This week has been punctured by one tragic story after another. Senseless killing, tragic accidents. People left confused and questioning, I was there only 30 minutes earlier… Why not me?

Life’s not fair. Death is inevitable and unpredictable.

These are harsh truths to live with. I read a Guardian article about Rita Ora having therapy because she is afraid of death. The writer was arguing that she should be. After explaining Irvin Yalom’s condensed existential theory of four givens: death, freedom, isolation and meaningless she discusses how, in response to these terrifying realities of life, we all try to take meaning from death, either taking ready-made ones from religion or philosophy or making up ones of our own.

The article lacked something that I feel is essential to our survival: hope.

If we crave it, create it, feel it, surely there is something to hope in?

I hope in a God who is good, who loves, who brings good out of mess. Life is too short and too painful to play around with trite consolations. I have seen too many answers, too many ‘coincidences’, too many provisions, too much joy and peace, to question.

I have started reading a book called ‘One Thousand Gifts’ that tells a story of a woman finding out how to live fully out of a life punctured with loss and pain. To see God and his grace through the holes that loss creates. The final line of the first chapter describes the book as ‘a dare to live an emptier, fuller life.’ I’m pondering what that means and perhaps will write more on it another time.

I wanted to write about a way in which I have felt God helping me in the day to day, one of these pieces of evidence of His existence that I can’t ignore.

Before I got pregnant with B, God spoke to us through another person telling us we would have a son. Just before that I had found myself praying about my son I wasn’t even pregnant with, and also my niece whom I knew existed but didn’t know she was a she at the time. So it felt like a confirmation rather than bolt out of the blue reveal. He also said something about what Barnaby would be like as an adult. I got pregnant the following month and we did have a boy.

Well, at the time I didn’t really know what to make of it! You’re probably thinking: that’s just weird. It is really, it’s spiritual and not material and therefore hard to comprehend.

I’ve since realised why God spoke to us in advance about the kind of person Barnaby would be: because parenting this strong-willed boy was going to be hard. Every time Barnaby hits out because he doesn’t like a certain situation, every time he pushes limits repetitively, every time he seems to need to really believe in the value of a boundary before he’ll adhere to it, every time he squares up to a child who has taken his toy or encroached on his space, through every stage and phase of learning where it’s his pace and readiness that governs… I think of what God told us and it helps me. It reminds me that he has a strength of character, a fearlessness, a sense of justice that will be potent in a positive way when he is older, if we can nurture it and not stamp it out to have an easier life.

At the moment we are toilet training… it is hard. B will be dancing around clearly desperate for a wee and the conversation goes…

‘Come on, sit on the potty’


‘Come on B, you look like you need a wee.’

The response is most often…

‘I look like I DON’T.’

Why does he have such a strong desire to resist? He does need to wee, he has done it on the potty many times, what is going on in his brain? I can’t help but take it personally when he pees everywhere five minutes later and I am crushed and angry. Let me just say, all toddlers/preschoolers have an inbuilt desire to push limits and do the opposite of what we say. They are working out their independence and our boundaries, it’s normal and I constantly have to realign my expectations. But we have felt like B is especially… Let’s say ‘gifted’ in this way.

I had a revelation a couple of months back that I was hoping for and waiting for an ‘easier’ stage but that was not going to come. I needed to accept that I wouldn’t always understand him, that he and I were different, that he is fearless and confident in a way I never was and am very, very proud of and want to defend.

I was talking to a friend the other day about how it came across at Dad’s funeral how much he loved life. She and her family watched B do time trials on his bike around the garden, over and over. He would come back and say ‘cheer again!’ and go off again taking the same route as fast as he could. Later that day I told her about how we’d gone to the beach and B had typically got too excited swimming in the sea and swallowed too much sea water and vomited. He did this with my brother when he was wearing his GoPro camera… It also happens at Splashpoint. Every time. Anyway, the next day she said how she can see Dad’s love of life in B. He doesn’t just swim in the sea; he leaps and splashes and laughs (with a wide open mouth) and gets immersed.

He’s definitely got a lot to say already and we have just hit the ‘why’ phase… Saying my daily prayer for grace, wisdom and buckets of patience, for my precious B.D. Also praying for a vomit-free trip to splashpoint later…

B and I looking at the elephants at Chester Zoo


Add Yours
  1. the messy mama

    I’m glad God prepared you a bit for parenting a strong-willed child! Such a beautiful, tender, grace-filled write-up Jeni. I pray that for every moment where you despair at yet more pushing and testing of boundaries, you feel God with you, holding your hand, standing with you. x x x

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Rachel

    Once again Jeni you’ve hit so many nails on the head. We’d be lost without Barney our feisty, strong willed, fun loving, kind, sensitive and swim water loving friend. I think we made it through an entire swimming session without puke, no idea how as his mouth was open 90% of the time! 😉


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