Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Christmas in pictures....

Stockings in bed !
 
From a friend : "I bought it because it had 7 flowers on it - reminded me of you all"


A favourite Christmas present - Guess who ?!

Craig and Ellie in their new Onesies (I always wanted one!) :-)
Last year's present from me to Ellie was a house sign - a promise of something yet to come....installed on our new house 1 year later to the day - promise fulfilled !!

Feasting !!!
 Merry Christmas from us all !!

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Christmas is coming...


Long time no blog.....

The last few weeks seem to have flown by...here's a few highlights ....


  • Ripping the 18" thick ivy off the house (what a job that was!)
  • Finishing painting all the internal replacement doors and stairway banisters
  • A day out at a local Spa a week ago after crazy amounts of DIY
  • Putting up our Christmas tree in our new house (a potted living one)
  • Taking down our Christmas tree due to excessive shedding :-(
  • Putting up fake Christmas tree (no shedding issues!)
  • Putting up outside Christmas lights !
  • Installing new Log burner in front room, which gets its inaugural lighting tonight !
  • Meeting all the neighbours - who are lovely !
  • Bible discussions around the dinner table all around the advent story
  • Decorating our outside cabin to look like Santa's Grotto
  • Crazy amounts of Christmas shopping for family and extended family.
  • Completing drawings for our downstairs extension - will be submitted for planning this week
  • Ordering a huge turkey :-)
Roll on Chrimbo !

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

What a crazy week....

Ahhhh, what a crazy week it's been....
 
In pictures :- 
Flowers given to us from the Estate Agent when we picked up the house keys....we had some of these at our wedding....it reminded us that this is a new day for our family....
Even the cat got packed...

First meal on lounge carpet surrounded by absolutely nothing...
 
An insane amount of painting and DIY (with a lot of help, we painted the entire house white in 7 days!)....
Ripping out dodgy electrics....
...and some of the more unusual features....
 
Yesterday removals men finally emptied our old house....interesting sculptures appeared around the old rented place from the dust and dog hair left behind :-)
 
A slightly odd area in the loft above our bedroom which we are using to keep our 'danger boxes' :-
 
 
The removals men finished yesterday - we now have boxes coming out of our arm pits !
 
Today we have the  carpenter coming to do some jobs, we have the plumber coming to finish the new bathroom (the one and only Ben Patterson - a top man doing a fabulous job !!), we have to clean the rented house, we have the architect coming to measure up for an extension, and I have a physio (or is it psycho?!) appointment....so a fairly quiet day all in all ! :-)
 
Stuff we are so very grateful for :-
 
  • Our home...we've at last spent our first night in our new home !
  • Our friends and family who have cooked us loads of meals and helped with decorating and DIY (we couldn't have got this far without you all !)
  • Enough energy to keep going (we have been waking up very early with activity lists in our heads !)
  • Time off from working. 
  • People who have been praying for us
  • A warm house....
 
 

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

The rear-view mirror

House completion date - 18th October - is slowing approaching…at least, it seems very slow to me!

I will be finishing my job (by choice) on the same day….Whilst we clearly won't be able to manage financially forever without me working…for this next phase, having a month or two (hopefully) out of work in order to settle the children and ourselves into our new home feels like the right thing to do.  It's not about money…..fortunately we have enough to tide us over for the time being.

These last few days, I have been pondering something….. The photos shown here are on my desk at work.  I realise that most people probably don't have a photo of two different wives on their desk….but like most other people, the photos on my desk tell a story of people that I love and treasure.  In the collage-type frame above, the top strip are consecutive yearly photos of me and my 3 biological children taken in December each year from 2003 onwards with us all crammed into a passport photo booth once a year; the last one was taken with us all smiling in Dec 2009; at the time Karena was in the hospice but I wanted her to have an up-to-date photo of us all by her side for the hours when we weren't there; she had it by her bedside (such a hard memory!).  The other photos also tell a story - the big one in the middle was taken on our last proper family holiday together in Ireland in 2008 a few months before Karena was diagnosed.  In addition to that I have photos of Ellie and I and our 5 children on our wedding day also on my desk.  


These photos all stare out at me as I work at my desk….and each time I glance at them I react - sometimes with a smile, sometimes with a wince, sometimes with a feeling of deepest anguish, sometimes with a feeling of deepest appreciation. 

The photos tell my story, my pain and my joy. 

Fairly often, people ask me about my family as I clearly have a lot of children!  Sometimes I tell edited highlights of our story, sometimes I just can't be bothered if I'm honest….reactions to the more detailed story are quite varied - apologetic, uncomfortable, sympathetic, sometimes quickly changing the subject etc etc.  I don't mind really but in truth I don't really have the energy to keep sharing the story time and time again anyway, but at the same time, I don't want to deny it either, as it's all been so life-changing.

Of course, it's not just at my desk that these mixed up feelings jump out at me…it's just about everywhere else too….which anybody who has experienced this particular journey, would also relate to, no doubt.
What I've been pondering is what to do with the photos on my desk - do I just have photos of the "current life" or do I keep the photos of the "previous life"…those photos which so often make me sad and remind me of painful things that I would really rather forget.  Tricky.  I want to honour and be true to the past, and to love lost.  I also must live in the present and must continue to move into the future. 

Recently we've been trying to pack up some bits and pieces at home ready for the move again…we have a lot of photos and sad 'memorabilia' (for want of a better word) in various places, many of which are wrought with pain and anguish…some of our things need to be packed up into a strongbox with a lock and key, and posted with a health warning - 

"Beware, Memories may seriously damage your sanity."  

For example, we were packing some things up in the attic a few days ago, and, amongst other things, we came across first-time-around wedding photos and a memorial order of service…..  Anyway, we both ended up fairly quickly putting everything down again not really knowing what to do with it all, and then decided the best thing was to go and do something else completely different…  so it's all still waiting to be packed.

But pack we must, because we are moving forward.  Recently I read a something  which I found quite provocative : "Live with only the odd glance in your rear-view mirror (Phil 3:13-14)"

So I guess we'll keep working at it, then perhaps we will crash less often ! 


Sunday, 1 September 2013

Exchanged !

This is our new house !  <>

Late on Friday we exchanged contracts at last !

We are very pleased and quite relieved that we have found a more permanent home after about two years of trying!
Completion isn't until 18th October which seems like a long way off at the moment....but it leaves us time to do some organising and to get prepared.

Ellie and I have been talking about what we've been learning through this process of being disappointed so many times on houses we'd hoped to buy...it's a fairly long list but here's some highlights :-


  • God's plans are not our plans, nor are His ways our ways (Isa 55:8)
  • God's timing is not our timing (we planned to rent for a maximum of 6 months...15 months later!)
  • Sometimes we don't see the path ahead very clearly but in faith we keep moving forward
  • There's not necessarily one 'right' way to go; God is much bigger than that.
  • In all things, seek peace and pursue it (Ps 34:14)...which is Ellie's family motto !
  • Money is simply a tool (Rental costs have been huge!); we need to thank God for this provision that had enabled us to rent a house rather than worrying about the future (Matt 6:27).

Time to go and do some packing !

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

A bit of this and a bit of that...

Photo is of Ellie and the children at Center Parcs for a very long and very enjoyable time last weekend !












Yesterday I read a very good article on grief...possibly the most helpful thing I've read since 'it all happened'….

My paraphrase :-

- Grief is normal, necessary, unavoidable…

- Grief is hard work – it ‘flattens you’, affects your thinking, your concentration  and emotional wellbeing. It makes you feel like you’re going crazy…. you can’t just “get on with your life”

- There’s no closure - Grief is never short - it’s always there – lifelong, sometimes overwhelming, sometimes very raw ("Closure is relevant to business deals but not to the human heart")

- It's good to stay ‘connected’ to the person who has died...eg talking, photos etc (“their physical presence may be gone but…you remain in relationship in a new way beyond form…”)

- Grief changes you irrevocably and gives you a whole new perspective. “It teaches about living and dying, about pain and love and about impermanence. While some people are changed by grief in a way that makes them bitter and shut down, it is also possible to use grief as a springboard for compassion, wisdom, and open-heartedness"

As Ellie and I read it, lights seemed to be going on all around - it all sounded so very very familiar !

For the full article – click here – it’s really a very good read.
-     

As for the house situation – it still seems to be progressing but is slow…contract documents and searches/surveys are all complete and no outstanding issues.  Today’s news is that the current owners have finally advised that they are now willing to exchange contracts before the end of August….with completion to be agreed but likely to be mid-end October.  So...we're still waiting!!

Saturday, 3 August 2013

A wedding gift....

What a week....the children have all been away from home for the whole week at Bible camp/Granny's so it's been very quiet at home - just the two of us - it's felt quite odd to be honest, but we've enjoyed the peace and quiet!

On Tuesday it looked like the house was falling through following a phone call from the Estate Agent....
On Wednesday it was all back on again... (keep praying !!!!)

When we got married two years ago, some lovely friends gave us some money to "do something special - tea at the Ritz or something like that for just the two of you"....

With all the madness of the last couple of years we've never managed to use the generous gift....until today !

We took the car (and bikes) to the Isle of Wight for the day - up at 5.45 in order to catch the ferry crossing from Southampton at 8am.  Then we toured the island in the beautiful sunshine, cycled, and watched the boats (we didn't realise that it's Cowes week too), we laughed, and just enjoyed being together.  At the end of the day we had a beautiful meal at "The Jolly Sailor" in Bursledon, better known as the pub they used to film "Howard's Way" in - it was absolutely fabulous!  What a great wedding present !!!

Some photos from the day....






Friday, 19 July 2013

Plan G


You're not gonna believe this.....

....we've (nearly) bought a house (we think!)

We calculated that this one is in fact the 7th house that we've wanted/offered on....the previous 6 all fell apart for different reasons.


So since last Saturday this is what's happened :-

  • Saw house for first time
  • Offered (a bit low)
  • Offer rejected
  • Offered again (a bit higher)
  • Offer accepted !
  • Saw house for second time with children and 2 trusted friends
  • Conveyancer appointed
  • Searches done (all OK)
  • Survey done (no show-stoppers).
  • Draft of extension plan prepared (by me!)
  • Architect quotes in.

Not bad for 6 days eh ?!

We're trying not to count our chickens tho....this is plan G after all !
It has 5 bedrooms and a downstairs study (ie bedroom 6), which is one of our main criteria so that our delightful teenagers will all have a bedroom.  We plan to extend the downstairs (kitchen is quite small) to give us a bit more living area, and we also think we could extend into the garage in the future for an annexe for the bereavement respite work.  It's in a really good location for us too which is a huge bonus and will make the school run fairly straightforward. And finally, we can afford it ! Hooray!!
The people who own it are happy to sell with no chain....but we will have quite a bit of work to do (it's all a bit 'tired'! - rather like us !!)

So whilst we're not counting the old chickens just yet, it is looking very positive, and we will be very pleased if it does all go through !
If you're a pray-er, please do pray that we will exchange contracts quickly...in our ideal scenario, we'd be able to move in before the children go back to school....and if we don't get Plan G then I guess we'll move on and look for Plan H....

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

I remember
















20 years ago today...

I remember the sense of expectation,
I remember walking and praying early morning in the park,
I remember seeing George in hospital in my morning suit,
I remember family and friends gathered together,
I remember you being late :-)
I remember butterflies in my stomach,
I remember your dress, your flowers, your smile,
I remember you saying, "I do",
I remember photographs and laughter,
I remember nerves before my speech,
I remember cutting the cake,
I remember leaving for honeymoon,
I remember sitting on the plane feeling tearful that it was all over,
I remember the beach and honeymoon swims,
I remember the beginning of the journey...

...20 years ago today 

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Le Tour

Today is another day.
Most excitingly for me, today is the start of the Tour de France which I avidly follow....it's just such an epic race!  For the next three weeks, my beautiful wife will sit with me each evening as I watch the highlights from each day's racing (poor lady!!). I absolutely love cycling !

Perhaps more importantly for us as a family though.....today we plan to buy a house (again!) ...recently Ellie and I feel like we've been doing the Tour of Berkshire and we now have 4 possible options; none of them are 'ideal' but all of them are possibilities with some positives and some negatives.  Our good friend Keith the builder is coming with us to see one possibility today which would need quite a lot of work doing to it (ie gutting and starting again!) but which would be amazing space for us ! We are seeing another place this afternoon and saw two other places in the week which 'tick our boxes' to a greater or lesser extent.

So by the end of the day we plan to have made an offer on a house one way or another....please pray for wisdom for us as we really want the Tour of Berkshire to come to an end!



Sunday, 23 June 2013

In control...

We have a favourite restaurant as a family that we've been to when we sold both Ellie's house and our last house...and we've been looking forward to going there to celebrate the purchase of our new house....it's been a while since we've been there !

When we found out that our last house purchase had fallen apart, one of our boys said, "Why don't we go out for dinner to celebrate that God's still in control?"

A couple of days after that, we received a card through our letter box with some money inside and a lovely message...from an anonymous sender.  It was as if God was speaking directly to us and saying that He is indeed still in control even though things haven't worked out the way that we had hoped for or planned....so today we have used the money to go out for lunch at our favourite restaurant...and we've celebrated ....it was jolly yummy !!!  We're now all very full !

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Middle distance madness....

Couldn't resist a little blog about today's crazy antics....I got up at 2.55am (!) to meet up with two fellow nutters and get to the 6.10am race start about an hour away for my first middle distance triathlon (1.2/56/13.1 mile swim/bike/run).
Surprisingly the swim went really well (I don't usually enjoy the mass start/washing machine/getting swam over and kicked/lake swim experience)...but it went like clockwork really and I got out of the lake in 36minutes. 
The bike leg was long - 2 laps around the same loop but mostly fairly flat.  I worked hard but didn't totally 'cane-it' as I still had the half marathon to save beans for....cycling to my 80% max heartrate with nutrition to keep me going for the remainder of the race was the plan....it worked well.
The run leg was really hard work after the bike but I maintained a pretty steady pace around the three laps that made up the half marathon....coming over the finish line was just fabulous - 5 hours and 11 minutes after I started.  I was the last of the three of us but we all came in within 12 minutes of each other so we were all very pleased.

Ellie is pleased that I didn't die during the experience (me too...!)

Tonight I'm really tired, my legs ache, my rocket-bike is safely stowed away and I have a huge smile on my face.  Walking down the stairs in the morning might be a challenge though !

Tomorrow the house hunt continues.....

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Disappointment.

So the house saga continues….it’s a long story and I won’t bore too much with the details but basically we had our offer accepted on the house (and were ecstatic!), then lost it within about 3 days because two Estate Agents both expected the sale commission from the owner (we’d originally seen the house 8 months ago at a higher price through a different agent).  The owners had another offer on the table after accepting ours…so they had a predicament – they could either sell the house to us and try to reason with the estate agents (via the ombudsmen) to get a just outcome, or face potential litigation from the one they didn’t pay….or they could dump us as the buyer and go with a “clean” sale. 
You can guess which they did (fairly understandably from my perspective!!)

So another door has been firmly closed on us.  (It’s a shame because it was a lovely door attached to a lovely house!)

We keep praying for God to guide us (see last blog entry from my good lady!), and I’m sure He is indeed doing that….but we’re still really disappointed that we’ve lost another house that could have really worked well for us as a family home (and all because of Estate Agent ethics!)
Our current rented house is very nice in many ways but it doesn’t really feel like ‘home’ as we can’t really make it ours in the way we could if we owned it.  It was really cold in the winter too (old house, lots of draughts, very expensive to heat) so we really don’t want to do another winter here if we can possibly avoid it.
When we originally moved here in August we planned for a 6 month rental and negotiated the contract accordingly because the rental cost is really high.  It’s now 10 months later and we’re back to Square One on the house hunt. 
House buying and selling feels like it’s consumed too much of our thinking for way too long! 

We do have a roof over our heads, of course, and we’re very grateful for that!!

Sometimes, to be honest we feel like the psalmist in Ps10:1 “Why Lord do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?”

He hasn’t hidden himself of course…but the whole process hasn’t worked out in the way we’d hoped it would, and to be frank we oscillate wildly between complete frustration and annoyance on one hand to trusting that God has something waiting for us on the other hand.  Our huge daily challenge is to choose peace in the midst of the turmoil of it.
I reckon it’s fairly easy to trust God in theory, but living it day-to-day in the stuff that matters to you, when you’ve had disappointments like we have, feels much harder….


We're gonna choose to keep trusting through disappointment.
One day I’m sure we’ll look back and laugh!  

Monday, 27 May 2013

Guidance.....

Another guest blog from the lovely Mrs M....

A couple of weeks ago at the end of a very tough week for various other reasons too, the Estate Agent told us that the owners of our dream house had accepted someone else’s higher offer. 

We knew in theory it was ok - God knows best, He has always led us before, His ways are higher than ours, His plans have worked out so much better than what we thought was best many, many times.....but despite all that we felt bewildered and disappointed.  We wavered between accepting peacefully that we had pushed that door thoroughly and that God had closed it, and feeling total confusion about what we thought God had said to us....Have we given up too easily?...Were we wrong all along?...Is God going to step in and miraculously win us the house? 
Maybe this will all still happen in 5 years, 10 years – maybe we’ve simply got the timing wrong.  Maybe God doesn’t want us to do the work we feel we’d love to do with young widows and widowers.....maybe, maybe, maybe......

We also have the option of another house just down the road which would work for us as a family, is in a good location for us but doesn’t really lend itself to the widowed young work...
We’re not very good with indecision.  We desperately want to be settled in our own house, without the enormous rent bill we are facing each month (we see everything in terms of university fees for 5 children...) and to be honest the state of limbo we have been living in for almost 2 years as a new family is beginning to take its emotional toll on both of us.  Sleep in particular has been evading us and we need plenty of energy to cope with 5 teenagers!  So, in our disappointment and confusion we lost our enthusiasm for looking for houses. It all just felt too hard. 

We ground to a halt.
Then one morning, I woke up with enough enthusiasm to have another look at possible houses we had previously discarded for various reasons – and came to one we had viewed last September but decided wasn’t right.  It had a smaller garden than our dream house had – that garden was the most beautiful ‘sanctuary’ garden and we could see it being a wonderful place for grief stricken people to retreat to (as well as a great place for the kids to play!).  This house also had no garage (though had footings in place to build one), was in a tricky position for school runs and was on a very quiet country lane which we wouldn’t really want our kids walking up alone in the dark....and we felt it was overpriced.  The price had been reduced several times since then, however; I would be driving the children around on the whole and could always meet them with the dog at the end of the lane; maybe we could compromise on the ideal garden and longer school runs?  On the plus side, it had loads of space inside and had potential for having people to stay – perhaps we could convert the garage once it was built? That had been our plan with the dream house. Off we went to look at it with two daughters in tow. All was as we remembered.  The one new development was that we discovered the owners had planned to have an annexe as part of the house, so drainage and plumbing were in place for easy conversion. Craig and I caught each other’s eye as they explained this....we went away deep in thought.  The children were very enthusiastic and couldn’t see why we didn’t jump at it more quickly.  But we were still wracked with indecision.  Was this God’s plan?  What about the dream house?  What about the down sides?  Why didn’t we feel more certain?  How could we hear God's guidance?  The decision just felt too huge.

My Bible study group (a group of very lovely and very wise ladies!) has been following a study about prayers in the Bible.  I have found it really helpful to think about different ways of praying.  I spent my Monday morning dog walk laying everything before God. I asked yet again for our dream house and told God just how we felt we could use it for what we felt He’d put on our hearts. I listed promises from the Bible, thanking God for answered prayer, telling Him all about our indecision and how we just did not know what He wanted us to do.  I told Him that we felt like we were out on the water and didn’t even know which way the land was any more.  As I prayed, I realised that what we really wanted wasn’t actually the dream house or any particular house – it was just to know that we were on God’s paths and not straying from His will – so that’s what I asked for.  When I told Craig about it later, he said, “And was this a two way conversation?  What did God say?” Good question!
So, the next day I went back with our lovely dog Sam for the other half of the conversation.  I had woken with the words of the Amy Grant song based on Ps 119 in my head – ‘Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path’. I apologised for not listening and asked God to bring something from the bible to my mind that would help us in our confusion; something to settle my mind that God hadn’t left us alone, that He would lead us to the right place and that we were still on His paths.  And here’s what I felt He said:

As I walked round the corner into the woods I came to a tree in the middle of my path.  I see it every day but had never noticed how the path neatly splits in two to go round it then meets again and continues on.  Both paths lead to the same end.  Neither is better than the other.  Perhaps God could lead us on His paths in more than one way and we could still end up where He wanted us.  Perhaps there isn’t always only one ‘right way’ to go...

Ahead of me, the path twisted and turned.  I noticed that you couldn’t see what was round the bend until you walked almost to the end of what the eye could see – then the next section of path became clear.   We need to keep walking even when we can’t see what is round the corner.  We don’t get to see the end of the path ahead of time, but it doesn’t mean we should stop moving. 

Running alongside the path is a lovely clear stream (Sam likes paddling in it!).  As I looked at it, into my head came the words ‘You lead me beside still waters’. So I decided to read Psalm 23 as I walked.  I looked it up on my phone – though I know it really well I’ve got a mixture of versions in my head and I wanted to read it clearly.  The rest of what I felt God say to me are in the words of the texts I sent Craig later in the day:-

v3 – ‘He guides me along the right paths for His name’s sake.
Felt like it was speaking directly to us – just what I asked for yesterday!

“v4 – ‘Even though I walk through the darkest valley...’
Our valley is dark! But it promises that even when we can’t see them, He’s guiding with His rod and staff.

“v5 – ‘You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies’
I think our biggest enemies are grief and death – but God has good things for us even in their perpetual presence. Ps 27v 13+14 again!

“v6 – ‘...and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever’
That’s the house we really want to be in J. And wherever our house is, He’s there and it’s His.

The following day, the verses in Living Light which I read every day were all full of the same promises.  Ps 119 v 105 was there again, and so was Ps 23 v 4.  And two more that I found utterly reassuring:
‘If you leave God’s paths and go astray, you will hear a Voice behind you say’ “No, this is the way; walk here.”’ Is 30v21

‘Since the Lord is directing our steps, why try to understand everything that happens along the way?’ Prov 20 v24
God hadn’t left us floundering – just because we felt in the dark, it didn’t mean that He had left us.  He wasn’t going to let us make a big mistake – He was guiding us whether we felt it or not!  We needed to keep walking, keep taking the next step, and He would take care of the rest.

So, here we are, several days later.  After prayer, consideration and listening to wise counsel from dear friends, we are waiting to hear whether our offer on this new house has been finally accepted.  It feels daunting and we are almost too cautious to allow ourselves to get excited.  But we know that whatever happens, God IS guiding us, as He has been throughout these last years.
Let's see what happens this week !

Monday, 6 May 2013

We're a Special Family Day #2

Well the house hunting continues.  Our "dream house" is now sold subject to contract (but not to us!).  We're choosing to remain peaceful about it all...it's only a house!  We've decided to take a few weeks off thinking about houses!  If you're praying for us though, please feel free to not take a break :-)

This past year has been a big learning experience for me.  I've learned a lot more about this grief journey.

I described it to Ellie as being like dragging round a heavy ball and chain all the time....in so many ways we are so 'normal' but the painful memories of the past hang around you and just don't let go. No amount of "positive thinking" or prayer remove the pain of the past.  Everything in me wants to move forward (and I guess I am slowly) but sometimes it feels like it's just so hard to do, and often it feels easiest to just stop trying.

So my top 10 learning points so far over the last year or so have been :-
1. I will never be the same again.  "You never move on, you just learn to keep moving"
2. I can't cope with stress like I used to be able to.
3. I can't concentrate like I used to be able to.
4. What was I saying, again??  Next : I have to accept that I just can't do some things that I used to be able to.
5. I must accept (and look for) what I've been given, rather than concentrating on what's been taken away.
6. The feeling of, "Gosh am I actually going mad?" is likely to keep coming back at very regular intervals
7. The grief journey is not linear - you don't start to grieve and then gradually get better - there are huge ups and downs (which you can't predict the magnitude of or when they will happen, and it's cyclical - ie you re-visit things you thought you'd dealt with previously).
8. I feel emotionally exhasusted pretty-much all the time
9. I need to be aware of my (and Ellie's) danger signs
10. Every grief journey is very different, (but often there are similarities)
11.  Children are more resilient than adults - they seem to have a capacity for living in the moment that adults find difficult to do.
12. The build up to an anniversary is normally worse than the date itself.  All birthdays (particularly the children's birthdays) feel "on the edge"
13.  I can no longer count to 10.

Ellie and I have now developed a new emotional rating system.......more on that in the next blog !

Yesterday we celebrated our 2nd Annual "We're a Special Family Day"....presents, food and laughter (see point 5 above)

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Timing...

A guest blog from my beautiful wife Ellie.....

Over the past few weeks I have been reading about Moses and how he led God’s people out of slavery in Egypt.  Many times I have been struck by parallels between Moses’ journey and our search for houses….not that we are in slavery of course (though the rent feels like it sometimes!) but more in the way that God was in total control of the situation and its timing; and that Moses’ part was in obedience, in faith, even when the answer from Pharaoh was a constant ‘No’.

I remember back to a morning some weeks ago when I was about to go into my ‘body balance’ class. We had just re-submitted the previous offer on our ‘dream house’ which we would love to use, not just for our family, but to offer a sanctuary for young widows and other people who need a good rest and someone to look after them! It really is a house beyond our wildest dreams (with a price to match) and feels like such a big ask…

Anyway, Craig rang me to say the Estate Agent had just called and wanted to talk about our offer.  My exercise class passed in a blur of wild hopeful imaginings and desperate praying – only to find after the class that our offer had been refused. Again. We felt so disappointed….That morning I had inadvertently deleted the email containing that day’s Bible study but found, when I got home, that it had been re-sent.  God’s hand I think…It was all about the way Moses had to keep returning to Pharaoh, and each time Pharaoh said he could leave, God would harden his heart and he would change his mind again.  And so it would all begin again for Moses, despite each disappointment.  He kept on going back, though he must have felt hopeless and foolish. I was reminded, too, of the verse which says ‘The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord’ (Proverbs 21 : 1)– I’d been reading about that in Edith Schaeffer’s book L’Abri.  Our house owner isn’t a tyrant slave owner or a king, but his heart is in God’s hands nonetheless and it was such a comfort to think that if God wanted us to buy the house, He could change decisions and minds to help us and make our way clear.

So, we are now a few weeks on.  We still hold out hope for our dream house; we do now have another option which we are considering which would also suit us as a family, but as far as we can see wouldn’t easily allow us to welcome other people and look after them.  We have felt for some time that this is what God would like us to do….so now it all comes down to timing.  We constantly question whether we have heard God’s voice right, as I’m sure Moses did! Last week we re-offered on our dream house – after much reviewing of finances and wrangling with trusting God with our savings (or future lack of them!) we increased our offer a little – as much as we can.  And the owners didn’t say no – they have asked for time to think it through, though it is much lower than they’d hoped.  The waiting and praying and hoping and imagining continue.

I read this morning about the crossing of the Red Sea (Exodus 14 : 9-31)

Forget the Hollywood recreations of the scene. It was the middle of the night, the darkness pierced only by the light from a pillar of cloud behind the Israelites (v 19). It was blowing a gale (v 21). The ground (as verse 25 implies) was probably muddy and pockmarked with pools of water. On either side were moving, unstable piles of water (v 22). It was scary, and not just because of their surroundings.

Israelites were scared of the sea. They saw it as dangerous and unstable, the haunt of sea monsters and the forces of chaos. Childhood phobias lurked at the back of their mind as they hurried through this fearful scene, conscious of the huge Egyptian army pursuing them from behind.

God’s presence

Can you, like me, remember scary times like this? Do you also remember the calming, constant presence of a loving God with you at such times?

From the beginning of time, God’s Spirit (often, as at Pentecost, identified with wind) has hovered (Genesis 1:2) over watery, chaotic darkness and transformed it into something beautiful and surprising. God is still willing and able to do that today.

‘Lord God, I give you my fears, my darkness and my chaos today. Please bring your creative light and Spirit into all of it and make it into something beautiful and productive for you.’

As I prayed through all of this on my morning dog walk (my favourite time for praying!) I was reminded of God’s perfect timing over our journey so far; of the verse ‘I am the Lord; in its time I will do this swiftly’ (Is. 60 : 22) which has been a meaningful verse for me in the past too; and of a song I loved as a child (anyone else remember Psalty the singing songbook?).
In His time, In His Time
He makes all things beautiful in His time.
Lord please show me every day
As You're teaching me Your way
That You do just what You say
In Your time.

In Your time, In Your Time
You make all things beautiful in Your time.
Lord my life to You I bring
May each song I have to sing
Be to you a lovely thing
In Your time.

God’s plan and timing are perfect.  Often what we think God’s plan should be isn’t right or best for us.  He sees the bigger picture.  We have seen that in the past, and are choosing to trust it for the future.    We’ll keep waiting and praying.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Wedding day...

Today my dear friend Richard is marrying his lovely fiancee Elli. 

Ellie (My Ellie that is!) and I have done Richard and Elli's marriage preparation over the past few months which has been a huge privilege and very enjoyable....we've been really looking forward to today!

This morning, I awoke with a song in my head which I haven't heard for years...this song was one of Karena and my favourites in our early years of married life together (before children)....mostly because it expressed our hearts' cry to our heavenly Father and our desire for our own lives and for our own marriage.

I have been praying through the main principles of the song for our dear friends on their wedding day today (whilst hoovering, washing and polishing the car) - I confess that I've been fairly tearful in doing so because of flooding memories of Karena... but God knows all about the pain and it's ok to cry.  I'll be holding onto (my!) Ellie's hand during the wedding - because I love her dearly and I am likely to get a bit gushy !

I have the best job of the day today - taking the bride to church !  The Landy looks good eh?!



Friday, 29 March 2013

The sun is shining...

It's Easter weekend...and the sun is shining !  I'm so glad to have a long weekend off work...it's been so busy recently.  Part of me enjoys the busyness, part of me hates it...but I'd have to say that I've been much more efficient at work recently. 

Easter weekend doesn't just mean holidays of course.  I had a look at my old blog posting from Easter 2010 here this morning...Easter is resurrection time.  Easter is full of hope.  Jesus really did rise from death.  Death really is defeated.

Ellie and I still cry quite a lot....we and our children have both lost so much....

In the words of Third Day.....
Yesterday I found
That everything I knew was wrong
It was upside down
The life I thought I had was gone

But You came and whispered love to me
And You gave me strength to carry on

Oh, the sun is shining
There is hope for me again
A new day's dawning
The sun is shining

Yesterday I lost
Everything I had and loved
Then I cried out for You, Lord
And You came and picked me up

And the sorrow lasted through the night
But the joy came with the morn

I will lift my voice
No, I won't be silent
For You heard my cry
And You turned my mourning into dancing
And so forever I'll sing

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Yesterday...

Long time, no blog.....(thanks Sarah for reminding me!)...
Yesterday was my daughter's birthday party....this is a photo of the cake that Ellie made (it's absolutely huge!!)....for the bakers amongst you, you may recognise it as the same as Martha Kearney's effort in the Comic Relief Great British Bake-off  which was on TV a few weeks ago.

Yesterday we also went to see three houses.  We still have our eye on our dream home too.

We're trying to be more purposeful about finding a long term family home...this rented house is lovely size-wise but it's cold and expensive.  We're all getting a little more chilly and poorer by the day !  Whatever happens we really don't want to be here for another winter.

So here's the housing dilemma...
Ideally we would like everybody to have their own bedroom (ie 6 bedroom house or 5 bedrooms with an extra downstairs room that we could use as a bedroom), we also need to get children to/from 3 different schools in Reading town/Woodley/Earley which is logistically a challenge.  Ideal locations would be Earley, Woodley or Shinfield (where we currently are).

Possibles are -

House #1 - Dream home.
Pros : Good location (Shinfield). 6 bedrooms, lots of space, ready to move in and go, lovely inside, big and beautiful garden.  Possibility for future use as a respite retreat for people widowed young (we'd love to do this).
Cons : We can't afford it (without a huge mortgage and with kids potentially going to university starting in 1 years time, a large mortgage seems foolish)

House #2 - Country Bungalow
Pros : 6 bedrooms, good size garden, lots of reception rooms, ready to move in and go, lovely inside.
Cons : Not-so-good location (Barkham - 6 miles out) - 1 hour out of Reading on bus route (middle of nowhere). Ellie will become Mrs Taxi for 4 children on schools run, 1 child will get lift with me then hop on the bus for final bit into Reading.

House #3 - Wokingham commute
Pros : Close to Wokingham train station (3 children can get themselves to/from school on train), lovely inside, big garden, big kitchen/main living area, close to Wokingham town centre, older house.
Cons : Need to use downstairs room as a bedroom, close to road, 1 reception room to provide escape from noise, some slightly concerning cracks in the walls

House #4 - New build
Pros : new build (3 years old), very tidy, warm, nice dog !
Cons : Not-so-good location (Barkham-see house #2 for school run details), need to use downstairs room as a bedroom, quite overlooked, small garden, strange "juliet balcony" from main bedroom (suitable for child suicide attempts!)
  
Confused !?!


Matthew 28:20 (Jesus said) "and surely I am with you always to the very end of the age". Amy Carmichael writes :
He does not say simply 'always', as of a uniform duration, but "all the days", as if he would take account of the changing aspect of storm and sunshine, of light and darkness, which chequer our course, in other words, "all the days and all the day long"

Today it's the Reading Half Marathon...my training has been somewhat fitful and I have done no running for the last 2 weeks due to pulling my calf (doh!)....I will be pondering all of this as I trudge the streets of Reading....

If you have any suggestions on housing, please feel free to comment or email us !

Monday, 11 February 2013

3 years on...


My attempt at a poem to summarise what's going on inside...3 years on...


Memories assaulting,
Children's voices,
Sadness flooding,
Hospice singing,
Pain, ache, hurt,
Quietness deafening,
Horror dawning,
Prayer imploding,,
The last goodbye,
Plans destroyed,
Yesterday,
Tears, Laughter?
Starting again,
Alone?
Family fractured,
Jesus,
New life,
Hearts are broken,
Mum's departed,
Sorrow's planted,
Glory waiting,
The saviour came...
In our hearts
Tomorrow's coming,
3 years ago.

Monday, 21 January 2013

A makeover ?

Last week was a dawning reality for me as I realised the extent of how much my character has changed following the horror of 2009/10.  In summary, my work wanted me to lead a team of people on a project in a fairly pressurised environment with multiple deadlines, conflicting requirements, lots of changes, man management etc….and I just can’t do it because I can’t deal with pressure and stress like I used to be able to…..that kind of thing just makes me panic now.  So I had to sit down with my boss and tell him that I can’t do the job….and if they insisted on it then I would have to leave because I care more about my health than my job (I was very gracious but honest!).  As I’m on a short-term contract with just 1 week notice period, and a huge house rental to pay every month it’s not the conversation I really wanted to start the New Year with.
As if the pain of the journey wasn’t hard enough to deal with and all the horrible memories which haunt every waking hour….I’m now realising, almost 3 years down the line, the ongoing cost to my emotional well-being and just how much my character has changed.
People have told me that externally I seem very normal (whatever that is ?!?!?!).  I’ve also been told that I’ve “got over my grief very well.” But such comments and thoughts contain little understanding of the grief journey and what is bubbling away just beneath the surface.  So before anybody says it, I will…
  • Yes I can look to the future,
  • Yes I have more life to live,
  • Yes I have a beautiful wife and a lovely family,
  • Yes God is with us,
  • Yes there’s laughter to be had,
  • Yes there are great memories from the past too
  • Yes there are more great memories to be had in the future
  • Yes Yes Yes….
That’s all true, but you can’t remove the sad memories, the horror of what you walked through and the angst in your heart by thinking happy thoughts or by just being purposeful about enjoying life into the future (however good that might sound).  The bad bits just sit there waiting to consume you (and they do way too often!) 
It’s a good job that Jesus hasn’t changed cuz I feel like I've had a total makeover !
PS : The good news is I’ve still got a job (at the moment !)