Praise You in this Storm

‘Mum, Mum, I’ve not seen you since last decade!’

It’s hard to believe it’s 2020 already and, on Tuesday some of us will commence our third year of home education. The past two years have flown past, it’s been a massive learning curve and certainly tough at times but the difference we’ve seen in all three boys has been incredible.

This month marks the end of home education for Son No1 as he starts a course in our local college. We’ve yet to find out his timetable but, as it turns out, he’ll be starting college the day we go away for a holiday! I guess college marks the end of our wonderful term-time holidays although I’m also aware that our days of going on holiday as a family of five are rapidly growing shorter. Try as we might we were unable to change the dates of our holiday so Son No1 has chosen to stay with the GG Grandparents rather than miss his first days. It’s not going to be the same but I’m also quietly proud of him for making this decision.

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2019 saw lots of happy times for the GG gang. We had holidays to Cumbria (minus Mr GG), Strathpeffer and Prestatyn and I even managed a sneaky wee weekend to Northern Ireland with some lovely friends. I think all five of us would agree that the highlight of the year was the arrive of Miss Harley Quin … she is a delight, and makes us all laugh with her antics … Son No3 summed up her presence when he recently said that ‘we really needed her in our family’.  We took part in Sweatember to raise money for Cancer Research and we celebrated a special birthday with a beloved Grandad.

2019 also saw its challenges. Son No1’s surgery in January and his subsequent time in a wheelchair then re-learning to walk was most definitely a challenge although he faced it with a dignity, courage, determination and maturity that I watched with awe. A late-night/early morning mercy dash home from one of our holidays with an unwell child was definitely a challenge and not a highlight of the year. And, finally, the return of the dreaded grey dog for Mr GG (I know it’s usually the black dog but we can’t call it that when we have our beloved Harley!) … a battle he fights with courage and dignity.

I found 2019 a tough year, despite all the happy memories that were made. I struggled with Mr M’s depression which made it’s presence felt both as the year began and as it drew to a close. I love Mr M dearly and watching him struggle so desperately is painful. So often, the focus is on the person who is unwell but I often wonder about those who are holding it together in the background?

There is an immense guilt as a spouse. Five years ago, when Mr GG was first unwell with depression, someone told me ‘Of course, he does so much for you’ and that comment has stayed with me with my inner voice telling me, louder and louder ‘This is all your fault, you’ve broken him’. Have I? I feel compelled to be the best wife I can be, to be supportive and encouraging without burdening Mr GG to be ‘OK’ when he actually isn’t.

There is an immense pressure to hold everything together and keep things as ‘normal’ as possible for the family, especially living with young folks with autism. There is also the added pressure of supporting a child with OCD whose anxiety goes through the roof when things change.

There is a real danger that so much effort goes into supporting everyone else that a spouse loses herself or himself and ends up in a depressive state themselves … I’ve seen it so often and never really understood until I found myself living and loving Mr M through his depression.

I’ve tried to hold onto a sense that God has a reason for every season of life we go through. I held onto that as we lost our dear babies, as we watched beloved family members pass away, as we supported friends through crises in their marriages, as we fought for support for our sons, and now, I’m desperately trying to hold onto it through Mr M’s battle with the grey dog.

I’m beginning the year by re-reading Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson. It’s one of my favourite books and I’d encourage anyone to read it. Sally writes so lovingly and gently encourages us to live with intentionality and purpose.

Our family verse for 2020 is Jeremiah 17:7 ‘But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him’. All we can do at times is to hold on and to trust that God has everything in his hands.

I hesitated writing this post … after all, the purpose of this blog was for folks following our home education journey. However, the blog is entitled ‘The Life of Five’ and after a chat with Mr M about it we decided it’s right to write about what affects all of us, Mr M & I are as much part of the ‘Five’ as our three awesome boys are so our journey is important. Everything has an impact on home ed, our personal struggles as well as the delight and privilege of living a slightly less than average life!

Let me leave you with this song written by Casting Crowns and, from which, I stole the title for this post.  It’s a song which has been played and listened too many times over recent months … and one I truly relate to.

I was sure by now

God You would have reached down

And wiped our tears away

Stepped in and saved the day

But once again, I say “Amen”, and it’s still raining

As the thunder rolls

I barely hear Your whisper through the rain

“I’m with you”

And as Your mercy falls

I raise my hands and praise the God who gives

And takes away

CHORUS:

And I’ll praise You in this storm

And I will lift my hands

For You are who You are

No matter where I am

And every tear I’ve cried

You hold in Your hand

You never left my side

And though my heart is torn

I will praise You in this storm

I remember when

I stumbled in the wind

You heard my cry to you

And you raised me up again

My strength is almost gone

How can I carry on

If I can’t find You

But as the thunder rolls

I barely hear You whisper through the rain

“I’m with you”

And as Your mercy falls

I raise my hands and praise the God who gives

And takes away

CHORUS:

And I’ll praise You in this storm

And I will lift my hands

For You are who You are

No matter where I am

And every tear I’ve cried

You hold in Your hand

You never left my side

And though my heart is torn

I will praise You in this storm

I lift my eyes unto the hills

Where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord

The Maker of Heaven and Earth

 

Sorry, so sorry

I have to begin today with an apology.

Son No2 read my last post and had some constructive criticism that I need to address.  I am so very sorry for my errors!

Firstly, I told you that Son No2 likes to sit and chat to the chooks … he would like me to add that he also enjoys watching the chickens being put to bed at night and finds it hilarious when they flap about and run away … especially Minnie the Minx who hates bedtime so she runs and hides under the coop with her back to us.

img_1832Secondly, I omitted to tell you that Ivy the Terrible likes to yell. She loves to yell. She yells when we’re all indoors and she would like a cuddle (I kid you not). She yells when she is considering laying an egg although she’s quiet after the actual event. She yells when Beryl the Peril or Minnie the Minx are (in her opinion) faffing about and taking too long when egg laying. She particularly likes to yell at Minnie and has been known to screech in her face and frighten her out of the nest box. Ivy likes to yell.

Now that my conscience is clear I can tell you all about this week … hopefully this post will meet with approval after the scrutiny of Son No2 … but I’ll let you know!

This week has seen the return to work after the Christmas holidays. Although there were some rumbles of discontent at the thought of having to get up ‘too’ early, all three boys were up and working with little complaint when the time came.  They’ve all worked well this week and settled back into the routine ever so well.

(Old photos, but I’ll not tell if you don’t)

Son No3 recently started swimming lessons so on a Thursday morning he is extra motivated to get all his work done before he goes to the pool. He loves the water and is really enjoying his lessons.  Lessons started again this week after the Christmas break and he was super excited about being back in the water.

Those of you who follow me on Facebook will know that this week also saw my annual ‘dark day’, the day I remember the pain of losing our babies. I generally write something about my babies that day, not because I’m wanting sympathy but just as my wee memorial for them. I found this year harder than usual which puzzled me but I think maybe the fact that the Junior GGs are getting so grown up makes me realise that my babies would now no longer be ‘babies’ but turning into young adults.  Also, I think seventeen is a key age, especially here in the UK, as it’s the age when young folks can learn to drive and take on a little more independence from their parents.  I remember seventeen so well myself, I was incredibly excited about the freedom of being able to drive and, if my aging memory is correct, I had my first driving lesson the day after my birthday.
 

Earlier this week I saw this quote on Facebook from my favourite author, Sally Clarkson:

img_4165 

I love it.  This is something that Mr GG and I have held onto at times of heartache and, not least, through his bouts of depression and anxiety.  I can testify to the truth of this.  Over the years I have been given many opportunities to listen to, pray with, cry alongside folks who are grieving the loss of babies … I would never have had this compassion if I had not walked the devastating path of baby-loss myself.  I am thankful, not necessarily for the physical pain, but for the ways that my experience changed me and I am thankful too that my babies are safe in the arms of Jesus where, one day, I will meet them.

Alongside the ‘dark day’, there were many highlights to our week, not least the visit of a dear aunt and uncle who we have not seen for several years.  It was a delight to spend time with them, laughing, chatting, reminiscing and drinking tea together.  I have a wonderful family.

I had my first attempt at making face cream using essential oils this week.  I only made it on Friday so haven’t had much time to try it out but it looks OK and smells amazing.  I’d been wanting to try it for ages but I’m also trying to be measured in introducing DIY recipes to our family life rather than go diving in.  I’ve been using my own recipe of facial oil for the last couple of months which I’m really liking.  

Crafty-wise Mr GG and I have both had a couple of projects on the go.  I tried out a new bracelet pattern which I had found … once I’m used to it I’ll start adapting it and experimenting with different beads, patterns etc.  Mr GG also finished off a table he’d been working on restoring (now sold) and finalised an order he’d got to make a guitar pedal board (delivered and in use already).  We have a dream of one day living somewhere with room for a proper workshop as well as more land for growing fruit and veg … and more chickens … oh, and maybe a pig … and, well, some sheep would be nice … and ducks … and … and …

As a reward for a week’s work well done the Junior GGs had a trip to the local trampoline park.  Anyone who knows our family knows that Son No3 is a magnet for disaster. 

Image result for trampoline accident gif

Yes, as you can imagine our trip ended up with us dusting off our A&E loyalty card and paying a visit to the hospital.  I hold myself partly to blame for saying, just the day before, that we hadn’t been to A&E since beginning our home ed adventure. 

I’m thankful to say that Son No3 hasn’t broken any bones, he’s pulled a ligament and is ‘supposed’ to be resting for a few days.  Any tips on how to encourage a 10 year old boy to rest his foot would be greatly appreciated …