Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Jesse Tree 2013: 16th December - John the Baptist

Jesse Tree 2013: 14th December - Joseph the Carpenter

Our activity today involved wooden pegs, as a tribute to the man who brought up Jesus - the carpenter, Joseph. Pegs were the closest I could get to doing a wood based craft, without requiring dangerous tools!

We decorated the wooden pegs with sequins and glitter glue, and stuck magnets on the back to make useful fridge magnets, perfect for holding art work or recipe cards or my calendar. 

Whilst these magnets are decorative , their main role is a supporting one, a bit like Joseph. We know very little about him, but without him the nativity would be very different. He had such an important job. He may not have been Jesus's natural father, but he was His earthly dad, and a good and loving husband. 

Father God, help us to live our lives without worrying about who notices. 

Jesse Tree 2013: 13th December - Solomon

King Solomon. The wise king. He was clearly on the road to wisdom before God granted his wish to be oh so wise, as he knew enough to ask only for wisdom. In return for that, God also have him huge riches. I sometimes think it was a bit unfair of God to give him that burden disguised as a reward. Solomon, despite God's gift of wisdom, was still pretty unwise when it came to women, and his massive wealth allowed him access to more women than was wise. Perhaps Go was using Solomon to remind us that no one is perfect. At the very least no one can be as wise as God. Which enabled us to look at Jesus and see the perfection, the divine wisdom ofour Saviour. 

Our activity today was to make crowns. Wisdom is a big ask for a 2 year old, but gluing jewels onto a gold crown is right up queen B's street.  

Daddy and B really enjoyed this activity, and she's not stopped wearing her crown. 

Help us, God, to treasure wisdom like a crown. 

Jesse Tree 2013: 18th December - O Adonai

O Lord, and Ruler of the house of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the burning bush, and gave him the Law on Sinai, come to redeem us with outstretched arm!

Today we made a picture of the burning bush by sticking red, orange and yellow scrunched up tissue onto a drawing of a tree. B really enjoyed tearing and scrunching the tissue. 

Father God, help us to hear your voice. 

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Jesse Tree 2013 - 7th December: Jacob

Today we took a trip to London to visit the Christmas Market on the Southbank. Train journeys are much more relaxing than car journeys when you have children. I was able to feed the baby whenever she wanted, and B was entertained and happy, not least because she got given an activity pack at the station. It had a gingerbread man in it, which kept her occupied for most of the journey. And the excitement of being on a train took care of the rest. Those activity packs were a lovely little touch. It's so rare in this day and age to find people thinking about children. And if it's just a marketing ploy to get people with young families to use the trains more, then it worked on us!
The activity for today was meant to be handprint angels, to represent the angels Jacob dreamt about, but we didn't have time, so I'll probably get the hubby to do those with B tomorrow. 

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Jesse Tree 2013 - 6th December: Isaac

As Isaac was the beginning of the fulfilment of God's promise to give Abraham countless descendants, we did another star based activity today. 

We made salt dough stars to create a mobile, based on this: 
However, yet again, it didn't go quite to plan! Blame the sleep deprivation from having a 3 week old baby, but I misread the oven temperature in that blogpost. It's American and therefore in Fahrenheit. I baked those little things at 170 C and they burnt. Fortunately we can salvage with a bit of paint, but we'll try again next year to make one to keep. B enjoyed playing with the special play dough, and I resisted the urge to tell her not to eat it. She would try it either way! She put a bit in her mouth and found it disgusting, so that worked without me having to nag!

Jesse Tree 2013 - 5th December: Abraham

Genesis 22

Whenever I see stars in the sky I am reminded of two bible verses. The first is, "He also made the stars," from the creation account. Such a throwaway verse for something so perfectly beautiful. The second is God's promise to Abraham: "I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky..." (Genesis 22:17a NIV)

Today's activity acknowledged that promise, in that we made star jars. I pinched the idea from The Imagination Tree.

However, they weren't as successful as the various ones I'd seen on the internet. I was expecting the glitter and stars to float through the water, snowglobe-like, but everything basically stayed in a big blob at the top. Still, B enjoyed sprinkling the stars into the jars, and she wasn't bothered by high expectations or the need for perfection like I am, so to her the jars were lovely. 

Thank you, God, for fulfilling our need for perfection, and for keeping your perfect promises. 

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Jesse Tree 2013 - 4th December: Noah

Genesis 6-7

Noah was one of the easier themes to come up with activities for, though as B gets older I expect I will have to be a bit more inventive in order to make it teachable and relevant. She has several Noah's Ark related books and toys, so we read the story and played with her wooden ark. 
Daddy and B did some painting together, making a picture of the Ark ready for sticking animals onto. They painted a piece of paper with blue paint to be the sea, and then made an Ark out of paper plates which they painted brown and red. When that was dry, B stuck loads of stickers of animals on to the boat, and added rain clouds and rain drops to the sky, as well as some sea creatures to the water. 

I really love this picture. And B loved painting and sticking. It was brilliant to watch her doing an activity with Daddy. They had a lot of fun together. 

After this they painted rainbows onto two halves of a paper plate and I added streamers and string before sticking the plates together to make a mobile. I pinched this idea from

There was a rainbow in the sky the day that B was born, and so I always think that God has special plans for her. I really hope so. 

Thank you, God for keeping your promises. 

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Jesse Tree 2013 - 3rd December: The First Sin

Genesis 3

B can be very wilful and stubborn (I wonder where she gets those qualities from...) but she isn't yet at an age where she can be held accountable for her actions. We don't use punishments or rewards, but use a mixture of explanations and logical consequences in the hope that she will learn to choose right actions, rather than being "good" out of fear of punishment or simply because she will get a prize for doing so. As a result, today's theme is quite a difficult one. In a few years' time we will be able to discuss how we've upset or hurt someone and choosing to say sorry to people and to God, but for now I've chosen to concentrate on the fruit in the story of the first sin. 

Today we made some apple shaped tree decorations out of apple sauce and cinnamon. You can find the instructions here:

The key was stopping B from eating the dough, which smelled pretty tempting, but is inedible. And there, I suppose, is the teaching point! Some things look great, but aren't good for us, and God, like our mummies and daddies, wants only the best for us, even if that sometimes feels like we're being deprived and disappointed. A tough lesson for a 2 year old, but no easier for a 30 year old!

Jesse Tree 2013 - 2nd December: Adam & Eve

Genesis 2

Yesterday we made an effort to appreciate the beautiful world God created for us; today we were acknowledging that God made us too. This is a difficult, and therefore important, topic for me, especially at the moment when I am once again struggling to feed a baby with my faulty body. For the sake of my daughters, I need to get a much more positive view of my body, in order that they can grow up loving they way they look, etc., so remembering that God made human beings - including me - and declared us "very good" is vital. 

The first activity we did was to put all four of our handprints on a canvas - always an interesting activity with a baby!! The first time I tried with B they looked like monkey paw prints!

 I love this canvas. It's a beautiful reminder of our precious family and how little our girls are. I think we will repeat this every year. 

For lunch we made pizza faces. This was a lot of fun, especially because we had some friends round and they joined in too. B really enjoyed decorating her pizza and I was surprised at how accurately she placed the facial features. Her highlight though, was eating a large number of olives straight from the jar!

In the afternoon I drew round B on a big piece of paper, with the intention that she would colour it in and be able to add features, or some semblance of them. I definitely overestimated what she would manage! Instead, she enjoyed sticking stickers on the paper, so while we didn't achieve what I planned, B still had fun and wasn't asking to watch Mr Tumble! I think this is an activity that will work better when she's a bit older, so I'll try and remember it for next year. 

Thank you, God, for making each one of us. 

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Jesse Tree 2013 - 1st December: Creation

Genesis 1

B is old enough to appreciate more structured activities now, so, with that in mind, I set about organising crafts and other activities to do with her based around the Jesse Tree that I made last year. I also want her to have fun things that she can do with any visitors who've come to see the baby, so that she doesn't feel neglected and ignored.

The first theme on our Jesse Tree is Creation, so we went for a walk at our local forest centre. B was given the task of searching for interesting things to collect and take home. She really enjoyed looking for red leaves and berries. Her particular highlight was some acorn cups and a large pigeon feather. We decided not to collect any berries, for fear of them being consumed(!), but also because from the amount that we saw, it's going to be a pretty severe winter and the birds are going to need as much as they can get. Instead we took photos of the berries, and also of some teasels which were too prickly to pick. We printed these off as soon as we got home. 

B absolutely loved making a collage with her findings. Her Aunty sat down to help her make it, which was wonderful for B. Since M was born two weeks ago, we've been in and out of hospital, having to sort out supplementing and sterilising, etc. and B has been having a hard time of it. She loves M and is ever so gentle and kind towards her, but she's definitely feeling the strain of not being our one and only anymore. She's also become a bit addicted to using people's phones and watching telly, as, at times, I think we've all found it easier to pacify her with screen time, rather than deal with another melt down. So it was wonderful to see her doing something creative without a screen in sight, and to see her delighting in the activity. I think a highlight for her was being allowed to use big scissors to cut the sticky tape!
I explained to her that every thing she had stuck onto her poster had been made by God for us to enjoy or use. We also read the Creation story in her Children's Storybook Bible. 
I really appreciated the walk and getting a childlike view of creation, especially after being cooped up in hospital rooms and at home waiting for midwife visits. I think too that it was important for us to look for good and God in our day after feeling so angry with Him over the past days. 

Thank you, God, for making a beautiful world.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Free to Choose

"I want my child to be free to choose his own religion."

It's something I've heard parents say so often. Right before they announce that in order for that to happen they're going to keep their child in ignorance of what different religions teach and believe. Which is where their desire for their child's free choice disappears. 

There is no such thing as choice if you don't have all the information necessary to make a choice. 

And it's funny, but I find that the majority of people who talk this sort of nonsense are the same ones who make a huge fuss if they themselves are expected to make decisions without having access to all the knowledge they need. 

Is it really a free choice to leave your baby to cry it out if you've not been told of the psychological and physical dangers of the method?
Is it really a free choice to formula feed if you've only been given false information about its similarity to breast milk and received no support to do otherwise?
Is it really a free choice to vote for an MP who hasn't provided honest answers to questions on policy?
Is it really a free choice to eat what you're given at dinner simply because you've been told there is no other food in the house?

And that's what this comes down to - dishonesty and coercion and mistrust. If we want our children to grow up to freely choose their own religion or lack thereof, we have an obligation to allow them to meet and mix with members of all sorts of religions and none; to learn about beliefs that differ from our own; to trust that they will follow their own hearts and to allow them to do so. Depriving our children of information and experience is to make them ignorant, and we live in an age where ignorance is unforgivable, for there is no end of information at our fingertips.

I want my children to choose to follow Christ, as the hubby and I do, but I do not want to force that upon them. They will experience life in a Christian family, but in order for them to have the free choice, I will ensure they have ample opportunities to discover and explore the teachings and beliefs of other religions. 

When God created us, He gave us free will. It was a dangerous move. With that one decision, He enabled us to choose to live without Him. But He also ensured that all those who love Him do so through their own freedom. Love that is forced is not love.

Can we not trust and respect our children in the same way?

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Review: Pregnancy Planner App by Sanoma Media Netherlands B.V.

Disclaimer: This app was gifted to me, free of charge, by the people at Pregnancy Planner, to be reviewed. However, this review is my unbiased and  honest opinion of the product.

Product: Pregnancy Planner iPhone App
Price: £1.49 - Available from the iTunes App Store
Age Range:
Manufacturer’s Description: Pregnancy Planner is a comprehensive pregnancy app for soon-to-be parents. Be informed and entertained during the pregnancy and share your baby's development with friends & family over Facebook or Twitter. Extensive tips, daily & weekly tips and information and high quality 3d imagery make this the complete package!
Features include extensive information on the baby's development daily & weekly, pregnancy time tips for sports, sex, nutrition, travel and more, and a list of baby names to pick & share to your family & friends.
Rating:   (3/5 stars)

Review: I'm currently about 34 weeks into my second pregnancy, and so, while I consider myself to be somewhat experienced in the art of surviving pregnancy and all it entails, I was still keen to try another app that would take me through the joys and trials of growing a small human being inside me.

When you first open the app, there is a quick tutorial that takes you through what each section of the app does. And you can easily access the tutorial again by tapping the 'i' button. Inputting your due date is very straightforward.

As you can see, your pregnancy's progress is shown at the top of the page, not only in weeks and days, but also showing how many weeks, days, hours and seconds are left until your due date. I found it very easy to remain in denial about how quickly this pregnancy was progressing until I saw the scrolling countdown! Not sure whether that's a positive or a negative though, I'm afraid.

 Beneath that you will see the average size and weight of your baby, and it is this information that is sent if you choose to email your progress to daddy//grandma/friend. So, not a huge amount of detail in the progress sharing function, but enough to satisfy a bit of curiosity.

Tapping the size/weight area takes you to the weekly update on the baby and you. Last time around I used some free pregnancy apps - I'm always reluctant to pay for apps, when there are free ones available! I've reinstalled them onto my iPhone this time, but have very rarely looked at them, due to the amount of time they take to read. With an active, no-nap toddler to run around after, I just don't have the time for the detail they provide. Therefore, it has been a pleasant experience to use Pregnancy Planner, as for a second-time pregnancy I have found it both quick and simple to use. There is just enough information to reassure and remind me, and because the development status is refreshed weekly, rather than daily, there is no need for me to feel bad or behind if I don't manage to open it up each week. I have found some interesting information in this section, and some that I already knew, and there have been a few helpful weekly tips in there too.

Each week has an artist's representation of a baby at your current gestation would look like, accompanied by a weekly tip or piece of information about the baby's development, just a sentence long.

The daily tips do change daily, but these too are only a sentence long. As a second-timer, I appreciate the brevity of these, but if this was my first pregnancy I would be a bit miffed, as some of the weekly tips require a bit more independent research, and others seem a bit irrelevant or even unhelpful at times. As someone who is supposed to be keeping an eye on their blood sugars, I didn't relish the tip that stated, 'Chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate'! Also, some of them are a bit odd. One day I was told to 'Check your papers' expiry dates.' No idea what papers it was referring to, so I can only assume the app was originally intended for users outside of the UK.

In addition to the tips and information on the Calendar page, there is a Tips & Questions section, providing answers on various subjects:
Nutrition - useful if you can't remember what types of cheese are banned, but not particularly detailed. So, again, not highly useful for a first time pregnancy.
Sports - a bit more detail here, including lists of sports/exercise that are suitable and unsuitable during pregnancy.
Health - information on various pregnancy related ailments and tips for dealing with them. I haven't found the Heartburn section to help me in any way, but the tips in there are the sensible, normal ways of dealing with it!
Travel - Some helpful tips in here.
Sex - One of the more helpful sections, as it's less embarrassing to read the information in an app than to have to go Googling! Again though, if you've been pregnant before, it's likely you managed to alter your sex life the previous time and I haven't found any new information or tips in this section.

The most helpful section in the Tips & Questions area is the Checklist, which I've found to be a helpful reminder of things I need to locate or buy before the baby comes. It's also been useful just to read through to reminisce about what I bought last time and didn't use!

There is also a list of baby names to browse through. They are easy to add to a list of names you like, and you can also manually add names that don't appear on the lists, but I was disappointed that they didn't provide meanings to go with the names.

This app is quick and simple to use. It has an uncluttered layout and it's easy to navigate. For a second timer, I've found Pregnancy Planner helpful and I've enjoyed the brevity of the information provided. I already know what I'm going through, and the odd reminder here and there has been useful. It's also been handy for checking how many weeks I am, as I haven't been keeping such a close check on dates this time around. However, I don't feel there is enough information in here for a first pregnancy, when you're full of questions and worry.

Although this isn't an expensive app, I would have been disappointed if I'd paid for it, as there is much more information available in many of the free apps available on the App Store. I think if I'd bought it for my previous pregnancy I would have been much more disappointed though.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Kiddicare Review

In search of a back carrier for the hubby to transport B around the Greenbelt Festival this weekend, we headed off to our nearest Kiddicare. I think I was anticipating it being a bit like a big Mothercare, but I was really pleasantly surprised by what we found.

The carriers were easy to find, and when a sales assistant spotted us looking a bit confused, she came straight over and offered assistance. She was helpful, thoughtful and explained really clearly. First, she demonstrated how to put on the carrier we were interested in, and then she helped the hubby to put B into it, before assisting him in getting it onto his back. She was also amazingly patient and considerate with B who had a bit of a meltdown about not wanting to get off Daddy's back!

When we'd decided to get the carrier - the Phil&Ted's Escape, which we'll be reviewing soon, hopefully - I spotted the Close Caboo carrier, which I'd recently purchased via Zulily in preparation for incoming baby 2. Despite me informing her that we already had one, and so would not be purchasing it in store, the assistant offered to show us how to use it properly, with a demonstration doll. The hubby is delighted to have a clear idea of what to do with it now, and I was really grateful that she was so helpful and generous with her time.

There are some fantastic discounts on pretty much everything in the store, which makes it an even better place to shop. And the restaurant served tasty and healthy options, with child-friendly options, for reasonable prices.

Verdict? We'll be shopping at Kiddicare again if and when we need more kid stuff.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Breastfeeding Myths - Keep Britain Breastfeeding 2013

Hands up if you have ever heard any of these:

If you are ill, you will pass it on through your breastmilk.
You have to have a perfect diet to breastfeed.
Small breasts are no good for breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding ruins your breasts.
If you breastfeed, you'll have no idea whether your baby is eating enough.
If your baby is nursing frequently, then you don't have enough milk.
Your baby is just comfort sucking/using you as a dummy.
You can't exclusively breastfeed twins/triplets. 
Feed your baby every 4 hours/for 10 minutes each side.
Big babies/small babies need formula top ups.
He should be sleeping through the night now.

These are common beliefs about breastfeeding, but each of them is a myth or misconception. Some come from lack of education on breastfeeding or normal baby feeding behaviour; others have been perpetuated by formula companies in the bid to "booby-trap" mums into giving up breastfeeding.

So, I shall tackle each of these myths, revealing the truth, and attempting to give you some great comebacks to uneducated comments from those around you.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Breastfeeding Beyond a Year - Keep Britain Breastfeeding 2013

 "Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond." World Health Organisation

I wrote the following for my 22 month old daughter, who still loves her be-boos!

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Breastmilk Pumping - Keep Britain Breastfeeding 2013

I haven't used my breast pump for about 16 months now. 

The first 6 months of B's life were highly stressful. When I wasn't breastfeeding her or administering a top up of formula, I was expressing in order to give her a top up of my own milk each day, and in the hopes of increasing my supply. 

I was lucky if I got 40-60mls over the course of 24 hours, but I dutifully gave it to her each evening.
I was so proud of myself the morning I pumped 1.5oz in one go because I woke up before B!

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

A Few Breastfeeding Memories - Keep Britain Breastfeeding 2013

I have heard others talk of their negative experiences of breastfeeding in public - dirty looks, snide comments, being told to leave or feed baby in the toilets - but personally, every one of my nursing in public experiences has been positive. Perhaps I have been lucky, or maybe I just have a f**k-off look on my face! I wouldn't say I'm extremely discrete, but I always wear a vest under my top, so that I can pull one top up and the other down, showing as little breast as possible. I don't think it matters whether one pulls the top up or yanks the breast out, but I personally feel more comfortable keeping my bosoms more covered. We are protected by the Equality Act 2010 when breastfeeding in public anyway, so if anyone has a problem with you nursing in public, then it is their problem and not yours, and you are free to complain about them. Check out this info sheet for more advice.

Even princesses need their milk
There are a few humorous moments that have occurred during our breastfeeding journey. The first I remember was when B was about 5 weeks old and pulled off to smile at me. I managed to capture a photo of her lovely grin and sent it to my mum. As I was about to upload it to Facebook, I realised that my nipple was standing proud in the bottom corner of the picture, so I stopped the upload until I had time to crop it out. A few minutes later, whilst looking through my Facebook newsfeed, I saw my photograph, complete with nipple! My sister had posted it, not having noticed herself. Fortunately, she was quick to remove and crop when I pointed out the problem.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Keep Britain Breastfeeding 2013: The Importance of Breastfeeding Support

Despite 81% of women in the UK initiating breastfeeding, by 6-8 weeks after birth only 45% of those continue to breastfeed, and only 17% are exclusively breastfeeding at 3 months post-partum.1 Clearly women are meeting supposedly insurmountable obstacles to continuing to breastfeed. An NCT spokeswoman, quoted in this article, revealed that 90% of women who stopped, didn't want to.

I did a brief survey of my Facebook friends. Of those who responded, the majority of those who stopped breastfeeding did so because of the lack of support they were given. Some stopped because they had been fed myths about breastfeeding and, without proper support around them, they doubted their bodies' abilities to nourish their babies. And those who continued did so because of the support they seemingly had to hunt down, and through sheer stubbornheadedness. Most of this support came in the form of volunteers and peer supporters, not from midwives and health visitors! And also from husbands, family and friends.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Top Breastfeeding Tips For Dads: Keep Britain Breastfeeding 2013

Today, a guest post from my husband, Chris, who is my biggest breastfeeding supporter! He wrote a post for the Scavenger Hunt last year too, which you can find here.

When our first daughter was born, we discovered things weren't quite right in the feeding department.
B's weight dropped quite a bit in the first few days and we were checked into the hospital as her sodium levels were low.
After 4 days of wasted time, we got discharged and B was diagnosed with tongue tie ( and had it snipped.
We also discovered that my wife had IGT (insufficient glandular tissue) which meant that she couldn't produce enough milk.
So, we had to supplement with formula milk.

In summary, I've experienced breast feeding and formula feeding; both the positives and the negatives.

So, because of my experience, here are some top tips and some how-tos that I wish I had known before I started my journey into the world of infant feeding...

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Keep Britain Breastfeeding 2013: Why I Continue to Breastfeed

As I sat down to write this, daddy and toddler had a bit of an accident. They were tearing around the house, pretending to be lions, and B tripped and fell. She landed on her face, cutting both her lips. Blood and tears and snot were pouring down her face; her wails filled the room. But, within 30 seconds, she was sat on my lap having some mummy-milk, or "be-boos" as she calls it. The tears stopped, the sobbing quietened and she was fine before 5 minutes were up. It is situations like this that make me so glad that after all our feeding troubles, and the need to supplement B with formula because of my IGT, I chose to continue breastfeeding. 1

Last year, for the Scavenger Hunt, I wrote about Why I Breastfeed. And you can read about our first year here. This year I've decided to focus on why I, and others, continue(d) to breastfeed, and what we look back on as the top benefits of breastfeeding.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Silent Sunday

Keep Britain Breastfeeding 2013

British National Breastfeeding Week is running from 23rd-29th June 2013. You might remember that last year I was involved in the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt, and I will be involved again this year. Whether you are a parent-to-be, a new mum or dad, a student nurse or midwife, someone with an interest in breastfeeding, or someone who just chanced upon this blog, it's worth getting involved. There will be loads of interesting and informative posts, and plenty of fantastic prizes up for grabs.

Check out the Scavenger Hunt site to find out more about how to get involved, whether as a blogger or company, or to enter the competition.

You can also find my posts from last year here:
Why I Breastfeed
Mother to Mother Sharing
For the Dads
After the 1st Month

Posts this year will include the following topics:
The Benefits of Breastfeeding; Top Breastfeeding Tips You Should All Know; Positive Nursing In Public Experiences & Funny Breastfeeding Memories; Breastfeeding Beyond a Year and more!

Sunday, 19 May 2013


Pentecost is considered the birthday of the Church. It's the day we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit, the promised helper, to dwell in Jesus's followers. To Christians it is a great day of celebration. We think of the disciples sitting in the Upper Room; we remember the heavenly wind and the tongues of fire resting on their heads; we repeat Peter's speech, declaring the wonders of God to those around him.

However, the importance of Pentecost goes further back than the New Testament. When the Israelites were making their way through the desert, after Moses had led them out of Egypt, they received God's word at Mount Sinai, and God came to dwell in the Tabernacle. The Festival of Shavuot, or Pentecost, came to be celebrated 50 days after Passover, and was originally a Harvest Festival. However, it also became a time when Jews celebrated the giving of the Torah, which legend has it occurred 50 days after the first Passover. So, 50 days after Jesus rose from the dead, Jews were gathered in Jerusalem celebrating God's gift of the Commandments on stone tablets. And on that same day God gave His Holy Spirit and wrote His Law on people's hearts. As Jesus said in Matthew 5:17, He came to fulfil the law, not to abolish is. Pentecost shows us how that fulfilment is to take place - God's presence is to dwell in His people, keeping his law safe in their hearts, so that they will keep it.

"‘This is the covenant that I will make with the people of Israel
    after that time,’ declares the Lord.
‘I will put my law in their minds
    and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
    and they will be my people." (Jeremiah 31:33)

The disciples were good Jews. They knew the order of the festivals; they attended the Temple. So they would have been watching for something to happen, and they would most likely have been expecting that something to happen on Shavuot.

"Something exciting was going to happen. Jesus had said as much at Tabernacles, the first pilgrim festival of the year, when the Temple was packed with visitors. (John 7) Something about rivers of living water. Then he died at Passover, the second pilgrim festival.Who knew what he might do on the third? And if he rose on the barley harvest, he almost certainly had something in store for Shevuoth." (A Little Kosher Seasoning - Michele Guinness)

Isn't that amazing? The Old Testament events were always pointing forward to Jesus and the events that would surround Him. God knew what He was doing. Through providing them with a history, He enabled the disciples to understand and expect. And it ensured that the relevance of the Pentecost events would not be lost on the Jewish pilgrims at the Temple to celebrate Shavuot that day.

Traditionally, the Church has taught that the disciples - not just the Apostles, but about 120 men and women - were gathered in the Upper Room together. Logically, this seems unlikely. Michele Guinness, amongst others, suggests otherwise, for 120 is a lot of people to be cooped up together and the likelihood would be that they, along with other "good Jews", would be attending Temple as on other festivals. The Hebrew word for house is the same as the word for Temple.

"Once the geography of the event is right, it changes the whole perspective of things.
There they all were, in a fever of expectation, surrounded by the noisy hub-bub of thousands of out-of-town visitors and cousins. At nine o'clock silence falls for the traditional early morning readings. First from Deuteronomy, an account of the giving of the Torah... Then from the first chapters of the book of the prophet Ezekiel. "High above on the throne was the figure like that of a man. I saw from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire." Suddenly, to the congregation's utter amazement, tongues of fire appear, and hover over the heads of Jesus' followers. The priest, hoping he's hallucinating, tells the reader to continue as if nothing has happened. "Then the Spirit lifted me up, and I heard behind me a loud rumbling sound..." At which point a sudden loud whooshing sound fills the building. Prayer shawls flap with its force, head coverings are lifted and debris scattered. And then the disciples begin to shout things in foreign languages, and roll around on the floor as if drunk... Peter takes control of the situation. He knows exactly what is happening. He has had seven weeks to work it out. God, in one blow, is fulfilling all the promises he has ever made to his people." (A Little Kosher Seasoning - Michele Guinness)

Wow! It would have been absolutely awesome to experience that. God fulfilled His promises in a show of power, majesty and glory. Shouldn't we be making more of our Pentecost celebrations?

In our house we have a cheesecake party every year on Pentecost Sunday. Dairy products are eaten traditionally during Jewish Shavuot celebrations. This has 2 possible reasons behind it: The promised land of milk and honey that the Israelites were on their way to, or that when Moses told the people the laws, including the dietary ones, they were too eager to eat that they didn't have time to kill and prepare meat properly, so opted for dairy products instead. Either way, you can't go wrong with a cheesecake!

How do you celebrate Pentecost?

Friday, 19 April 2013

Real Nappy Week

It's Real Nappy Week this week, so I thought I'd put down a bit of my experience with the washable wonders.

When I was pregnant, we decided to go down the washable nappy route, and I dutifully bought a load of terry nappies, which promptly went missing when we moved house! After a bit of consideration, and conversations with people who already had babies, I made the decision to get used to having a baby around, and changing nappies, etc., before starting with the washables, as I didn't think I'd want to be doing all that washing straight away.

With all our feeding issues, it wasn't until a few months down the line that I eventually felt ready to get started with the real nappies. After exchanging several emails with the very helpful Ella at Bum Deal, I invested in the Bum Deal Bargain Pack of 10 nappies. They came in assorted colours and designs, and I selected a mixture of Minky nappies, some with poppers, some with velcro. Each came with 2 Microfibre inserts, though nowadays you'd get 1 Microfibre and 1 bamboo, which is even better. I also bought fleece liners, which are brilliant because they draw the wetness away from baby's bottom, whilst catching hold of poo, and a selection of wetbags for holding dirty nappies.

I found these nappies to be really easy to use, especially with a newborn, as the poo isn't too bad. I did have to change them every 2 to 3 hours otherwise a bit of wicking went on, but as soon as I purchased some bamboo boosters as well, we had no problems with leakage at all. Poo could just be flicked into the toilet, and the whole nappy popped into the wet bag to join the other dirties.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Bible in a Year - Day 274

Day 268 - Isaiah 1, 2 & 3; Galatians 2
‘Come now, let us settle the matter,’
    says the Lord.
‘Though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
 they shall be like wool.' (Isaiah 1:18)
He will judge between the nations
    and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into ploughshares
    and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,

 nor will they train for war any more. (Isaiah 2:4)
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

What Your Footprint Says About You: Responsible Social Networking

Poor Paris Brown. Her irresponsible use of Twitter has landed her in very hot water. Much of the reporting has made it appear that she was in post when she wrote the offending Twitter posts, so it took me some time and internet digging to discover that the poor girl wrote most of her "offensive" tweets between the ages of 14 and 16 - before she was appointed as Britain's first Youth Police and Crime Commissioner. So, why all the fuss? Don't teenagers do silly things a lot of the time? Come to think of it, there are plenty of adults out there doing much worse. Paris is in the esteemed company of businesses, MPs and celebrities who have had to hang their heads after posting irresponsibly.

Many are calling for her to be removed from her post, claiming her youth and inexperience make her unsuitable for the role. Others are using the situation to further denigrate the opinion of young people these days. We are supposed to consider all teenagers to be irresponsible and poor role models, merely because one girl has made some stupid mistakes. I know a lot of young people from my time as a teacher and a youth worker. The majority are intelligent, well-mannered, valuable members of society. It is wrong to tar them all with the same brush.

What I think this event highlights is the need for better education in the areas of technology and social media. Children and young people are taught about internet safety, about not revealing too many personal details or posting photos of themselves, but seemingly nothing about the power of their digital footprint. Future employers can search the internet for our past and make decisions based on what they discover. Have we failed our young people by providing them with all these tools - Twitter, Facebook, iPhones, Blackberries, etc. - and failing to give them the education they need to use them responsibly?

Monday, 8 April 2013

Bible in a Year - Day 267

Day 261 - Ecclesiastes 1, 2 & 3; 2 Corinthians 9
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8)
Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. (2 Corinthians 10-11)

Day 262 - Ecclesiastes 4, 5 & 6; 2 Corinthians 10

Day 263 - Ecclesiastes 7, 8 & 9; 2 Corinthians 11:1-15

Day 264 - Ecclesiastes 10, 11 & 12; 2 Corinthians 11:16-33

Day 265 - Song of Songs 1, 2 & 3; 2 Corinthians 12
But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Day 266 - Song of Songs 4 & 5; 2 Corinthians 13
Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. (2 Corinthians 13:11)

Day 267 - Song of Songs 6, 7 & 8; Galatians 1 
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father... (Galatians 1:3-4)

Friday, 5 April 2013

Mooncup Experiences

Here's one for the ladies. And be prepared, you may feel it's a bit TMI at times...

If you're still here, I take it you're interested in finding out about Mooncups, so I shall give you my thoughts on using one.

When I originally heard about them, I was convinced they were the realm of hippies and other such crazy ladies with long hair and homemade hemp skirts. Then my mum started to use one, and told me it had revolutionised her life, so I did think a bit more seriously about the Mooncup. Just when I was considering buying one, I got pregnant, so it wasn't necessary.

My period returned at 14 months postpartum, and, not expecting it, I only had tampons and towels in the house. It was dreadful! After birth it seems everything down there had changed shape, and I had been religious about doing my pelvic floor exercises, so that couldn't be blamed. The tampons were uncomfortable, drying and wouldn't stay in position. I went through a ridiculous number, especially as just breathing or rolling over could cause them to fall out - not to mention the effect of a cough or sneeze!

So, my thoughts returned to the Mooncup, and I duly went to Boots and bought one ready for the next visit from Aunty Mabel.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Bible in a Year - Day 260

Day 260 - Proverbs 30 & 31; 2 Corinthians 8
Every word of God is flawless;    he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. (Proverbs 30:5)
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)

Sunday, 31 March 2013


Easter turns everything on its head. We go through our lives knowing that some things are so, and they will always be so. And then along comes this man and He challenges our certainties.

Dead is dead. But Jesus was alive after crucifixion and two nights in a tomb.

Women were second class citizens, whose word wouldn't count in court. And yet Jesus chose women to find the empty tomb and be the first witnesses to His resurrection.

Wrongdoing, betrayal, lies don't go unpunished. But Jesus didn't berate His disciples or remind them of their failings; He spoke peace to them and came to them in love.

Second chances are few and far between. But Peter was offered the opportunity to make things right.

Death is the end; it will get us all. And yet Jesus beat death and offers us eternal life.

Will you take the chance in letting Jesus challenge your certainties today?

Friday, 29 March 2013

Good Friday

What does an empty cross tell us?

I have often gazed upon an empty cross at the front of a church and it strikes me that there is no reason for it.

 It doesn't speak of victory or resurrection.

The cross would be empty regardless of whether Jesus would live again or not.

It symbolises only death - a death to come, or a death that has already occurred.

I think of the cross it is meant to represent. Perhaps others had already died on this cross, maybe it had never been used before, but the likelihood is it would be used over and over until it would become impossible to know who had been executed upon it.

A better sign of victory would be an empty tomb, showing that even death could not hold Jesus down.

Instead we see this empty cross devoid of meaning specific to Christ. The crosses of the thieves were empty too, though they did not rise again.
Drawing of the crucifixion, by John of the Cross

My preference is for a crucifix - a cross bearing a statue of the body of the crucified Christ. Not because I enjoy looking upon his tortured and broken form, but because it holds meaning for me.

Are we not called to "preach Christ crucified"? (1 Corinthians 1:23)

Before a crucifix I am reminded that the cross is irrelevant without Jesus. It is not the cross that saves us, but Jesus' death upon it. It was upon the cross that He spoke the words of His triumph over sin: "It is finished." (John 19:30)

Saint Augustine comments on those who stood at the cross of Jesus: "As they were looking on, so we too gaze on his wounds as he hangs. We see his blood as he dies. We see the price offered by the redeemer, touch the scars of his resurrection. He bows his head, as if to kiss you. His heart is made bare open, as it were, in love to you. His arms are extended that he may embrace you. His whole body is displayed for your redemption. Ponder how great these things are. Let all this be rightly weighed in your mind: as he was once fixed to the cross in every part of his body for you, so he may now be fixed in every part of your soul." (GMI 248)

With a crucifix I am able to witness Jesus' wounds, His death, His love, my redemption. I am reminded of the great price paid for me. I can meditate upon the cruelty and the necessity of His death, for without it I would be a slave to all my sin; I would have no hope of a future; I would be lost.

And if there was no death, there could be no victory over it.

I gaze upon the crucifix, upon Christ's battered and broken body, and I wait with all creation for His resurrection.

"Christ of Saint John of the Cross"
Salvador Dali

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

7th Day of Lent - God's Word

Words are powerful. As James writes, "With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing." (James 3:9-10). Words can be good and kind and build others up; or they can be hurtful and damaging and ruin lives.
When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He said not to babble or use lots of words. God knows what we need, before we ask Him (Matthew 6:7-15). The Lord's Prayer is concise, simple, to the point. We honour God and call Him 'Father'; we ask for His will to be done; we request forgiveness and our needs to be met, and to be taught to forgive; and we beg to be protected from evil and temptation.
 God's Word is more powerful than any of ours. When God speaks, His words will achieve His purpose, no matter what attempts to get in the way. "It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it." (Isaiah 55:11). As we've seen over the past few days, God speaks for the poor, the oppressed and the broken. He calls us to do the same. We have a choice to follow God's Word, and speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, or we can leave that mission to someone else. Either way, "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." (Psalm 34:18). Isn't it better that we choose to join God and use our words to promote social justice?
How will you use your words to build up the oppressed and broken today?

Sunday, 17 February 2013

5th Day of Lent - Freedom

But the Egyptians mistreated us and made us suffer, subjecting us to harsh labor. Then we cried out to the Lord, the God of our ancestors, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our misery, toil and oppression. So the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders. He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey; and now I bring the firstfruits of the soil that you, Lord, have given me.” Place the basket before the Lord your God and bow down before him. (Deuteronomy 26:6-10)

How wonderful freedom is, and how easily we take it for granted. Each morning I can decide what to do with my day. I can take my daughter out for a walk, or we can read stories, or build a tower of blocks and knock them down. We could even do all three! There is no one, but her, telling me what to do or where to go. But how often do I thank God for my freedom? How often do I thank Him that I was born into a loving family in a country where I am free to be educated, to be paid for my work, to speak as I think?

It is only when our freedoms are curtailed that we begin to recognise the wonders of freedom. When our beliefs are mocked, when our religion is used as a reason to fire us, when we cannot speak our thoughts for fear of being sued. 

Saturday, 16 February 2013

4th Day of Lent - Sabbath Delight

Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
    you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
    with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
    and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
    and your night will become like the noonday...
“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
    and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight
    and the Lord’s holy day honorable,
and if you honor it by not going your own way
    and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
then you will find your joy in the Lord,
    and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land
    and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”
    For the mouth of the Lord has spoken. (Isaiah 58:9-14)

The Sabbath is here inextricably linked to social justice. Our fasting is pleasing to God if we do away with oppression; our Sabbath is pleasing to God if we use it to put the needs of others before our own. Here in Isaiah, God tells His people, "Don’t use my holy day for personal advantage." (Isaiah 58:13, The Message)

Friday, 15 February 2013

3rd Day of Lent - Loose the Chains of Injustice

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke? 
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? 
(Isaiah 58:6-7)

Why do we fast during Lent? Our priest said, the other day, that fasting helps us to remember what Jesus gave up for us: He gave up Heaven, power and glory, and then He gave up His relationship with God the Father and He gave up His life. Puts our fasting from chocolate/TV/Facebook/caffeine/(insert other pleasure here) into perspective, doesn't it. Fasting during Lent also helps us to identify with Jesus' 40 day fast in the desert after His baptism. Jesus' fast was part of His preparation to do God's work, and similarly our fasting should enable us to get closer to God in order that we can do the work He has planned for us. Fasting also affirms our dependence on God and upon each other. We can do nothing alone, and, as John Donne wrote, "No man is an island, Entire of itself."

Thursday, 14 February 2013

2nd Day of Lent - Choose Life

The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. (Luke 9:22)

As we journey through Lent, we are preparing to remember and celebrate Jesus' death and His resurrection. Jesus gave up His place in Heaven to live on earth like us and He died so that we could enter Heaven with Him. But His return to life 3 days after His execution was His victory over death.

Victory over death. Death is wrong. It's a result of our departure from the perfect creation. It is meant to make us angry, sad, grief-stricken. So why is it that we now live in a culture where death is campaigned for? We can kill babies in the womb, merely because they are inconvenient; we can kill babies up to birth for being disabled, or even for having a cleft lip; we want to kill criminals, rather than spending time and energy rehabilitating them; we call for euthanasia. Where did we start to go wrong? When did we decide that death was so simple and life of so little worth? Jesus died to give us life.