Monday, 12 March 2012

Mum's the Word 2

This is the second of my series in Salvationist.
It is specifically about my role as a Salvation Army Officer and a mum, so any references to 'Army' are about that!

Mum’s the Word 2

 Tina Turner sang, “When I was a little girl, I had a rag doll”. My song would be similar, but mine was an Army doll. She was dressed in full old-style uniform including a bonnet and she had officer’s trimmings. She had lovely brown hair and I loved her, because I thought she looked like my Mum. As a little girl growing up I used to sit on my Mum’s knee, put my hand up and touch the pips (stars) on her epaulettes, and feel safe. When it comes to being an officer and a Mum, I learnt from the best.

 My story of the challenge of being an officer and a Mum is a very different one now to the start of my officership in 1993. The years tend to give you perspective and the things that used to cause me grief, wouldn’t cause me the same kind of stress any more.

However my main aim was that I never wanted my children to be able to say, “You were always there for everyone else, but not for me.” I also wanted my officer-ship to be an extension of who I am as a woman, a wife, and a mother. Not a separate entity. Psalm 139 speaks of us as being fearfully and wonderfully made. So it makes sense to me that the Creator-God, fashioned me for a reason. I can’t compartmentalise my life. I need to be who God has made me to be wherever I am, and whoever I’m with.

 Adrian Plass wrote “The Real Problem,” after a conversation where his son asked him why it would be like World War 1 in their house on a Sunday morning, then they’d go to church and everything would be sweetness and light, then they’d come home to World War 2.

“But when we get to church at last, it’s really very strange.
‘Cos Mum and Dad stop arguing and suddenly they change.
At church my Mum and Dad are friends, they get on very well.
And no-one knows they’ve had a row, and I’m not going to tell!”

 Sound familiar? The Commodores sang ‘Easy like Sunday morning,’ well they’ve obviously never lived in my house! I suppose the point is not that we’re different when we go to the corps or to the church, because we’re pretending or want to deceive anyone. More that we feel we have responsibilities, or a job to do, so we need to maintain a semblance of normality.

 But what message does that send out to my children if I’m different at home with them, than I am out in the world? Jesus calls us to be salt and light (Matthew 5). Light shows up our own flaws, as well as those who we’re trying to influence. I want to love other people in Jesus’ name, in the same way that I love my husband and children. “Being real” matters to me. I have no desire to be a ‘resounding gong or a clanging cymbal’ (1 Corinthians 13:1).

 I was thinking recently about success. And I decided that I would rather be known for loving people than have the most prestigious appointment in the world. As Father Brian D’Arcy said recently, “I can’t do everything, I can’t be everywhere. I can’t solve every problem in every life for every person who contacts me. I’m not God and I don’t have to pretend I’m some sort of saviour.” I believe that I am who I am, with the family I have, ministering to the people who cross my path, because that’s the way God wants it. And that’s just fine with me.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Mum's the Word 1

I was asked to write a series for Salvationist(the weekly magazine for The Salvation Army in the UK), about my life with my boys.

Here's the first one:

I love being a Mum. I love our times together. But just yesterday, speaking to a friend she said, “Why do we have kids?” She was joking. She loves her daughter. But a crisis had arisen that was causing major hassles for the family. It was taking up time that was already stretched to the limit.

Chris and I have three boys. Ryan is 17, Joel 14 and Nathan 10. Let’s get the sympathy vote over with now. I get it all the time. Yes, I am outnumbered. Yes, I do live with the background of sport constantly on. Yes, a girl would have been lovely. But these three boys/men are the precious gifts that God has given me. And I love it!

I actually like football now. If you can’t beat them, join them. We are a family forever blowing bubbles. We learn a lot about faithfulness and loyalty in our support of West Ham United! (Apart from Ryan who supports Manchester United. We excuse him because he was born in Manchester.)

But the best thing in the world is standing on the sidelines while my sons are on the football pitch. Who knew that shouting encouragement from the side could be so therapeutic? I share the joys of goals scored, and the frustrations of near misses and referees who “don’t know what they’re doing”. I’ve participated in those moments when their head goes down in disappointment, and it’s hard for them to keep going. I witness the agony when injury means they can’t play for months on end, and the elation when they re-join their team for the last game of the season.

And as I stand well behind the white line (Football Association ruling for spectators), I have the privilege of ministry. I believe God sent us to the community of Caterham, not to the existing corps alone. As the parents of the teams my sons play in, we form our own community. We share in the joys of birth, the pain of divorce, and the utter desolation of grief. We laugh, we cry, we pray. If we weren’t the parents of these three amazing boys, we wouldn’t have these God-given opportunities.

I have hopes and dreams for my children that they will be happy, secure and know they are always loved. I pray that God will be a living reality throughout their lives. But my role in their life is very similar to that of a spectator cheering them from the sidelines.

I’ve roared with delight at their successes, bragging rights all mine! I’ve held them when they’ve been disappointed, and shared their sense of injustice when they’re treated poorly. I’ve prayed desperately for the situations they’ve faced. I’ve spurred them on when they’ve felt that everything was against them. I’ve stalked around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour, when someone has hurt them.

And yes, when chronic illness has prevented them from being able to go to school, and participate in anything that required any energy at all, let alone sport, I’ve been alongside them; and I’ve shed many a tear when I thought they weren’t looking. We’ve prayed. Even though they’ve looked at me awkwardly when I’ve suggested it… And I’ve thanked God with all my heart every time they achieved something new, as I remember what they were. My life isn’t all that different to most Mums on the planet.

Kate Duthie writes about motherhood, “No-one told me I should prepare for the most profound love affair of my life. A love that would feel as though my ribs had been cracked open, exposing my heart to every hurt my child felt.”

I love being a Mum, but I’m a Mum who battles with the conflicts every Mum faces. However, in the moments when I don’t know what to do next, I can read Jeremiah 29:11 knowing that the promise is for my husband and my sons as well as for me. “I alone know the plans I have for you, plans to bring you prosperity and not disaster, plans to bring about the future you hope for.”

When Chris and I dedicated our sons to God we didn’t know what the future held. We still don’t thankfully. But we know that the fierce love we have for our children is only a fraction of the love God has for us, and indeed for them. We live in the depth of that love.