Confessions of the worst mum in the world…. me.

My eldest is almost 16 but I remember at toddler group a mum saying how tired she was but that she felt she always needed to play with her children – make belief, at the park, cars, kitchens, lego, whatever they wanted. All day… apart from nap times. I didn’t do that and maybe that was where the guilt began.

I went to the park with the youngest two the other day and little one asked me to push her on the roundabout – I did. But then as she moved on to the next activity I just stood and watched her, shivering. I got my phone out to take a couple of photos of the girls having fun. Pictures of my guilt.

We have Youtube videos of someone opening tubs of playdough on in our house – no I don’t get it but she seems to like it and so she watches it.

We sometimes skip mealtime for snacks in front of a movie with blankets and pyjamas on – I don’t think they got their two a day never mind about five.

This morning I took little one in her slippers to drop my daughter off at school – truthfully I would have worn mine if I could drive in them. I had no make up on and my hair was just put up in casually (translate I couldn’t be bothered).

I saw the looks from other parents walking their children into school whilst I let mine run off herself into the playground whilst I didn’t get out the car. Lazy mum, uncaring, irresponsible.

Oh my, I don’t need you to look at me like that I already know I am a terrible mum. The problem with all these things that you may look and see as terrible is that I believe that it’s okay so doesn’t that make me even more terrible?

I actually think my kids are doing okay – they have developed imagination to learn to play and create for themselves, they dare to try to do things on their own and feel proud when they manage it and have resilience when they can’t. When my little one couldn’t manage the bigger wooden equipment she looked at me and said “I’m too small for this” and ran off to something else. I followed her, she had learnt her own space in that world, her own capability for now and expectation for the future. I had just stood and allowed her.

Healthy eating is important but my kids love movie nights and have memories from them.

I ask my daughter every time if she wants me to take her into the playground and she doesn’t, she loves that she is old enough to go by herself, there are no roads to cross and I know she is going there, she is safe.

Will my children have issues? Yes. Have I done my best? I hope so.

The main reason I confess to being a terrible mum is because I am bothered by what other people are thinking as they see me stood around, phone in hand, doing nothing. I confess to letting others expectations make me feel like I’m not doing the best. I confess to believing in free play, exploration, independence, adventure and at the end of the day walking hand in hand with my child, side by side where they feel secure as they tell me what they have done. By the way that little hand is normally at least a little bit grubby – terrible isn’t it?

Who is feeding the sheep?

Apart from the very cool look on the sheep’s face I love this photo from Muddy Church at St Andrew’s, Rugby (https://www.facebook.com/StAndrewsChurchRugby/). In the bible there is an account of Jesus talking to his disciple Simon Peter (read about it in John 21) and asking him if he loves him. After Peter’s response Jesus tells him to feed him lambs, or his sheep. The theological depth within this is beautiful, but the simple message we can see is that Jesus was basing involvement on relationship not any other criteria. He didn’t give Peter a pop-quiz on his knowledge at this point, a character assessment, a skills audit He wanted to know “Do you love me?”

This picture shows these sheep aren’t worried if it’s the adult, the farmer, the trained shepherd or the small child, they see the food and trust the feeder. The little hand can fit through the fence and give the food direct to the sheep rather than just tipping it over and into the trough. We all have our skills and abilities, not that others can’t do something but that sometimes we can do it that bit better, engage deeper, be more appropriate because of who we are, our story, our journey.

This photo shows an adult helping a child by passing them the tools (the food) and a child able to get their own food for the sheep and passing it on but most of all sheep- happy to be right there and getting to eat.

Jesus wasn’t talking about his actual sheep that He’d left but about people and sometimes we can put off doing things because of what we aren’t or haven’t got – a qualification, academic knowledge, status or age. I believe God’s Kingdom is a place where all are able to make a difference, there are things we can do differently at different ages and stages but let’s take the opportunities this week to see others and release them in their skills whilst also looking for where God is using our story.

Muddy Church is a place that encourages each community to engage with it’s local area and people. For some that might be a park, a plant-bed or a mud slide. Each community is different and has spaces where people can connect with creation and explore God within our world. Get in touch for more information about what Muddy Church might look like for you.

Where is Freedom?

This video shows some of the depth of need that our children have, in fact that all of us have. A need to be free, to explore, to have spaces no matter what our limitations that offer us places to be and to become. Our moments of outside often are limited between building and vehicle, office or school to bus or car, shop or church. But the greatest cathedral ever built with the most breath-taking architecture is that one all around us, the great outdoors. It is unbelievable that we see the need for prisoners to have space outside but don’t insist the same for ourselves and children. How can we change this, how can we encourage the connection with all the outside freedom and learning if we don’t go there?

Muddy Church isn’t about a set program, do this or that. It’s a place for groups, individuals, churches, communities to stop and look around them, to explore around them and to look where God might be. It doesn’t take huge planning or any expense it it about each of us realising we need to feel the fulness of life that certainly extends walls and doors. Why not try it for yourself today, step outside for five minutes – feel the wind, get wet in the rain, listen and ask yourself – where is God right now?

This is in no way a promotion of Unilever but fascinating and deeply saddening.

Wandering and Wondering

A conversation with someone led to the start of Muddy Church, developing the idea of making church accessible and also celebrating the different ways we connect spiritually with God.

Muddy Church is a space to wander and wonder… to walk alongside people (and animals), enjoying the outside, community, friendship and the wonderful world around us.

Living on the edge of a nature area we are fortunate and yet overlook this luxury often and Muddy Church hopes to re-discover this lovely area and the fun that can be found in the steep mud banks, scrunching through leaves or bouncing in puddles. The beauty of the seasons captured and enjoyed, the creative God recognised and delighted in and the lovely companionship of easy talk and sharing life.

Muddy Church gives a place that people can meet together with others of shared faith or none. A place families can gather together and adventure – getting the kids off screens! A welcoming place for the extended family of furry friends (treats provided for the dogs) and supporting the local community businesses and facilities.

Perhaps Muddy Church is a breath of fresh air for spiritual wanderers and the church?