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.