2014 – Come on, be a goodun’!

The end of 2013 wasn’t super easy for me.  I had started potty training Miriam in October and soon discovered I was expecting baby number 2 (due some time towards the end of June 2014).  Morning sickness and poopy knickers DO NOT mix well.  In November I completely lost my voice for about 2 weeks, finally giving in and going to the doctors it turns out I had some kind of larynx infection (as far as I could work out).  Four different medicines later my voice started to reappear and some energy returned.  A tough 2 weeks for a language teacher and I was forced to take a week off which meant no income that week.  Finally, Miriam got THE sick bug that seems to be going around the world, the week before Christmas.  Thankfully it only lasted about 48 hours and by the end of the week Roger and I thought we had escaped.  WRONG!  The day after we arrived safe and sound at my in-laws for a relaxing family Christmas the bug ‘got me’.  I managed a small plate of Christmas dinner by which time Roger had been ‘got’.  So we are now home in France recovering from Christmas and trying to put on a bit of weight (not many people can say that after Christmas).

As a family unit the last few months of 2013 were tough.  The honeymoon period, the excitement of being somewhere new, the new experiences, had all worn off by October and we were all missing the familiarity of the UK.  We miss our families, we miss our friends, we miss coffee shops, we miss just not feeling like a foreigner all the time.  Finally, and with this I’ll stop the POMing (Poor Old Me-ing) we are facing constant administrative battles with the French authorities which is rather tedious and tiring especially for Roger as he is having to find time between work and home to go and sort it out.  Moving to another country is not easy.

Harumph!  Ok ok enough of the depressing stuff.

Despite the difficulties we are looking forward to 2014.  Here’s some of my goals, hopes and plans for this year:

  • Really improve my French
  • Have a baby
  • Welcome friends and family to Lille to visit and to live here too
  • Start a small group/community group for the church plant
  • Get some French friends and deepen new friendships already started
  • Roger to start a new job (he’s on the look out)
  • To find something creative to do in the couple of days I have free while Mim is at her child-minder
  • Mim to start school in Sept
  • Meet parents at the school gate and through a baby group or 2
  • Spend more time reading
  • Have a holiday
  • Think about re-training in something (no idea what)
  • Worship and pray more as a family

I think that should keep us going for now.

The Holy Bit

I really like having fun, laughing is one of my favourite past times.  Sometimes life can get a bit too serious for me and I really miss fun and laughter, I’ve definitely felt like this recently.  With one of my work contracts ending recently and having some ‘spare time’ I’ve felt a little unsettled.  However, God has reminded me that life often has seasons.  Some seasons are there to make us stop and reflect, some are there to challenge and mould us, some give us a sense of security and stability, some keep us smiling and laughing.  Psalm 42 has often been my help in spiritually dry seasons:

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.  

My soul is cast down within me; therefore I shall remember you (v5).

By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,

and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life (v8)

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To Belong – from Lydia Jones

Our lovely friends the Jones’ (Kevin, Lydia and their kids, Edith, Johan and Barnabus) moved to Helsinki, Finland just a few weeks after we moved to Lille in 2013.  I asked lovely Lydia to share a little of her experiences over the last few months and she has written this beauty of a post below.  Enjoy.

Ahh to belong! To belong is so great, when I was younger I was proud to belong to Invicta Running Club, it was great to be part of a team. I went to Loughborough University, I purchased my Loughborough sweater and tracksuit and suddenly I felt like I belonged.  Often it can be easy to take for granted this sense of belonging. It’s not until we are suddenly in a situation where we don’t belong that we grieve and yearn to belong once more.

Two months ago we moved to Finland. During my last few weeks in Canterbury I was a bit of an emotional wreck. I couldn’t bare the thought of saying goodbye to such precious people, to no longer directly be an everyday part of our church community or belong to them. I wasn’t quite sure how we would cope without being with them.

When you move to a new country it can sometimes feel like all of the signs, letters, labels have deliberately been put into this different language just to constantly remind you that you don’t quite belong here. Helsinki1There have been times that I have tried to learn bits of Finnish to try and fit in a bit more, I look up a phrase in my not-so-faithful phrase book and then nervously try to sound as Finnish as I possibly can, only to find people shaking their heads saying ‘no we don’t say that here – that’s too formal’. Things like the traffic and road system feel different to what we are familiar with, does the zebra crossing mean I stop or keep driving?! One day I went to a supermarket to buy some cream, I hadn’t looked up the word, I thought it would just be obvious, but suddenly there were 20 pots jumping up and down on the shelf in front of me all looking very much like cream, I couldn’t even start to decipher which one was the type of cream I was looking for. I resorted to asking the lady next to me if she speaks English and once again felt reminded I don’t quite belong here in this Finnish supermarket! I moved round the corner to the cheese aisle and there before me was English Seriously Strong mature Cheddar! So I do what all us Brits normally do when we see English mature cheddar – I burst into tears because it reminded me of home. Home where shopping was easy, cream was easily found and I knew whether to stop or not if I saw a zebra crossing!

When I was growing up I was the youngest of four sisters. Gradually each sister moved away to university or got married. Each time I really struggled, it rocked my sense of security, familiarity and identity. Coming to Finland I was so nervous that this was what we were walking in to. I was expecting to feel like a child whose brothers and sisters had been taken from them. I’m thrilled to say it hasn’t worked out like that!

tough road signBeing here, 1356 miles away, and still sensing that we are a part of The City Church Canterbury and its apostolic group, Relational Mission, has been breathtaking. It has been so wonderful to have people’s support, kindness, encouragement and love, through letters, emails, twitterwoos, skype and facetime chats, even people visiting in real life that we could smell and touch! To know that in spite of the distance we are not going on this adventure alone but with God and with our brothers and sisters is amazing. It’s felt great to know that we still belong, and this is talked about in Romans 12:5 where it says:

so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

I’m obviously a bit slow but it has taken me to move to Finland to more truly grasp the treasure that Jesus won for us on the cross, that He saved us to Himself but also that He saved us into His family and we are adopted into that family and to one another.

It is such a privilege to belong to God and His family. When we experience that sense of belonging, we can sense that with God and with His people alongside us through genuine relationship and support, we can go anywhere and do anything He wants us to do. So ‘just do it’, those things that God has laid on your heart but you feel scared of doing because you might be alone, you are not alone, you have God and you have His people, they might even jump aboard and just do it too!

Jones Family

Home is where the heart is

We’ve just landed back on French soil after a wonderful week seeing lots of family followed by a week to recuperate in Norfolk after seeing said family.

It was busy but so so good.  Lots of special memories created.  Here are the highlights:

  • Trip to Bruges (only 45 mins away from Lille)
  • Dinner, coffee and lunch with special friends in Canters
  • Meeting our wonderful nephew for the first time (he lives in Japan)
  • Meals, coffees, cups of tea, good wine, games, chats, prayers, walks, songs and so so much fun with mums, dads, sisters, brothers, in-laws, uncles, aunties and cousins
  • Playing Sardines with nephews and nieces
  • Crazy weekend in London for sister-in-law-to-be’s ‘hen don’t’
  • Holiday at ‘Cressy’, Burnham Overy Staithe
  • Time to read
  • Fish and Chips at Wells-next-the Sea
  • Walks to the creek at sunset

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Needless to say we had a wonderful few weeks holiday and didn’t want to leave.

It’s hard to describe the emotions but our lovely house in Mouvaux, Lille isn’t quite home yet.  All our belongings are here but our hearts aren’t quite yet.  “I don’t want to go back” I admitted to Rog in the car as we journeyed home, his reply was a HUGE comfort “neither do I” he said.  Phew, I’m not the only one. We considered pulling up to our wonderful house in Canterbury and telling our friend who now lives there it has all been a mistake and we’d like our home back now thank you very much, out you go buddy. But as neither of us have jobs in the UK anymore we figured we’d just go straight to Folkstone have a KFC and be on our way with our sad little faces and hearts.

Amazingly though as the ‘Tunnel sous la Manche’ pulled out into a darkening, flat, industrial, let’s be honest, rather ugly northern France my heart was glad.  Not an “I’m home” kind of gladness, but a peace nonetheless. “It’s gonna be ok” my heart said. What a relief.

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If home is where the heart is we are currently homeless, gypsy-esque, heart-wanderers.  Or, as a friend said to me today I could look at it rather more optimistically and say that my heart is in two places. It’s a bit like those necklaces you had as a kid that you shared with a best friend to remind each other that you were besties forever.  Right now one half is in Canterbury and the other is in Lille.  My heart and home are finding their way through the emotions.  I don’t know if they’ll ever truly settle in Lille but that doesn’t mean it won’t be home and I can’t love it.

The Holy Bit

I guess Jesus must have known a heart/homeless-ness, I mean He left the most beautiful city that ever will exist to come to this funny little planet where He was poor, hated and eventually killed.  Our small move across a little pond seems rather insignificant in comparison.  Thank God that when we put our trust in Him we can have peace, hope and a home for our hearts.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” Jer 29v11

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” Prov 3v5-6

 

The Godparent…capital G

It hasn’t been my intention to write a blog like the one below but bear with me on this one. It’s just some ponderings on recent events and thankfulness for some special people in my life.

G baby

A few months after I was born I was christened in the Anglican Church.  My parents chose 3 Godparents, as is customary for a daughter, one Godfather and two Godmothers.

          For every child to be baptized there shall be not           fewer than three godparents, of whom at least           two shall be of the same sex as the child and             of whom at least one shall be of the opposite             sex…The godparents shall be persons who have           been baptized and confirmed and will faithfully           fulfil their responsibilities both by their care for           the child committed to their charge and by the           example of their own godly living. (Church of              England Book of Common Prayer, 1662)

My Godfather didn’t play much of an active role in my life but my two Godmothers were amazing.  Both Claire and Jackie knew and lived for Jesus, were active in their local churches and I know prayed for me regularly.

Although I didn’t live near these ladies, Claire lived in Wales and Jackie in Scotland, they were actively involved in my life.  As a child this meant remembering me at Christmas and birthdays and as I got older, it was in the regular letters and occasional phone calls supporting and encouraging me.  I know I’ll never fully know the power of their prayers for me.  These women took their God-parenting role seriously, capital G!

Here’s a short excerpt of the baptism/christening service from the C of E book of Common Worship: Baptism and Confirmation, 2000:

  Parents and godparents, the Church receives these children with joy.
          Today we are trusting God for their growth in faith.
          Will you pray for them, 
          draw them by your example into the community of faith 
          and walk with them in the way of Christ?
          With the help of God, we will.
          In baptism these children begin their journey in faith.

          You speak for them today.
          Will you care for them,
          and help them to take their place
          within the life and worship of Christ’s Church?
          With the help of God, we will.

For many I think the act of christening your child is just a tradition or perhaps a superstition. For example one lady I worked with once told me that she had her children christened so that they had a name in heaven (?!). No idea where she got that from.  For others it’s a promise before God and others to live their lives as parents and Godparents in a way that shows Jesus to the child.  We haven’t christened/baptised Miriam as we believe this is something she should decide herself when she is old enough to understand the wonder of full-immersion baptism in response to her own personal commitment of faith in Jesus.  However, we have publically dedicated her to Jesus, promising to raise her as the Bible instructs us, love and pray for her.  Mim also has four wonderful Godparents, capital G!  Men and women who love Jesus, are involved in their churches and whose lives are living examples of how imperfect they are yet how perfect Jesus is.

I have been so blessed by two wonderful women, who 30 years ago promised to pray for me, be an example of those who are in God’s community, walked with me in Jesus’ footsteps, cared for me and encouraged me to find my place in Jesus’ beautiful bride, the Church.  I can safely say that although they weren’t perfect, they took this promise seriously, lived their lives for their God and were huge examples to me in their lives and in their deaths.

About two weeks ago Jackie went to enjoy eternity with her Saviour, joining Claire who passed away while I was at university.  What a grace to know that I will see them again.

Thanks ladies.  Enjoy eternity and I’ll be seeing you!