Why Vicars Should Stay Single.

It’s been a while, so I wrote a little poem for you. I hope it makes you smile.

He walked to the Altar,
His white outfit shining bright.
And said all the right words,
Smiling to the left, then the right.

He loved his congregation,
They were special, just to him.
Mrs Brown from no. 10,
Little Jane and quirky Jim.

It was time for communion,
God’s meal they liked to share.
All was quiet and respectful,
As the people did prepare.

The Wardens got ready,
Stood at the sides and to the back.
Then ushered people forward,
No decorum did they lack.

It was then that it happened.
Why; who could be sure?
His wife’s knickers fell from his surplice
and landed on the floor.

He stared with shock and horror,
At the lacy little pile.
As the people moved closer,
He forced out a tiny smile.

He started to panic,
What action should he take?
His wife’s knickers by the altar,
For Holy Communion’s sake!

He had no time to worry,
The people were in rows.
He crossed himself extravagantly,
reaching from his head down to his toes.

When his hand touched the floor,
He made a grab for the knickers,
And wondered if this had happened,
To any other Vicars.

Now in his hand,
The offending object sat.
And quickly up the steps,
Marched the elderly Miss Platt.

A sip from the cup and ‘Amen’,
she did say.
and with a swipe of said knickers,
He mopped her spit away.

And onto the next one,
to swig from the cup.
Not any of them knowing,
What wiped their spittle up.

Relieved when it was over,
He sat down in his pew.
Then quickly leaning forward,
Stuffed the smalls into his shoe.

No-one did find out,
What had happened on that day.
Only the Vicar and his wife,
knew what had wiped those germs away.

Get a Move On!

I haven’t written for ages as we only moved 10 months ago. Everything is new and that takes up a lot of mental energy! In case you are reading my blog for the first time, here’s a bit of background.
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My husband and I married in 2000 and I went into Primary teaching. We moved to Hertfordshire where Neil studied with Oasis and worked as a church Youth Leader. We enjoyed that for about 4 years and then moved to Worthing, where Neil started a new Youth work job and I lazed about having babies ;). Two years later we moved to a lovely church in Angmering and Neil did some full-time youth work, whilst I continued with the baby thing.

It was in Angmering, where the Vicar began to encourage Neil to think about whether he wanted to develop his ministry in a Vicar-like-way. Together Neil and I nervously explored the thought and it appeared that God may indeed have been nudging Neil in that direction. So, after 4 years in Angmering, we set off to Bristol, with a lot more luggage and three children. Neil studied and I enjoyed Bristol, a whole bunch of new friends and tried my hand at church hopping (A popular past time of the middle classes). Two years later at the end of Neil’s course, we moved to Chichester and Neil started his Curacy. During our time in Chichester we made more wonderful friends and got stuck into the Primary School Community (which was a blast). Curacies are usually only for 3 or 4 years so we knew that there was a time limit. So 4 years later we were off to the world of Vicardom.

Which is where you find us now (hoping never to move again)! We are living in St. Pauls Cray (Greater London) exploring, making new friends and learning a lot.

So, that’s why I haven’t written for so long. When everything is new from the minute you wake up till the moment you fall asleep at night, it is hard to set your mind to anything very much!

I think it feels a bit like your life is a jigsaw (that you have carefully arranged) and that each time you move it’s as if someone has taken it and thrown it up into the air. The pieces scatter all over the place and it’s your task to set about fitting them back together again. However, each time you finish they make a different picture.
Sometimes it feels as if I have only just managed to get the jigsaw to fit together properly when all the pieces fly up into the air again, only to fall muddled.

But, its not just moving that can make you feel like this, it’s any life events, maybe a partner leaving, death or illness. Sometimes we step willingly into the changes and at other times it’s as if someone has upended our jigsaw and taken us by surprise. Neither one is easy, and of course there is no box lid to follow when putting things back together.
You and I are left with the questions: Where do we start? And What will our finished picture be in this place? Sometimes it’s tempting to sweep the pieces into the box and take them down the charity shop isn’t it!

But hang on don’t do that yet as we have a life line. We get to choose whether we include God in putting the puzzle of our lives together or not. I believe that the picture we make with God, will be better than the one we attempt on our own. In all our life changes Neil and I have just prayed and prayed. We have always been aware of our inadequacies and our inabilities to live well (left to our own devices). It’s no different being a Vicar (sorry folks), contrary to some popular belief, church workers are not made differently with better coping strategies than others. We all need a little help… or a lot. 
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The pictures that God has helped us to create from our family jigsaw (in each different place), have been surprising! Sometimes they seem to be made from pieces that I didn’t realise were there. God can transform the ‘us’ that we think we know into the ‘us’ he created us to be.
I wonder what picture will emerge from these funny jigsaw pieces this time? And God would you mind taking over. I hate jigsaws.
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Why I Don’t Want to go to Church!

I should start with an apology as my title is misleading. I do want to go to church, I enjoy church. Of course I’ve had bad experiences of church who hasn’t? No, this title reflects the conversations I often find myself in, when people hear I’m a Christian, or that my husband is a Vicar. They seem to want to explain to me why they don’t go to church.


Maybe it’s just me, but If I were to meet a gymnast, I think its unlikely that I will spend the first few minutes of the conversation giving reasons for my lack of roly polys over the last week. I also don’t think I will be promising to do some next time I have a free weekend. So why do people (upon meeting a Christian) feel the need to give reasons or in some cases an apology for not going to church?

Of course, There are loads of reasons! However, I am intrigued by those who seem to truly want to go, but don’t. Who feel a longing for belonging .
Here are some of the most common reasons I hear and my thoughts in response. So if you want to go to church, but never quite get there, read on.

1. The ‘I am not good enough’ reason: If I walk through those doors then everyone will see right through me and God will strike me down…. right there and then.
Firstly, it’s not God’s style to strike you down right there and then.bad person

Although it would definitely liven up a Sunday morning. Services would become more like X factor, a classic game of risk…who dares enter? Probably none of us!
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If there is a little part of you that really does think you are not worthy, good or holy enough, then let me encourage you to read the second part of the Bible. It’s all about Jesus arriving as a baby and flooding the world with grace! Grace is about getting what we don’t deserve. So if you walk through that church door believing that you will be struck down, it seems to me that Jesus would rather you got a big hug. Just like little old Zacchaeus. A church should be full of a messed up, flawed people who are getting better at saying sorry.
Some of you may have had a bad experience of being ‘corrected’ in a Christian environment, this can leave you feeling that you haven’t made the grade, hurt and misunderstood. You might believe that everyone else is doing it better and that maybe church just isn’t for you. I would challenge this, If this is you then there are a couple of things worth considering:
firstly did you do something wrong? If you did, then maybe you should suck it up! It’s not wrong to challenge people’s behaviour in church. You would think I was loopy if I said that I never corrected my children for fear of putting them off family. Likewise a church community should work like a family and within those caring relationships help each other to live well. That might mean a correction now and again!
But what if you didn’t do something wrong and you still feel punished? This is very hard. I have been in both positions, but this for me was harder to shake off. It’s made clear in the Bible that we should respect authority, so we should do all we can to address the issue and pray about it. It might be right to go back to the person responsible. If you can’t do this then take it to the leaders.
Sometimes though, you are unable to do either of these things and all you can do is pray that God helps you forgive. God forgives us so that we can forgive others. Unlike the parable where the man lets a guy off a huge debt, only for the now ‘debt free’ man to demand payment or punishment from another. We shouldn’t be like the loan sharks, holding all those to account that owe us. We have been let off a huge debt of our own, told that whatever we’ve done it can be forgiven. So as hard as it is, we should aim to forgive one another. Not forgiving someone is often more painful for us than the person in the wrong! Sometimes it helps to talk to someone outside of a situation, feel free to email me if you want.

2. The ‘Christians are all hypocrites’ reason.
The simple answer is: No they are not, but some are! You will find hypocrites in every community of people. I think it’s worth thinking about what you mean when you say this.
Do you mean: that Christians are not good people and do bad things? In which case you are right. As a Christian I absolutely agree, I am not a good person and I do bad things. You may have mis-understood what a Christian is. A Christian is not someone who after asking Jesus to be with them is suddenly magically good (I wish).
A Christian is a person who realises that they can’t go it alone, that they do the wrong thing (a lot) and need a little help.
A church is made up of people with gifts and goodness but also those little character traits that need some work! When I go to church or pray, I bring those flaws and temptations with me and ask God to help me change them.
So, If when you think of church you think of a lot of people that act as though they have got it sorted, life is perfect and they are constantly making good choices, can I encourage you to look again. Those people are not perfect. I think the harder people try to look sorted the more scared they are of failing or making mistakes. When Neil and I go out to a posh restaurant and we feel a bit nervous about fitting in, we dress up and make an effort. However when a very rich person goes to that same restaurant they wear what they like, an old jumper and jeans, if that feels good. They have nothing to prove. They don’t need to dress up as they are secure in that environment. This leaves me wondering, what if when church goer spends a lot of time telling others how good they are or acting in a superior way, what if they feel the opposite? Maybe they don’t feel as secure as you think? Give them a hug.
The only banner over our heads in Church should read Forgiven. So instead of stating ‘all Christians are hypocrites’, why not try: ‘all Christians are Forgiven’ you are not saying we are perfect, just forgiven.
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God extends his gift of grace and forgiveness to all people on earth and it’s in the act of asking for and accepting his forgiveness that we start our own journeys into the Christian faith.

3. The ‘I hate organised religion’ reason.

Oh I love this one, boy! does it make me smile. It’s hilarious to me (and I am sure to many others) that Neil and I are leaders in an organised religion! We are far from organised and pretty chaotic. I know this isn’t quite the point, but its still funny!
Fair enough over the centuries we have made a mess of things, but we have also done some great things as a Church too. If we weren’t a bit organised none of these things would have happened.



4.The ‘My Kids play sport on Sundays’ reason.


Sorry, this is a rubbish reason! If you want to do something you will do it, if you really believed that going to Church was a good thing to do, you would go. Your son will probably not be the next David Beckham, your daughter will probably not represent England with her gymnastic ability, so maybe you don’t have to go to those Sunday meets/games?

Don’t be so panicked about giving your child every opportunity out there. Get a grip! What if church is the best thing for them? Hearing about God? Forgiveness? Grace? Being in a community of different ages/generations? What if learning to get along in community, gaining an extended family is what it’s all about? What if that helps grow their gifts more than that football match?

It’s hard I know, My son loves to play football. He is good at it. But, he can’t go on a Sunday…when he is old enough to be independent maybe he will choose football over church. But, now while he is dependent on us he will come along.

In church he gets to play instruments in the music group, learn about the Bible and Jesus. He gets to brush up on how to live well within community. He gains a whole load of Grannies and Granddads, Aunts and Uncles, Brothers and Sisters. So… he might get a bit bored during his dad’s talks (sorry Neil), but why should life be constantly exciting? And as a teacher I have seen 4 year olds sit through way longer and far more boring assemblies! They can do it, they will gain from it. Don’t use your kids as an excuse not to go. There may not be anyone their age (and there never will be if you don’t go). They have all week at school with kids their age, it’s not urgent! My kids love the adults in our church, they are much kinder to them than we are! They listen to their stories (better than I do), they smile at them, when they arrive in yeti slippers or wielding a light saber (more than I would). They have a few more people on their side, ready to pray for them, ready to care for them than they would if we didn’t go.
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But, O.K, I hear you… I’ll leap off this soap box and agree with you that in some rare cases, you have a child genius on your hands and in which case you will find plenty of churches that offer a 4pm service, a Saturday service or a midweek service to suit your needs. Humph.

So… If one of these four reasons has been on your mind, maybe give Church a try this weekend. Perhaps you will have a pleasant surprise? No fear eh!

The Dengineers CBBC

dengineers title pageThis morning our house was bursting with excitement. We gathered around the T.V, held our breath and waited for the first episode of The Dengineers. Earlier this year my son Ben was picked to take part in a new CBBC show called The Dengineers. This is a brilliant show, where your kid gets to design their dream den and then have it built somewhere special! We were in the middle of moving from Chichester to Orpington and everything was in total upheaval. However, this couldn’t have come at a better time. It helped us all get excited about our new home and gave the kids, especially Ben something amazing to look forward to.
excited Dengineers                                                                                  This is us waiting for The Dengineers to start!

We had a week with the CBBC crew, we met Mark Wright, Lauren Layfield and Steve Backshall. It was super exciting. The crew were amazing, such an fantastic bunch of people. For me the highlight was having a house full of lovely people. I was so impressed with the care, concern and interest they showed us as a family. I thought you might like to see a few behind the scene photo’s. 
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The Dengineers arrived with us in the first week of the school holidays, which was awesome timing. Ben had endured several weeks with no school and no friends and that’s not easy for an extrovert. The crew explained everything really well and treated us all to lunches, fizzy drinks and even lasagne! Mark Wright even chased Barney (our dog) down the road when he escaped (I must admit to that being a bit of a highlight too).

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Did you know that soundmen are not quiet? I always though that they would be constantly listening. The runners worked so hard they totally earned their name as Runners! Most of the crew would make fantastic teachers and were fabulous at relating to children.
We love Lauren Layfield… Millie has a new hero!

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Mark Wright is a lovely guy too. We so enjoyed meeting Steve Backshall, he was really kind to Ben and even though he was on a tight schedule he made time to chat to Ben and show him a weird fungus, a Kite’s dinner and a spiders secret hiding place. 
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We feel so privileged to have met such a lovely bunch of people and we really want to thank you all at CBBC. So, here is Ben’s lego tribute to you all…

20150721_17045520150721_17084020150721_170857Thank you Sege, Phil and Pete for your fantastic
design and build. The Den is awesome!!! 

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Thank you Mel, Jay and Graeme. You guys rock! 

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Thank you Ben for being so sound!

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Thank you Ashley and Lee (and Joe), Ashley for your super painting and Lee, bringer of lasagne! 

And for all you super camera men 🙂 🙂 and Jennifer. We miss you all, feel free to pop back for a visit any day!

And the Den:

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“What an AMAZING experience” Ben (we counted how many times he said amazing on t.v… it was a lot!).
If you would like to watch the episode you can find it here for a few days:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b06qzbl8/the-dengineers-1-survival-den

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Please Don’t Bash The Extrovert

Today I wanted to write about something I am feeling increasingly passionate about. It’s personal to me and has at times led to painful (not to mention awkward) situations. I wanted to write about being an extrovert!  I have read a great many articles on Introversion, which is great as it helps me understand different people. However I felt there was a need to redress the balance.

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A story that my Grandparents would tell about me involves a 2 hour plus car journey. Apparently with them all to myself I talked from the minute I got in the car to the moment we arrived. They didn’t know what had hit them. Growing up, people would often say that I had verbal diarrhoea, that I was a chatterbox and that I didn’t think before I opened my mouth (high praise indeed). These things were all entirely true. I couldn’t deny any of them, so I resorted to chatting my way through them!

Now as an adult I have spent a good many hours filling in personality questionnaires, don’t you just love them? Sometimes I show up as a visionary or I come out as fun to be with, but either way I am always marked down as an extreme extrovert. Usually, I come out so far towards extroversion that I assume it must be a fix! Some days I like being an extrovert and at other times I hate it. I’ll always be the one to put my verbal foot in it, I’ll say what I’m thinking when it might not be appropriate, I’ll look confident when I’m not. People have classed me as arrogant, pushy or over confident. Occasionally they have taken the silly things I have said out loud as being hard wired into my character or core beliefs and gone right off me (when it was probably a bit of nonsense that just slipped out). When I make mistakes I tend to make them publicly and in those moments I feel just as embarrassed as any introvert would. Don’t write off my character because of my personality! As a teenager I would constantly use the phrase “Oh, nothing embarrasses me.” This was a smoke screen for my extrovert mistakes (pretend like you did it on purpose for self-esteem sake) …of course I was embarrassed. I wonder how many extroverts become the class clown.  I don’t think either being either introvert or extrovert makes life easier. I have often read in the Psalms that God knows our thoughts before we think them. So all you introverts out there, you are in just the same trouble as I am.

I don’t remember having a special teacher at school. Sadly, I remember my teachers being annoyed by me. I remember never being chosen, never being allowed to answer a question; for fear that I would take up the whole lesson with my answer. I remember feeling invisible. I remember being abandoned at Alton Towers by the youth group who had had enough of my chat on the coach. Of course all these experiences have helped shaped me and encouraged me to be more sensitive to others. They have also helped me as a teacher to understand the pupil’s better. Those with their hands up all the time (that like to chat) maybe that’s how they learn? Get them to chat about what they are learning. Take time to talk individually with the kids who never raise their hands in whole class time. Make everyone feel valued. Those attention seeking kids, why not give them some attention? Maybe don’t keep making the kid avoiding eye contact answer all the questions! We are all unique. When I was a kid, I was the kind of child that needed to know her place. My eldest son, who is also extremely extrovert, is celebrated much more. I am not sure if this is because he is male or because we value different personalities today. We can lose something important if we only celebrate individuality at the expense of sharing life together. My suggestion is that we don’t glorify any one personality type and instead value all equally. As humans we are made to work in community together, and it would do us good to remember that each character trait and personality type has a valuable place in the jigsaw of life.

As an adult I married a wonderful man who was more introvert than me. He then went on to train to be a vicar. Neil was called to this, God confirmed his calling to both of us and his high levels of integrity and care for others means (in my opinion) that he‘s awesome in this role. However through his career people have said some odd things. Someone once said that he would have got a particular job in church leadership (that he was turned down for) if they’d have met me!? Other people have said that I ought to train to be a vicar.  What? Be careful people, what are you saying? I am sure those people were trying to encourage me, but let’s be careful not to discourage one person to build another up. Surely there is space for us all in leadership.

Maybe it’s time we stopped putting each other down, so that our particular character traits come out on top? Make more of an effort to work as community. I have no intention of training to be a vicar, I don’t believe that my character/personality wholly lends itself to that job. However, I know that God has matched my husband and I together as our characters complement each other. Together with him as Husband/Dad/Vicar, me as Wife/Mother/Teacher; we work together well (even though we do love a good row). Our main mission is to serve God and love people. I am still working all this and am very much a work progress. I can’t be anyone else, God created me uniquely. I need to continue to learn how to serve the people I meet and my community’s with the character and personality I have, whilst also empowering others with the mosaic of differences to do likewise.

Hello High School!

ben first day

So first day back at school for the kids, after a what feels like the ‘Endless Summer’. My version has much less to do with surfboards and sand dunes and far more to do with navigating life with three extremely independent children who are all currently suffering from ‘Post Moving Stress’ syndrome (I made that up, not my fault that someone copied my idea).
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I have decided that this is a condition that can affect anyone after moving house and area. Its symptoms include: Violent outbursts, a dislike of parents (apparently I’m a ‘Nerd’ and have been liked and have been disliked on and off throughout the summer, it’s hard to keep up). Sufferers will also be prone to extreme and frequent changes in character, these can happen suddenly and take you completely by surprise.

I wouldn’t say that it has been a bad summer, we have had some brilliant adventures, it’s just that within those adventures there has been a certain amount of navigation and negotiation happening to keep everyone bright and breezy (where possible).

But today is different. My younger two went back to Primary, new teachers and still relatively fresh friendships. They were nervous and excited. I however, must admit to having a large sense of relief, which was only slightly spoiled by a deep seated fear for their safety and well-being (that I keep telling myself is unreasonable). I mean you don’t generally have shark attacks in an Urban, Outer London playground do you?

Then I dropped my eldest off for his first day at Secondary School (High School for all you Americans, or just my sister-in-law who probably is the only American that reads my blog…at least I hope she does :)). Ben being rather unusual was not nervous. Last night he said to me:

“Mum, I don’t know why people keep asking me if I am scared? Or telling me that I must be nervous. I don’t feel like that, I am just excited.”

I told him that it was because he was weird, but that it was O.K. cause I was weird too. Might not have been good parenting advice, shouldn’t try that at home. I’ll let you know if those words had a lasting effect in 10 years time.

Well, he wasn’t worried and he wasn’t clinging to me for a hug at the gates, he just went merrily off chatting to the first person he saw. People tell me this is great and that I should be proud. I am proud, but I want screaming, clinging hugs and tears. I want him to shred his uniform and beg me not to leave him. Anything to feel wanted eh? So I did what any parent would do, I reminded myself that I was now a free person, I could do what I wanted with the day ahead of me…I could do anything!!! I went to Tesco, to get the food shop.

In Tesco I complimented myself on being a great mum, how confidently I had left him, how certain I was that he would be ok and how I wasn’t like all those other mums wearing dark glasses, staggering away from the school gates, but then I found myself in the small pets aisle. My eyes misted over, I felt dizzy. I was going to cry! In Tesco, I was going to have a full on wailing cry fest! I told myself:

‘Pull yourself together! Buy a Guinea Pig’

BUY A GUINEA PIG? WHAT? Yes, clearly I needed a Guinea Pig, it would be fun wouldn’t it? All the sawdust and little treats, a sweet hutch to decorate, a bow for it’s neck. And then it would leave me,. Yes that Guinea Pig would up and leave, and it might even call me a ‘Nerd’ or prefer the company of others. No I wouldn’t buy that Guinea Pig, ungrateful little thing! Then I saw it… I was experiencing a full on bout of ‘Empty Nest Syndrome’.

I talked myself out of Tesco and went for a Coffee. People feeling unsettled should not be out grocery shopping.

It’s such a funny thing when your kids go back to school. As a parent we suffer from such a mix of emotions. We love them so much and we want the best for them, but we also grow to need their love returned. Kids do return that love in their own way, sometimes in a completely unique way to each other. We need to look out for their love languages and enjoy those moments of affection.

We are also so used to looking out for their safety and well-being that it is hard to entrust that care into another’s hands. Especially when we have experienced times where they have missed out on the care that others should have provided. Today I am going to pray: that God will look after each of my children. I will remind myself  God has my kids in the palms of his hands. I am going to re-read and think on Psalm 139 (Message version, Eugene Peterson):

‘Oh Yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God- you’re breathtaking!
Body and Soul, I am marvellously made!
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watch me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life spread out before you,
the days of my life all prepared,
before I’d even lived one day.’

I figure if God knows us like this and he knows my children like this, then he will look after them each day, that he will know what they need even more than I think I do. Thank you God, that I can give you my big heap of worries and that I know you will step in to help.

To add a little Balance

I love looking at everyone’s holiday snaps on Facebook. The happy faces and hashtags: #sunshinekids, #happydays, #funwiththe family. They are truly great, I post my own happy pics of our adventures and days away. There is nothing wrong with sharing the love, I don’t want to be someone that can’t look at others having a joy filled time, that seems kind of sad. However, I do feel the need to address Facebook’s’ cataloguing of everyone’s best bits by adding a few ‘outtakes’ from time to time. Come on, did you really think their life was all honey and giggles? Did you think mine was?

So here is today, today in the Coleman household…our summer holiday in pictures #shouldhavestayedinbed.

9am: Yes, we have been up for hours, but now we are on a treasure hunt and the prizes are two nintendo DS consoles and one mobile phone and a charger. Sounds generous, I know, but in reality we are hunting these items as they were confiscated yesterday (We have to do this on a daily basis, a family ritual, if you like, because the kids keep finding our hiding spaces and we have to think up new ones). Then of course we can’t remember where we hid them. I guess we could make it into a game, but we mostly throw things about and shout at each other.

10:30am: Finally found consoles, everyone happy… leaves me free to visit the Museum of Laundry. I spend a lot of time here…It gives me a chance to reflect on deep issues like; why I had so many children? Why things always need ironing, however fast you remove them? Why we have so many clothes? and How come there are so many socks? Sometimes I even make decisions, this morning I decided to start my diet too.
IMG_20150817_113600[1]11am: Got bored of dieting. Ate crisps.
IMG_20150817_121011[1]12am: Attempted to remove children from computers, did not go down too well. Had you walked passed the vicarage at that point, I wouldn’t have blamed you for ringing social services. In this case it was actually me that was screaming, I stubbed my toe on one of my children. It wasn’t pretty, no children were hurt, just an adult with a low pain threshold. Sorry.
IMG_20150817_113645[1]1:45pm: In a bid to restore fun into the day, I decided to put up the swings that have been sat rusting in the long grass, since we moved. It’s quite difficult to do this on your own, when you are only 5 ft tall. All I can say is that I’m lucky to still have both my eyes and limbs, those spikes (that are supposed to dig into the ground) have a nasty way with them, and can sneak up from behind when you least expect it.  
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3pm:The kids had some non-screen time. This is what they did:

Lobbed apples up on the flat roof
IMG_20150817_115932[1]Cut up a glow in the dark bracelet, getting some in eyes and mouth
IMG_20150817_134822[1]Spent some relaxing, but enforced time in separate bedrooms. They have spent enough time in there recently to realise that if they sellotape the keyhole shutter up, they can always see if I am outside or not. Humph.
IMG_20150817_120145[1]Meanwhile I partially unpacked the dishwasher.
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5pm: I spent 2 hours applying for my sons bus/train pass. That was fun.

5:30pm: Broke water jug after throwing it (accidentally) at dog who had run off with my shoes. I was just trying to splash him a little. He is fine, jug is not.
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6:30pm: Everyone sent to bed for general bad behaviour. Today Coffee has been my friend.
IMG_20150817_143121[1]So I hope that addresses the balance a little, hopefully tomorrow will be ‘best day ever’ (that I keep hearing about) :). Maybe it’s more about celebrating the joy filled moments or windows of bliss, than expecting the extravagance of a whole day of fun. Today I celebrate coffee, crisps and bedtime. 

How To Queue Like a Proper Christian at New Wine

So I have just enjoyed a week at New Wine United. The summer Christian festival hosts over 24,000 people over two weeks. People come together from all over the UK for some teaching and worship – here is a link if you are interested: New Wine United

I love New Wine United, it’s brill, full of good things from God. It’s a chance to gain confidence in yourself and your Christian life and grow your faith. Imagine the scene, over 10,000 people of all ages in tents or caravans, camping out on Bath and Wells Showground…being nice to each other all week, learning about God and thinking happy thoughts. I think that sometimes to grow in faith you need a few faith-stretching situations, where life is a little less comfortable and I am grateful to New Wine for providing this, in the form of queues. Queues for all sorts of things, portable loo’s and showers, coffee, cake and even donkey rides. There is nothing like queueing for a shower at 6am with a whole bunch of Christians to give your faith a good stretch.

Now, there are two things I feel I need in the morning: coffee and a shower. I am not prepared to compromise on those things, even in the most basic of settings. So I would get up each morning, grab my stuff and make a mad dash for the showers. As you leave the tent, even from a long way off you can see others heading in the same direction, towels in hand and a look of grim determination stretched across their faces. Your eyes meet, both of you speed up. You glance frantically ahead, analysing their time of arrival and comparing it to your own. You leave the road, cut across the grass… you’re doing it, you are going to beat them. You arrive second in line at the same time, then it dawns on you: You are at a Christian camp. You can see that they are realising the same thing. You look at each other, smile (which is difficult at 6am) and the conversation goes something like this-

“Ah! You go first.”

“No, please you.”

“No after you, I really don’t deserve to be second in line.”

“No you really do, Jesus loves you, you are special, go first.”

“But aren’t the first last and the last first? You go?”

“No you, God has given me a heart to serve the people, after you.”

At this point a 3rd person arrives and takes the second place, assuming you are enjoying a nice chat on the grass. Disgruntled you take 3rd and 4th places and decide that being a servant is overrated.

So, now you are in the Queue and I would like to remind you about Christian queuing etiquette.This is not O.K-

  • If you are some way back in the queue, to say loudly “Has anyone actually checked to see if the showers are all taken?” That is rude.
  • If you are some way back in the queue after saying that last sentence loudly, stepping out of the queue and checking each shower door to see if they are empty. This is also rude.

What you are really saying to the four people in front of you is-

“I have an issue with trust, I am not sure that you lot look very bright and think that you may not have thought to check the cubicles before queuing. I think rather a lot of my own judgement and have an extraordinary ability to take charge in tricky or perhaps most situations.”

However, I will admit that I was part of a lengthy queue for the loo in the market place on Tuesday, where it turned out that we were all queueing for one loo. When the other 6 were free. On reflection I felt that the blame lay squarely on the shoulders of the first person who should have pointed out that she was not the beginning of a queue, but was merely waltzing in and out. Whoever she was.

  •  It is not O.K. to save 15 spaces in the queue for friends and family. I will never get back the hour I queued for that Donkey ride. As much as I loved to see your children, one after another, after another, after another, bouncing up and down on the back of that donkey… my faith was stretched.
  • It is not O.K to queue for showers in a towel. Enough said.

Now another essential queue you might want to get to grips with is the Main Arena, Coffee Labyrinth. This works brilliantly in theory. Thank goodness for the truly lovely and patient coffee makers that served here. We love you, you kept us going!

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On the whole, I love a good queue. A chance to meet a new person, crack some queue related jokes and have a giggle. However there are times when you know that Jesus’ love and grace is not flowing out of you. That a queue may not bring out your best side or that your anxiety about getting a caffeine fix overrides your ‘I might need the loo at any moment’ concerns. So, for that I bring you a ‘How to not queue at New Wine’ checklist-

  • Shower at 3am or 3pm.
  • Make your coffee at the tent and take it with you.
  • Never use the loo’s outside the Main Arena.

Unfortunately I am unable to manage the third point, as I have the smallest bladder in the world. I know that I will need the loo at some point during the Main Arena Celebrations. I have a choice, either queue for 40 mins before it starts (therefore giving up all hope of a good seat and coffee) or go at some point during the celebration. The problem with this, is that I do not like missing out. I don’t want to miss the singing at the beginning (love it). I don’t want to miss the talk (might miss the bit for me). I don’t want to miss the prayer ministry at the end (I might get to pray for someone or be prayed for).

So I have developed a plan… Go straight in, get coffee and seat. Then enjoy singing. When the band trade the feet stomping,crowd jumping, fist pumping songs for the more reflective, quieter songs, I know that a) They are winding us down to be good listeners for the talk and b) They will not do any prayer ministry (as they leave that to the end). This is my moment people! As all around me stand with hands out, eyes shut I begin to barge past.”Excuse me, sorry, excuse me…sorry, I am such a pain” etcI get out, get to loo and get back in all before the crowd have sat down. Nicely done I feel. Therefore I get to enjoy the talk and don’t have to pray for people after shaking with a lack of bladder control that could be mistaken for other things.

I recommend that you give New Wine United a try, it’s worth all the queues!

An Easter thank you (from the Vicars Wife)…

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Dear All,

The Right Reverend Richard and I want to thank you again for all the effort, thought and time that you put into this Easter’s celebrations. I can still recall that first meeting when, as a whole benefice we decided that we would make this Easter special and pull out all the stops, and after four hours of lively debate we certainly had the plan to end all plans. Now it is all done and dusted Richard and I would like you to know how proud and grateful we are, as a family, to be a part of such a lively parish. Now we all need a good rest.

Thank you to the good people of St. Arthritis who held their first ever outdoor Passion Play. This was truly wonderful! To see Jesus’ story played out in front of our eyes like that, and to walk about with the cast, made it all amazingly real. I think that’s why Barbara became so incensed and attacked Judas (Reg) with such violence, who would have thought that at 90 she had such strength? ‘Fighting fit’ as they say! You will be glad to know that Reg is doing well and says that it gave him a very authentic experience.

I was so pleased that the church of St. Paul the Possible joined together with the church of Our Lady Mary of the Leftovers and held a ‘Stations of The Cross’ exhibition. What a wonderful example of Parishioners working together. The Nifty Knitters did a fantastic job of depicting the whole 14 stations in wool, I especially liked the one entitled: ‘Veronica’s Face Wiping’.

Thanks also must go to St Thomas the Lesser who were able (with the aid of Ernie, our resident Electrician) to set up a cinema in the small hall and yes, next time clarification of the rating would be helpful (I also thought that ‘R’ rating stood for Religious). I am sorry that Gladys threw up over the P.A system during the vivid depiction of Jesus’ suffering. She says that it might have been the Maundy Thursday Indian Takeaway, rather than the movie, but we were all glad that Ernie has a toothbrush for every occasion and saved the day.

Well done indeed to St. Titus in The Field for their Easter Sunday service where the music group were on top form. They were full of joy and we really did get a glimpse of eternity after singing ‘Give thanks’ so many times over. Our pianist Mrs West did confess afterwards that she had not played the song before, and wasn’t sure where to end it, she had noticed some disturbance but had thought that the Reverend Richard was singing in harmony when he kept repeating a low ‘Give Thanks’ whilst she soared to the higher notes of ‘And Now…’.  Please Lionel, you really mustn’t beat yourself up about the typing error in the liturgy. We were all very glad that Chris had risen, he had risen indeed. He usually sleeps in till at least 11:30 am.

St Agnes the Available outdid themselves with their ‘Messy Easter Eggstravaganza’! Jeremy (our shared youth pastor) has apologised profusely to the families of the children who fell into the graves during the Easter Egg Hunt. He had only briefly borrowed the rope (that cordoned off the subsided graves) for the egg and spoon race and had intended to put it straight back.

Well that brings our letter to a close. You are truly a wonderful bunch and this Easter has been Eggstravagant!

Yours faithfully and with six buckets of Christian Love (one for each congregation),

The Mrs Right Reverend Richard x

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Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?

“Do you wanna build a Snowman?”

“No, no I don’t”

“How about a knitted doll? Beaded necklace? Pom-Pom Panda? Woolly purse?”

Yes, I am talking CRAFT KITS! The dreaded craft kits. Of course they look very appealing sat there all colourful and innocent on the supermarket shelves. Drawing you in with their promise of wholesome fun and quality family time. The pictures on the boxes of beaming children and proud parents. But this is a lie people, these craft kits signify the end of family unity. They do not deliver on their promise of homespun creations, unless you re-define the word creation.
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Now, I love craft. I completed an Art degree, once I wrote an essay entitled ‘What is Art?’ (it was inconclusive) but, I can tell you these craft kits are not Art. They are a form of torture created by evil psychopaths to test the family unit. If you survive one of their making experiences you are indeed a strong family and should probably receive the Victoria Cross for bravery.

You’ve all been there I’m sure, the enthusiastic child runs towards you clutching a brightly coloured box yelling “Can we make this?” It all happens in slow motion, your stomach drops, you turn, knowing you have seconds, if that. Seconds to get to that box, to divert the child, to guide the family to safety. But, your feet are stuck to the ground, nothing seems to work, your hands stretched out in front of you. Just as a strangled “Nooooooo!” escapes from your lips the box is ripped in half and thousands upon thousands of tiny beads fly out in all directions. You spend the rest of the afternoon picking up beads from the most unlikely places, whilst punishing your child for their enthusiasm. This is before you have even sat down and tried to begin the craft.

My daughter and I have attempted many of these ‘projects’. It’s when you realise that all excuses have run out and you cannot escape the activity, you sit down together. For a while you stare despairingly at the various components, whilst your independent, determined daughter reads the instructions.
IMG_20150221_135108At some point it becomes apparent she’s been attempting to read the Chinese version and you struggle to prise them from her. Now in charge, you begin to allocate the work:

“Now I had better do this, then perhaps if you do this… oh wait, no I better do this bit. How about you do this? Oh you can’t…well you watch for a minute and then you can do this bit. You don’t want to watch? Yes, alright you go off and watch T.V and then I’ll call you back when I find something you can do.”

Believe it or not this is the best case scenario. You end up completing the project on your own and your child joins in by sticking the eyes on. O.K, it doesn’t look like the one on the box but you have used all the parts and no one is crying.

If your child does not allow this approach you will have to expect a certain blood bath. PVA glue everywhere, children stuck to the table. Paint that doesn’t paint, glue that doesn’t stick, paper that dissolves in your hands, beads with no holes and paintbrushes with only one hair. For three hours you have held that rope doll together, so the glue will dry and it still hasn’t stuck. Your child almost certainly believes that you are to blame for the disaster.
“It looks alright on the box! What have you done to it mummy?”
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At Christmas we sat down with my mum to make the paper chains with Millie. We ripped most of them up whilst trying to separate them. Then they wouldn’t stick. We ended up sellotaping them within an inch of their lives whilst Millie looked on in disgust. Sellotape, the saviour of all craft projects. That was until I discovered Duct tape. I love Duct tape. I was also thinking of exchanging PVA glue for a nail gun next time. What do you think?

Then a few days ago we attempted a knitting kit. Firstly, I had a go. I gave up after 6 attempts at reading the instructions and completely messing it up. My Uncle came over and unpicked my work, reckoning that simply reading the instructions carefully would enable a good product. After a few attempts he also declared it was futile.
IMG_20150219_114853 Millie retrieved the knitting from us and took it over to my Gran, who was wearing a jumper she had knitted herself, and asked for help. Gran took the work and then after a couple of minutes explained that the light was bad and she couldn’t even see the thing. It now sits like a tribute to our stupidity in my craft graveyard, It’s a lonely cupboard where my craft goes to die.

If by some piece of luck or sheer willpower you manage to finish one of these projects you are rewarded by having to display the horrific gargoyle for weeks on end. Eyes that have slipped down the face, squashed body parts stuck on at uneven angles. A nasty combination of colours that would offend even the most colour blind of people. It sits there as a reminder of the arguments, the tears, heartache and broken promises. After a few weeks you throw the thing away, when the kids are at school and are left with that horrible feeling that you just destroyed/discarded a piece of your child’s imagination.
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So I am sorry if I have ever bought one of these kits for your child and you to enjoy. It was an innocent mistake that I will not make again. If you want to make something with your kids then my suggestion is that you throw down a whole load of paper, stickers, cardboard and a large roll of duct tape and leave them to it. Then the next time you are in the store and you see those boxes and are wooed by the promise of innocent fun for you and your child. Walk away. Do not build that snowman!

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