Comfort and Joy

Tree’s up, lights are on. Have been for a whole week now. This was prompted not by the warm, premature glow of Christmas spirit but by another force entirely: keeping up with the Joneses. Yip, Xmas comes early to community housing and once one family has their outside lights twinkling brightly round a window the race is on. What we lacked in outside lights we made up for in the Xmas tree heat – ours being the first up takes us straight into the semi-finals. Of course a place in the final is only guaranteed by the presence of a singing Santa, preferably one that can withstand the outdoors, but I know when I’m beat.

I was secretly delighted to have the excuse to put up our Xmas things in November, something I would never dream of doing back home. The penny is only really beginning to drop for our 3 year old about Christmas (something about Jesus, who is kind of God but a baby? Like my brother? So, is my brother God?) Needless to say he was VERY excited when I suggested we put our tree up. I put the traditional xmas music on (Michael Card, much to Jayber’s disgust) and got the big box down from upstairs to squeals of delight and anticipation.

It began as I started assembling the tree and by the time I was doing the lights the transformation was complete. Nice-Xmas-spirit mummy, bestowing goodwill to her family and sweetly introducing her oldest child to the joys of Xmas tradition became Mean-control-freak mummy aspiring to reproduce the picture in the IKEA catalogue.

Little hands were encouraged to ‘Put that down, now!’ and told ‘Yes, yes, you can help…in a minute’, followed by ‘I don’t want that there’ and the grand finale ‘Go and play outside until I’ve finished’.

Much later as I gazed at my ravishing tree I began to remember when I was wee and we decorated the tree. Mum didn’t care in the least what her tree looked like, the point was that she and her two girls did it together and all got into the festive mood, warbling along with The Andy Williams Christmas Album. Looking back, most years the tree looked a bit of a sight – ancient chipped baubles, ropey tinsel and every single decoration my sister and I ever made graced its branches. But we loved the ritual and we were proud and happy of our tipsy looking tree.

 At the end of the day, my tree may look pretty classy, but it has none of the heart of the bedraggled one from my youth. And I don’t want my kids to look back and remember a grumpy Mum who was more interested in the vanity of a good-looking Christmas tree than their joy of participation. Jayber has already banned me from being in charge of Xmas festivities next year and I’m thinking that may not be a bad idea. Let the little sticky hands take over and toilet roll Santas and cotton-wool Snowmen abound.

 

 

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You dunno what you got til it’s gone

I fought a demon tonight.

For those of you who know I’m studying Inner Healing and Deliverance at the minute, be not alarmed – not that kind of demon. I mean the ones that sit on your shoulder, looking a lot like you only redder, with horns, and whisper all kinds of nasties about who you are, sticking their little prongs into your pain.

My wee shoulder demon has been sticking her prongs into a new pain of mine, maybe you could call it a grief. It may sound absurd but I promise you my loss is profound.

Gluten. Dairy. Sugar.

Apparently this unholy trinity and I do not a healthy life make. Actually, when the test results came back it was put a bit starker than that; rheumatoid arthritis, autoimmune diseases and cancer were mentioned. Nothing like the c-word to ensure compliance. And so as my body embraced a better way of being, a little bit of my soul died.

First it was the loss of the actual food, the worst being baguettes, scones, toast, chocolate and all baked goods. A cardboard box now sits sadly in my pantry, filled with all the banned baking ingredients that I used to get such joy from mixing and sifting. Markets and gourmet food halls are now avoided – I just get too sad. And any extended foray outside the front door is planned with military precision, ration bag stocked with rice cakes and nuts a-plenty. But as the months have gone on I have realized that the food itself is just the tip of the iceberg; that I can cope with. It’s the loss of community that I feel most sharply.

Suddenly you are no longer on anyone’s Must-have-to-dinner list. Pot-lucks become fraught with peril, as do church lunches and nipping out for a bite with friends. Take-away is a no-no. But the worst, the absolute worst is communion. Ribena and Hovis leave me empty handed, passing the plate on and feeling a little like an outcast.

And so back to the demon, who whispers words like freak, lonely, hopeless (and let’s not forget hungry) and prods me toward self-pity. But I fought back tonight. I got out my mixing bowl and my whisk and fended him off with chickpea flour and maple syrup. Twenty-four cardboard cookies later, it’s not quite a hallelujah moment, but it’s a start. Tonight I saw myself tiptoe out from resentment and sadness and sniff the air for hope.

Dirty Hands

A bit more on the aforementioned frustrations of being at home with the kids. This vomited itself on to the page a couple of months ago. I don’t pretend to be a poet, as you will discover.

 

I want to have dirty hands.

Hands that know the goodness of work and purpose.

I want my fingernails to have layers of indefinable gunk,

So you will know I have engaged with life.

 

Dish, spoon, diaper, steering wheel:

I am more than the sum of these parts.

My hands need pen, book, people and brush.

Trowel, seed, balm and bandage.

 

You will say ‘But motherhood!

No greater task! You have work enough!

And it is, and I do.

These chubby smiles fill up my heart.

 

But I have more than heart.

I have hands.

Hands that want to be dirty

With more than poo and puke.

 

Hands that will work

To show me who I am.

 

 

 

 

 

Where the rubber hits the road….

 

(no pun intended)

The past few days has seen some serious discussion in our house, (in between furious blog watching). It’s not something I had imagined would be up for debate and there will no doubt be a few gleeful readers delighted to see me eat my vehement words: ‘I WILL NOT BE HAVING ANY MORE CHILDREN’. And boy did I mean it – as only a women can when labour, stitches and breastfeeding are still causing flashbacks after child number two.

But we’ve been looking at our wee family of late and we’re not sure it’s complete yet. There’s room for a bit more mayhem and wonder, in fact it’s beginning to feel like we might miss a key player if we continue to base our decision on how much I hate pregnancy and all that it and newborns entail. Not to mention the systematic destruction of the body I once knew and loved (well, maybe not loved, but it’s all relative).

Anyway, I like to approach these things with nice tidy columns of ‘pros’ and ‘cons’. But unfortunately those aren’t the most helpful categories in this decision because on the ‘cons’ side the list seems endless; the biggest factors being time, money and environmental impact. The last of these is probably the one that is making me hesitate most and I find myself tied in knots as I try to bring my thoughts on Christian family and Godly stewardship into conversation with each other.

Does God have an opinion on the number of children I have? Kids are part of his blessing to us aren’t they? Would he rather I save the planet or follow the desires of my heart for good things?

I don’t want to make this decision in the bubble of my family and their needs. Some of those who study the impact of population growth on the environment recommend we simply replace ourselves: two kids at most to limit the damage we are doing to our world. I want to take seriously my call to be a good steward of God’s creation and I know that means a bit of self-denial and sacrifice for the greater good – and let’s remember the ‘greater good’ includes my own two children and the world they will inhabit. But in this case isn’t the cost a little high? In later life I may get to sit smugly and remember how I helped save the world but what about the regret of the child I never had. Is that desperately self-indulgent?

Which brings me back to my nice, tidy, useless little list and the ‘pros’ side. And here it is: I would really love to have a third child. That’s it, that’s all I got. Despite my struggles with motherhood, and the frustrations of being a stay-at-home Mum (more on that in another post) my family doesn’t feel complete yet.

Luckily, environmental impact is about far more than numbers:

‘If we had 9bn people who were all vegetarian and walking to work, that’s very different to 9bn Americans driving to work and having hamburgers every day. For sure, if there were 1bn people we wouldn’t have the problems we do today, but numbers per se are not the problem alone – we have to look at the other side: consumption.’

The Guardian to the rescue once again.

So maybe deciding to have a third child goes hand in hand with a commitment to a more radical lifestyle – one that doesn’t just pay lip service to being ‘greener’ but treats seriously the call to sustainable living. I could almost get caught up in the romance of a plot of land, organic veg and a rain butt…… until I think about the realities of reusable nappies.

Hmmm….more thought and discussion to be had with Jayber I think.

He may escape the scalpel a little longer.

Entering the fray:

Responding to the kerfuffle started by meinmysmallcorner here and continued by Lilytodd here

As a woman in the same generation as Lilytodd and me in my small corner a lot of this resonates very deeply with me. The sense that I am just as capable, talented, gifted and spiritual as the man sitting beside me on the bus is a given. But what about the man on the pew next to me? Suddenly 30 years of church culture takes my self esteem and my self-worth and divides them by 2. I become hesitant, apologetic, willing to stand on the sidelines and careful about venturing an opinion.

Like Lilytodd I am tuning in more to what God thinks of me as being more important than what the church and society say. I am convinced that God delights in the feminine, is staggered by the beauty and talent of his own creation and created me to do more than complement man but to complete him as only an equal can. I am so much more than the church allows me to be and I am sick of the lip service of religious men saying, “Yes, yes, of course we are all equal in the eyes of God – just different”.

The legacy we have inherited as Christian women from our mothers and their mothers is one of oppression and abuse. Those who say I must cover my head, keep my mouth shut and limit my ministry only to women or children may believe they are acting biblically – but what is the fruit? An impoverished church and women who do not know who they are.

Without wanting to get too theologically out of my depth (too late…), I don’t believe God intended the bible to be bad news for women. The problem lies with the fact godly fallible men, some of them wearing misogynist spectacles and all of them products of their own cultures, have been interpreting scripture. And so what in its time was extraordinarily radical good news for women was twisted and misinterpreted to become an utter perversion of the truth.

The other problem is that we are reading these 1st century documents as if culture hasn’t changed at all in the last 2 millennia. In some ways we would do better to treat them as a transmission from an alien planet which needs decoded and set in its context before it becomes useful. The difficulty with this is that there are actually very few people taking the time and the effort to do this vital decoding and even fewer doing it in mainstream Christianity. And where does this leave the women in our churches? Bound and gagged.

We women are so backed into a corner at this stage that protesting at our fate only seems to make our situation worse. We get labeled ‘feminist’ and deemed no longer worth listening to and so the legacy gets carried on to the next generation. Ironically, our hope of salvation lies with the men.

Come on, you know who you are. In the privacy of your own home you may expound on equality. But get your ass off the sofa and into the pulpit and start acting a bit more like Jesus. Quit tolerating that which enslaves and wounds. Start protecting and empowering your sisters so we are free to live freely.