Category Archives: Lessons

Motherhood: The Brutality and the Beauty

The pain.

The first look.

The exhaustion.

The first smile.

The relentlessness.

The revelation.

The brutality.

The beauty.

The mystery.

Ten months in, motherhood remains a mystery.

It’s a thousand mundane moments punctured with moments so full of wonder that they steal your breath away.

As much as I expected a lot of it; the tiredness, the love, the mum guilt. I could not have conceived of the way my emotions swing from exasperation to joy and back again within the space of five minutes; or how I can be desperate for space one minute to desperate for him to wake up so I get to give him a cuddle the next.

Rollercoaster doesn’t cut it.

But gratitude and grace do.

Gratitude for the baby I prayed for.

Grace for the difficult days when the baby screams and I don’t know why.

Gratitude for health, when I feared my son’s tiny lungs would forever struggle.

Grace for the long nights of teething, croup and colds.

Gratitude for the life I live, the God I serve and the family and friends who provide company, support and sanity after sleepless nights.

Gratitude for all that has passed – the beauty and the brutality. Grace for all that is to come.

 

 

 

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After Awareness

There are, it seems, awareness days for everything under the sun.  A quick google revealed that this month alone there is a World Sepsis Day, a Pension Awareness Day, International Talk Like a Pirate Day and a National Doodle Day.

Everything has it’s day; and don’t get me wrong, it’s wonderful that lesser known or stigmatised conditions are being recognised (although I’m not particularly sure that doodling really needs awareness!).

Indeed, we make an effort at ThinkTwice to get involved with days like World Suicide Prevention Day and Mental Health Awareness Week, but we also talk about suicide and mental health the rest of the year too!

And that’s the challenge; do awareness days and weeks actually raise awareness and build understanding? Because they only really work if the awareness leads to understanding.

I think in Britain most of us are now aware that mental health conditions exist and that they’re common. But I wonder if our understanding of mental health condition, of the way they tear through lives and the damage they leave in their wake is really understood.

Mental illnesses are often chronic, and their effects are felt not only by the one with the diagnosis; but by family, friends and colleagues. Our understanding of mental illness has to include understanding how far reaching their impact.

So this year, instead of marking every awareness day in the calendar (although, if you do manage that you probably deserve some kind of reward!) but pick one or two and commit to developing your understanding now you’ve got some awareness.

 

5 years…

I was going through some old papers today- random excerpts of writing, letters and some notes from the counselling I had when I  was eighteen. I was, in truth, very poorly. I wasn’t really convinced that this life thing would be something I could do – I didn’t think it would ever be worth the pain I was feeling, worth hanging onto the little bit of hope I had left. The counsellor asked me to write down what I would like my life to look like in 5 years. I wrote the following:

“I would like to be an LST graduate. Maybe engaged, or at least in a long term relationship. I want what I have been through to be a memory, not a reality. I want to sing and counsel and lead services, using what I have been through to make a difference in people’s lives. I don’t want to be drawn to self-destruction because I actually want to value my life and my body. Maybe some scars will have faded…?”

It’s easy to forget, you see. We forget how far we’ve come, when we’re only focussing on how far we have left to go. I had no idea, when I was writing those words five years ago, that these things would actually happen – it was a distant dream, a mere whisper of hope.

As hope began to shout louder, I began to listen to it for perhaps the first time. I began to think I might, just might, have a shot at this funny life thing. I took a few risks – some which paid off, others not so much. At some point over the last five years, I began to love the life I lead and the calling I have.

I don’t want this post to come across all smug and schmaltzy, telling you all how wonderful I am and how wonderful my life is – there are still challenges and there will continue to be until I breathe my last. But it’s a life I am fierce about living. I want to ‘do life’ in the best way I can, in a way which honours God above all else. I fail, most days, we all do. If the last five years has taught me something, it’s that you just have to keep going, even when it’s dark and the end is nowhere in sight. Not ‘keep going’ as in burning yourself out, but putting one foot in front of the other, however slow and stumbling, however often you need to rest, just keep going.

As I was writing, I remembered a verse from a long forgotten Robert Frost poem I studied for GCSE which seems to sum it up. However tired I am, however tired of the journey you may be, we’ve got lives to lead and work to be done so that we can say we’ve used all we were given, and lived every year.

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep,

But I have promises to keep.

And miles to go before I sleep.

And miles to go before I sleep.”

Trap or Treasure?

Ever since I can remember, I have felt “called” into a specifically “christian” ministry. I toyed with the idea of being a singer and actress for a while, quickly dismissed the idea of teaching primary school children, rejected the idea of nurse because it involved science etc etc.

All the ideas I considered were never really more than that. Just ideas. Because from the age of five – I’ve known that I have a job to do. I had no idea, of course, of shape and name at that age. But I wanted to be a missionary, a preacher, wanted to work for the Church which I loved so much.

Indeed, the calling got me through my GCSEs and A-Levels. When I wanted so badly to throw in the towel, the knowledge that I needed qualifications to get into LST meant that I carried on.

It has been a massive encouragement and blessing to me, to have an inkling of where I’m headed. God has been incredibly gracious in prodding and calling me on in the right direction, in promising me a future when I was lost in the past. I have treasured my calling.

And yet.

Recently it has begun to feel like a trap.

Because this is hard. This life, is hard.

It takes so much energy, to be the person I feel called to be, to lay my story out for people to poke, prod and question.

And sometimes, I wish for a different life. I wonder if a different life would be less painful. Less all-consuming. Less of a sacrifice?

Because what if I walked an easier road? A comfortable job that didn’t involve the questions?

What if I could feel, for once, like a twenty-two year old instead of a forty-two old?

Perhaps these feelings are some kind of long forgotten and neglected rebellion?

Perhaps, it’s just been a long week.

But the difficulties of this life, this one where I’m called to bare my soul and speak of my vulnerability, this one which uses the pain instead of burying it – it is, after all, the path I chose.

For all my sense of calling, I chose to say ‘yes’. I chose to write and speak about those things which most scarred my soul.

I choose the light instead of giving into the lure of the darkness.

It is a choice I would make again. And again.

And so I guess, this is the price I pay. It is not, in perspective, a very high price. I gave up my “right” to give up on life. I gave up my “right” to give up on God.

I have been through too much to give up now.

I need reminding of that, today of all days. I can see it as a burden, a trap.

Or I can be reminded of the grace it took to get me to today.

 

So I choose to be reminded of grace – to see the gift, instead of the trap.

 

It isn’t easy.

 

I trust that it is worth it.