The ‘gift’ of chickenpox: slowing down

So last week chickenpox came to our house. The timing in some ways was terrible – it meant my mum couldn’t come to stay. But as the days wore on I saw how God held us and worked through the situation.

I had wanted my son to get chickenpox before he gets much older (he’s now 6). So when an outbreak happened in his class I was secretly fairly pleased. But when it actually happened I immediately started stressing – at the last minute my parents couldn’t come to be with the kids while we went to a leadership weekend (could we even go if he was really suffering with it?).

I then started stressing about how I was going to juggle my work with my son at home. My daughter is great at amusing herself – when ill she simply takes herself off to bed and reads and naps. But he is different. He doesn’t seem able to play for long on his own and wants constant attention.

After the first day of him appearing by my side constantly I was beginning to get irritated and even more stressed. So I made a conscious decision to bring it all before God and ask Him to help order our days and allow me to be there for my son and comfort him, but also get the work done that I needed to without too much difficulty. I also prayed that we would have precious moments together that we could look back on with fondness afterwards.

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What then followed were a few days of him either napping or playing for a little while so I could start some work, and then we’d snuggle up on the sofa and watch a film together. I always took a pile of reading or other work with me, but it usually stayed in a pile and I didn’t look at it at all.

One of the days this untouched work started to weigh on my mind but then I felt God really clearly tell me to stop worrying about it. The vital work was getting done – yes I didn’t feel like I had much head space but He gently reminded me that my body isn’t working at 100% at the moment and that the rest was good for me too so I should simply embrace it rather than not allowing myself to unwind and enjoy it because I thought I ‘ought to’ be doing something.

It made me think about how often we don’t allow ourselves to rest because we are in ‘do’ mode and rest seems lesser somehow – not worth as much as getting through our ‘to do’ list.

So, through my son’s illness, God was yet again gently reminding me that I need to slow down and allow myself to rest. The things I have to get done are no less important, but the way I view them and the hierarchy I so often put on the things in my life needs to change to allow me space just to ‘be’ more regularly.

 

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Can’t settle down to work…

Ever have one of those days when you simply can’t seem to settle down to anything? I am today – I can’t believe I only have half an hour left before I pick up my son from nursery and I’ve achieved nothing so far (apart from bagging a free book for my hubbie – yay- and having email conversations with publishers). I have managed to do my bible reading for the day. I’ve been finding reaching back into the Old Testament really interesting and thought-provoking, but today, when I read about a man sacrificing his daughter, all I could think was ‘really?’. My brain couldn’t go further than that!

Both my husband and I look and feel shattered. It has been an exceedingly long couple of weeks, partly because our church is in the process of trying to buy a building and there have been endless plans and letters to formulate. But today is submission day – so we’ve done all we can. Now, as well as praying earnestly, we need to turn to what else needs our attention – him to his preach and me to my writing. But I think we are both simply too wrung out. I am usually incredibly focused. I’ve been doing this work-from-home freelancing thing for a long time now, and I am always determined to utilise the first few hours of the day really well as that is my only child-free time. But today I’ve been meandering through the windows on my computer – looking at the drafted book I have almost finished and the half-written ideas file for a magazine editor. I can’t quite seem to actually get down to doing anything. But I think that may be because my body needs a little rest – it’s done so much already this week. The fact that I can’t focus on anything is my body revealing I need to slow down a little and take it easy today. This is really unlike me, but I’m finding I’m telling myself that it’s okay if I don’t actually achieve that much today. There is always tomorrow… 🙂

Feeling the squeeze

Today is the start of National Marriage Week. I chuckled wryly to myself when I found that out, as this week has been incredibly testing. We’ve definitely felt the squeeze, due to many reasons – mainly outside of our relationship. We are still exhausted from the fantastic weekend of celebrations honouring our pastor and his wife as he retired, and now my husband is feeling the pressure of taking over the church and being the only member of staff for the next two months. I’m really busy juggling a lot of deadlines, including writing a book, and looking after our kids. I’ve also found it very difficult to be surrounded by a houseful of mess as my husband transports the church office temporarily to the studio at the bottom of our garden. That sort of thing really grates on me – and I have to be honest, I bit my tongue for three days but didn’t manage to keep quiet completely!

Each night has been busy since last weekend, with meetings already booked in. And each night we’ve been supporting others with difficulties – some with intensely bad news they are struggling with. While it is an honour and a privilege to serve them it is still hard when you are just plain tired yourself – and some of the issues have been so big it is hard not to be affected by them. I think the fact that we are not sleeping well even though exhausted is a sign that the stress is taking its toll. And this afternoon my daughter had a complete meltdown doing homework that I thought she would actually really enjoy. I found myself almost at explosion point and shouted inwardly to God ‘Not now – don’t throw anything else at me now’.

I left her to it and escaped into my office. And there were another series of tweets about National Marriage Week, which stopped me in my tracks. We absolutely HAVE to make time amongst all the manic-ness, responsibilities and people problems to just chill out, do things together we really enjoy and affirm and encourage one another. Because when tiredness and stress set in, it is always the person closest to you that bears the brunt of it. I know you know this, but I urge those of you that are married to use this week’s timely reminder wisely and let your husband/wife really know why it is that you love them. Use the commercialised, cheesy, annoying day that is Valentine’s Day to do something special – whether you choose to do it on that day or another just make sure you do something in the next week! I’m going to make sure we do…

Is He getting through to you?

I have become uncomfortably aware that God is obviously trying to get through to me, and using any means possible because I haven’t been listening too well recently. Everywhere I’ve looked, through conversations I’ve had – and even in my kids’ toddler bible notes – I’ve been hit with the story of Martha and Mary again, in particular of being too busy to hear God. Throw in some comments on keeping a lid on those careless words that can come out of our mouths so easily and that about sums up the simple, but exceedingly important, message He’s been trying to get me to listen to. A horrific morning with my kids (while my husband enjoyed a church men’s breakfast of course!) really brought things to a head – I found myself screaming at my daughter and then breaking down and I realised the way I handle my kids when they push all my buttons is not healthy in the slightest. After we’d worked through it, I’d said my sorry and they’d apologised for the things they’d done wrong we sat down for a late breakfast and yes, that’s when the Martha/Mary story appeared again. I can find it quite ironic now my writing work has picked up, that I’m writing pieces about spiritual disciplines/prioritising so God isn’t pushed out and yet I’m getting less and less time to spend with Him myself. Surely He’s the source of everything – where all my ideas and creativity should be coming from. And yet… trying to keep up with all the news, online debates and deadlines means He often gets pushed to the back, becoming a spectator in my life rather than the driving force behind it. I am fascinated by some of the really huge debates that people have been grappling with recently – and they have certainly made me think (particularly when I don’t think I have a coherent enough answer in my head for why I don’t agree with some of the postings). But I have this little voice nudging at me every so often, making me realise that to be able to say anything of worth both in these debates and in my writing I need to take a step back and mull things over with God Himself. It is crazy that sometimes I feel like I just don’t have the time to do that – but that’s honestly what has gone through my head at times. This week I read Jill Briscoe’s comments about how hard it was when her kids were young and Stuart was travelling so much – and about how bitter she got. And that resonated with me. Not because my husband is away from home – the positive difference it has made to our family life with him becoming a pastor rather than sticking with his record producing career has been incredible. But I can get fed up and, yes, bitter at times when I see others being able to go to conferences at the drop of a hat, being able to network more than I can yet and also when my husband can just focus on one thing and shut everything else out when my office door always has to be open to our kids whatever deadline I am up against. And yet this is my life, my path – the things I believe God has called me to. So why can’t I learn to stop fretting and trying to do it all in my own strength and spend a little time drawing aside with God so that He can give me the grace – and everything else I need – to do it to the best of my ability?