International Women’s Day 2022

She sat at the back and they said she was shy,
She led from the front and they hated her pride,
They asked her advice and then questioned her guidance,
They branded her loud, then were shocked by her silence.

When she shared no ambition they said it was sad,
So she told them her dreams and they said she was mad.
They told her they’d listen, then covered their ears,
And gave her a hug while they laughed at her fears.

And she listened to all of it thinking she should
Be the girl they older to be, best as she could.
But one day she asked what was best for herself,
Instead of trying to please everyone else…

So she walked through the forest and stood with the trees,
She heard the wind whisper and dance with the leaves.
She spoke to the willow, the elm and the pine,
And she told them what she’d been told time after time.

She told them she felt she was never enough,
She was either too little or far far too much,
Too loud or too quiet, too fierce or too weak,
Too wise or too foolish, too bold or too meek.

Then she found a small clearing surrounded by firs,
And she stopped…
And she heard what the trees said to her,
And she sat there for hours not wanting to leave,
For the forest said nothing.

It just let her breathe.

Unknown Author.

Never Enough

There are just three words I want to say to you today. Three words I want you to hear today.

Love is everything.

Love. Is. Everything.

In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul writes of the indispensability of love and all of its character. It is patient, kind, slow to anger, not self-seeking, rejoices with the truth. It protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres. It does not keep a record of wrongs, nor shame others. It is not proud or boastful. It is everything. 

Often read at weddings, this passage has a lot to say about love. But why did Paul choose to teach the Corinthians about it? Why was it so essential for him to impress upon them the greatness of love?

At the time of writing, the church in Corinth were falling out over which spiritual gifts were the greatest, experiencing disunity and jealousy, amongst many other things. The context of this particular chapter is that it comes immediately after Paul tells the Corinthians (in Chapter 12) that no one person amongst them is vital. Yes, there are those with prominent gifts, such as prophesy, teaching, healing and interpreting, but the whole church, the body of Christ, is one body with many parts. And Paul writes that all those parts suffer with one another, whilst equally rejoicing with one another. They are one body.

And so, Paul’s focus on love in 1 Corinthians 13 makes sense. You could be the greatest at prophesying but, if you do not have love, it is nothing. You could have a real gift for preaching but, without love, it is nothing. You could have everything that is outwardly good and seen as special but, without love, it is nothing. Whilst all that you’re fighting about will cease to exist, writes Paul, love will never fail. Love will always exist. In fact, we see in verse 10 that love is completeness. Paul builds his argument that the “most excellent way” is love: when we are fully grown, when we are complete, love will be everything. You won’t need to worry about who is preaching and who is not, who is prophesying, and who is not, because love will suffice in its entirety. 

Love is everything.

I wonder if you’ve seen the film The Greatest Showman. In the box office it had great success and has become one of the highest grossing musicals of all time. Friends of mine, who are quick to state their dislike of musicals, rave about it; but on the face of it, it seems shallow and is only very loosely based on the main character P.T. Barnum’s life. And yet, the music, oh how the music explodes onto the screen and tells us of deeper truths which lie within all of us. I am certain that stirring of emotions from within is the catalyst for the film’s success.

‘What does all of this have to do with God’s word? What does this have to do with love?’ I hear you ask. Well, when I am in the very early stages of preparing to preach, I like to run and mull things over in my head. Sometimes I might mutter along to myself, phrasing and rephrasing things which occur to me about the passage. And sometimes, I have a sudden moment of inspiration. These moments tend to come from nowhere; they feel almost like a sucker punch, and they’re usually at the point in the run when I am struggling along, and my thoughts are turning to survival. It’s almost as though, when I am physically empty, the Lord is there with me to fill me up spiritually. It was at this point the other afternoon when the song ‘Never Enough’ came onto my shuffle playlist; it was at this point I felt winded and yet had clarity; it was at this point that I burst into tears.

You see, the words woven through this melody have power. This wasn’t the first time this particular song made me cry: both my husband and I were moved to tears, when we watched the film for the first time. The lyrics reminded me of how I feel God working in my life. This idea that nothing in life could ever be enough, without Him. Nevertheless, here I was, several months later, crying because God had revealed something different.

‘All the shine of a thousand spotlights, all the stars we steal from the night sky, will never be enough, never be enough. Towers of gold are still too little, these hands could hold the world, but it’ll never be enough, never be enough for me.’

God does not need the shine of a thousand spotlights, He already holds the world in His hands. Indeed, He does not need to steal the stars from the night sky; they are His already. And yet, He chooses to say, ‘I am not done.’ He chooses to send His most beloved Son to live on earth, be crucified and then rise again. Why? Just so we can encounter Him. Just so creation can be restored. Just so we can take His hand and share in His story. (In fact, the songs says this… “take my hand, will you share this with me? Because darling without you… it will never be enough.” This is the most extravagant and overwhelming display of love in all of history.

The song, according to its writers, is supposed to feel exactly like that: Extravagant. Overwhelming. They wanted to conjure up the image of ‘someone in a castle trying to count all of their riches and it still doesn’t add up to enough. It’s kind of that moment where someone isn’t really satisfied.’ And that was what came to mind when I was mulling over 1 Corinthians 13 on a long 6-mile run. 

God’s love for us is so extravagant, so rich, so complete, that He could not leave us and creation after the fall. All that we read about love in 1 Corinthians 13 is part of God’s character because He is love. God is patient, and kind. He does not envy, he does not boast, he is not proud. God does not dishonour others, nor is He self-seeking, nor easily angered, and He keeps no record of wrongs. God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. God always protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres. God never fails. He is complete and whole.

Yet, He chose to say, “It is not enough.” His love is so complete that, despite our lack of whole-ness, He chose us. He chooses us. He chooses the impatient mother. The unkind classmate. The envious, boastful social media influencers. The proud and self-praising boss. The bully who humiliates. The angry teenager. The couple who bring up old grievances in new fights. The colleague who feels good when other people get their ‘comeuppance’. The teacher who fails to protect. The colleague you can’t trust. The friend who never sees the light at the end of the tunnel. The student dropout, who just can’t persevere. 

We all know these people. We are these people. And God loves us anyway. It’s written throughout scripture, from Genesis through to Revelation. In John 3: 16 it says, ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ As we think about how God loves us that much, that He would rather send His son to die in our place, than live eternally without us, it may be that you recognised one of those character traits in your life. How does your record of wrong doing affect your relationships? What does always being hopeful look like in your life? How is love hindered by your lack of generosity to those who wrong you?

For me, I struggle with patience. I have a 3-year-old and it often feels like Groundhog Day as we spend yet another 90 minutes eating cereal or toast or pasta. How can it take so long to eat a simple meal? Yet, the impact that has on my relationship with her is negative. It creates tension, rather than peace; friction, rather than happiness; sadness, rather than joy. It is something I am working on at the moment and it is hard work, as I sit with her and find endless new ways to keep smiling whilst I wait for her to swallow her food. Yet, if God can look at my poor track record in my journey with Him, and show love in His patience with me, I can surely try to do the same with my toddler.

What is it in your life which is stopping you from showing love? God looks at us and says, ‘It will never be enough.’ So why is it enough for us to say we love, yet to withhold it in myriad ways offered in 1 Corinthians 13. What would our relationships look like if we applied ourselves in these areas? How could our communities be restored if our love looked like God’s love?

Love is everything.

Let’s do it right.

Whenever, Wherever

“Whenever, wherever, we’re meant to be together; I’ll be there and you’ll be near and that’s the deal my dear.”

I woke up with this song in my head, yet I’ve not listened to it for years. In fact, the last time I heard it was probably June 2013 when I was singing it at a Karaoke bar in Heidelberg, Germany. Anyway, the lyrics grabbed me this morning.

That line from the chorus is a paraphrase of Psalm 139, except this time it’s God speaking.

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”

These words from this psalm were of great comfort to me when I was at my lowest after my daughter was born in 2016. Each time I felt myself plunging into the darkness, when paranoid fears overtook me and the loneliness set in, it was this psalm that would pull me back.

I felt utterly helpless, useless, abandoned. And oh so alone. Always so alone. Even in a busy room of people, alone. Until this psalm found me. And oh did I weep. Suddenly, I was reminded that even on the darkest day, God’s Spirit was with me as a light, a guide, a safety net.

Psalm 139 is a beautiful image of our relationship with God. He searches us and knows us. In fact, he’s known us since before we were formed, when we were being knitted together. And he is always with us, even when we try to get away. He is one determined pursuer of our attention.

“Whenever, wherever, we’re meant to be together; I’ll be there and you’ll be near, and that’s the deal my dear.” Who knew Shakira was a theologian?

“Looks like we made it, look how we’ve come…”

A slight disclaimer that I love Shania Twain. She was the first popstar that I owned an album of, and I would often listen to songs as an angsty teenager and hope for the love which she sang of in her songs.

I might have even dreamed that, during the musical instrumental right before the bridge, I’d be swept up into my future husband’s arms and kissed passionately. A fairytale moment. Of course. Just like in the book (and film) Princess Diaries, when Mia (the unlikely princess) imagines that when she gets her first kiss her leg will just “pop”.

Well, I never had that leg pop moment. I never got swept into a handsome man’s arms in the emotional climbing of a Shania Twain instrumental. But I did meet a wonderful, passionate and kind young man. And he opened my eyes to the way the world is. I mean, I like to think I have always been compassionate. And I really do think I have always wanted to bring light and love into the world. But did I really know about how privilege works in society? Was I aware of how inheritance for some maintains socio-economic disparity? Did I really understand how much easier it is to make mistakes in your life, and then still be successful later down the line, when you have good parents who support you?

Probably not, if I am honest. Many of my closest and oldest friends will know just how much I messed up in my late teens and early twenties. I strongly believe now that if it weren’t for the fact that my parents were endlessly gracious and loving (even when that love looked like they didn’t), I would be living a very different life. A few years ago, I met a couple of young men who had recently been released from a young offenders prison. We had a cup of tea and talked. I asked them their stories and one of them, just 17 years old told me that he’d been imprisoned for dealing and supplying all manner of drugs. So I asked him how he had got into that world.

His reply? That his mum and dad were never really together, and his mum was always drunk, so he went to live with his dad. One day, aged 14, he and his dad had an enormous row and his dad kicked him out. He was homeless, with no idea of what to do or where to go. He made friends with some young men he met one day in the park when sleeping rough. And they made him all kinds of promises, mainly finance, friendship and a place to stay. Unfortunately, this all came at a cost: selling drugs.

He knew that what he had done was wrong. He was incredibly remorseful. I looked him in the eye and told him that yes, it was his fault. He made a choice in that park. But I also told him of how if he had had different parents, he might not have ended up on that park bench at the age of 14. I told him that I screwed up time after time, but that my parents (frustrated as they might have been) never chucked me out. I also told him, and his friend (who had become a Christian in prison, as the result of an Alpha course) of the love of Jesus; that there is a Heavenly Father who will not ever walk out or abandon or let us down. There’s a beautiful verse in Psalm 27, which says this:

Though my father and mother forsake me,

The Lord will receive me.

And so, back in 2012, I met a young man who really got my brain working and thinking about the unseen disempowerment and social inequalities of our society. And 4 years ago today, 26th July 2014, we married in front of our friends and family. It was such a wonderful day, to finally be joined for a lifetime to a man who keeps me on my toes and challenges me.

Happy anniversary, darling. You’re a wonderful father, and a fabulous husband. Here’s to the next 4.

“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:12)

Happy Valentines Day!

Certain things change when you have a baby… your body, your hair, and, perhaps the biggest change, your relationship with your partner. 

Previous years together have been about dressing up, going out and even the odd night away. Now though, it’s 7.45pm and I can hear my husband through the monitor. He is singing to our daughter, to aid her in her sleeping. Oblivious to this, she is chatting to him.

This is pretty typical. We make plans, and then they have to change. It is just the way of parenthood. We went for a meal – a date night – in the autumn, and I made a reservation for 8.15pm. I thought that would leave us plenty of time, as she goes to sleep at 7.30pm. On that night, for whatever reason, she wouldn’t go down, and we made it to the restaurant for 9pm. It was still a wonderful night, with food, drink, chatting and laughter… but it didn’t quite go to plan.

Once you have children, romance changes. Notice I said changes there, not dies. Because it needn’t die. Not at all. If anything, my love for my husband has expanded since our little girl was born. We probably fall out more, due to exhaustion and more mess around the house, but gosh do I love him. And so, we must find a different way to ‘do’ romance: less concrete plans, more flexibility; less dining out, more sofa cuddles.

Ok, so I haven’t exactly got my glad rags on, nor a full face of makeup. But I’ve washed my hair, and set the table for a beautiful 3 course meal. Love might look different, once you’ve had a baby, but it’s just stuff on the outside. On the inside, my heart still beats quickly when my husband winks at me; I still beam with delight when he tells me he loves me; I still long for stolen moments at the end of a long day. The stuff on the inside is still the same, even if the outward appearance has changed.

After all is said and done, it’s the stuff on the inside that’s important. It’s the stuff on the inside we should cling to.

The Last Time

From the moment you hold your baby in your arms,you will never be the same.

You might long for the person you were before, 

When you have freedom and time,

And nothing in particular to worry about.
You will know tiredness like you never knew it before,
And days will run into days that are exactly the same,

Full of feedings and burping,

Nappy changes and crying,

Whining and fighting,

Naps or a lack of naps,

It might seem like a never-ending cycle.
But don’t forget …

There is a last time for everything.

There will come a time when you will feed

your baby for the very last time.

They will fall asleep on you after a long day

And it will be the last time you ever hold your sleeping child.
One day you will carry them on your hip then set them down,

And never pick them up that way again.

You will scrub their hair in the bath one night

And from that day on they will want to bathe alone.

They will hold your hand to cross the road,

Then never reach for it again.

They will creep into your room at midnight for cuddles,

And it will be the last night you ever wake to this.
One afternoon you will sing “the wheels on the bus”

and do all the actions,

Then never sing them that song again.

They will kiss you goodbye at the school gate,

The next day they will ask to walk to the gate alone.

You will read a final bedtime story and wipe your last dirty face.

They will run to you with arms raised for the very last time.
The thing is, you won’t even know it’s the last time

Until there are no more times.

And even then, it will take you a while to realize.
So while you are living in these times,

remember there are only so many of them

and when they are gone, you will yearn for just one more day of them.

For one last time.
-Author Unknown –

Happy Golden Boobies!

That’s it! 12 months and 14 days of breastfeeding. Really though, it’s only 12 months… because it took 2 weeks for it to stop hurting. It took 2 weeks for me not to dread the next feed. It took 2 weeks for me to trust my body.

And what a year it’s been. But now I find myself being asked, “When do you think you’ll stop breastfeeding?” 

The thing is, I don’t know the answer to that. How can I? One lady this week told me, “She doesn’t need you. She’s just addicted to you.” And maybe she is. But, to quote Clark Gabel, “Frankly…I don’t give a damn!” Figuring out how to breastfeed – because, spoiler alert, it doesn’t come naturally – was such hard work in the first place; so tiring, so painful, so terrifying. Why would I give it up now?

Even if I wanted to (which, periodically, I do) I couldn’t. My little darling finds it so comforting, and is just getting used to a cup at the moment. She just wouldn’t get enough liquid without breastfeeding. 

Mainly though, I’m still breastfeeding because I love it. I love the quiet times together, just me and her. I love being certain that she’s getting everything she needs. And  I love that she is having the very thing nature has created for her.

Invitation

Isn’t an invitation wonderful? Come with me. Let’s spend time together. Let’s eat. Dance. Drink. Celebrate. Mourn. Play. Or party.

Whatever the invitation, we can be sure that receiving it is a fabulous thing. It means we have been thought of; that someone wants to spend time with us. Isn’t that wondrous in a world where, despite apparent connectedness through social networking sites, 1 in 10 of us feels lonely often? In fact, Britain was voted the loneliness capital of Europe, by the Office of National Statistics. 

The last 12 months have been lonely for me. I’ve become a mum and, whilst much of it has been wonderful, I have struggled with the lack of business and noise around me, as I had when teaching full-time. Not only that, but we (my husband and I) have had to turn down many invitations either as a couple or as an individual. Many of the things we are invited to are in the evening, so one or both of us has to stay home and look after our little girl. We’ve been so blessed to have had a couple of nights out together, courtesy of good friends babysitting.

That being said, I’ve met lots of wonderful women, their babies and their partners in the past 12 months. I’ve been to birthdays, baptisms, and even have a wedding in the diary. We’ve been for tea and cake at people’s houses, caught up in coffee shops and taken up invitations for bumbling round town.

Invitations may have to be declined, or plans altered to fit in with this new life, but it is good for the soul to think of someone else first. But it doesn’t really matter whether I get to go out or not, because that isn’t necessarily what helps us to feel connected.

It is the imple invitation – knowing you were thought of and wanted, knowing you were included – that has a transformative power. The power to overcome even the most loneliest of feelings.

To feel connected.

To feel loved.

A Time to Remember

Recently a beloved lady from church died, and we mourn for her.

She met my parents over 30 years ago, when they moved to Lancaster for my dad’s curacy in the Church of England. Her husband knew my dad from when he was a young man at church in Blackpool. In fact, the same church where my parents met and were married. 

Over the years they remained in touch and, when I returned to Lancaster for my teacher training, I was connected with a wonderful, prayerful couple who looked out for me and made me feel welcome. When my husband (though he wasn’t at the time) finished the Alpha course and joined a house group, they were a part of it. I have no doubt that they said many prayers for my husband, that he would find his own faith, and for me, that I would grow up to love and serve Jesus as my parents did.

She was a wonderful, God-loving woman, and she is in paradise now. So we remember her in whatever way we can. For us that means dressing Isobel in a cardigan that was a gift for her from this lovely lady. And it means looking through Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course to find something to cook in memory of this woman we loved. The book was a wedding gift to us, in which she wrote a witty remark about it not being just for me, but also for my husband.

This weekend, it will also be in memorium Marjorie.

A Very Merry 1st Christmas

“‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring… not even a mouse…”

And so the famous poem starts. Last Christmas I was very pregnant and, when I left work for the final time, my ex-colleagues put together a bumper baby box for me. In this box was this Christmas book, and so it has sat on my bookshelf for a year… waiting for our baby’s first Christmas.


So the story has been read, and our little girl is tucked up in her bed, ready for her first Christmas Day. Each year at this time we enjoy baked Camembert, good red wine, chocolate and a Christmas film. This year is no different, but with our beautiful addition’s arrival, I thought I’d start a new tradition.

The Christmas Eve Hamper


I am sure that, as our little one gets older, the tradition will evolve to include different items. This year, however, it was more a surprise for my husband. I included: new matching(ish) pyjamas; Santa slippers; Christmas Eve book; white Lindor (hubby’s favourites), and normal Lindor; and a bottle of Merlot.

We enjoyed getting some shots of us in our matching pjs before story and bed time. 


It has been a wonderful year filled with firsts, and new traditions: first smile, first tooth, first holiday and first Christmas. Soon it will be her first birthday and, in time, we will see more firsts and more traditions. For now though, I’m not looking at the future. I’m just going to enjoy the here and now. Because here and now is pretty wonderful!

Merry Christmas!