Thursday, 18 April 2013

On Being an Irregular Quadrilateral in a Round hole

Church is a rather round hole.  It ought to be kind of morphous, allowing for the whole spectrum of humanity's idiosyncrasies, but it's really rather fixed,.. in a roundish kind of way.  Some people fit very smoothly into that roundish portal; maybe it's because they are super holy and have allowed God to mould them and 'knock off the corners' so to speak.  Or maybe they are naturally pliable and middle of the road.  I don't say that as a criticism, just an observation.  I am not one of those people.

It's hard being different.  We have a natural human inclination to find others who are like us.  To find a pack to run with.  Fitting in has been my proverbial carrot; something that has dangled in tantalisingly close proximity, yet always been out of reach. It is hardest though, when it comes to church.  The Bible talks about the church in terms of a body, and emphasises unity.  There is, then, a requirement to play one's part in that unity.  And so I do my best.  But always there is the reality of not being in the inner circle,... not quite being accepted.  Not having the right theology or the right social skills or the right dress code.  And it's hard.

For quite some time I thought I was on my own with this reality, but the more I am open and honest about my isolation, the more I realise that there are many on the fringe of church who feel equally on the periphery.  Outside.  Alone.  Different.  And I wonder why and how.  I wonder what God's purpose is in this steadily growing number of his people on the margins.  And then I realise that the margins are a good place, because that's where he was,... where he ministered.  The marginal were high on his list of people to hang out with.  And yet for so long the church has ignored these people, often preferring to maintain the status quo rather than engage with difficult outsiders.  Because outsiders who don't fit in so easily are often difficult.

So that's where I am.  Knowing in my heart of hearts that the margins, for me, are where it's at.  Seeking to minister as best I can in this windswept place.  Wondering what will come next....

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Ticking boxes

My husband is a list maker of old.  I am always finding bits of old cereal box with lists written on the back; lists of outstanding DIY; shopping lists; to do lists for his job.  He is a list maniac and always has been since I've known him.  For me though, lists are a new-ish entity.  I don't ever remember lists being made at home, and so I grew up without that most necessary of inventions.  However, thanks to the wonders of technology I have now adopted the list as my own; there are so many fabulous organisational sites out there with pretty printables that are just begging to be adorned with a list, how could I not become a list maker?

I think you'll agree that the best thing about lists is ticking them off.  It's a tangible sign of achievement and progression.  It makes you feel great to see how far you've come.  And when the last item on your list is checked,... what a feeling?!  Lists are the stuff of addiction, I'm sure, because nothing gives as great a rush as the knowledge that you have done what you set out to do.  Staring at a completed list is like eating Green & Blacks 70% cocoa dark chocolate; it just makes me want more.  More achievement, more self worth, more self justification for my existence.  And that's just the chores list.

So if the chores list gets me this excited, what happens when I turn faith into a checklist?  It's absolutely awesome; the progress I can make is astounding.

(And just in case you think I am speaking only of conservatives, the charismatic church could equally have a list which includes speaking in tongues and watching the 'right' programmes on God TV.  Liberals could create their list with the right theology books and missional experiences.  None of these things are bad in     themselves; it is when we start to put faith in these things for our righteousness and salvation that there becomes a problem.)

Actually, in reality, this isn't progress at all.  It's merely ticking boxes.  And it leads to a false sense of our own righteousness without any reference to the saving grace of Christ.  We cannot become righteous through our own works.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--

Ephesians 2:8 NIV

I have fallen into this trap very recently.  I have succumbed to checklist Christianity.  I wanted so much to make progress from the broken and inadequate vessel that I believed myself to be, so I decided to pull myself up by my bootstraps and become the kind of Christian I aspired to be.  I bought long denim skirts because that was what those ladies who I longed to be like, longed to fit in with, wore.  I read the 'right' kind of books, I changed my theology to become more Biblically correct.  I knew I was saved by God but I longed to be more righteous and fruitful, and instead of resting in the vine for that fruit I tried to cultivate it for myself. I am reminded of this scripture:

My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the Fountain of living waters, and they have hewn for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns which cannot hold water. Jeremiah 2:13

If we forsake God in favour of an easy to achieve checklist we are wronging both Him and ourselves.  We rob ourselves of the intimate personal relationship that we might have with the Father if we were attached to the vine, and we rob God by refusing to put our faith in the saving work of His Son on the cross.  We are told in Philippians 2:12 to work out our salvation with fear and trembling and I believe fully in this exhortation.  We should not be sloppy about our faith; it should be the most important part of our lives and radiate from everything that we do.  We should, however, remember that we are all individuals and the working out may look different for each of us.  The King James Bible refers to working out our 'own' salvation.  Christianity is truly about a personal relationship with a personal saviour.  So no more check boxes,... not for me anyway.  Be who you are; uniquely and wonderfully you.  No-one else can have the relationship with God that you have because no-one else is like you: don't rob Him of the joy of your friendship by trying to emulate somebody else's version of what a Christian is like.  Be a true friend by revealing your true self to Him and allowing his love to change and mould you into your best self.

Who am I that You are mindful of me 

That You hear me when I call 
Is it true that You are thinking of me 
How You love me it's amazing 


I am a friend of God 
I am a friend of God 
I am a friend of God 
He calls me friend 

God Almighty, Lord of Glory 

You have called me friend 

(Repeat Chorus) 

He calls me friend 

He calls me friend...

Israel Houghton

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Trim and Healthy Tuesday

My lovely friend Sarah Dawes over at came up with the idea of Trim and Healthy Tuesdays.  Each Tuesday we will blog about our experiences of following the Trim and Healthy Mama weightloss programme.  I have been following the programme since November last year.  You can read my introduction to the programme here:

The plan is a little similar to Slimming World in that you have two different types of days or meals.  In SW it's red and green whereas in THM it's S and E.  S stands for satisfying and E stands for Energising.  S meals are  meals which rely heavily on fats and non-starchy veggies.  Think bacon and eggs and meatloaf,... that kind of thing.  E meals are low fat but include some types of carbs that will not cause chaos with your blood sugar, such as porridge oats and brown rice.  In addition to sticking to the basic plan of S and E meals you can also choose to follow the Fuel Pull Cycle, which is great for getting your weightloss moving.  It's a little complicated to go into the whys and wherefores (I really recommend reading the book; it's excellent) but it does work; the last time I did FP I lost six pounds.

So here I am at the beginning of week two a two week FP cycle.  You would think that a weightloss bootcamp week like Fuel Pull would make you feel deprived and depressed but I have to tell you that isn't so.  Today I have eaten so far:

Breakfast - two fried eggs with sauteed spinach and mushrooms
Mid-morning snack - protein shake
Lunch - Salmon salad with sweet chilli oil dressing followed by two pieces of skinny chocolate.

Does that sound depressing to you???  I love my food.  I love THM.  And it's working.  I'll leave you with a pic of how my body is changing (please excuse the immodesty of the final picture; it's the only up to date one I have).

My goal is to be about 10.5 stone so I still have a lot of weight to lose but I am convinced that with THM it is possible.

Love Jo x

Monday, 15 April 2013

Garden Goings On

Here are some updates from the garden!

The compost without the bin.

In close up.

Washing the Wendy house.

Eli was very enthusiastic.

Especially about making the compost bin into a den.

My new gardening gloves didn't stay clean for very long.

Yay; the compost is gone and I now have a new bed to plant up.

Happy gardening!

Love Jo x

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Planning to succeed; freedom from the curse of schedules

My little William, who is four, was recently asked to help his brothers to tidy the sitting room.  His reply made us all laugh: I think I'll draw a plan first, Mum.  It was a clever delaying tactic but it did make me think;  do we plan to succeed in our housekeeping?  We plan to succeed in other areas of life; we plan for exams, family celebrations, finances and holidays,... but do we have a plan to achieve a clean and tidy house???  I must admit that I don't.  I have tried Flylady, and made my own schedule of jobs to keep things on a rolling programme of improvement, as you will have seen in an earlier blog post.   I even have a Facebook group dedicated to organising and decluttering my house.  The problem is that when I make a plan I find it very difficult to stick to.  I guess it's human nature; we go on a diet but find it impossible to resist cakes; subscribe to a gym only to find ourselves lazing on the sofa.  But maybe it's more than that; maybe we overface ourselves.

If you make a schedule that is ongoing and therefore seemingly infinite, it is easy to feel overwhelmed.  If, however, you make it your goal to achieve one small improvement every day, and try to keep a track of what you have done and what you might do next,  I find that much more realistic and workable.

My garden was a terrible mess after the winter, and after my post-natal depression kept me indoors so much last year.  It was so bad that I didn't even take any photographs before I started the improvements.  Finally I decided that enough was enough.  Something had to be done.  I started on a weekend and dedicated a whole day to clearing mess from the floor, and pruning the Medusa like tendrils of my climbing plants.  It made a huge different and we had a barbeque to celebrate.  Next, I dug over and weeded the flowerbeds.  Then I spent an afternoon planting up some fruit bushes I bought from Home bargains very inexpensively.  And this morning I swept the patio and filled five garden bags with leaves and rubbish (yes, it really was that bad).  It looks SOOOO much better.  In my head I have a list of the other things that need doing:

1.  Wash and declutter the garden toys.  Think about suitable longterm storage.
2.  Get rid of the compost bin and replant the area where it has been; deal with the brambles that have       grown  up in that area.
3.  More planting.

I don't know which I'll do first; I don't want to be slavish about it.  But that plan is there, in my head, waiting to be executed.  I was thinking of writing it down in a notebook - a kind of ongoing plan of action.  I might try it, BUT if those words on the page begin to condemn me and overwhelm me I shall stop immediately.  Those of us who are schedule phobic can, I believe, plan to succeed without the lengthy and ongoing to do list.  It just takes a little bit of creativity to discover what works for you.

Happy cleaning, organising, decluttering, making life happy and sparkly and bright.

Love Jo x

This is the compost area that needs clearing.

The patio area is lovely now but I do need to paint that wall.

The rubbish I collected this morning.

A wider view of the garden.

The toy area that needs attention.

I took down some of the decking rails to make the garden appear more spacious; it really works.

Petunia plugs!!

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Storm Clouds Gathering or Getting Rid of Toxic Fear

I wonder if it's because I'm British.... The tendency to watch the horizon for signs of impending bad weather is something akin to my tendency to look towards the future with a sense of foreboding.  Both might be seen as British characteristics.  Everyone knows we're obsessed with the weather,.. and you'd have to admit we're not the most optimistic of races.  Don't get me wrong, I love being British; we are stalwart and resilient, having fought off our (then) enemies in two world wars.  Ask Granny if there's cake for tea, though, and even when it's practically bursting out of the Silver Jubilee biscuit tin on the top shelf in the pantry cupboard, she'll look dour and reply: ooh, I don't know about that then.  Maybe there's a connection between our lack of optimism and our lack of sunshine; it wouldn't surprise me.

Recently I've been worrying a lot.  Little things have escalated in my mind to become big things which have the potential to destroy all the brightness in my life.  There were some clouds.  Tiny ones actually.  To me they looked brooding and dangerous.  I started to panic, to make plans in my mind about how I would deal with such an intense storm in my life; I started to lose control.  In the end they turned out to be nothing more than a few wispy cirrus, floating overhead with not even a speck of rain to dampen my day.  I breathed a sigh of relief, thanked God and began to think....

Fear is toxic.  If you've seen Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith you'll be familiar with Annakin Skywalker's seduction by the dark side.  If you're not familiar with the film you only need to know one thing about Annakin's demise as a Jedi Knight: it begins with fear.  He fears that he will lose his beloved wife, Padme, in childbirth.  This fear is so strong that it begins to control him and, furthermore, puts him at the mercy of those who would manipulate him for their own ends.  We all know what happens next; Padme dies anyway and Annakin loses himself to the dark side.  It's very much like the story of Othello by William Shakespeare.  Othello listens to the whispers of an enemy and he is rendered murderous with jealousy; death and destruction is his final end. 

Satan has a plan for our life.  It is the complete opposite of God's plan.  God has a plan to prosper us and not to harm us (Jeremiah 29:11) whereas Satan is a thief who comes in the night to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10).  And how does he instigate this vile plan?  In 1 Peter 5:8 we are warned: 
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like 
a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. NIV
The devil has no real power over us if we belong to Jesus BUT he will prowl about us and roar like a lion.  And why does a lion roar?  To frighten his prey, who will either become immovable with that fear, or frenzied and confused.  Either way, they make a much easier object of prey.  Satan wants to make you fear; he wants to immobilise you or send you into a frenzied tailspin.  He has a plan for your destruction.  And his whispers,... those worries that haunt you in the middle of the night when rationality is sleeping; they are lies to entrap you.  

So what is the answer?  The answer is always faith and trust in our Lord, Jesus Christ.  It sounds trite.  Please don't switch off now; it isn't trite.  It isn't an easy answer or a fob off.  It's the truth.  The truth is that sometimes those dark and brooding storm clouds will pass over and sometimes they will send torrents hurtling down upon you when you least expect it.  Life is like that; but life is not about what happens to us,... it's about how we respond.  We can respond with fear, allowing Satan to have the upper hand, or we can respond with faith in God's promise that he will NEVER leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:8 amongst others).  Scripture tells us not to fear over one hundred times and we need not fear because God is true to his promises and, even when it seems like life is falling apart, HIS plan for our good and HIS glory is being worked out.

When you see the storm clouds gathering what should you do?  Respond with faith; trust God and walk forward knowing that, whatever happens, He is with you.  It's not an easy thing to do; it will require stalwart resilience but it IS possible, for ALL things are possible in Him (Mark 9:23).

Love and prayers
Jo x

Friday, 5 April 2013

Celebrate Life: Passover 2013

In a new series, Celebrate Life, I want to look at why celebration and ritual are so enriching to our lives, and how we can incorporate them in ways which are meaningful but manageable.  This post is about how our family celebrates Passover.

In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.
Romans 9:8

Because we are Abraham's children we remember the slavery of God's people, and how He led them from Egypt into freedom.  In Easter week we remembered passover, setting the scene for the biggest 'pass over' of all, when the ultimate sacrificial lamb was given so that our sins might be 'passed over' and we too might be free from slavery.  I love the Passover Seder; the symbols, the candlelight, the readings.  It feels meaningful and important and exciting.  It puts us in touch with our need for a saviour, identifying with a people in slavery.  But how do we do it?  Isn't it just a massive hassle?  Where is the time to plan and prepare?

I'll let you into a secret; it wasn't as fancy as it sounds.  Our meal was roast lamb and salad followed by healthy chocolate brownies.  Not that different than we might ordinarily have.  And the seder is a very short one that is written with especially wiggly children in mind.  You can find it in the book, Homespun Memories for the Heart by Karen Ehman.  It only lasts about twenty minutes but does not leave out the most significant symbolism.  The most problematic aspect of the whole affair is sending  dh out to buy Matzoh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Do you celebrate Passover?  Did you blog about it?  I'd love you to share your links via the comments section if you did. 

God bless
Jo x

Lego Duplo Busy Bag - Free Printables

I have recently been investing some time in creating busy bags for my almost three year old.  He is particularly fond of Duplo so I thought I would make him a set of Duplo patterns like the ones featured on this blog .  I didn't quite have the pieces needed for the featured patterns so I made my own with the bricks that I had available.  We have LOTS of Duplo so I decided to keep the pieces and patterns together in a bag, separate from the main haul.  If you'd like to download my patterns., you can access the pdfs here: .  Have fun!!

duplo house, busy bag

duplo tree, busy bag

duplo flower, busy bag

duplo boat, busy bag

duplo duck, busy bag
Duplo at Amazon

The Many Handed Serpent

I read this post on my friend Sarah's blog and it really struck a chord.  I've been meaning to blog on 1 Corinthians 12:12-26  for quite some time now.  Some of you will know that, having previouusly been of a mind to leave our fertility to God, my husband and I have recently made the very difficult decision not to have any more children.  I've posted before about my journey to and from the edge of despair.  I am sure I don't need to further explain how we came to make our decision.

Regardless of our circumstances, there are some who think we should carry on having children in the name of being obedient to God.  I beg to differ.  I don't believe that being obedient to God comes down to a single interpretation of scripture.  I believe that some women are called and convicted to make the very courageous step to become mothers of many blessings.  I admire them greatly.  I also KNOW that some women are scarred and broken, drug addicted and depressed, needy and dependent,... or maybe they are just single and childless.  Are those women any less in the eyes of God?  Are they less because motherhood is not for them, or because they can only physically or mentally cope with a smaller number of children.  I would say, most definitely, NO.  I have searched the heart of God on this issue so much recently.  And this is what he says to me:

1 Corinthians 12:12-26

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by[c] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

We women are all different.  We are not all hands.  We should not promote feminity in one particular vein.  I am all for promoting motherhood and wifedom,... but I also think that we need to accept that some women will tread a different path.  And that is OK.  In fact it's more than OK; to be the person that God made you to be in all your fullness is marvellous,.. whether you are the mother of many, few or none.  BE the you God created you to be,... whoever that is.  A body with many hands would be a monstrous creature.  We need diversity,... and God needs YOU!!!

Jeremiah 29:11
New International Version (NIV)
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

The Adventures of a Technology Native

Eli is almost three.  One of his favourite things to do in the whole world is play on  If you haven't come across it before it's a US phonics site aimed at preschoolers.  We actually pay a subscription to access the additional features of MoreStarfall, which has maths activities, nursery rhymes and stories.  All of the three youngest children use it so it is very good value for us as homeschoolers.

Eli, despite not being able to talk very well yet, can access Starfall completely by himself.  He turns on the computer and accesses the internet.  When the search box appears he types in ST; from there he chooses starfall from the drop down box.  Voila, he's on to his favourite site.  And because of the content of the site, he is able to count and recognise letters, completely untaught by me.

It is so bizarre to think that I learned to read with Peter and Jane, from a book, with the help of my teachers. Here he is, at not yet three, becoming a self-directed learner.  I know that there are dangers on the internet, and we are always vigilant to supervise him.  BUT, there is also great potential.  I think the key is to suspend fear and allow children supervised access within a safe framework.  You could set up their own home page with shortcuts on to specific sites that you are happy with.  Google and ask on places like which sites other parents recommend,... and then sit back and watch.  You might even learn a thing or two.

Jo x