and shiny or cool-dude, beach-wave messy and our lips a pretty shade of seashell-salmon.

We don’t necessarily want to put up the ones of us, bleary-eyed, fed up and grouchy, feeling bloated and teary, whilst obsessively watching the clock, willing bed-time to come swiftly.

We all talk about finding our tribe, our community of peeps who support us and enrich our lives, along with our children’s. However, if our collective tribe only sees the well-turned-out mothers, the ones who have a seemingly rose-pink coloured existence, where are the rest of us hiding?

I believe Princess Eugenie’s wedding dress has made a much bigger statement than she possibly intended. I think it shouts of “Me too!”

Me too who has scars, visible and hidden.
Me too who is tired of pretending and wearing a mask.
Me too who feels inferior and self-conscious when I look at other mothers on social media.
And definitely, me too when I start to scratch at the wounds of comparison, envy and jealousy. These are unattractive emotions and not something I want to keep diving into. And that pesky little voice that whispers, “am I beautiful?”

Well, the answer is YES! A huge resounding, shout it from the rooftops, yes (to myself and you too).
Heck yes, you are beautiful and so am I!

How can we not be? We don’t just share our bodies with our partners, we go the extra mile and grow human beings. We grow bone and lungs and kidneys. Our blood sustains life and our heart beats for more than just ourselves.
We then deliver these little miracles into the world and nourish them from our bodies and our hands. We nurture and love and protect and embrace tiny lives that become big people, who go out and smash dreams and conquer the world. All because of us, mamas.

Are we beautiful? Oh my goodness, YES, we are SO beautiful! 
True beauty isn’t about having a pretty face. It’s about having a pretty mind, a pretty heart and a pretty soul. Of being the best possible version of yourself, inside and out.
Be brave, be bold but more than anything, BE YOU. Beautiful you.

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Starting Over Again.

Starting Over Again

“For though I fall, I will rise again.
Though I sit in darkness,
the Lord will be my light”.

Starting Over Again.

When we moved from Australia to the UK we knew in our hearts that there was unfinished business here in this glorious, lush island of rolling green hills and abundant history. This beautiful British country that was to become our forever home.

“Until we realised that the jacket we had been
trying to pass off as a good fit,
felt truly uncomfortable and awkward”.

And in many ways we were the misfits, the renegades, the square pegs in round holes. The Australians who felt out of place in their home country.

A bit like wearing a jacket that needed re-sizing. No matter how much we tried to make that jacket fit – take it in here, add some pleats there, fancy it up a bit. It just never sat properly across our shoulders. It was too baggy under the arms, sat heavy on our chests and scratchy to wear for long periods of time.

We knew that we weren’t planted in Australia for long seasons, as much as we tried and tried to force those roots, deep down in the dry Australian soil.
They just didn’t grow, didn’t stick and most certainly didn’t thrive.

We tried moving, hoping that the ground was more fertile in other places, prettier suburbs, better schools, even better paid jobs. And that did work for a while, until we realised that the jacket we had been trying to pass off as a good fit, felt truly uncomfortable and awkward.

 

So we did it.
We upended our entire family, our lives, home, nearly all of our worldly possessions.
Sold everything and with our most precious cargo, our six children, we relocated.
To England.

We broke hearts, friendships and fractured family relations, through this move to the other side of the world.
It hurt us and it hurt others. So much confusion as to why living in the great south-land of promise and opportunity, just wasn’t enough.
Wasn’t us. If it ever was in the first-place.

“It took much longer than we ever anticipated”

And for some, the thought of making a new life in a cold climate, grey, drab and wet, was unfathomable. But I guess that depends on which side of the coin you look at it. Like everything and everywhere, there are pros and cons.
We decided to look at the pros.

You would think that once we had made the momentous decision to move, it would be all smooth sailing.
I sure did.

But that was far from the way it panned out.
Our new jobs were challenging, making connections, time-consuming and exhausting. Everything was a starting block.
We felt lonely at times and displaced. Setting up home all over again was expensive. Heck even getting a mobile phone contract was nearly impossible.

“I eventually realised that I was here all along”

However, just because something is right, doesn’t mean it won’t be difficult.
To adjust, settle, face reality.
Like the couple who long to have a child without success and finally, their dream has come to fruition.
Except being a parent is hard but that doesn’t mean their child wasn’t meant to be or they truly didn’t deserve to be parents.
It just means that ‘right’ can also be challenging.
Or the couple who are perfectly suited for each other and marry. Do they never face hardship or sadness? Of course not. Marriage is hard work. For all of us.
Even for the most loved-up, cute couples you see on social media.
Happiness isn’t without struggle.

We knew it would take time. To settle, find friends, breathe a little easier.
But it took much longer than we ever anticipated.
Five years much longer.
And there were many, many times throughout those years that I couldn’t find myself anymore.
Where had I left me? Where was I to be found? Was I to be found?

And I eventually realised that I was here all along. That our new path was really a journey that was to twist and turn, like all other life journeys.
Some points would be magical and others devastating but we are building a life based on purpose, not perfection.

Of course there will be ups and downs, sickness and trials, hardship and rejection. For this is life, despite what country you live in.

 

However, the one thing we do know, is that our jacket now fits.
Snug in all the right places, with space to move and freedom to stretch out our arms and fly.

In this new place that isn’t so new anymore and one we call home.

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Are Your Kid’s Weird?



Are Your Kid’s Weird?

Are your kid’s weird? 

Nobody has ever asked me that question to my face but that doesn’t mean they haven’t thought it. It’s certainly a phrase I have heard thrown around the internet and home-school groups.

We home-school four of our six children and have done so for a few years now. Not only do I hear these words but also, the inevitable, “Is your child socialised?” query.

Ok, so let’s talk about home-schooling, socialisation and weird kids.

For sure, socialisation is the ONE question that home-schoolers will be asked time and time again. And whilst I do inwardly sigh when I hear these imminent words, having been asked it at least 3457 times over the past few years, I do understand the genuine reasons behind the concern, from someone who chooses mainstream education.
Because to be honest, I was one of those people who asked that very question before I home-schooled my children.
Nothing to hide here.

Interestingly, in the UK, the number of children being homeschooled has risen by about 40% over three yearsAcross the UK 48,000 children were being home-educated in 2016-17, which was up from about 34,000 in 2014-15. The main reasons cited were mental health issues and avoiding exclusion.
These figures are staggering and more than a little sad for the mainstream education system in England but a win for home-schooling groups.

But firstly, are home-schoolers weird?
Maybe, I don’t know.
There are weird kids and adults in the world right?
I guess it depends how you define weird. I think weird is quirky, individual, sassy, unique, stand-apart, butt-kicking, non-conforming awesomeness.
All of the former, or just one. Weird is cool.




Are my kids weird? They might be. Because I am their mother.
But as weird is cool, who really cares?

I remember when I was in high school in Australia, there was a ‘weird girl’, who wore only black, including black lipstick and blue-black hair – all matted and wild, with (gasp!) a tongue pierce, very edgy in those days.
I thought she was soooooooo weird and for years I solely judged her on her outward appearance – simply because she was different.
But the truth was, I was afraid of her, because she wasn’t like any of my friends or myself.
I didn’t realise at the time, that different was ok.
And she turned out to be a gorgeous-hearted, beautiful soul. A dear friend to me in the latter years of my schooling.
And I felt so ashamed for my judgemental heart towards her all those years prior, even before I had bothered to open my mouth and make any effort towards getting to know her.

However, the biggie, the glaringly obvious, huge elephant-in-the-room constant question for home-schoolers is, of course, “whether daily interaction with peers is necessary for a child’s positive social and emotional development”?

Some, many, would argue, yes. Absolutely, categorically a huge, big, fat, yes.
With the absence of a large group of peers, many believe it would be a challenge for their children to develop essential social skills. Some of these may include working together as a team, listening to other people’s opinions, learning to compromise, fostering compassion, problem-solving when faced with a difficult situation such as a fall-out of a friendship group, disagreeing respectfully and understanding appropriate ways to communicate with others – to name a few.

And all of this does happen in a school environment.
It has to really because when you place 20-30 children together in the one class, this different mix of personalities, emotions and characters will teach your children these skills, whether it is a positive or negative environment.
They will learn in a group-based situation. Which is totally ok.

Let’s face it, a large percentage of society choose to educate their children in main-stream schools and many, many children leave school very well-adjusted and educated individuals.
But also, many don’t.

Whilst for us, teaching at home, we obviously don’t have that constant mass environment for the children to learn these skills, they do however, learn in other unique ways.
And different isn’t wrong, as I have said above, it’s just different.

Take my 17 year old son for example, who is in Sixth Form. He makes decisions every day in a social setting, some which he would rather not face.
No, he doesn’t want to walk near the oval where some of his peers are smoking weed. And thanks for the offer to attend a rave and sneak in a six pack of beer but that’s just not his scene.
However, yes, he would love to go to the movies and a pizza with his crew of homies.
So many choices, every single day.


We find our rhythm in other ways, which may slide against the social-grain. But guess what? We still have happy, healthy and well-adjusted, social children.
At home the kids won’t have to make a call as to whether they will join their peers on the oval for a few drags of hash, but they face other situations that many schooled children won’t.

Such as they are on first-name basis with at least five homeless people in Norwich. They have worked alongside them in the community.
They have witnessed first-hand how dangerous drink and drugs can be, how damaging to the body and soul. They know how to keep safe and personal boundaries. To not reveal where they live, play, work. And they sure know how to show love, compassion and acceptance.
They sit with the guy who lives under the same bridge in the city and has a heart of gold but nowhere else to call home.

They have learnt to share what they have, with each other. We are a large family and sharing is as necessary as breathing and they do so without missing a beat.
Daily, our lifestyle is a learning curve of developing hearts. Maybe it is ingrained within them because they have not known any different, but they haven’t learnt this in a classroom.
They live it each day and don’t view it as a sacrifice, rather a lifestyle.


These sorts of things can be learnt in other ways, outside of school and peers. Sometimes it is stepping into the grimy, hidden places in society and being church to the un-churched.
It can be uncomfortable but it sure teaches the children how to relate, communicate and be kind, which they own – in spades.



The children have friends their ages whom they catch up with in the school holidays, meet at the movies or for a meal. They chat over Skype or Facetime and some of them still keep in touch with pals from early school days in Australia. They share their hearts with friends of all ages, all places and all over the world.
And whilst the internet can be a scary forum, it’s also a brilliant way to connect and we do so, often, forging new connections and embracing friendships of old.

We love because we are loved and that’s all that matters in this crazy hectic world of normal, which isn’t at all normal really, but what you can mould and shape into normal.
And remember, my normal isn’t yours.
Embrace your path of normal, with great confidence.

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When Life Needs a Change of Direction

When Life Needs a Change of Direction

How One Small Gesture can Lead to Great Things.

“Sometimes one small gesture, can give you the strength to do enormous things.
A little generosity can unleash great tenderness.
Leading in time to deep, real love.
And a single conversation can change your mind, your life.
The world is no bigger than the people who inhabit it.
And together or alone, we are closer than we know”.
-Vanessa Redgrave-

I watched Episode 4 (Series 7) of ‘Call the Midwife’, on the weekend, and was touched by the truth of the above words. It reminded me of a moment that signalled a major change of direction in the course of my life and our family.

Just over six years ago in Australia, Matthew, my husband and I, were in Target, shopping for our daughter’s birthday, which happened to be the next day.
I remember feeling disappointed in myself that I had left it so late.
I had always been quite organised with the children’s birthday’s, often buying them gifts months before.
However, working three days a week and caring for six children, two of them twins who were still toddlers, was beginning to stretch me in uncomfortable ways.
I often felt overwhelmed with the daily challenges of caring for a large family, whose ages ranged from 18 months to 15 years.


And on this evening, running around the store, 20 minutes before they closed, I again felt that crushing weight of being too busy, fall heavily upon my chest.
And of me, wanting to step off the fast train I had found myself frequently boarding.

I was standing in the book department and happened to glance across at the ‘self-help’ and ‘inspirational quotes’ section. One of the books caught my eye immediately.
On the front cover was a sign-post.
It was the sort that I see all the time living in country Britain – the old-fashioned wooden types, often pointing to a public footpath that meanders across a field or through a wildflower covered woodland.

This signpost had two arrows in different directions.
One was the path of busyness and the other was the path of living intentionally slower.
Underneath the signs were these words –

“Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is,
and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls”.
Jeremiah 6:16

Change in Life's Direction
Often people speak of an instant ‘knowing’ about something or someone. In my life, I have had those inner feelings on quite a few occasions.
This was one of those moments.

I knew that I knew, that I knew, our lives were about to change. Had to change.
We were at those crossroads, indeed standing right underneath them, within the harsh bright lights of Target.
And we had a choice to make.
I also knew it was going to be a truly difficult and gut wrenching life choice. Because it meant leaving my extended family.

I looked at Matthew and pointed to the front cover. He said, “I think this means we have to make a choice on where we live and how we live”
And I said, “I want to live in England”.

Change in life's direction
From that point onwards, we had a renewed focus and confirmed path set before us.

We wanted to be in the countryside, amongst green pastures and beautiful spring flowers.
For our children to grow up in Europe, embracing the diversity of cultures and the opportunities to travel and experience the world.
We wanted to bring our children up within a slower paced environment.
But most of all, we wanted to rid ourselves of all our material gain and live a simple life. One without so many distractions and one outside of the norm of our 4 bedroom, 2 bathroom new build home. In a rapidly growing housing estate, full of the same types of homes and gardens.
We wanted more!
Change in life's direction
I didn’t buy the book but I did buy a diary. In that diary, I documented our journey from that defining moment in Target – the small gesture which led to great things, to actually moving to the UK.

How is it that one small gesture can lead to great things?

This is what we did –

1- We made a solid decision and stuck with it – we kept our focus and began to strive towards the end goal – living in England.
2- We involved the children, daily. Speaking about our plans and allowing them to have their input and listening to their concerns and worries (of which there were quite a few, such as leaving family and friends).
3-We made small steps every day towards the end decision. This meant talking about moving, telling friends, sharing with family, selling our belongings, deciding on those things we deeply treasured, looking for employment.
4- We made the decision to not become despondent when it began to take a lot longer than we initially anticipated. A job was difficult to find from the other side of the world. Skype interviews were uncomfortable and we weren’t always familiar with the different counties of the UK. A lot of research was carried out in order to familiarise ourselves with each region of the UK.
5-We immediately chose to not wear our tinted glasses – as in – the grass always seems greener on the other side. In the case of England, I can safely say that the fields and hedgerows were exponentially more colourful (and green!) than Australia. However, that was only in nature and not in actual living.
6- Once our decision was made, we didn’t leave room for doubt. The diary I kept was a brilliant time-line of events and circumstances. Positive things people said to us about the move, encouraging signs and confirmations along the way. In other words, we kept our eyes and ears open to remain committed to our decision, despite many things not going accordingly to plan.

Change in directionJust over a year later, we arrived in England. Our new home was a sweet cottage, called Red Berries. It was surrounded by fields of produce growing. We had rose bushes and fruit trees in our garden. The children made a den under a big old apple tree and spent their summer days playing in the comforting shade of the branches. My soul started to breathe again. We gradually made friends and established a sense of belonging.

Maybe for you today, friend, you are looking for the signs as well.
Whatever your circumstances and situation, there will be a way forward.
Sometimes it’s a bit blurry and feels unsure doesn’t it? And you worry about making the wrong decision.
The thing is – there is no such thing as the perfect choice, only to keep your eyes open for the cues that are before you.
Look for those signposts – because they will be there.
That single conversation may change your mind, your life.

We chose the arrow that led us to here.
One small gesture, one tiny book cover in our case, can indeed give us strength to do enormous things.

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5 Ways to Woo your Valentine – Day Four/Part Four

5 Ways to Woo your Valentine –
Day Four/Part Four

So, it’s nearly Valentine’s Day!
In fact, it’s the day before the big day of love. Number four of ways to Woo your Valentine is becoming One.

I wanted to talk about the best piece of advice my husband, Matthew, and I were given during our marriage preparation.

Before I reveal our secret – a word about our pre-marriage counselling.
It consisted of six weeks (felt like six years at the time) of wise counsel by a man, Matthew and I most deeply respect, the Pastor of our church we attended at the time.

He was one of those people who was softly spoken and slightly intimidating.
I felt he could penetrate to the very heart of my soul.
And read my mind at the same time.

We literally turned up each week to our sessions, in fear and trembling.
If I had a catholic faith as well, my prayer beads would have been tightly gripped in my sweaty, shaking hands and many hail Mary’s would have been fervently recited.

However, that pre-marriage torture was to become the corner-stone and reference point of our entire marriage to this day.

The words our Pastor shared with us and the prayers he spoke over us, were challenging but unforgettable.
We had no idea how many times over the course of our nearly 25 year marriage, we would reflect back on that training and wisdom.

I was merely 19 years old, when we sat before our Pastor, thinking we were just going through the motions to receive his blessing of marriage.
And whilst I knew Matthew was the man chosen for me by God, I was just a baby myself.
However, I can never thank our Pastor enough for being bold and real and for colouring our marriage in ways we have been endlessly thankful for over and over again.

Being One

He repeatedly told us we were to become One.
I’ll admit, I did think it was quite a religious thing to refer to (as in the Bible it says, ‘a man leaves his father and mother and is united with his wife, and they become one – Genesis 2:24).
It made me squirmy.
I wanted him to stop talking about becoming One.
I didn’t want to talk about sex with our Pastor!

We were to learn though, it went way beyond the physical side of our relationship.
We were to become partners in life.

He kept saying to us “you are no longer Matthew and Catherine.
You are to become one. A unit before God.
You must think as One and move forward as One.
Your new life will be as One. Don’t forget what you will become together”.

And in our times of conflict – of devastation and turmoil, as well as moments of blissful joy and pure happiness, we always reflect on those words – ‘we are One – we will always be one’.
As One we can face whatever lies before us and be thankful for the goodness of hope and happiness.
And brilliant pre-marriage counselling that made us squirm!

My encouragement to you today is to view your partnership in the same light.
I’m not saying – forget you have a personal identity.
I’m saying that the unique joining of you and your love, is a sacred love of forming a partnership of oneness.

It’s being with your soul mate, loving them and actually liking their company too.
Even when they (and you) are unlikeable.
Being One means together you can work out even the most difficult and stretching of situations.

Oneness when you are two.
Now there’s a thing that many couples may not have thought about.

But if you want a great marriage, no an incredibly wonderful, partnership flourish, try giving One was a go and watch your connection be coloured and grow in ways you could only dream of.

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Living the Dream Days.

Living the Dream Days.

‘I still remember the days I prayed for what I have now’
-Unknown

I was in the car, driving, the other day and a thought suddenly came to me.
I am living the dream days, the answer to many, many prayers, prayed years ago.
Whispered in my mind and softly under my tongue, daily.
Over and over and over again.

Whilst we were residing in Australia, we prayed specifically for big things.
Namely, finding a beautiful space to live in the English countryside – Tick.
To be able to experience different places and travel to Europe, often, – Tick.
For the children to settle and love their new home – Tick.
For me to settle in England and not want to return home to Australia – Big Tick.
To own chickens, have a large dog to run with and a few cats to be seen sleeping in the winter sunshine of my country cottage – Tick, Tick, Tick.

We hit five years in the UK this June.
I hope to become a British Citizen this year.
This is our forever home and we are so grateful for all of those whispered prayers years ago.
For they have been answered. In full.

But so very often, I fail to look back.
I fail to acknowledge all of those answers that were the big, big prayers of my life in the past.

You know, why?
Because I have new prayers. I want for new and different things. My prayers change. I don’t settle for those very important things because they are in the past.

And I don’t care very much for that trait in myself.
I know, I have a tendency to look forward, straining for the next thing.
I am learning to enjoy the now, but it is so not in my nature to do that.
Because I love a challenge, I love new horizons and change.
Which results in me not remembering the prayers of the days of past.
The important ones I am living now. Today.

For this new year, I resolve, to sit and just ‘be’ in the now.
To be so very thankful for the stunning view I wake to each morning.
The wildlife that surrounds me. The horses that graze in the fields.
The windmills we see in the distance and the white sails of yachts meandering through the broads, taking their time.

These are those days. Right now.

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Caution Strong Tides and Deep Water.

Caution Strong Tides and Deep Water.

The sign on the beach read, ‘Caution Strong Tides and Deep Water’. It brought back childhood memories.

As an Australian, I grew up in the heat and spent weekends on the hot and sandy beaches.
I knew I was safe if I swam between the two flags. Kept my eyes on the yellow and red lifeguards and didn’t get caught in a rip and be sucked out to sea.
Also I knew I had to keep checking that I could see the strong and tall outline of my Dad, who watched us from the shore like a hawk.

As long as I had eyes on him, I felt safe.
I was happy as long as all of my visuals were there. Protecting me and surrounding me with comfort.

What did unsettle me, was what couldn’t be seen.
When my feet didn’t touch the sandy base of the ocean floor, I would start to panic.
Nothing to anchor me, made me feel I would drift.
Drifting meant dangerous territory.
I didn’t like it when I saw dark shadows in the water. Visions of sharks and sting rays would assail me.
And I really felt frightened when I wasn’t able to swim to shore safely.
When the waves were too big and the swell underneath my body tore me away from safety instead of closer to it.

I feel the same way as an adult about life.
It’s what can’t be seen that scares me, more than what I can.

I feel this way when one of my children develop a rash.
It frightens me. What if it’s something really serious? What if it’s meningococcal meningitis? What if we don’t make it in time to medical help?
Or it might be when the bills are piling up and our account doesn’t have any secure padding.
That feeling of not touching the ocean floor creeps up on me. It’s uncomfortable. I worry.
I know that the tides are strong underneath my feet and there is a possibility of being dragged into unfamiliar territory.
And I lose focus of the shore, and the safety flags.
And my Dad.

Or do I?
Because even though my earthly Dad may not be standing on the sand, his eyes peeled on my form, my heavenly Father most certainly is.
His eyes never leave me. Even when I can’t see Him. He is there.
He knows exactly where those invisible rips are.
The dark places to avoid.
The times I need to hold my breath and swim to shore.
And the times I need to float on my back, like a starfish, and trust where the tides take me.

Today, I float.
My body unaware of the depth of the water beneath me.
My mind focussed on the figure standing at the shoreline.
The hope of my security.
Even when I can’t see him.

I know He is there.

 

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My Prayer for 2018.

My Prayer for 2018.

‘I do not wish to become someone new,
someone more.
Instead,
I seek to find comfort in the soft corners
of my soul that beckons and whisper,
“rest easy,
for you are already whole.’
Annon

If I had a specific prayer for 2018, it would be this one.

I have not the energy to become a different me, or reinvent myself into another.
There will be no wishing on my part to be thinner, more likeable or fit in with the crowd.

For the soft corners of my soul hold magical secrets.
Ones formed through 44 years of learning, failing and growing through pain.
Ones that whisper ‘you are enough’
You are more than enough.

Be still dear mind that is constantly on the move.
Be kind to the body that grew and birthed six children.
Grant yourself permission to slow down and not embrace busyness as a benchmark of your worth.
For worth isn’t to be found in doing stuff.

It is to be found in the beauty of a child’s simple wonder, the embrace of a friend and the affirmation of the one above who made and created me.

And that is enough.
More than enough.

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