Category Archives: Life

Mothering Sunday: The Mothering of Moses

Exodus 2:1-10

It’s some story, isn’t it?

And it’s one of those stories that gets told in children’s bibles almost minus the horror. The imagery I have is drawn straight from the Prince of Egypt film (as well as the theme song which has been in my head all week!), a wicker basket floating casually along down a calm looking river – I d; but the reality was much scarier and less picturesque. 

God’s chosen people, the Israelites were a people in crisis. They were enslaved and under threat, the promises God had given Abraham of a land to call their own must have felt very far away; but the second part of the promise, descendants to outnumber the stars was being fulfilled as from the family of Joseph, now long forgotten, the Israelites had multiplied rapidly. 

This rapid reproduction rate had the Pharaoh worried; so he gives his deadly orders – that any baby boy born to a Hebrew woman should be killed. It’s a barbaric, unthinkable order, the murder of countless baby boys in order to prevent the Hebrews raising an army.

But the Hebrew midwives, Shiprah and Puah enact their own rescue mission, telling Pharaoh that the Hebrew women gave birth too quickly – that the task couldn’t be done. This is the first exodus; and it was through the women that God saved. We never know the name of the Pharaoh – but we hear the name of the midwives – in fact the word ‘midwife’ appears 7 times in as many verses. 

Despite the midwives best work however, Pharaoh is still determined and gives the order that every Hebrew baby born should be thrown into the Nile. 

And it’s into these terrifying times that Moses is born. 

As I was thinking about this morning; I couldn’t help but think of the babies born in the past year born into a climate of fear that will hopefully be hard to comprehend when they’re told about it in the years to come. Hopefully our own Exodus from this pandemic is beginning; but it will live long in our memories and shape our world in ways we don’t yet know of. 

But I’ve skipped ahead in the story. 

Because our reading begins with the birth of Moses. 

And I’m aware that for some of you here today, or listening online, these words may hurt. You may have wanted to avoid today all together; whether because your relationship with your Mum is a painful one, you’re grieving or if motherhood is something you long for – or any other multitude of reasons, but I want to encourage you today as we look at three key women in Moses’ life; his birth  mother Jochebed, his sister Miriam and his adopted Mum Bithiah. Three women linked in the way they mothered Moses and the part they played in the Exodus story. 

I’m aware that this morning might be incredibly painful; for those who are longing to be mothers, those grieving their children or mothers, or simply those who aren’t with their Mums this morning and are missing them like I’m missing them! I believe that this morning we need to rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn. We want to rejoice with those who are celebrating with their Mums and children this morning, but we want to mourn with those who are apart, and who are hurting.

And I’m going to look at three things in the story of these three women; and the first of these is that mothering is a verb

In this passage the three women mother Moses is very different ways and whilst for Jochebed it involved the physical act of giving birth; that wasn’t the case for Bithiah and Miriam. 

It’s hard to imagine how Jochebed must have felt preparing to give birth to a baby that could be killed, as writer Kelley Nikonhenda puts it “birthed life under a death order”.

But I love this next part; where the text tells us that she hides him because he is a ‘fine child’. Now it’s common that parents think their child is the most beautiful child to ever be born – the language here is linking us right back to the creation story. The word we have translated as ‘fine’ (tov) is the same word that God uses to announce that his creation is ‘good’ – and the material of the basket she puts her son in was an ark of sorts – lined with tar to keep it afloat we’re meant to see the parallels between Moses’ trip down the Nile and Noah’s ark which carried God’s faithful through the flood.

Jochebed’s mothering uses the force that Pharoah’s wants to use to kill her baby to save him. Does it remind you of another story where the power of death is used to save life?

Mothering is a reflection of God’s heart just as much as fathering is. It’s the power of love and life over the forces of evil and death. 

I love that. It’s all too easy I think to reduce mothering to disposing of dirty nappies, doing the school run and for me, standing in the freezing rain of the park yet again! But we see a vision here of mothering as something that is more than the sum of our day to day lives – it’s a reflection of the gospel and mothering is a verb of love.

And it’s one where everyone, parent or not has a role to play. 

As Jochebed sent her baby boy along the river in the hope of saving his life; Moses’ big sister, who we will later learn is called Miriam is keeping watch. I love this image of a small girl keeping watch over her baby brother as he floats along the Nile; mothering him from a distance and then stepping in to ensure that her own mother can remain a part of Moses’ life. She fights for Moses in her mothering, and her role in this story, arranging for her Mother to be paid for nursing her own child, allowing them to remain close is proof if ever we needed it that “we are mothers when we generate life as much as when we advocate for the quality of life.”

Miriam is often referred to as a prophet and when she later leads the Hebrews out of Egypt alongside Moses and Aaron, she sings a song that we only hear a snippet of in scripture, but it’s enough for us to connect it to the song of another young woman tasked with a role God’s plan of salvation. 

And it’s here that we meet Moses’ third mother; the Pharoah’s daughter Bithiah, born into unimaginable privilege and presumably well aware of the grief her Father’s policy is unleashing on the Hebrew people. 

She is an example to us all in how to use our privilege, isn’t she? And I expect it was a risk to take in this baby, but the text tells us that she felt sorry for him – other translations talk about her being moved with compassion and she allows herself to be led by her love, rather than her fear in the same way that Jochebed and Miriam did before her. 

It’s perhaps one of the greatest challenges of mothering; to mother out of our love rather than our fear and in reality we probably do both most of the time. 

I know I do! My little boy loves nothing more than to scale play equipment far too big for him and to make friends with everyone he meets. I am by nature, much more cautious and it’s my constant inner dialogue about which risks to allow him to take, to allow him to explore and not be too limited by my irrational fears – but protected by the more rational variety! 

Protection is an inescapable part of mothering; whether it’s Mum’s protecting toddlers from scaling heights or the fight to make the streets safer for women to walk it’s another reflection of the God who loves and protects with tar lined baskets and nails in a cross to protect us from a death without him. 

And when Bithiah draws the infant from the water, she too is playing her part in God’s salvation plan. 

I often wonder what it was like for Bithiah later on in the story, when Moses flees his title as Prince of Egypt to free his people from Pharaoh when she, like Jochebed before her will lose Moses to the wide world before him. 

Mothering is a verb of lament, as much as a verb of love. 

Author Rachel Moriston writes; “that is what it is to be a mother… to love and nurture that which is fragile, mortal, unpredictable, uncontrollable and ultimately not ever truly one’s own.”

Bithiah demonstrates this even in naming the baby that she mothers. The name Moses means ‘son’ in the Egyptian language, but it sounds like the Hebrew “Mashah’ which means ‘drawn out of the water.’ For her part, Bithiah’s naming of Moses honours his beginnings and the mother who came before her and in doing so foreshadows how he will grow to draw his people from Egypt in the Exodus. 

In this world in search of shalom, of the fullness of peace, we cannot have love without lament. And mothering of any kind involves sacrifice. 

It’s long been said that it takes a village to raise a child; and it’s something anyone who parents children will have felt especially keenly in the past year, as we have parented largely without our village. 

It takes a village because mothering demands sacrifice from us, not just in what we give up in terms of sleep and time, but because the call of mothering is to one day let go. Children are not raised so that they stay as close to us as possible; but to be dedicated to God and allowed to lead their own lives once they’ve grown. 

I think of Hannah, later on in the Bible, praying and weeping for the child she longed for, but raising him so that he would go on to be Israel’s leader and of course Mary, the who treasured the words of the shepherds in her heart, was told by Anna and Simeon that her child would cause a spear to pierce her own heart. She too would flee with her child to spare him from a tyrannical king – and see his own side pierced as he hung on the cross. 

Whomever we mother; children, friends, colleagues or neighbours, we play a part in a sacrifice which points us to Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice for the people of the world. Jesus welcomed children, yes but he also poured himself out for each one of us. 

Jesus lived as a sacrifice before he died as a sacrifice. He tenderly knelt and washed the feet of his disciples as his people were ruled by another tyrant in the Roman Emperor. Foot washing was a task so lowly that it was reserved for women, children, foreigners and the marginalised. Feet were calloused and dirty from walk It was, ostensibly women’s work and yet here was Jesus doing this work for his followers. Jo Saxton writes:

“[Jesus] tended to their wounds, washed off the dust and the dirt, washed the sweaty weariness. He saw where they’d been and how it affected them. He touched them, healed them, restored them and refreshed them for the journey ahead.”

And then he broke bread and shared wine with them, sharing of himself and pointing to the truth of what he was going to sacrifice for them. 

This is the work of mothering – and it’s the work of the church. Brene Brown said that ‘church isn’t like an epidural, it’s like a midwife’ and I love that. When we think of the Hebrew midwives we looked at right at the beginning Shiprah and Puah- they delivered babies into a dark world, holding hands and mopping brows, not taking away the pain of childbirth but coming alongside them and ushering in new life. 

We’ve looked at the mothering of Moses this morning, and I hope we can see that mothering – however it looks – is a reflection of the love of God for his family that welcomes everyone. That seats the sinners and the saints together to share in the body and blood of Christ as we will do at the communion table later on. 

And that as women all over the world pour themselves out for their children and in their communities; we can catch a glimpse of our God whose power parted the Dead Sea and whose love reached down from heaven to rescue each one of us. 

Through His Spirit may God bless those longing for their Mum this morning, 

May he comfort those who grieve for what was, or what could have been.

May those who long for motherhood be cradled by God’s love,

And may all who gather at this table to share in body and blood of God’s son

Be met with the joy of belonging together in God’s family. 

Faith, Strength and Weakness: Guest Blog by YouBelong

(Please note: I have used the term ‘He’ to describe God because this is a pronoun I am comfortable using but please replace it with whatever pronoun/s you feel more comfortable with when reading it that enables you understand God in all their fullness). 

When Rachael asked me to write something for the blog, she asked that I write something on the topic of faith and strength/ weakness. At first, this felt impossible because strength and weakness are opposites. 

You might be familiar with the words of 2 Corinthians 12:10 which say, ‘That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and the troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong’. This reminds us that although there might be times we feel strong, for example after a good gym session, or when we are able to overcome a mental challenge, we are only truly strong enough to overcome the hard things that life throws at us when we acknowledge our weakness. When we do this, we allow God to step in and be our strength and even the world’s strongest person cannot compete with God!

When I became unwell back in Spring 2014, I was unable to eat or drink and lost lots of weight which eventually led to me becoming too weak to stay awake more than a couple of hours at a time or walk up and down the stairs in my house without being exhausted! At the time, I was spending all my free time being involved and serving in my local church and this meant that my faith was filled to the brim and overflowing which enabled me to give my weakness to God. Although my body remained physically weak, my faith never failed and even during the worst of tests, procedures and operations, I felt God with me and felt His strength working in and through me. 

Thankfully, I had an operation in the December of that same year which enabled me to gain weight back and start to become a bit stronger. A few months on and I still wasn’t back to where I had been before becoming unwell but every doctor I saw told me it would just take time. Almost 5 years on, I have faced more medical issues and spend more time in bed and resting or asleep than I have ever done before. As someone who loves ticking off items on a to do list and puts a huge amount of my worth into productivity and getting things done, I really struggle to work out my purpose and love myself as I am on days when I can’t do things I need or want to do.

 I am reliant on those around me to deal with a lot of the household chores and to cover the financial costs of the household as I am unable to do those things which as someone in their late 20s, is really hard to deal with. I am heavily reliant on other people and even if I really wanted to, there are some things I just can’t do anymore. The Free Dictionary defines ‘weak’ as ‘lacking’ – lacking in physical strength, emotional strength, mental strength, spiritual strength etc.

In Psalm 23 we read, ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul.’ Worldly speaking, I lack quite a lot. I lack relationships, independence and freedom (from pain, to choose what I eat, to go out and do what I want, when I want and more), but I know that when I put my faith and trust in God and follow Him, He leads me into a life of fullness, peace, provision, protection and more. 

When we depend on God, we do not lack. I reckon you know this all already though. I knew this before I became chronically ill but it’s not very easy to put into practise.

So how do we go about trusting God and allowing His strength to become ours in our weakness?

YouBelong, which I have founded and manage, as a community are currently doing a bible study which is taking us through the Psalms in chronological order (as close to it as we can anyway). Some of the earlier Psalms are written by David and tell us about his time running away from Saul and other dangerous people. David felt weak in those moments. He knew there was nothing he could do to save himself but God could. He recognised his weakness and God’s strength, he recalled scripture, worshipped God in his victories, connected and shared with other believers and asked God to help and save him… and God showed up. God gave David the strength to get through those times because David accepted he was weak and leaned into God. 

Nehemiah 8:10 reads, ‘The joy of the Lord is our strength’. Happiness is something that we feel when we receive a nice gift, eat something tasty, spend time with good friends or watch our favourite film but joy is different. Joy isn’t circumstantial – it is a choice. We can choose to be joyful even when life is full of difficult things. When we feel unwell, when we are upset, sad or angry, when the year doesn’t turn out the way we wanted (hello 2020!), we can still choose joy when our joy comes from knowing Jesus. I could never say that I feel happy Jesus endured great suffering and died a horrendous death but I am joyful because He did it for me to give me eternal life. Life can be very hard and there’s no denying that, even Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble…”. Becoming a follower of Jesus doesn’t make life easy but we have something that unbelievers don’t have and it is through knowing God that we can find joy and through the joy of our relationship with Him that we can find strength in our human weaknesses.

There have been many times that I have felt weak, physically, emotionally and mentally, but each time that I recognise I am weak and that God is strong, read my bible, pray, worship and lean on Him, I can feel God’s strength seeping in. I know it’s His and not mine because it happens at times when I have no strength left. Sometimes in those moments God gives me physical strength but more often, it’s a mental, emotional or spiritual strength that enables me to get through the times of physical weakness rather than overcome it. 

As I said before, this is easier said than done. It takes time to get to know and trust God and to remember (and choose) to go to God straight away rather than rely on our own strength (or more often than not, lack of).

Today might be a day that you are feeling particularly weak. Perhaps your physical strength is gone, or you feel mentally and emotional unable to deal with the day ahead. That’s okay. I said at the start of this post that I wasn’t sure how to talk about weakness and strength because they are opposites but God’s kingdom is a place of opposites; give to receive, serve to be served, to live means to give your life and the last will be first. Being weak is often viewed as a bad thing in this world but we need to remind ourselves that in God’s kingdom everything is upside down and back to front. A weakness given to God is a great strength because in God’s kingdom, when we are weak, then we are strong, because of Him. 

Laura is the Director and Blogger for YouBelong

A copy of the book "Deborah and Jael' on a shelf

How Do You Teach ‘difficult’ Bible Stories to Children? Guest Post by Lucy Rycroft

“She put WHAT through his forehead?!”

“The FAT closed over the SWORD??!!

The Bible is full of colourful stories. Some of them seem to have ended up in a sort of ‘children’s canon’, a repertoire we are happy to teach to our kids, stories which publishers are eager to bring to life again and again and again.

But some of them have not.

I wonder who decided which stories made acceptable reading for children? And who decided that certain stories should Absolutely Never Ever Be Told?

I’m sure that part of the answer is blood and guts. 

Stories like Jael putting a tent peg through Sisera’s forehead, or Ehud plunging a sword into the belly of Fat King Eglon (that’s how the Bible describes him, anyway) are likely to induce nightmares in sensitive children.

But I think there’s another reason. Many of the most interesting and lesser-known stories in the Bible raise questions which are difficult for adults to comprehend, let alone children.

  • Why does God kill Uzzah, simply for steadying the ark of the covenant on its journey back to Jerusalem? Is He a cruel and vengeful God?
  • Why does God command Joshua and his army to kill, destroy and plunder those who are living in the land God has set aside for the Israelites? Does God have favourites?
  • Why is the servant who hides his one talent thrown ‘into the darkness’ with ‘weeping and gnashing of teeth’? Does God value risky investment over safe stewardship?
  • Why does Jesus send demons into the pigs, which cause them to fall into water and drown? Does God not care for the animals He has created?

Let’s be honest – when do busy parents have time to wrestle with these questions for themselves, let alone with their children? As an exhausted, time-starved mum of four, I can tell you it’s not an appealing prospect.

And yet I wonder whether we’re missing a trick with sticking to the ‘safe’ stories? I wonder whether our children need to hear a fuller story of God’s movements through history, in order to grow in their love for, and relationship with, Him?

With that in mind, here are some thoughts about how we can approach the teaching of difficult Bible stories:

  1. Get to know them yourself

It’s slowly dawned on me that most Bible reading notes or devotional books focus on the New Testament, or well-known passages of the Old Testament like Psalms and Isaiah. Fair enough – these are more easily applied to our lives.

But if we never expose ourselves to the difficult historical books of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles, we’re not going to be able to share these stories with our children. So: read some different parts of the Bible. Learn a new story or two. Share with your kids what you’ve been reading.

  1. Seek out books which tell these stories

Of course, when family busyness and parent fatigue kick in (like, when do they not kick in?), it’s helpful just to have a few ‘go-to’ Bible story books which can do the heavy lifting for us.

So deliberately look for children’s books which tell the hard, or lesser known, stories! My book, Deborah and Jael, is a retelling of this heroic and exciting story from Judges, written in rhyme with beautiful illustrations. It’s not the only book you could get to redress the balance, but it’s a start.

  1. Go with your kids’ interests and personalities

Sometimes we assume that children are super-sensitive. But children are just like adults – they have varying trigger levels when it comes to graphic scenes.

I was persuaded, when writing Deborah and Jael, to gloss over the tent-peg scene, and I think this was a good call. After all, I don’t want any child to be excluded from enjoying this story, and parents can decide whether or not to share more detail. But my kids love a bit of gruesome; their eyes light up whenever we share with them a particularly yucky bit of Scripture!

  1. Edits are OK

Likewise, it is fine to edit out the more extreme details of a difficult Bible story if you know it will upset your child. It’s better than not telling a story at all!

Remember, your children probably have plenty of years ahead of them to revisit Bible stories, going deeper each time. They don’t need to know all the details now. Focus on the main facts of the story, gloss over any details which they might find traumatic, and share instead what we learn about God from the passage in question.

  1. It’s OK not to have the ‘answer’

As parents, we get used to answering every question, from “Why is grass green?” to “Do starfish have eyes?”. We’re expected to just know the answers. When I tell my kids I can’t explain why the tide goes in and out because I was never very good at science or geography, and my degree was in music, they look at me like I’ve been washed up in said tide. Thank goodness for Auntie Google.

But when it comes to sharing the Bible with our kids, it’s perfectly OK not to know the answer to a difficult question. We can turn it around by saying, “What do you think?” or “Maybe we should think about this over the next few days” or “Shall we chat to God about that and see if He helps us to understand?”

It’s healthy for our children to know, even from a young age, that some questions are big and don’t have easy answers. And that we, their grown-ups, are on a journey of faith too.

***

Teaching difficult Bible stories to children is not going to be easy – the clue is in the word ‘difficult’! But it’s also not something to be afraid of. 

As we explore the full richness of Scripture for ourselves – yes, even if that’s in a snatched 5 minutes, once a month – we can know God’s favour as we share these stories naturally with the next generation.

“Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Deuteronomy 6:7

Lucy blogs at The Hope-Filled Family and is the author of Redeeming Advent and Deborah and Jael. She lives in York with her husband and four children.

Sacrifice in a Strange New Land – Guest Post by Karen Costa

We all may consider that we know what it is to sacrifice something of worth. Those of us with children and vulnerable family members make sacrifices each day, including sacrificing sleep and giving up time to ourselves to meet their care needs. During Lent we may decide to sacrifice our love of chocolate or crisps, or commit ourselves to a new activity that we feel will improve our minds. Young people in education sacrifice their usual social activities to study hard for the exams that will lead them into adult life and the career of which they dream. Many people sacrifice significant portions of their own earnings to support charities or members of their wider family living far away or in impoverished circumstances. 

But perhaps we are not as used to sacrifice as we like to think. The concept of sacrifice in today’s world of instant gratification, with many of us fortunate enough to have easy access to basic needs such as food and drink, as well as material possessions, gym memberships and regular holidays abroad, is not something we truly think about on a daily basis. 

In these troubling and uncertain times we are being asked to sacrifice in a way most of us have never had to contemplate. Forgoing the pleasures of eating out and spending time with friends. Isolating ourselves from others to protect them and ourselves from potential infection. And hardest of all, keeping away from beloved family members and friends who are most vulnerable to the silent enemy we are facing in Covid-19. 

As Christians we are familiar with the greatest sacrifice of all – Jesus taking our sins on His holy shoulders to death, then rising again to give us the opportunity of a life free from the burden of our own failings and the promise of eternal life with Him.

There are many other examples of sacrifice in the Bible; one of my favourites is the story of Ruth. This wonderful young woman had sacrificed much in her young life. She married into Naomi’s family sacrificing the life she lived with her own. She moved to another country with Naomi after her father-in-law died, only to lose her own husband in that strange new land. And when Naomi decided to return to her home country and offered to release Ruth from any obligation to go with her, Ruth sacrificed that opportunity and chose to remain with her mother-in-law. She travelled with her back to a land where she may not have been welcomed, to a life of uncertainty and little prospect of another marriage to secure her future, because she loved Naomi. And because she loved Naomi’s God.

Can we be more like Ruth in these unprecedented times? Not just by adhering to the government recommendations that are limiting our usual activities, but by going that little bit farther. Maybe we could we give away some of our hoard of toilet rolls and hand soap and pasta to those in greater need than us? Or perhaps we could drop a note in to a neighbour and offer to get some shopping for them? Or simply spend some time chatting on the phone to someone who is self-isolating?

Who knows what lessons we will learn from this unwanted experience?

Whatever we do, and however we are affected, we can only be enriched from remaining in contact with each other by whatever alternative means we can, being creative in protecting our mental and physical health and most especially, by keeping hold of the one who sacrificed His all for us – and who will continue to journey with us through this strange new land we find ourselves in.

 

Karen works in HR, currently with the NHS and has been involved in variety of roles within church. She also happens to be Rachael’s Mum!

Baby Change, by Anne Calver – Review

Usually these days I find myself reading books in fits and starts, frequently having to re-read the pages as I’m snatching moments when my own baby (well – racing toddler is more apt) is asleep.

As it happens however, I read this in just over a day as I was stuck in bed unwell and unable to do much else but read.

Anne eloquently echoed many of my own feelings about motherhood, especially the tensions between calling and working out what that looks like as a stay at home mum.

I found the stories of other mums really helped to shape the book – proving once again that there is no “right” way to do things – that motherhood looks as different as we all do! The only criticism I would possibly level is that there was little recognition, or inclusion of a story from a Mum who’s doing it alone, whether through family breakdown, being widowed or solo adoption – but perhaps that’s another book.

The interweaving of Anne’s own experience with her biblical reflections produced some really valuable wisdom. I loved her thoughts on 2 Corinthians 4:7-9 which reads:

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

Anne writes:

“Baby Change does not equal persecution, but it can make you feel perplexed, out of your depth, weak, crushed and alone…Our feelings do not limit [God’s] power.”

This served as a potent reminder for all of us, whether parents or not that God reigns, that as tough as things are (and they are feeling pretty tough this year, aren’t they?) God is stronger than anything and everything we face (although we should continue to do our part).

I’d really recommend this book for Mums in their first few years of parenting – I’ve got a 15 month old and found it a valuable read.

You can buy it anywhere that sells books including Eden and Bookshop* and SPCK currently have 50% off all ebooks on their site until 25th March.

*Affiliate link

At Least

There are many ‘at least(s)’ flying around.
‘At least you don’t live alone’
‘At least you don’t have a pre-existing condition’
‘At least you still get paid’

Of course, all these may be true. Some of us are more privileged than others, that can be recognised without minimising struggle.

Because whether you’re self-isolating, social distancing, have a pre-existing condition, are trying to navigate wedding planning or wondering how to get a refund for the trip you’ve saved for that you don’t get to go on – it’s okay to feel disappointed, to feel sad over what might have been.

Gratitude can’t be forced onto someone – it’s an attitude of the heart orientated to the giver and sustainer of life.

Perhaps when we allow ourselves to feel the disappointment, we can move to a place of gratitude.

This too shall pass, and as the snowdrops break through the seemingly barren winter ground, let us allow God to work in us through this season, trusting that life, hope, hope and creativity will emerge.

Words for Worrying Times

In the uncertainty and fear,
The panic and the path ahead unclear.

Breathe in for seven,
Breathe out for eleven.

It’s okay to be unsure and frightened.

And yet.

Philippians 4.6 used to be my least favourite verse, it felt patronising, heaped shame upon pain.

But then I learned that anxiety isn’t a sin, it’s a way to keep us safe. This verse isn’t telling our bodies not the respond to danger, but telling our minds to rest in the midst of the panic. The JB Philips translation puts it like this:

“Don’t worry over anything whatever; tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer, and the peace of God which transcends human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus.”

It’s not a call to shame, but a reminder that all our fear and pain can be brought to Christ. Christ whose sweat was tinged with blood (an anxiety reaction), Christ who endured the worst so we may have hope. Our situations may not change – but let us breathe in the peace of God, the assurance of His mercy and care.

God’s peace is not incompatible with common sense – it’s at the heart of it.

Trust in the Lord and follow public health advice.

Take necessary precautions for yourself, the vulnerable and those you love.

Allow the unfailing peace of God to hold you and your fear. Let your worries turn to prayers and know that they are heard.

Breaking the Mould by Jules Middleton: Book Review

As someone still early on in the journey of motherhood and my own multi-hyphenated job title, I was intrigued to read Jules Middleton’s reflections on life as a “ministry mum” ordained with the Church of England and leading a church on the south coast.

“Breaking the Mould” is part memoir, part navigation guide for the weird and wonderful world of being a parent in a ministry context – however that looks.

Jules writes with warmth and humour, without dodging the sometimes difficult realities of parenthood and life as a minister. Although the initial premise of the book seems quite niche, I found so much wisdom and information in it that I think would be valuable to any parent whether or not you work in full time christian ministry.

I particularly valued the nuggets of biblical reflection and wisdom interweaved throughout; Jules’ reflections on the (in)famous passage of Jeremiah 29, so often pasted onto posters and fridge magnets was refreshing and encouraging. She writes:

“The word for God for the exiles is to embrace where God had put them…to essentially bloom where they are planted – to embrace where they are put; to settle, to build, to forge ties and pray for the area.”

In my own hinterland as stay at home Mum/author/speaker/charity founder, the book was one which inspired me to work in and with what I have at the moment in terms of time and circumstance. I was reminded once again that God doesn’t wait to call us and use us when it’s most convenient (in fact, He usually does the opposite), but that’s what allows us to keep relying on His grace and timing.

Jules’ thinking around the Sabbath rest were also hugely helpful; it’s something I’ve struggled with, to carve out time for a Sabbath when you don’t actually get a day off from parenthood! Again, the reflections in the book don’t ignore the difficult reality, cliched answers are avoided and intensely practical suggestions for recognising the deep spirituality in everyday life are worth their weight in gold.

Whether you’re a stay at home Mum, work full time, study full time or a mixture all of your own, I highly recommend “Breaking the Mould” – especially if you’re relatively new to the wonderful world of the ministry mum life.

You can buy Breaking the Mould from your local Christian bookshop or on Bookshop.*

*Affiliate link

Cold Cups of Tea and Hiding in the Loo – An Honest Conversation About Motherhood

Before you become a Mum, you’re told lots of things:

“Don’t rock the baby to sleep – it’s a rod for your own back”

“Never let your baby use a dummy”

“Breastfeeding is the most natural thing ever – it’s a breeze!”

“You’ll never sleep again”

But no matter how much advice (helpful or otherwise), no matter how many books you read or how many children you’re around, you can’t really prepare yourself for it. (That’s another thing you hear, isn’t it!?)

One of the best pieces of advice I was given, was to be honest about the reality of motherhood – the dizzying highs and the desperate lows and it’s advice echoed in Annie’s book. She writes:

“When we choose vulnerability, connection can happen i the messiness of everyday life.”

So, inspired by this and taking my own advice, here are my honest confessions about motherhood, a year in.

  1. Personally I’m finding parenting a toddler harder than having a newborn. (This one depends completely on your child – some breeze through babyhood, others are beset with colic and constipation – my son was what some might call an “easy baby”, but the same cannot be said for toddlerdom.)
  2. There have been times when I’ve missed my old life, particularly the freedom I had to work when I wanted and take every opportunity going.
  3. Making sure I take a book wherever I go is great for those car naps I don’t want to waste!
  4. I fall too easily into the trap of the “who’s more tired game?”
  5. Teething is a sure sign of the Fall and I’ve sometimes counted the minutes until I can administer the next dose of Calpol.
  6. Sometimes I regret making my son give up his dummy at six months old.
  7. On difficult days, nap times are my favourite time of the day.
  8. I quite enjoy daytime TV as company as a backdrop to pottering and parenting.
  9. I love going to work.
  10. Being a Mum is the most ridiculous, difficult, hope-filled, despair-making, contradictory, frustrating, heart breaking and joyful thing I’ve ever done.

“Cold Cups of Tea and Hiding in the Loo” is available to buy now from Bookshop* and christian book shops. *Affiliate link Head over to my Instagram and Facebook to get the chance to win a free copy!

I also heartily encourage you to head over to Annie’s blog Honest Conversation – it’s great.

Advent Reflections – Birthing

I’ve never told my birth story publicly. It was far from the candle filled water birth I’d imagined – in fact it was the total opposite of what I’d hoped. Three types of induction, hooked up to monitors, pethidine and an epidural before my newborn was whisked away for observations and antibiotics.

Within hours, I knew that these words from Sarah Bessey were true.

“Birth is never not a miracle…It’s never not the best and most at the same time.”

I’ve been wondering what Mary’s birth was like.

We know there was no pain relief, that there was no shiny hospital or consultants on call.

But was it long? Did she wonder if she could do it? Did she beg and plead for it to be over?

(I’m guessing she didn’t cry “it’s like the cruciatus curse!” like I did at some point between my waters breaking and being given pethidine.)

The thing is, whichever way we look at it, birthing is painful.

The seed breaking through the ground to the light.

The baby breaking through to begin life in the outside world.

The butterfly breaks through its cocoon to fly.

The stars break through night’s sky.

We can’t separate birthing from breaking.

But that also means we can’t separate breaking from beauty.

The pain of birth certainly felt like a breaking, if nothing else it was a breaking of my old life, but the new life was and is undoubtedly beautiful.

All too often, we hold back from the birthing because we fear the breaking. We fear breaking ourselves open to allow God to do a deeper work, we fear breaking open new possibilities in case we fail.

But there is good news. It is called the gospel, after all.

Jesus went first, He was birthed and he broke through every barrier between us and God.

Alia Joy writes in her book “Glorious Weakness”

“It was always the plan that in the midst of the catastrophic brokenness in this world, grace would surprise us all.”

As Christmas approaches, let the birth of hope in Jesus surprise us with its grace and allow it to fill our brokenness.