2 Cor 12v9

Sunday, 26 August 2012


This week we take a huge step as a family, and we move back into our decluttered, partly redecorated home. 

Since April, when we received the terrible MRI result for Scooby, we have been staying at my Auntie's property, in order to be nearer to the hospital and family and friends. After we lost him, we had no idea whether we would be able to move back again and pick up our responsibilities as church leaders. We were broken, burnt out and unable to make major decisions because we knew everything was being driven by our emotions. 

Thanks to the amazing generosity of our family members, we didn't have to decide. We were able to stay in this incredible haven in the countryside for as long as we needed to, and the kids have had a blast. Unbelievably, it has been one of the most incredible times of our lives, as we have been blessed with holidays, wide open spaces to play in, babysitters and people who have showered on us just the right amount of love and support that we have needed.

We kept going every week to Morecambe to sort out the house while we were making our decisions, and went through every square inch, sorting and tidying. Since July 2009, when my difficult pregnancy with Baby started, we have lived in chaos, firstly because I was bed-bound for so much of the pregnancy, and then because the appearance of Scooby's illness came just before Baby was born, and our lives became dominated by hospital time and trying to hold ourselves together as a family. As we swapped rooms around as Baby grew and Scooby needed more hospital equipment, stuff just got piled up instead of properly sorted, so it has felt so good to be able to finally tackle mess that has been there for far too long. 

It's also been a really important cathartic experience, going through every item in the house and assessing its need and the memories attached to it. Some things have had much less impact on me than I expected them to; others have dragged emotions out that definitely needed to be brought to the surface. I'm so glad that my uncontrollable reaction, that came when I realised I would never again be able to bundle him up in his gloves and hat in his wheelchair again, happened on my own in the house, and not one morning next winter when we pulled out the hats and scarves in front of the other kids for the first time. Memories have been boxed, some close at hand for when we want them, others in the loft so we can assess in the future how much is helpful to hold onto and what isn't. At the moment, he is still so real in our minds that it seems strange even talking about him as just a memory, but we know in the future we may need help to make the memories seem fresh again.

We have rearranged rooms and brought in the new furniture that The Cherish Foundation gave us, and redecorated several rooms to make everything seem new and fresh. There are still rooms to do, but lots of progress has been made, and while we decide whether we sell the house or stay, it makes it easier to carry on with life there for now.

This summer has also given us time to rearrange our approach on life again. The agoraphobic-type feelings that were there in the beginning, at suddenly have choices and not being tied to hospital, have begun to wear off. I've started building things into my life again that seem like luxuries - ironing clothes, clothes shopping and cleaning my own floors. I've gone from being afraid to be in front of people because I couldn't get a grip on my emotions, to speaking at church. I can sometimes talk about loosing our boy without crying. I still feel like there's a long way to go. I can't remember how to plan out things in advance for the week and then make it all happen, instead of just reacting to whatever's under my nose. My short-term memory is still shocking. Thoughts fall out of my brain in less than a second and I find myself wandering from room to room not knowing what I was doing five minutes ago. My vocabulary is all over the place, and I keep getting stuck mid-sentence because I can't remember basic nouns like 'plate' or 'wipes'. The kids have got used to finishing my sentences for me while I gesture wildly at the thing I'm trying to say, but I definitely lose the authoritative edge with conversations like, "Ace! No, not you, I mean Rocky! You left your...thing...out and now it's....(pointing at the sky)" "Do you mean he's left his bike out in the rain, Mum?" "Yes! Thank you! Now sort out the thing that he just said!"

In order to build stability and rhythm back into our lives, we have decided that the boys should go back to school - or go for the first time, in Rocky's case. We will miss homeschooling - it brought the right amount of flexibility and focus for the difficult time we found ourselves in - but now life is so different, and the school is such a great one, we know it's the right thing to do for now.

And really unexpectedly, God started stirring up our hearts about church again too. I haven't written much about our church on this blog, because church is people and obviously it wouldn't be great to write about the details of other people's lives on here, but at the beginning of summer we really didn't think we could carry on leading our small church. We planted it five years ago, but through the ups and downs we've had as a family, it has struggled to flourish. We have an amazing team of core people who have held us up through it all, and picked up the many many things we have thrown at them every time we found ourselves in the midst of another crisis, but we haven't grown much as a result of being in maintenance mode for so long. Our fear was that these committed and talented people were using up all their time and skills in a place that wasn't being effective when they could've been thriving in another church where the leaders were available and able to take them forward. We wondered whether their families and our own would be burnt out trying to fulfil a vision that might not be for the right time and place, and if we moved away from our support network again, whether we would be strong enough to lead other people. But just as we had decided to give up, God began whispering. Through the people we have met, and places we have been this summer, a new passion for church has been rising in us. We really have seen how the Body of Christ can be effective at connecting people to God and strengthening the weak and the vulnerable first hand, and so we are returning to Home Church, re-envisioned and ready to see what God wants to do with His church there. We are completely open-handed about the future, about whether the church grows or we let it go. 

So this is where our summer of grieving and healing and weighing up the future has brought us to; to move back into our house (for now), to get the kids back into school (for now), and to continue to lead Home Church (for now). Please pray for this next stage - we know there is more grieving and healing to come, and probably lots of doubts about our decisions - but we are trying to keep our eyes fixed on the One who holds it all in His hands.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Fireworks and Headbanging: A Repost

I haven't reposted in a while, so here's an insight from 2008 (when Rocky was Baby, Scooby and Ace were five, Turtle was six, and Baby was just a gleam in her father's eye). 

Tuesday 4th November 2008
Tonight we went to a fantastic firework display. It was up the road at Heysham Free Methodist Church (who apparently, according to the local free paper, who wrote a lovely but glaringly incorrect piece about our new church, we are a faction of) and was executed by a semi-professional pyrotechnic, so well-worth seeing. Baby, who was only ten days old last time we went to a firework party, was awed by the sight of so many pretty sparkles, owing to his obsession with overhead lights (he likes to switch them on and smile, then off and frown, on and smile, etc, and I'm just hoping it doesn't lead to some uncontrollable form of OCD when he gets older).
In addition to the display, there was hot food, a tuck shop, a drama presentation and crafts, led by a lovely lady who didn't bat an eyelid when Turtle asked if he could use the resources to make a light sabre instead of a rocket, and handed him several sparkly pipe cleaners to entwine together.
The boys filled themselves on burgers and hot chocolate and we caught up with a few old faces. It's always an interesting experience being in the Free Methodist churches, because my family have been involved in them for years, and Richard's dad was a minister at a couple of them, so lots of people know who we are even if we don't know them. I have many a lovely conversation with people whose faces I recognise but whose names are a mystery, who ask me how my grandma/dad/father-in-law/little brother is, and I have to reply in the vaguest of terms because I don't know what their relationship to the aforementioned relative is, and how much detail they really want to hear. I even met a guy who said that the last time he had seen me was when I only had two children and was pregnant with my third. I was very tempted to ask him if that meant he was one of the many midwives, student nurses or paediatricians who had entered the room in the twenty-three minutes while I had my legs in stirrups trying not to push and waiting for the mobile scanning unit to confirm whether the second twin had turned to be head down, but I restrained myself instead and told him he must be mistaken.
Anyway, after a very smooth, fun-filled night, something had to go belly-up and at the moment we were about to leave, Richard realised he couldn't find his keys. He had met us in the car park when we arrived because he'd come straight from work, and helped me to get the kids in. So we, and many willing volunteers (who were the last ones left and waiting to close up the church and go home), traced his path from the car to the church, from the church to the field where we had stood watching fireworks, back to the church, around every room in the building, and back again. The boys were very good in the meantime, even Baby who must have been wondering what happened to his bed time. The older three hovered in and out of the entrance, staying in sight, and just at the moment I turned around to tell them not to run on the patio, there was a stumble and a fall and a face hit the paving stones.
I ran to Ace as fast as I could, thinking he had grazed his palms, but no, his hands hadn't even touched the floor. Instead, he'd caught it with his head. As I rolled him over, waiting for him to let out the cry he was sucking air in for, I literally saw the bump, Wiley-Cayote-style, raise up from his head and turn greyish-blue. I picked him up and ran back in.

The crowd who were anxiously fretting over the lost keys, were now raised to a new frenzy of mild panic as we walked past people and their eyes widened in horror. The kitchen ladies produced a cold wet tea towel and an ice pack as if by magic and one rushed to get her car to take us to A&E. Everytime I peered back under the ice pack, the bump seemed to have expanded, until half his forehead was pushing out forward and his eye had changed shape a bit. Thankfully, Richard reappeared with the lost keys, and was able to take Ace to casualty in the van, while I took care of the other three, leaving the concerned onlookers free to go home and be contacted a couple of hours later to be told he was given the all clear by the doctor and sent home again.
In fact, when he got home later, he was able to give me a clear description of what the doctor said ('Oh dear, what a big bump!') and of the different toys he played with in the waiting room. His only concern was when I showed him his head in the mirror and he held his finger to the bump and said 'Mummy, I want it bigger and bigger and bigger!' I think he watches too much Tom and Jerry.
Oh, and the location of Richard's keys? Well, it would be far too embarrassing for him if I told you that after a twenty minute search, he suddenly remembered that when he had helped get the children out of the car at the beginning of the night, he had swapped his jacket, so I won't say a word.