Pink & Blue Mummyland

Pink and blue parenting through pink and blue moods….

Identity #2 – Will the Real Me Please Stand Up?

happy birthday facebook!

This week sees eleven years since Facebook graced our screens (happy birthday Facebook!). I’ve found myself wondering how we portray ourselves on Facebook, and what it means when we call people our ‘friends’. I have 383 friends on Facebook. I couldn’t tell you much about most of them, and what I can tell you is only the good stuff. Facebook gives us a chance to show the best of ourselves and hide the worst of ourselves, putting out a completely false impression of who we really are.

Now, I don’t mind this. I don’t think it’s healthy to share every little struggle with 383 people. But it begs an answer to the question: Who are we really? And is it ok to edit what we share with people about who we really are? Do the selves we portray on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, or whatever the in thing is, actually help us build good relationships?

In our small Bible study group last night we were talking about relationships and struggles. One of the quotes interested me; it encouraged us to “create a safe place where others feel valued enough to remove their own masks …truly seeing each other and loving each other anyway.”

Now I’m not claiming that we should air every private thing we deal with on Facebook, but I’m aware that there are many people who are much younger than me, who don’t remember life without Facebook and online relationships. I worry that if this is the example we are setting, we risk having a whole generation of people who don’t know how to relate on a real level, have no place they feel valued enough to remove their masks, and therefore don’t learn to love and be loved, warts and all.

I am blessed to have people with whom I share my deep struggles, and trusted enough have relationships where others share their struggles with me. Some of these are the same people, some aren’t, but all these relationships are based on honesty and valuing the other. And none of these relationships are Facebook based.

So, through Facebook, are we just creating an atmosphere where people feel the need to be fake? And am I exacerbating that by never sharing any of the things I find hard in life? More importantly, does that online habit seep into my real life, taking from my friendships the authenticity of being who we are?

It worries me that we might be encouraging a cycle of only sharing the good stuff, thus making the other people on our news feeds feel they need to do the same. Our real identity becomes our secret identity as we pretend to be something other than we are.

So my question is, how real am I being in different places and with different people? And to what extent am I claiming that the information I choose to share with others is all there is to me?

Which is my secret identity?

Know any of the answers? Please share below. Click here to read Identity #1.

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Identity #1: No One Like Me

I’ve been thinking a lot about identity recently. The question ‘who am I?’ has come up repeatedly over the years, and every time it comes round again I find something I’ve not known before. So, in the spirit of honest blogging, I decided to write down the things I’ve been discovering about who I am and what that means. The first leg of the journey looks at opposites: reminding myself who I’m not.

People have always said to me ‘you’re so like your dad’. I’ve been hearing it for years, from the people who know my family well to those who have only seen the outer picture we present. I find this hard because Dad is an alcoholic, and has behaved very badly towards a lot of people, many many times.

I have now learnt to see that when people compared us, they probably meant ‘like’ him in a good way – my gifts have always been similar to his, even when I’ve been really poorly and unable to use them. In other people’s minds they were probably saying I was good at performing like him, or my sense of humour meant I was funny like him. I probably get my ability to speak in public from him, and I certainly can’t deny that I look like him.

But, in my screwed up little brain, I took it to mean that I was like him on a deeper level, in that secret place we all have and never let anyone see. My hidden dread was that there was some flaw in me, just like the one I saw in him, and that some day I’d lose control and all the things I hated would spew out. Somewhere, there’s a crack in my soul, just like my father, and one of these days, no matter how fast I run, it’ll catch up with me.

Listen closely now, because here’s the lesson it’s taken me fifteen odd years to learn: no one is like anyone else. None of us! When the Bible says God knitted us together in our mothers’ wombs, it’s not suggesting he used a pattern. It shows intricacy, care, a pride in His work. I have finally learnt that just because half of my DNA comes from my father, I don’t have to inherit the damage done to him. I don’t have to fear being broken just because that’s what I see in him.

And you know what? Now I’ve given up the fear of what might leak out, it turns out that I am a bit like my dad. I can see in myself some of the positive things I get from him – my passion and drive and creativity come from God, but are passed down through a generation that I’ve tried to ignore.

Here’s the other thing I’ve learnt: as much as there is no one like me, there is also no-one like him. There is no one in the world with his set of gifts and shortcomings, flair and foibles.

So here’s the message. Comparing ourselves to someone – anyone – in our lives, whether it’s someone close by or someone we admire purely by reputation, not only doesn’t get us anywhere, but also stops us becoming who we were designed to be. If God has a plan and a purpose for my life that is different from anyone else’s, it makes sense that I am uniquely the person who can fulfil that plan.

And, as much as I sometimes berate myself for who I am, and nurse disdain for my fallen ways, I can’t escape the fact that I am who I am supposed to be. I am Me.

Who are you?


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The Storm Inside – Disappointment…

“Life can deeply disappoint us. God’s word doesn’t shy away from it, so why should we?” (The Storm Inside, p27)

There are some things in life that severely disappoint us, to the extent that we question God regarding his love and power.

When MiniMe was six months old, I broke my upper arm – seriously, in three places. Recovery took a good eight months, and I still have issues with it now, when the weather is cold and damp, or when a small child swings on it, or when MicroBob goes dead weight on the school run forcing me to lug him home under my arm.

The broken arm was a huge deal for me. I couldn’t care for my baby on my own, and needed help 24 hours a day to look after her on the most basic level. What for some mothers would be a dream, for me, not changing a nappy for four months served as a painful reminder that God wasn’t doing what I thought he’d promised.

I was convinced that God would heal me. I knew he could do it. The God that I knew, from scripture and experience, could fuse the bones, remove the plates, screws and other metal work, and restore the situation in which I found myself. I was determined that it would happen – I knew God was capable, and I knew that the story of a miracle would rock the world of our local hospital, where I had been warned of the months of physio, pain killers and inconvenience.

It never did. God apparently did nothing to make it any easier – the recovery time was as long and painful as I’d been warned, and as time went on I lost hope that God would or could do anything or that he really cared in the first place. I asked over and over again those age old questions: How do we reconcile an all loving God who doesn’t show his power in our greatest disappointment, or an all powerful God who doesn’t love us enough to give us the desires of our heart?

Lots of people reminded me that I could learn things from this, that it would make me stronger, and that God would show himself to the people around me if I could just keep trusting him. But it fell like rocks into water. King Solomon had it right: “Singing cheerful songs to a person with a heavy heart is like taking someone’s coat in the cold or pouring vinegar in a wound.” (Proverbs 25:30)

The truth, as Sheila Walsh says, is that “sometimes we act as if God is obligated to make all our dreams come true and give a happy ending to every earthbound tale.” (p39). We forget that we are in a spiritual battle, and that battles have casualties. This is why Jesus says “Take heart! I have overcome the world!” (John 16:34b) – to remind us that even when we are the casualty of war, we know who the winner will be, and that every knee, whether it wants to or not, will bow before the King of Kings.

There is a happy end to the story. I have my arm back, and am able to look after both my children in the way I want to. In some ways I have been able to see more clearly how I want to raise them because I was forced to have a time where I couldn’t do my job. I got to know people I’d hardly spoken to before – people who had seen the problem and stepped up to help make it better because that’s all they could do. I found out that sometimes I have to rely on other people to help me, and that I can’t do it all alone. And it’s not lost on me that this was probably the practise run for being diagnosed with bipolar, where I often have to completely rely on others to know when I’m unwell, because I literally can’t see it for myself.

I still don’t know the answers. It’s still not clear to me why God didn’t do this one little thing for me when he is so powerful. And I’m still disappointed at times. I still don’t think the good outweighed the bad. And no-one was ever really able to answer my question ‘why’.

I’m also not going to claim that Sheila Walsh can answer my questions. She’s good, but not that good! She acknowledges: “We rarely teach disappointment 101 in church…” (p30) and never claims to have all the answers – a breath of fresh air in the church, where we think having the answers is the only way we will persuade people that God is worth their time. Sheila’s gift is that she doesn’t pretend, but she acknowledges deep pain and goes on to give us a crash course in moving towards a place of hope.


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The Storm Inside – trading the chaos…?

20140120-131612.jpg“Here is the Hope that you’re looking for. Here is the Truth you need” promises author Liz Curtis Higgs.

Quite a promise for a book I haven’t started yet. The praise for Sheila Walsh’s newest book goes on for three pages at the front, with names as big as Amy Grant and Joni Eareckson Tada applauding it. Even Kay Warren, who lost her son to suicide last year, says “Sheila understands.”

I’ve been given the privilege to be a part of the launch team for Shelia’s latest book: The Storm Inside: Trade the chaos of how you feel for the truth of who you are. Part of this privilege is the opportunity to read the book earlier than everyone else and let other people know what I think of it.

I’m a huge fan of Sheila Walsh, but even I wasn’t sure that she could achieve what the cover claimed. So much of my life is dictated by chaos – the chaos of bipolar, of managing and preventing mood episodes, and the frustration of being told that God has a plan for my life that must include this illness I struggle with.

And yet, as early as the introduction I am somehow convinced. In her intro, Sheila writes about a speaking event that saw her talking to a group of women in full time Christian ministry. Many of us would be intimidated by such a group of women – I speak to groups fairly frequently, and this certainly isn’t a gig I envy. And yet Sheila’s perception was not of a group of totally sorted women:

“I thought of the women I would speak to in just a short while and wondered if Christ’s promised gift of peace was tangible to them today or if they were facing such devastating storms that peace felt like a distant dream.” (p.xii)

A ‘devastating storm’ is exactly how I have described having bipolar disorder to people with little or no understanding of what it’s like to live a life dictated by moods that blow in unexpectedly, wreaking havoc and leaving confusion and desolation in their wake. From the first few pages this seems like a book I can get on with, written by a woman who understands what it’s like to have your world turned upside down by mental illness (Walsh spent a period in a psychiatric ward when ill with severe depression, and is open about still taking medication). I am left feeling understood by someone I’ve never met.

On the first page, before Sheila’s writing even makes an appearance, Christine Caine, founder of A21, tells me to “read it as soon as you can.”

That’s me told then. In I delve….


Back in the world….

So, I disappeared.

Not so much disappeared, as fell into an enormous hole that was so dark I couldn’t see the footholds to get out.

October started off so well. I actually thought I was doing okay, and took my eye off the ball, and once I stopped thinking about bipolar, even for a moment, symptoms crept up and caught me by surprise.

Even reading my last post on this blog, I can see how much I was kidding myself at the time. For me, a week of hypomania felt great in so many ways, but looking back – and talking it over with those around me – I was not as fun to be with as I thought I was. I was childish, petulant, and thoroughly teenager-ish when told I wasn’t allowed to go out in my car and find a bar at 5pm on a Saturday evening. I apparently sulked. So it seems that the high wasn’t all high.

For a week or so, I thought I’d got away with it, that there would be no repurcussions, but then the depression set in, and literally sucked the life out of everything. I cried for Britain, slept for Europe, and became blind to the sparkle in my children’s eyes. A season of numbness came in with the cold, sad weather, and lifting my fingers to type was as impossible as lifting my feet to walk or my mind to hope.

So, I disappeared.

But I’m back! And hopefully to stay – not hypomanically overdoing it with eighty four posts a day as I find my fingers and start to craft sentences again, but as my normal self, as I start to find out again what that is. I’ve taken up again the things I lost in the fog – like singing, guitar playing, socialising, knitting – and am starting to enjoy life again.

I’m also heading back into work. My main job, which I was never able to give up, and was probably the one thing that kept me from giving up, is parenting MiniMe and MicroBob. They are as awesome as ever, surprising me every day with something new they do. All of a sudden, MiniMe can read. And MicroBob is doing sums like they’re going out of fashion. They are amazing – despite their mother and her crazy moods.

My other work is all writing and book related. I have a new book coming out this month, which I will be saying more about as the days go on. The launch of my new website was supposed to coincide with the book release, but depression stole so many weeks that I fear the website work will fall behind. Still, I am writing copy whenever I can, and The Cable Guy will be doing the restyling as we go along. Adullam Ministries has always had a place in my heart, but has been let go of over the past few years of having children. Hopefully, MicroBob starting nursery will give me more time to work on this area of my calling, and give me the opportunity to bring Adullam up to date with all that social media can do to further the cause of raising awareness of self-harm.

I’ve also been given the special opportunity of being part of the launch team for a new book by Shelia Walsh. The Storm Inside: Trade the Chaos of How You Feel for the Truth of Who You Are acknowledges and speaks against the wrong things we believe about ourselves – and our life experiences – with the irrefutable Word of God. I’m so excited to be part of the team, and looking forward to sharing some of the life lessons as I read – giving a sneaky peek into what the final copy will contain! This is what Shelia says about her latest offering:

It’s clear that as women we all face storms so I’ve poured the last two years of my life into asking the question-how do we handle these storms and navigate the tough seasons in life? If we rely on our emotions alone we are in danger of serious shipwreck but I know that God’s Word is like a lighthouse on the darkest night that will guide us safely to shore. So that’s my prayer for each one of you.

So, exciting times! I pray for everyone reading that this coming year will be one of blessing and truth, that you will know God and see his unique plans for and that your mental and physical health would be stable and less burdensome than before.

I’m so thankful to be back in the world.

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What’s the difference between in-laws and Outlaws?

Outlaws are WANTED.

An old joke, but so very true in our lives at the moment. The Cable Guy’s parents are visiting us today, for the first time since we went on holiday with them two months ago. During this holiday, despite the promise of relaxation and lie-ins, we had a week of inappropriate comments and unnecessary judgement with regards to how we parent MiniMe and MicroBob and how well we look after our house and belongings (or don’t, in their eyes) We nearly left more than once that week, and came home incredibly hurt and let down by the way we had been treated. I still can’t think about some of the things they said and did without getting upset, and yet here we are, supposedly enjoying a morning somewhere and picnic lunch.

My aim is not to share a post that slates them and everything they believe in. The Cable Guy and I believe in a God that commands that we honour our parents, however difficult that may be, and we are choosing to see the best in them as far as is humanly possible, because we are as fallen as them, and no doubt in thirty years or so our children will be complaining just as much about us.

Instead, I am going to list all the things I’ve learnt through this hideous time we’ve had, because if nothing else, we may as well make our suffering worth something by letting it teach us something.

1: I don’t need to listen

I can choose what criticism I take on board. One of the most wearing things about the holiday was the constant suggestion that we aren’t doing a good enough job parenting the children because we aren’t doing it the way they did it or wish they had done it. But actually, I don’t have to take it on board. I can just smile and nod, and ignore everything they say. There are several hundred people we would go to before them for parenting advice – people who are more involved in our daily life and who have parented young children more recently (and who didn’t pack them off to boarding school).

2: We are the parents

A the end of the day, the choice is ours. The in-laws might think we should push them more, or smack them for behaving badly, or be more strict with them around the dinner table, but that doesn’t mean we have to agree.

Any comment the in-laws make is based on a segment of time with the children where they are anything but their normal selves, and rarely in their normal environment. Whenever the in-laws visit the kids get overexcited purely through being with them, and vie for attention. So we choose to ignore them being disruptive, because it just gives them attention for behaving badly. We also know them well enough to choose which battles to fight, whether that be because they are over tired, over stimulated or over hungry – or all three. The in-laws don’t like that. They think we should be spanking and shouting. We have decided as the parents that there are times when we can’t push it, and that is ok.

One decision we have made absolutely and completely, without exception, it that we will never hit or smack our children. This is not to say that either of us has been hugely damaged by the smacks we received as children. But we both feel strongly that if we are telling them they shouldn’t hit each other or other people, we should be the ones modelling that to them. This isn’t that we are complying with current views or laws regarding corporal punishment, it is a conscious decision that we don’t want our children to think that hurting someone ever makes things better. Most importantly, we don’t think it’s what Jesus would do or advise, and that’s good enough for us.

3: I can choose how I feel

It may feel to them like they are helping, but it actually just undermines our confidence, and is especially unhelpful when said in front of the children. It doesn’t really matter how they try to say things – phrases like “we don’t want you to feel judged, but…” serve only to make us feel exactly that.

But I can choose to let the judgement be theirs, not mine. They may be judging, but I can decide not to take that on board. As hard as it is sometimes, I have the power to keep hold of my own well being and equilibrium despite what is thrown at me.

As an example, we did manage to go out one afternoon, while the in-laws watched the children. The children apparently behaved brilliantly that day. Part of me wondered whether that meant that we were crap parents after all, and we should just give them to the in-laws to raise and have done with it. Fortunately God chose me a wonderful man to father my children, who said to me: “do you really think they would have known how to behave well if they had never done it before?” He is right, and I am choosing to believe him. They aren’t perfect, and neither are we. But with Gods help we are on the right road.

4: I am not doing that bad a job

MicroBob is too clever for his own good. MiniMe’s reception teacher was amazed that he was doing more than some of her reception children. He does everything faster than he’s supposed to, including how quickly he got used to his glasses, which apparently often sets children back in their development, not pushes them forward. He is stubborn and smart with it. He knows how to push and when, and does it frequently. We find him hard work. We know The Cable Guy was similar, so I’m praying that he grows up like his dad, probably with a mixture of because and in spite of us.

MiniMe is sensitive. She hears and sees everything, and feels everything doubly. When she’s tired that quadruples. She can also be a little madam, but she’s somehow emotionally intelligent enough to never be a little madam at the expense of anyone else. She’s always the first to say sorry, and if her teachers had to choose one word for her, it would be ‘kind’. She, poor kid, has far too much of her mummy in her. She will always be over affected by things – I’m just hoping that I can share with her some of the lessons it’s taken me thirty years to learn, so that the world isn’t as scary and painful a place for her as it can be for me at times.

My children are awesome, and I choose to believe that at least some of that is because we are doing a good job. They have their moments, but what two or four (or thirty four) year old doesn’t? We are managing all the essentials. They are fed, clean(ish!) and loved. They are well behaved at school, and people want to spend time with them. So I’m counting the last five years or so to be well spent.

Everyone has times when they need a bit of encouragement. There are times when you just need cheering on. Likewise, there are some times you need a bit of advice or guidance, but I think most adults know when they need it, and know who to ask.

My final word on the subject is this: good parents don’t make their children feel like bad parents. My hope is that, when it comes to it, we, as parents and grandparents can encourage from the sidelines, shouting support for our team who are running as hard and fast as they can to complete the parenting race set before them.

And maybe give them the odd lie in….

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