Celebrating the gift of children

On Sunday we celebrated with family and friends the twins’ dedication at church. This is a bit like a christening, but we chose to have a thanksgiving rather than a baptism, which is the same decision we made for the older boys too. It is a way of thanking God for their safe arrival, praying for their future lives, and giving them a public welcome into the church family. It’s also a great excuse for a family get-together! One day our children can choose themselves to be baptised, if they come to believe in Jesus as their saviour, which of course we pray they do, but ultimately we would like them to be able to make that step on their own.

We go to a Church of England (CofE) church here in Birmingham, as we did in the previous cities we have lived in (in fact Tom and I met at church in Nottingham). Traditionally the CofE has baptised infants, but there is also a standard liturgy for a thanksgiving (or dedication) for anyone who would rather do this, and we have known a roughly similar number of parents our age who go to the same CofE churches as us choose each one.

My parents went to a Baptist church when I was a child, and the tradition there is to baptise adults (or at least older children who have decided themselves) and dedicate babies; I really appreciated the opportunity to have a believer’s baptism as a teenager, to consciously experience the act of water washing away my sin. Tom was baptised as a baby, and then decided to publicly commit to his belief in Jesus at his confirmation as a young adult – this is what has traditionally been done in the CofE for those who were baptised as babies and who want to declare their faith as adults, though it’s not a second baptism involving any water. He too has no issue with what had been decided on his behalf as a baby, because he has come to the same conclusion on his own. So with one positive experience each, this didn’t help us in our decision as to which to have for our own children: an infant baptism or dedication.

It’s not a decision we came to quickly. We thought and prayed for quite a while before we went down this route with Andrew. We looked into the theological arguments for and against infant baptism, and really didn’t have a sense of which was the “correct” interpretation of the Bible. We spoke to the vicar of the church we went to at the time, and to friends who had decided on either baptism or dedication. In the end we decided that God is far bigger than any of the decisions we make as His children, so even if the CofE have got it “right” and the Baptists have got it “wrong”, we don’t believe this matters to God, and He knows our intentions and thought processes in this decision.

Although we have both found ourselves at home in CofE churches for the past 20 years or so, that’s not to say we consider ourselves strictly in that denomination. Primarily we are Christians, with a relationship with Jesus Christ, and the individual church we choose to go to at any given time reflects how we best interact with God via the worship there, not simply because the church belongs to a particular group with particular traditions. The CofE itself has a huge range of worship styles within it anyway, as we have seen from our past few churches that have been right for us in different ways at different times and stages of our lives.

The twins’ dedication was particularly meaningful for us since they were born after we lost a previous baby to miscarriage. Not that we weren’t thankful for the older boys, but having experienced pregnancy loss before the twins were born, this made us appreciate the preciousness of new life that comes from God all the more so this time. I wrote a blog post not long after the miscarriage about children being a gift from God. I didn’t know at that point if we would be blessed with a rainbow baby (or even two!) but this was very much on my mind as we set a date and prepared for this celebration of the twins’ birth. The cake, which my mum sorted out, captured this wonderfully in its text and rainbow features.

Although the day was a celebration for us, we also heard at the end of the church service some tragic news about the sudden death of a toddler related to a couple of members of the congregation. It is really hard to make sense of such a devastating situation. It was not long ago that I met the toddler at church when she played in the crèche room with her parents as I sat feeding the twins. This kind of tragic event could happen to any family. As I prayed for them later in the day, I felt that hearing this news on a day that we were celebrating life was a reminder of the transience and fragility of life, and that makes me even more thankful for each and every day I get to spend with our gifts of children.


Children are a gift from God

As I start to write this post, it’s pretty much exactly a week since I was admitted to hospital due to very heavy bleeding following a miscarriage at 10 weeks into the pregnancy – a scan the previous day had shown that the baby stopped growing at around 8 weeks. In some ways, it’s been quite a “normal” week for the school holidays, as life has had to go on in my role of looking after two children. In other ways, it’s been far from normal, as I’ve wanted to carve out time for rest and a lot of contemplation when they’ve been in bed or safely occupied with an activity. Thankfully, the timing has been good in terms of work, as I had already planned to take a fair amount of time off from custom work in the holidays, and Tom has helped with some posting of stock items.

Over the weekend, we spent some time as a family to go and buy and then plant a shrub in a large pot (so we can take it with us if we move house in future), in memory of the baby that we didn’t get to meet. I was keen to have a living thing as a reminder of the tiny person, whom we buried with the plant, and now this pot stands on our patio where we can see it when we are in the garden. The boys helped in the process, by placing stones and compost in the pot, and they have been keen to water the plant since. We explained why we were doing this, and they seemed to understand to some extent – Andrew very kindly gave me a big hug when I cried as we were planting, and both of them said “bye bye” to the baby with us. It was a special moment, I’m thankful that we were able to do this, and it gave me a certain sense of “closure”, in a similar way to a funeral.

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My head has been full of all sorts of different thoughts and emotions this week. I imagine I’ll be writing more as I wrestle with them over time. I’ve been reading an excellent book that a friend who also experienced a missed miscarriage sent me – the autobiography of Joni Eareckson Tada, who broke her neck and became a quadriplegic through a diving accident at the age of 17. Although her suffering is very different in nature to our current suffering, the story of how her faith in God became much more real as a result of her suffering makes a lot of sense to me at the moment. It’s easy when everything is going well to rest on my laurels spiritually, but this miscarriage has already made my desire to spend time seeking God through prayer, music and reading the Bible sky rocket. That’s not to say that I feel I have answers to all my questions (yet), but I certainly feel surrounded by friends who are praying for us on our journey to recovery, and I am confident that God himself is holding us tight.

Another book that I plan to read next week once I’ve finished Joni’s story is “Empty Arms” by Pam Vredevelt – a Christian perspective on recovering from a miscarriage or stillbirth. I hope that this will guide my thoughts on the specific questions surrounding the pain of losing a child like this, as well as the more general questions of suffering that I’ve already started reading about.

One of the thoughts I keep coming back to this week is how I believe all children are a gift from God. Right from the start of our married life (and even a bit before as we discussed this in marriage preparation), Tom and I have not taken it for granted that we would be able to have children. Although I was very much aware from quite a young age that I would love to have a family one day, I knew there was no guarantee that it would happen. When we got married, I was one year into my PhD research, and we agreed that we would not actively prevent a pregnancy once my thesis was handed in, which happened about a year and a half later. After that, I honestly did not think that I would be pregnant within a week and/or that that pregnancy would be successful. I knew that the roads to conception and full-term pregnancy were potentially fraught with difficulty. If it had have been my plan, there’s no way I would have actively arranged to be suffering horrendous pregnancy sickness in the lead up to and during my viva voce exam 11 weeks later. Of course we were incredibly excited to be expectant parents, but also quite shocked at this blessing so soon.

It was a similar story the second time around – would we have deliberately planned a 21 month age gap? There are pros and cons to any age gap, so I’m not saying it was all bad, in fact we’ve recently been thinking how great it is the boys are so close in age. But again, I honestly did not think that I would get pregnant again so soon, and that that pregnancy would also stick, particularly whilst still solidly breastfeeding Andrew. There was even more potential for difficulty than the first time around. So we were of course very thankful once again for the blessing of a second child. It was as if God was saying “Look, see what great things I can do despite your doubts – keep trusting in me.”

It was with this same attitude that we went into our third pregnancy – trusting that God had a plan, and that it would work out better than anything we could plan or arrange ourselves. After all, he’d done it before, twice, and looking back we realise just how happy we’ve been since having the boys in our lives at exactly the times when they arrived – not necessarily our timing, but great timing nonetheless. This time, it took a few months longer than before, and I did feel slightly disappointed each month when it didn’t happen, but still I knew that it wasn’t my plan. When I finally felt the sickness dominate my daily routine back in early June, albeit not as horrendously as with my previous two pregnancies, I was thankful that this was a strong sign of new life growing inside me, despite feeling awful. And the timing seemed to be good – the volume of my work during those weeks seemed to fit pretty well around the times I felt most able to work, and as a family we seemed to cope with my lack of energy better than we thought we might.

Since we first set out on our child-raising journey, although I’ve been aware of the potential for a pregnancy to end in miscarriage, there’s nothing that I could have read that would have totally prepared me for the shock of it actually happening to me. My birthday seemed surreal, and I had all the thoughts of “Why me?”, “Is this really happening?” and “Will I wake up from the nightmare soon?” Over this past week, I have come to accept that it has indeed happened and I can’t change that fact.

Yet I still believe that all children are a gift from God. I don’t yet know, and maybe I’ll never know, why this third child was given to us and then taken away from us so soon. However, I do believe that he/she is being cared for in heaven and that I will one day get to meet him/her myself. Although I’m so sad that our meeting won’t be in February on the day the birth would have been, and I grieve for all the future with us that this baby will never get, I’m finding it helpful to think of time from an eternal perspective. Jesus promised that whoever believes in him will have everlasting life, that goes beyond life here in our earthly bodies. Some bodies last for many years, like my Grandad who recently died after 90 years in his, and some bodies only last for a short while, like this baby who lived for about 6 weeks (8-2) in utero, whose body may well have not been able to survive due to a genetic anomaly. But in the time span of eternity, 6 weeks is actually indistinguishable from 90 years. Although an unborn baby never gets to make the decision to follow Jesus for themselves, I believe that Jesus’ attitude towards children when he was here on Earth gives us a great indication of how much God loves them and includes them in his heavenly family:

“Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” (Luke, 18:16-17, New Living translation)

At this point in time, I’m not sure what the future holds for us as a family, I don’t know whether we will be blessed with a fourth child or not, only God knows that. I’m not sure how I would handle being pregnant again, but I do know that whatever happens, we won’t be given more suffering than we can handle, and that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love him. Even though right now it’s hard to see that.

Cross – word of the week

There are quite a few words that I could choose for this week’s word: holiday springs to mind (actually I meant to blog that one last week but I was too busy writing other blog posts of things we were getting up to on holiday whenever I was sitting at my laptop), and also chocolate (having given it up for Lent, it’s been on my mind quite a bit this week as the day that I can eat it again has drawn near). But I’ve gone for….


Although with 2 young boys to run around after I do often find myself getting cross, that’s not the sense of the word that I’ve been thinking about in the lead up to Easter Sunday. I’ve been thinking about a certain Roman cross, the tool of torture and execution upon which Jesus died. Not a particularly pleasant thing to think about, but I believe (along with other Christians) that it was His death that took the place of all the wrong things that I do. These wrong things (for example, getting cross at my kids, or being jealous of what others have) are what separate me from being close to God. But God loves everyone — yes, even me, even social outcasts, even criminals, even those who believe in other gods — and wants us to know Him, which we can do by believing in Jesus and what He did for us, if we choose (there’s no obligation).

The particularly amazing thing about what we celebrate at Easter is that death isn’t the end of the story. I believe that three days after He was crucified, Jesus rose from the dead. He beat death, he has the ultimate victory over all wrongs. And the key point in this for me is that anyone who believes that Jesus is alive again, can have a personal relationship with Him, with God, and that includes an everlasting life with Him in heaven after our short life on Earth. That’s what I’m celebrating this and every Easter, because I think it’s the greatest day in history in terms of how I live my life.

The greatest day in history,

Death is beaten

You have rescued me

Sing it out Jesus is alive

The empty cross, The empty grave

Life eternal You have won the day

Shout it out Jesus is alive

He’s alive

Oh happy day, happy day

You washed my sin away

Oh happy day, happy day

I’ll never be the same

Forever I am changed

(Tim Hughes)

The Reading Residence

Jars of change for Lent

A few weeks ago in church, we heard about WaterAid jars of change for Lent. The idea is that you give something up for Lent, and every time you would have/do whatever it is you’ve given up, you put some change in the jar roughly equal to what you would have spent on it. You can decorate the jar for fun too. At the end of Lent, the money you’ve raised goes to WaterAid, who will use the money to help provide safe drinking water in countries that desperately need it.

We thought that this sounded like a good idea. I’d been thinking about what to give up for Lent anyway, and it was a good excuse to have some fun decorating a jar with Andrew – we used an empty marmalade jar. Andrew had been given a ‘paint your own mug’ gift for his birthday, so first of all we did that, and then used the paint to start our decoration on the jar.

Mug Collage jpg

I found some stencils in our craft box, and (surprise, surprise) Andrew chose the rocket stencil! Of course he insisted that we use red paint (the colour of Thunderbird 3), and I suggested we add some yellow detail at the bottom for the fire from when it blasts off. He also likes the colour pink, so we painted a pink band around the top. That was enough painting for one span of Andrew’s attention, so another day we finished off the jar by sticking on some small squares of paper with PVA glue in a kind of mosaic style – lots of fun and messy! Again, just about enough for his attention span, and finished off my me. Some red tape around the rim of the lid and ta da – it was finished.

Jar Collage 1 jpg

Jar Collage 2 jpg

Then we had to actually decide what to give up. When I say ‘we’, I mean Tom and I – I don’t think trying to explain to Andrew about giving something up would go down too well, and besides, he’s a bit young yet. But he can start to understand by watching us, as with so many things in a toddler’s life. My abstinence had to be chocolate, as that is something I will really miss and eat quite a lot of as treats to keep me sane on our busy days (which is most days with my boys). Tom decided on bananas, as he eats at least one a day and loves them. I know, bananas are much more healthy than chocolate anyway, but he’s not so fussed about that – if you can believe it.

Tom may be unusual in giving up bananas, but both of us are not unusual in the act of giving something up for Lent. This tradition has been going on for centuries. The 40 days before Easter, which starts on Ash Wednesday, the day after Shrove Tuesday or Pancake day, is a time of reflection for Christians. It’s a time to think about what Jesus did for us by dying on the cross and rising again – to make up for all the bad things we do that keep us distant from God – in the lead up to Easter when we celebrate this. Traditionally Christians used to fast, so give up all kinds of food, in this period, because this was a way to focus their minds on contemplating Jesus. Some do still fast, and others give up just one or two things, whether a food like we’re doing or something else, and spend the time that would otherwise be spent on this activity praying or reading the Bible – in other words, spending time with God.

So that’s what I intend to do this Lent. Whenever I think about eating some chocolate, whether as a bar or in something, instead I will pop some money in our jar of change, and spend some time in quiet reflection of what Jesus means to me. It’s handy that most of the time that I eat chocolate is when the boys are in bed or quietly amusing themselves, so I should have no excuse to not spend that time quietly. It may mean spending less time doing the things I like, like sewing, blogging, social media-ing (don’t think that’s really a word but it sounded good to me), but I know that I will benefit from it, I always do when I spend time with God.

Are you giving up something for Lent? What are your reasons behind it? Maybe you too could think about doing a jar of change? I’d love to hear if you do 🙂

We will rock you, rock you, rock you – Nativity play

No this post is nothing to do with the song by Queen! The title refers to the lullaby that Andrew and his friends sang in the nativity play at church on Sunday. This is the second year that the 18 months to 3 years group in Children’s Church has taken part in the annual spectacular that is the HT nativity play (HT = Holy Trinity, Cambridge). They were stable animals, who came on stage just after baby Jesus was born, and sang him a gentle song, the traditional lullaby of Little Jesus Sweetly sleep…

Little Jesus, sweetly sleep, do not stir
We will lend a coat of fur
We will rock you, rock you, rock you
We will rock you, rock you, rock you
See the fur to keep you warm
Snugly round your tiny form.

They’d been practising it in their Sunday morning sessions, and also at the Wednesday afternoon group that we go to at church. Most of them were a little stage struck, but it was very cute to see them all dressed as animals gathered around the manger whilst the music was playing. Andrew did do the rocking action with his arms, and uttered the odd word. I have a video, but as I don’t know whether all parents want their children online, I won’t post it here, nor photos with more than just my boys in.

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As parents, we’d simply been told that they would be stable animals, so it was up to us to choose their costume. It was funny how most ended up being a sheep – all those white/cream knitted wooly jumpers and fleece jackets came out, with various items of headgear to represent the sheepish ears and facial features! My attempt at a sheep head was to take a white knitted wooly bobble hat that we already had, and hand stitch some black ears on. These were made out of an old pair of tights – I cut the two feet off and stuffed them with the rest of the length of the leg on each side. So a bargain and simple to make sheep costume.

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After the play, there was a short talk given by one of the pastors, Diana, explaining more about the meaning of Christmas. She gave an illustration that I thought was very clever, so I thought I’d share it here. Jesus was born into the world as a gift to us from God, and there are three ways that we as humans tend to respond to this gift, which Diana illustrated by offering a beautifully wrapped-up gift to one of the other pastors, Matt…

1. We ignore Jesus (the gift) and get on with life without Him – this is like when Diana offered Matt the gift but he just stood there, silent and with arms crossed, and didn’t reply to any of her “here you go, here’s a present for you” offers.

2. We learn about who Jesus is and what he did when he was alive, but don’t go any further than this superficial understanding – this is like when Diana offered Matt the gift, and he acknowledged it, but was happy just to look at the wrapping paper, say how lovely and shiny it was, how pretty all the different colours were, and thank her for this nice wrapping paper.

3. We get to know Jesus as a personal Saviour, and believe that through His death and rising again we can draw near to God – this is like when Diana offered Matt the gift, he acknowledged it, and ripped open the wrapping paper, thanked her so much for the amazing gift, tried it on straight away (an adult-sized reindeer onesie!!), and showed much joy and appreciation of this kind present.

This Christmas, as we’re opening presents, I will remember this illustration, which reminds us why we give presents at this time of year – to celebrate the biggest gift that we have ever been given. How will you respond – 1, 2 or 3?

Counting down to Christmas

On Sunday, the boys looked inside the first stocking on their Advent calendar line of ‘socks’ (as Andrew refers to it); they got a chocolate treat, and we decided that they can take it in turns to consume the contents of the day’s sock – odds for Andrew and evens for Joel. This is our way of counting down the days until Christmas, which will soon be here. I’ve always enjoyed Christmas, and since having children it has become exciting seeing it from a child’s perspective again. The boys love spending time with their grandparents, uncles and aunts, and they get to do a lot of this over Christmas. Of course presents feature quite a lot over the days that we spend with family, and it is lovely to see the genuine joy expressed as a toddler rips the paper off and excitedly looks to see what’s inside.

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Although all the celebrations are exciting in themselves, I also hope that my boys will come to understand the reason why we celebrate Christmas. Advent (from the Latin ‘adventus’ meaning ‘coming’) is a time when we as Christians often reflect on how Jesus, God’s son, came into this world as a baby. It was a very low-key event in earthly terms – his teenage mum from Nazereth (a small unassuming village back then) travelled heavily pregnant to Bethlehem to comply with the ruling Roman orders, and gave birth there in a shed of animals; only a few shepherds (who were fairly low in social status back then) heard about the birth immediately and visited soon after. Yet the reason why Jesus came meant that his birth was extraordinary, and certainly something that deserves a huge celebration over 2000 years later.

So why did Jesus come to Earth? The short answer is: because God loves us. Every week at our church, the kids all gather at the front before they go to their groups and we sing an action song together. This Sunday, the first in Advent, the song was a fantastic reminder of God’s love for everyone He’s made – here are the lyrics, and, if you can stand the slight cheesiness, a video of the tune and actions…

Some of us are big and tall
Some of us are very small
Some of us like pink and some like blue
Some of us like reading books
Some of us like feeding ducks
That’s because we’re different, me and you

But God loves everyone he’s made
God loves each of us, in a special way…

That’s you and you and you and you
And you and you and you and you
God loves you! God loves you!
That’s you and you and you and you
And you and you and you and you
We’re part of the big family of God!

Some of us have curly hair
Some of us have specs to wear
All of us have different families
Some of us are very loud
Some of us don’t make a sound
That’s because we’re different, you and me

But God loves everyone he’s made
God loves each of us, in a special way…

[© 2007 Song Solutions Daybreak, www.songsolutions.org, CCLI# 5100093]

…One of the points of this song is a very important one for children to pick up – to know they are loved no matter what they look like or what they enjoy doing, because in a world of bullying and peer pressure to conform to what is socially desirable, it’s easy to feel different and left out. And the point in this song that GOD loves everyone no matter who they are is the link back to the reason why Jesus came that first Christmas.

All the bad things, big or little, that we do, think and say in our lives separate us from God who is perfect. But God is not at all happy with that situation, because He loves us so much, and wants us to know Him as our loving Father. So God sent His only son Jesus into this world as a baby, who grew up and showed the people living in the Middle East at the time some signs of what God and Heaven are like, and then was crucified in order to take the punishment for all those bad things WE do on HIMself. But because God is greater than death, Jesus came back to life and beat death. It is through His death and rising again that anyone and everyone who believes in Jesus can know God in a close relationship and ultimately have everlasting life with Him in Heaven. It is through God’s love for us, the fact that He doesn’t want to be separated from us by bad things, that Jesus came.


I have to admit that I’d like to spend more time this Advent reflecting on what Christmas means to me, because with two active boys to look after (one of whom doesn’t sleep beyond 4.30am most days or nap for long at a time), going out and doing all sorts of other stuff, and being somewhere on a continuum of tired to exhausted most of the time recently, I have found it hard to take any opportunity I have each day to sit quietly and pray (and not fall asleep!) So the fact that I have an Advent calendar right in front of me when I sit on the sofa will hopefully serve as a reminder to share my thoughts with Jesus daily, because it really is amazing when I do 🙂





Moving on

Blogging has fallen to the back of my mind recently with everything else that’s going on. I mentioned in a few of the posts that I did get round to publishing recently that we’re moving cities soon, but unless you know me in real life and have seen me recently, you won’t know much more detail than that. So I thought I’d share what we’re up to, and at the same time getting some thoughts down ‘on paper’ (so to speak) will help me think through things myself! With everything going on and all that I have to do, it’s hard to take time to step back and think.

For a while we had been thinking that at some point we would move out of Cambridge. As much as we love living here and the place has A LOT going for it, especially for young families, there are 2 major downsides for us: 1) it’s not very near our family, especially Tom’s side; 2) it costs an absolute fortune to buy a house here! We were very grateful to our parents who helped us get on the property ladder when we bought our small flat here a few years ago when house prices weren’t quite as crazy as they are now, but we knew that with me choosing to not work (for money) until at least Andrew is at school, there is no way we could afford to live anywhere bigger within the city. Our flat is actually OK for now, but we couldn’t imagine living here in much more than about 2 years time.

From Cambridge...
From Cambridge…

So Tom had been ‘passively’ looking for a job at a university in the Midlands – not spending too much time on it, but signing up to a few job email alert systems, to see if anything came up. After quite a while, when he saw one come up at the University of Birmingham that looked perfect for his skills and interests (time-tabling – he has that kind of mind!), he thought he might as well go for it, even though we weren’t thinking of moving right now. To his surprise, he was offered the job, and had 2 months notice to work at his current employer, which ties in neatly with starting the new job on the first Monday of the new year.

Now we have lots to sort out before Christmas, including packing and selling our flat. Thankfully we can live with my parents for a bit until we find somewhere to buy in Birmingham, and the commute won’t be too bad for Tom in the short term. This means we can wait until we have the money from our flat sale before going for anything at the other end, which makes things easier in terms of house moving chains and deadlines etc. We were told that the market in Cambridge is very fast at the moment, and sure enough within a couple of days of going on the market and after our first viewing, we had a good offer, followed by a higher one the day after, and more viewings until we said ‘no more!’ We and the people offering are going to make a decision on Monday, but if all goes to plan (I know that’s a big ‘if’ in house buying/selling!) then we should sell it soon and start the process of all the legal stuff.

So far packing hasn’t been too bad – I’ve been doing bits and bobs when Tom has taken the boys out and when they’re napping, and it’s amazing how much I can get done when I have no little ones around, I’m very productive! I’d already done some sorting over the past few months as we didn’t need everything that we had in the flat, so I feel like we’re starting at a good point and only packing stuff that really needs to go with us.

When I first heard that Tom had got the job, I didn’t know how to feel, and for a few days I was mostly upset at the thought of leaving everything that we love about living here: friends, church, groups, parks, distance from town, cycling/walking everywhere etc. But after the initial shock, I realised that of course in the long run there will be lots of opportunities just like these in Birmingham. And the main points are that we will be nearer family so (great) grandparents get to see grandkids with less of a trek, and we can more comfortably afford a family house, neither of which we can get here.

... to Birmingham
… to Birmingham

On Friday I had my first experience of saying goodbye to friends that we have really valued since being in Cambridge – in fact without them I’m not sure we would still be breastfeeding, so that means a lot to me. It was the last LLL Cambridge meet that we can make before Christmas, and it was sad to leave: I still very clearly remember walking into our first ever LLL meet in exactly the same room when Andrew was just 4 weeks old – here I was walking out with a nearly 3 year old Andrew and a 1 year old Joel. This is the first of many sad farewells that we will be making over the next few weeks.

It’s also been hard to think about handing over the voluntary roles that I do here in Cambridge. I started Nappyness library and meet-ups less than a year ago, before we knew that we’d move so soon, and if I had have known this, I don’t think I would have set it up. But I’m glad that I’ve been able to help some families in that time, even if I can’t help here in the future. I’ve just had an offer from 2 lovely mums who are happy to take Nappyness on, so I’m very pleased that this will still be available for local families to benefit from. I’ve also been in touch with a few ladies who started a library in Birmingham around the same time that I started Nappyness, but haven’t had chance to do much with it yet, and would be grateful for help when I get there. So that’s an exciting thing to look forward to as well. I’m also leaving behind my Editor position for the local NCT magazine, which has been a wonderful experience for various reasons. As nobody has yet come forward to take over from me, I think I’ll be helping out at a distance for a little while yet, with lots of help from the other existing team members.

For me this blog post is a record of what this time was like for us, and something to look back on when we’re all settled with a new life in Birmingham. We both believe that this move is what God wants us to do, and that He will guide us through it all, even though it may be stressful and upsetting at times. He’s done it in the past in our own individual lives, and as a couple, and now as a family, and we can look back at how well His plan has worked so far, which gives us confidence for the future. Jesus doesn’t promise that following His way is easy, but He does promise to be with us, and that is an amazing truth to hold onto in unsettling times like this. I felt particularly comforted when we sang these words at the women’s midweek Bible study group this week:

Faithful one, so unchanging
Ageless one, you’re my rock of peace
Lord of all I depend on you
I call out to you, again and again
I call out to you, again and again

You are my rock in times of trouble
You lift me up when I fall down
All through the storm
Your love is, the anchor
My hope is in You alone

The making of a superhero (or 2)

This week, as well as Joel’s first birthday, has included the 31st October. Now to lots of people that means Halloween, but we’re not into celebrating something that originated in dark things, even though these days it’s just a vastly over commercialised festival that most people take part in without any intention of deliberately celebrating evil. Instead we like to join in with the annual ‘Light Party’ that’s put on at our Church, celebrating all things light, including Jesus who we believe is the ‘Light of the World’. We still have lots of fun dressing up, eating treats and spending time with friends, we just do it in a way that doesn’t remember anything like witches, ghost and the devil.

This year’s theme was ‘superheroes’, and children who went were encouraged to dress up as a superhero if they wanted to. I knew that Andrew would want to join in, and thought it would be cute if Joel did too. I also knew that I didn’t have much time to make costumes (a couple of hours last Saturday morning), but I did a quick search on Pinterest and got a few ideas for quick and easy superhero costumes.


I decided that the superhero kit would include: a cape with letter design, a belt, wrist cuffs with lightening bolt design, and a mask. They then wore ordinary clothes with these accessories – for Joel that was a nappy, leg warmers and a plain top; for Andrew that was trousers and a top that I painted a star on last Christmas for the Nativity Play, with pants on the outside. Andrew’s colour theme was yellow (mainly influenced by the star), and Joel’s was green (mainly influenced by his green star leg warmers).

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The capes were made from an old black t-shirt of Daddy’s. I hemmed the edges quickly, and folded over the top, sewed it down and passed a length of elastic through to make a simple cape. I also appliquéd a letter in the centre for each of them: A for Andrew and J for Joel.

The belts and wrist cuffs were made from duck tape stuck onto paper, and then coloured card stuck on with double sided tape to make the ‘buckles’ and lightening bolt details. I was inspired by Martha Stewart’s blog to use duck tape for these. I then used snaps (which I use for nappy making) to secure them around the waist/wrist.

For the masks I simply cut out a mask shape, cut eye holes in, and fastened some elastic to go around the head using tape. I was amazed that Joel actually kept his on his forehead for the whole party, and Andrew wore his on his eyes for a while before it broke after some rather enthusiastic bouncing on the bouncy castle.

superhero Collage 1

superhero Collage 2

It was really hard to get good photos of them in the costumes at the party, most of mine are really blurry because they wouldn’t stay still! But I think you get the idea from the photo I took of the costumes before the superheroes got into them 😉 We had a lot of fun at the party; the boys (and I, and Grandma and Pop who came too) were all exhausted afterwards because they were constantly on the go exploring all the different games and activities that there were on offer, just like little superheroes who can never really rest with all the important work they have to do!

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Our shoebox for Operation Christmas Child

For a few years now we’ve been joining in with Operation Christmas Child – the world’s largest children’s Christmas project, run by the Christian charity Samaritan’s Purse. The mission of the project is to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to needy children around the world, and together with the local church worldwide, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. 

Since having children of our own, we have really appreciated how blessed we are to have enough money to feed and clothe them, as well as buy them other nice things, and to have family and friends who give us so many gifts for them that they are never in want of anything. For many children around the world, this is not what life is like.

The idea behind OCC is for people in the UK to send shoeboxes packed with gifts that children in less well-off countries would like to receive. These gifts can include various items from toys and stationary to toiletries and woolies. The shoe boxes should be wrapped up in bright and cheerful wrapping paper, and a sticker stuck on indicating if the gifts inside are for a boy or a girl and which age range they are suitable for.

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In previous years we’ve always done one for a boy, just because I happen to have seen gifts that are more suitable for boys, and since having boys myself, I guess my eye is drawn towards these items in shops anyway. This year, however, when we popped into a few shops, I mainly saw things suitable for girls (or gender neutral) so we went for that. Andrew helped me choose what to buy, and I explained that we were getting these things as presents for a little girl who lives far away from us but who would love to have some nice presents this Christmas, just like he will. I’m not sure he gets the concept of someone living far away from us, but he seemed to understand that we were buying the gifts and putting them in the box for another child.

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OCC like the gifts in the box to include items from all four categories: toys, stationary and school supplies, toiletries and other (sweets/hat/gloves/jewellery etc.) Our gifts included a bumper pack of wax crayons, a ‘Hello Kitty’ notepad/pencil/rubber/sharpener set, a beany teddy, a slinky spring, toothbrushes, soap, flannel, necklace, hair clips. All together these cost us around £10. In order to help with shipping costs, OCC also suggest a £3 donation, which can be done online by credit card.

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We decorated our shoebox with red wrapping paper on the bottom, silver wrapping paper on the lid, and a ribbon stuck on the lid (you’re not supposed to wrap the whole box up or seal it by tying ribbon around the box, because sometimes they need to look in it for customs or other reasons), and finished off with a reindeer tag on the lid. We hope that the little girl who receives it will enjoy opening it and finding out what’s inside.

If you’d like to find out more about Operation Christmas Child, and even get involved yourself by packing a shoebox (or two, or three), visit the OCC website.

A thought for Fathers’ day

One of the groups we go to regularly is called Little Sheep, which takes place at our church, Holy Trinity Cambridge, on Wednesday afternoons. There is an activity for all the parents to do (recent ones that spring to mind were making fresh pasta, making a magnetic fishing game for toddlers, coming up with and sharing present ideas for children of various ages, a clothes swap), and the children have fun playing with toys and are looked after by volunteers from the church. Anyone with children under 4 is welcome to go. Every week there is a ‘thought for the day’, which has been described as ‘a bit like the ones on radio 4 but less intellectual’! A few of the leaders and other mums who go to the church take it in turns to give the thought each week, and we are usually given a broad topic to talk on however we’d like. This week it was my turn, and my topic was Father’s day. So this is what I said…..

As it’s Fathers’ I’ve been asked to do a thought for the day on God being our Heavenly Father. A couple of weeks ago, the daily Bible reading and short study that I get sent by email was from the book of Romans (which is Paul’s letter to the early church in Rome), chapter 8. You can read the whole passage and notes here. Verse 15 in the passage says that ‘the Spirit [that’s the Holy Spirit] you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba Father.’

Now I’d read and heard this verse read many times before, it’s quite a well known one, often used to illustrate that God is not a distant Father but one who we can run to like a small child and he will be there for us – ‘Abba’ is the Aramaic (or Hebrew) word for ‘Daddy’ rather than the more formal ‘Father’. I love thinking of God like this, someone I can turn to for a hug if things aren’t going well, and someone who genuinely cares, just like a good father here on Earth cares for his children. I think this hits home to me even more now that I see Andrew running to his Daddy when he comes home from work, shouting excitedly “Daddy, Daddy!”, and his Daddy picks him up and gives him a big hug. That’s how God wants to be to us, and I imagine myself running to him shouting “Daddy” and him giving me a big hug.

Daddy and boys

Going back to the verse from Romans, the first part of it talks about our adoption to sonship through the Holy Spirit. I understood this on quite a superficial level before, and it always reminds me of a rather cheesy 80s worship song that has the line “Now I am your child, I am adopted in your family, and I will never be alone, cos Father God you’re there beside me”. But my study notes email a couple of weeks ago gave some background on what this meant in the context of the Roman Empire at the time that the events of the book took place and therefore what it would have meant to the original readers.

In first-century Rome, wealthy people would often adopt a young boy (who was often one of their slaves) to become their son. This adoption was a public act, and the boy received a new status and security, a new family and inheritance; an adopted son, unlike a biological son, could never be disowned or abandoned, and he could go to his adoptive father whenever he wanted. So when Paul, the writer of this letter to the church in Rome, uses the word ‘adopted’ when talking about these early Christians’ relationship with God, the same is true, and the same is also true for anyone who believes in Jesus today: God is our Heavenly Father who has adopted us into His family – we have a new security in God rather than worldly things, a new family including all the other Christians in the world, and our new inheritance is a new life in Jesus that lasts beyond our life on this earth.

This analogy with Roman adoption isn’t something I knew about until the Bible study recently. And now that I do know this context, the meaning of the verse is even clearer to me. I know that God will never abandon me. I know that I am blessed with a good relationship with my parents, but if that wasn’t the case, I imagine that it would be a great comfort to know that God my Heavenly Father would be someone to turn to.

Whatever your relationship with your own dad is this Fathers’ day – maybe it’s good, maybe it’s not, maybe your Dad isn’t around any more – wouldn’t it be amazing if you had someone even bigger and even better to run to calling ‘Daddy’ just like a child?