Thursday, 31 March 2011


Most of us will have some experience of Motherhood, whether it's as being a child or being a mother. I understand some of those experiences may be painful and maybe you aren't a mum and want to be one, or you've lost your mum and miss her dreadfully, or maybe your experience of your mum wasn't a great one, or you are a mum and you're struggling to cope as a parent. As Mother's Day approaches I urge you to look beyond your difficulties and look to the positive influences either you have on your life or that you impart on others.

I've been very blessed in my life to have had not only a great Mum and be a mum myself, but also to know and have the support and love of some great motherly figures in my life. I've also known and loved many of my friends children as well as my nieces and nephew.

I can remember my mum coming home from a parents evening (I think it was my brothers' not mine?!) and retelling one of the teacher's comments to her. She had attended the evening with my Auntie, this was normal as Auntie was always there to support mum on such occasions whenever she could. The teacher had greeted them by saying, 'Ah Twin Mums' !!!

This may have been a little out of order but the reality was that Auntie was always there for us. No she wasn't mum, but she was and still is a huge part of our lives. Although she never married or had her own children she has had a huge influence on many of her friends children (many of whom still send her Christmas cards and presents) as well as in recent years influencing and being part of the lives of my friends children. In Bracknell, she is now dubbed 'a legend', and we all love her to bits.

As I mentioned in a previous blog I also had two lovely godmothers who were a huge part of my life when I was growing up too, as well as all the teachers and mums friends at church who imparted advice and wisdom on me. Most of all though I remember the love and support I felt and still feel when I remember those times.

Now I have many friends who have very positive influences on my life and offer advice and support about parenting and being a wife, as well as making lifestyle decisions. I also know that Gemma would not be the lovely girl she is if it wasn't for those same lovely women, supporting her, loving her, encouraging her and guiding her.

So as Mother's day approaches think about who you have in your life who helps, supports and loves you. And think about who you influence and can help, guide and encourage too.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Youth Culture

I have to admit that dealing with 'the youth of today' (and that can include young adults in their 2os!!) has become a bit of a struggle for me over the last couple of years. I'm sure when I was growing up my mum and her peers felt the same, 'ooh it wasn't like that in my day', 'when I was a lass...' and all such phrases you've heard a million times from your parents, grandparents etc etc....I find myself saying scary is that!!!! The old 'Hovis' advert with the lad cycling up a hill in long shorts to the tune of Largo from Dvorak's 'New World Symphony' sums it up really!!

Nostalgia's great but for me it can stop me moving on and embracing change and all the good things it has to offer. As a 47 year old mum of a teenage daughter dealing with youth culture is an everyday occurrence and one I'm finding a challenge!!

I think it was when the youth culture at our church exploded, and the attendance of LiFE, their Friday night meeting/gathering/event (whatever you want to call it) increased from around 50 to 350 plus that I began to really question my attitudes, and how I should try and understand 'the youth of today'.

So it's something I'm trying to address. God has his own idea of how I do that of course, and one such way is by putting me in the worship band I play in, along with two great 'young' guys, Dave and George, to help me understand them and their peers a bit more!!

My feeble way of dealing with it is to pray about it of course but I've also started reading a book Mend the Gap by Jason Gardner, which discusses whether the church can reconnect the generations. I'm only a few chapters in but already it has opened my eyes to many issues which the youngsters of today have to deal with, issues I didn't have to deal when I was growing up:

  • How society naturally splits us into generational groups and the church tries to join us all together.

  • How kids grow up in a brand culture now, and children even as young as preschool can depict which branded food they would rather eat. Bob the Builder sausage and beans or Tweenies?

  • How non uniform days at senior school have higher rates of truancy than normal uniform days because kids are afraid of not fitting in or wearing the wrong clothes.

Add to all of that how the media run the show, and throw materialism at us as a society and our kids just embrace it as the norm. As well as how a large proportion of kids today experience broken family relationships, and I begin to realize how blessed I am to have had the upbringing I had, and how blessed I am to have the faith I have today to keep me on the right path and to keep growing me in my understanding of who I am and who God wants me to be.

The bible also has stuff to say about growing up, and a passage I know Gemma (my 13 year old daughter), is often reminded of at Oakwood Youth Challenge where she rides and helps out whenever possible (!!), is found in 1 Timothy 4:12 'Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.'

These are words we can all learn from however old we are. As a Christian I believe I need to 'train myself to be godly' (1 Timothy 4:7) and in doing so, I'll come to be more accepting of others and how God wants me to behave towards them, whether they're younger, older or the same age as myself. The 21st Century church has a hard job trying to pull us all together, but we as individuals need to embrace the challenge and work towards making it happen. Only then will we experience true community and acceptance of everyone.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

My Mum

Today would have been my Mum's 85th birthday. I loved my fact I still do. She invested so much in me. So much time, teaching, love, wisdom and so many prayers I know were said for me and my brothers. She was a true inspiration and I miss her loads.

She didn't have an easy life although she never complained. In the 44 years I knew my mum she never had loads of money. She never owned her own property, she didn't drive, but you know what, she was happy. We were happy as a family. Mum kind of held us all together if you know what I mean. She was my rock, someone I could always go to, to off load and chat things through. There was a gentle inner peace about her and yet it wasn't wise to cross her either! After I got married and moved down south I would ring her most days for a chat to catch up on what we were both up to. I miss that.

Mum and Dad had a happy marriage although it had its difficulties. My eldest brother Peter was born the same year as Prince Charles. A very special day. Then Mum had a miscarriage and two more baby boys who both died in the 8 years before Alan was born. Also a very special day.Then I came along another 7 years later 19th November 1963. The only girl and also very special.

15 weeks later my Dad died of a heart attack very suddenly. And then we were four. Although I never knew my Dad I heard numerous stories about his sense of humour, his faith, the way he would torment my Auntie who he treated like a true sister and the love that he showed us all as his family.

So Mum was left with 3 children ranging from 15 years to 15 weeks and no money or insurances to pay out lump sums of money. My eldest brother Peter went out to work at 15 and would bring home his wages and give them to Mum. He took on the father role as best he could and I will be eternally grateful for all he did then, and as I was growing up to help me have a normal childhood.

We as a family will be eternally grateful for the love and support we received from our extended family. My Gran and Auntie who I can never remember not being there for us. They helped out with childcare and financially when they could but mostly it was just knowing they were there for us that counted.
My two godmothers Auntie Jean and Auntie Dorothy and Uncle Fred her husband, were also very much part of our family and I loved them all so much too.

Mum had a very strong faith and never doubted where she was going or whether God existed. I never remember her saying life wasn't fair or that she didn't deserve the suffering she had to deal with. She had a love of poetry and reading which she shared with us as children, reciting poems to us. Later in life she couldn't quite remember all the words but her love for them never died. She would sometimes recite hymns instead of singing them and that brought a whole new meaning to them.

Every time Mum visited me in Bracknell we would spend some time at the church bookshop so she could have a browse and would inevitably purchase more than one book before she went home. Some of her favourites were Patience Strong and Fiona Castle. We would often suggest books for one another to read, and discuss what we'd read. I miss that too.

Throughout my growing up Mum was in and out of hospital with numerous operations and yet she was a very strong woman. Her faith upheld her and love oozed out of her. She would always support me in my ventures. She'd let me have a go at decorating, gardening, cooking.....even though the results might not have been to the best of standards she let me try.

I can remember one such occasion when Alan was out in Sierra Leone teaching as a missionary and he came home on leave to witness the amateur job I'd done of papering a wall in the dining room. He was horrified and re did it as soon as possible!!! However Mum had encouraged me to have a go and had complimented me on my efforts.

Mum and Auntie were faithful supporters of me and my musical endeavours and would attend every concert possible. They were the only audience at one such event and yet were as enthusiastic in there support and applause as if the auditorium had been full!!

I feel very blessed to have had such a loving Mum and such a loving family. I know God had his hand on our lives and even though she suffered tragedy and pain in her life Mum knew God was her God and that He loved her without question. A true inspiration and a lovely lady.

Happy Birthday Mum


Friday, 25 March 2011

My Passions:Football as a spectator

Being born in Manchester I was surrounded by football, which probably explains my passion for the sport as a whole. I would probably have been a Manchester United fan if my Dad had still been alive, however that was not to be. My older brother Peter took me to my very first football match at the tender age of 10 after which I was smitten. He used to go and see Manchester City with a friend of his so I became a Man City fan through and through.

For those of you who are already bored because I'm banging on about sport again I'll lighten your reading with a little humour.

As in most towns there has always been considerable rivalry between the two Manchester teams. I'm reluctant to say hatred although many fans might disagree with me!
Man City play in blue and white and Man United play in red and white. I was such a staunch City fan that when I was younger I hated the colour red so much that I wouldn't even touch the red Penguin biscuits!!! I have got better in later life although I still refuse to buy a red car!!!!

So my spectating days were launched when football was all about passion, about local lads doing good and about having home grown British players to look up to and admire. I can remember running out into the park wearing my newly purchased Man City kit (even down to the shorts and socks!!) and pretending to be the wonderful Francis Lee or Colin Bell. Real heroes.

Being a City fan has been very much like riding a rollercoaster. (I hate rollercoasters!!!).
We've been relegated, promoted, relegated again, and again, and still we bounce back. We've had heady days of success in Europe and very lean years of dismal despair when we've only managed one point in the league by Christmas!!

However I continue to support my team (mainly from the sofa) but definitely with passion.
I've relived great games in recent years the 4-3 win over Tottenham in the Carling Cup in 2008 tops the lot I think. We were 3-0 down at half time and then had Barton sent off. So 10 men and a mountain to climb....oh but what a come back and what a game.

Unfortunately though I have to say, I am a little ashamed at the way in which my beloved club have gone down the route of so many other teams and bought their way to the top...or nearly the top. I fear it is a sign of the times and the modern game. I hate to say it but I think we are at the point of no return, with all seater stadiums, extortionate ticket prices, enormous transfer fees and not to mention immoral wages being payed to players. I believe we will never have a great National side until we get the balance of foreign and home grown players right. Yes they bring flare and style but where is the true passion, grit and hard work we used to have?

Rant over.....Wayne has always said I would watch 2nd Cippenham Scouts play football and he's probably right. It's in my blood and I love the game and it's part of who I am.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

My Passions:Football as a player!!

Yes Football!!! Not shopping, makeup, shoes or chocolate. I've never been your typical girlie girl and in the days of high fashion and image being so important on tv I think I'm getting less and less girlie.

I've loved football since I can earliest memories are of my gran taking me over to the park when I was 4 and letting me run wild with a ball and even kicking it back to me. It was an old heavy brown thing, none of this fifa pristine white leather, light as a feather nonsense you get these days!! As I got older the local boys used to call for me to go out and play football in the street with them (it was cricket in the summer and we used the neighbours wall to chalk three stumps and bails on for the need for a wicket keeper the ball just came straight back at the bowler if they were successfull!!!).

When I started secondary school I'd play at every playtime available. We'd use footballs, tennis balls, scrunched up bits of paper....anything to kick around. It was during one such break that I ventured over a wall to retrieve the ball and landed knee first on an upturned brick....ending up in A&E and resulting in stitches!!! Very girlie!!!!

My playing career developed only when I was working and got invited to join in a kick about one lunch time with the 'boys' and some other like minded girls. I can remember the first such occassion trying to drive to a band rehearsal the same evening and not being able to control the clutch on the car as my muscles had seized up so much!!!

I got fitter and ended up playing for a ladies team on a regular basis. All too late I fear as I was in my early 30s at this point and my speed was very lacking although I read the game really well and even if I say so myself had a mean left foot on me my career didn't last very long. I did however win a golden boot award for an indoor five aside competition (for those who don't know what that is it means I scored the most goals!!!). However I fear I was born in the wrong era. Girls didn't play football as part of PE in my day, and I wasn't allowed to join the boys in playing for my school either even though they wanted me to and I was one of the better players!!!

Now I have to resort to watching my beloved Man City from the sofa. More of that in my next blog I think as you've probably heard enough of my ramblings for today!!

Sunday, 20 March 2011


Well last night has been and gone, and I'm going over and over what I had planned to say about Morph but didn't verbalise!!! So for those of you who were there and thought what on earth is she talking about, and for those of you who weren't there but are intersted in knowing, here's what I'd planned to say about Morph!!!!!!

Morph has been developed by Gateway Church in Austin Texas. It is a new approach to bible study and is presented in 4 modules. I've joined together with four friends and we're working on the first module, Love God, which is an 8 week course. Now, we started it in October and are only on week 6!!! So you see we aren't legalistic about it.

My definition of Morph is that it is an exploration of who you are, and where you are with God.

We meet on a weekly basis and share openly and honestly with one another, encouraging and supporting one another. That for me has been a huge help over the last few months. Just knowing there are people around me who truly know what I'm feeling and going through. A network of people who I can contact when I'm having a bad day and get them to pray for me, or just someone to give me a hug on a Sunday when I feel lonely even though there are hundreds of people milling around.

Morph covers bible study, soul searching, reading and preparation before each meeting. It encourages regular conversations with God, reading the bible and memorizing passages. Now again we're not legalistic about this because we've all admitted that we're not great at remembering stuff, however just delving into God's word on a regualr basis has helped us uncover stuff about ourselves and what God wants for us.

We usually share a meal together, some weeks we just end up crying and praying for one another but every week we enjoy a laugh and come away encouraged and uplifted.
When we started Morph back in October we laid down two rules:
1. What we said during Morph stayed in Morph
2. We wouldn't try and fix one another, just be there for one another and support one another.

This has helped our discussion times loads and I for one have developed some great relationships with my fellow 'morphettes', all of whom I knew before but maybe not quite so well as now.

Before I started Morph I was in a sad place. I felt my world had fallen apart and I was struggling emotionally for many reasons. I had begun to cut myself off from people and retreat into my own little POM POM party (Poor Old Me). I spent long periods of time thinking and praying on my own and inevitably spiralling down into the depths of despair.
Throughout this season though God started dealing with my character and even though I felt I'd messed up I knew He still cared for me, He was still there for me. He is gradually drawing me back to Him and I'm putting Him back in the centre of my life where He should be.

Morph has helped me personally feel God closer to me on a daily basis. I feel He's been teaching me about my heart

  • About guarding my heart

  • About having a clean heart

  • About God being at the centre of my heart and no one, or anything else

  • About being real with God and honest with myself!

  • About the word of God judging the thoughts and attitudes of my heart, and helping me to mould my heart into What God wants me to be, and do.

Most of these aspects have been confirmed to me via other sources. I've been blessed by having other good friends supporting me, encouraging me and praying for me.
I've just finished Walking with God by John Eldredge, which helped me untangle a lot of emotions, and confirmed a lot of what we were dealing with in Morph.

So if you're tempted to withdraw and have a POM POM party, why not reach out instead. Give morph a go or just get together with some other friends and work through a book or follow a bible study. I know meeting together regularly has helped me to grow and look outside my own circumstances. Check out Morph online and see if it's for you. You might surprise yourself.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

My Passions:Worship Miranda would say 'funny word that'....I can just hear her playing with the pronunciation of it and getting many laughs with her facial expressions and sidelong looks at the camera!! (She was hilarious last night on Comic Relief, no doubt that clip will be played many times in the Austin household!!)

Anyway back to worship. I'm one of those annoying people who you see sat at traffic lights tapping away rhythms on the steering wheel and clearly singing loudly to music (thankfully I keep the windows shut!!) Usually harmonizing as I can't reach the heights of the melodies!!

The cd's I listen to are generally modern worship cd's. My favourites at the moment are Beautiful Exchange by Hillsong, and See the Morning by Chris Tomlin. In fact the phrase you see underneath my blog heading is a paraphrase of the Chris Tomlin song 'Made to Worship'.

Songs of Praise might be more your thing. I grew up singing along to the hymns on a Sunday night with my Mum and Auntie. In fact that was one of the last things we did together when Mum was in hospital. Something I'll never forget.

Worship is often used to describe giving praise to God via singing and music. I am part of the Worship Team at Kerith Community Church. We start our Sunday services (or as they are now known) meetings with corporate worship. I'm attending a Unique event at church tonight entitled 'Word and Worship' although I'm being interviewed tonight about Morph (a future blog entry) which is out of my comfort zone!!

For me though it is much more than just singing or just music. I believe God created us to worship, as the afore mentioned Chris Tomlin song says. Worship is a huge part of my life and over the last year or so has played a key role in 'sorting me out' as it were.

Worship is about who we are.
It's about our attitudes, our heart, what we do and say.
It's about how we react when bad stuff happens.

As a Christian I worship God, whether I'm in a good place emotionally or not, God just wants us to be real with Him and share our lives with Him.

Others of you might worship other things but it all boils down to the same thing really. If we focus on negative things or have bad influences in our lives then our lives will reflect that.

Colin Boyle preached a really good sermon last week on Worship. He uses the life of David in the bible to discuss this and talks about God being on the Throne in our hearts. Listen here if you want to know more.
Who's on the throne in your heart? What or who do you worship?

Friday, 18 March 2011

My Passions:Music

Music has always been part of my life and as they say it's in my genes!! My Grandad was a violinist and led his own dance orchestra which performed for local dances, entertainment shows and played for silent movies. Although I was only 4 when he died the stories of his performances were told me on a regular basis in the old fashioned way of talking and discussion!! He was remembered fondly as a sweet, talented man.

My Auntie has a beautiful singing voice and performed in the fore mentioned entertainment shows as did my mum who recited poetry. I know that's not music but I assure you the way she expressed the poems was like music to my ears, and many others.

It was my brother Alan's influence which inspired me to want to play. He was a tuba player in the Church Brass Band and in the East Manchester Music Centre band. It was while attending one of their concerts that I saw three lads get up and play a cornet trio (I think it was Buglar's Holiday, but can't be sure - it was a long time ago!!). I fell in love with the sound and said to mum that I wanted to play the cornet.

I can remember Alan coming home from a band practice one night with a battered leather case tied with a belt containing a very old Boosey and Hawkes silver cornet. I didn't realize how fortunate I was then to just get given an instrument to try out. Alan taught me the basics of how to produce the notes and how to read music and I just started going along to band rehearsals sitting on the 4th cornet stand and playing what I could but mainly just listening!!!

It is at this point I thank God for the patience both Mum, Alan and the rest of the family had while they heard me fumble my way through exercise after exercise as I learnt how to make a decent sound out of a tube of brass!! It took a while!!!

When I started secondary school as I could already play (of sorts!!) they handed me a trumpet and said I could join the band, and as they say the rest is history!!! I will blog in the future about many a happy hour I had with my school wind band travelling to Ireland, Italy and Finland and recording two albums, and performing many, many concerts. Not bad for a school band!!!

It was a long time ago all that but my love for music has not changed. I've played with a number of bands since then, including Burnham Concert Band and had classical training at college. I now play with my worship band 'The Sound Professors' at Kerith Community Church. If you want to hear a mediocre trumpet player then why not come along one Sunday. If you want to hear a fab trumpet player then check out Chris Botti. Some great friends of mine introduced me to him last night by giving me a dvd.....I'm's on in the background as I type this!!!

Thursday, 17 March 2011


Lent has always been a special time of year for me. I was brought up in a vibrant Methodist church and as a child I was heavily involved in the Girls Brigade and Sunday School eventually becoming a teacher!! We always prepared for Easter during the Sundays before focussing on what God had done for us in sending His only Son and how obedient Jesus was in following His Fathers plan by becoming the ultimate sacrifice.

I've usually tried to give something up for Lent as I know many people do. For me savoury has always rocked my boat rather than sweet stuff so it would usually be crisps I denied myself. This year I found myself questioning why we do this, and came to the conclusion that it's generally a habit not a spiritual act. As I walked round the supermarket and saw the pancake mixes and golden syrup all laid out in preparation for pancake day, and the shelves filling up with Easter eggs, it got me wondering whether the supermarkets celebrate this season more than the church these days?!!

I wanted Lent and this season of preparation for Easter to be different for me this time so this year I've given up alcohol!!!

Now those who know me well, will immediately recognise the sacrifice I am making here!! I like a beer or two, especially while watching a game of football.

It was a last minute decision I made on shrove Tuesday but one I feel God prompted me to do. I was drinking too much and it had become a bad habit, a way of relaxing. Not that I got drunk every night but I was becoming more and more reliant on it as a way of unwinding. Yes it's a sacrifice but it's nothing compared to what Jesus did for me and you.

Why not join me in preparing for Easter differently this year. A good friend of mine also sent me a link to 40 acts of stewardship which is a positive way of approaching Easter without giving up anything but looking to doing good stuff instead.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

To Blog or not to Blog?

If I was asking Wayne (my hubby) he'd be asking me why do you want to blog? What's your motivation? What are you trying to achieve?

Well the answer is I'm not really sure yet. All I know is this latest season in my life has been a tough one and yet one in which I feel God has been closer than ever before. The more conversations I have with friends and God, the more I know I have something to share. Not necessarily wisdom but life experience, and if my ramblings and thoughts can help even one person to understand some of what they might be feeling, then I think this blog will be worthwhile.

So my first entry is a blog or not to blog? Do I or don't I?

I am not a famous 17 year old pop star who has published an autobiography, or a bubbly tv presenter who writes novels, or a retired politician who might have really juicy bits of gossip to share.

I am a 47 year old Mum and Wife, a niece, a sister, a god mother, a friend. I play the trumpet in my fab worship band 'The Sound Professors', I am a worshipper and God is my friend. I am an encourager, and a helper. I like order and tidiness but live with two very messy people!! (God has a great sense of humour). I love people and hosting gatherings at home. I love my space too and time to think and ponder about life and God and a whole lot more. I like to be busy but I also like time to relax, enjoy my beloved Man City play football, watch a good action movie, or just chill with Strictly!!

Basically I'm just your normal down to earth northern lass who now has roots in Bracknell and feels very blessed. Chapters, seasons, phases.....however you describe it, whatever terminology you use, life is a journey made up of many different events and relationships. I hope you enjoy the journey with me.