Great view. #ynwa #lfc on Flickr.
With less than 3 hours to go until the world - or at least our time zone - welcomes 2013, I thought it would be fitting to end 2012 with a few words of thanks. This year has seen very few if any blog posts (I think Suzanne may have managed 1 or 2) and I would like to make more regular blogging a new year resolution, but I don’t think I am very resolute about that and we shall just have to see how we go. However a lack of blog posts is not to be taken as a lack of events in our year to blog about. In fact quite the opposite! This year has brought so much joy and blessing and change that it feels like we just haven’t been able to adequately describe what has happened. So in brief here are some highlights.
The key big change took place in June, but had been 6 months in the planning - Suzanne was able to finish work. She was sad to say goodbye to her colleagues, but there was much rejoicing that she was finally able to leave it behind.
This providentially coincided with me being employed by our church. I am currently covering the role of our excellent administrator (Tasha) who is on maternity leave, but I am also developing a Pastoral role which will continue when Tasha returns. I thoroughly enjoy being at work and feel very fortunate to be employed by such a great church, and although the hours are only part time we are learning new lessons of faith and trust in our Provider.
Our third big change was in regards to our family. It has long been on our hearts to homeschool our three girls. We had planned and prayed for a long time but felt that it was something that could only happen once Suzanne had finished work. When this happened we moved swiftly to speak to their school and in July we officially became a homeschooling family. It’s worth me saying here that we had no problems with the girls’ school or with the education system in general. We know many teachers and educators in various different schools and roles and have nothing but admiration for the calling on their lives and the service that they provide. We thought long and hard and made a decision that for now we believe is best for our family.
So over the last term Suzanne and the girls have been slowly adjusting to their new life. There is still much to work out but we are enjoying the challenge! I think it will be a while before we have some things figured out, but after only a few months we already feel more like the family that we wanted to be.
So we finish 2012 in a very different way to how we started it and we look forward to 2013 with wonder at what may lie ahead.
We hope that your next year will bless you like the past one has blessed us.
I have in my heart a little pouch of tears. I have been told that time is a healer, though I am yet to see that. I don’t believe it.
What I do know is that He who created all things and knew me before she birthed me, is more than able. He is the great Healer. The abba Father. The all sufficient One.
And so, four years on, I write with tears. Yet knowing that He is all I need. That He has her in His care. And I thank Him for that. I hold fast to Him.
Today my little pouch may be less hidden than usual. Today I may allow myself a moment of indulgence to miss her. To wonder. To wish. To ache.
But I will allow Him to continue to ease that ache. To patch the leak. Not to take it away, for it makes me who I am today. But to allow Him to use it. For good.
Today I will allow my little pouch to create vulnerability. Because in that place He does great things. He creates beautiful things. He brings great joy and quiet peace. And I sense Him closer than ever.
We are in the middle of a season of incredibly significant firsts for our little family at the moment. It goes a little way towards explaining why I am feeling a little out of sorts at times and caught out by moments of anxiety every now and then….
26th June - my last day working as an OT.
30th June - contract completed with our local NHS Trust.
12th July - letter from HPC (Health Professions Council) to confirm that my name removed from the HPC register at my request and that I am no longer legally able to practice as an Occupational Therapist in the UK.
13th July - C, E and I have their last day at their school.
13th July approximately 1510h - we officially become a homeschool family.
23rd July - James starts a new role working for our church.
And pause for breath! Wow! After desiring these changes for so long, it seems somewhat unbelievable to think that they are actually happening.
Psalm 37 is the bit of the Bible that James and I are holding on to for our family during this season of change. But Psalm 16 verses 3 and 9 were given to us independently by two faithful and encouraging friends at the start of this phase of transition way back in October 2011:
“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed…..In his heart a man plans the course, but the Lord determines his steps.”
The current shifting within our lives is years in the making and we have been trusting Him to bring it to pass at exactly the right time. And here we are.
How incredibly exciting!
Five days into my new role as a stay at home Mum. Feels as if it’s been a long time coming and yet I am acutely aware of God’s timing and His plans. Three girls and twelve OT years later. And what a truly wonderful priviledge.
Do pop back for stories, funny moments, stress points and challenges.
But here’s to enjoying the moment. Living in the now. Trying to make the most of every opportunity.
Am most excited to see how this next stage pans out. To see through that which God has called us to. To watch James move into new opportunities and be stretched. To walk our girls into this next season as smoothly and graciously as possible. To delight in Him…..Psalm 37.
This is my favourite verse. That said, it’s also probably my favourite bit of advice for how anybody (of faith or otherwise) can be a nicer, better, more decent person. Do justly, love mercy, walk humbly. Micah 6:8.
So it’s been well over a year since I blogged :oO! For a whole host of reasons, some of which I’m planning on writing about soonish. But I thought what better way to get back in than to honour my wonderful Mum on this gloriously sunny North Wales day:
The sun is shining, the sky is blue and the girls are riding their bikes and scooters out in front of our house. There are vases and pots of daffodils bobbing their beautiful yellow heads all around our house thanks to my wonderful man and little ladies, along with a rather large box of Maltesers in the cupboard for later…
Mum loved all the family stuff. She and Dad modelled it so well for Helen and I, and we now form part of their legacy as we do the same with our amazing families. She would have loved spending today with her children and grandchildren and seeing their enthusiasm for life and fun in all things. She was an incredibly gifted lady, who I feel priviledged to have been mothered and mentored by. I’m not sure that she always saw the gifting in herself, but many people have confirmed to us over the last 3 1/2 years that they knew her to be so.
Mum and Dad always made time for us. We were their priority and we knew it. She and Dad were solid and consistent, even when Helen and I pushed their boundaries. We were not spoiled and were very clearly and plainly taught good manners and values. Yet they lavished us with their love and time and energy. Mum firmly believed in home cooked food, eaten at the table, together. She was always encouraging and always pushed us to persevere. They always believed the best in us.
This is the first Mothering Sunday that I haven’t cried at the thought of not being able to see Mum today….well I haven’t cried so far ;-) The ache is still there, but not so raw as before and I am able to remember and enjoy the memories without feeling aggrieved and cheated that we cannot make any more with her. But I’m incredibly excited at Dad’s New Zealand trip coming to an end and him returning home next week, so we can make a few more with him!
One of my friends at church this morning talked about Mums being creators of space for their children to allow them to learn and grow and develop. I hope that I can take what I have learnt from my Mum and work it out in my life and the lives of our girls.
Well as 2011 comes to an end we are happy to report that we did our best to get the most out of it that we could.
Family: We are all in good health and have enjoyed another year making memories that will last for many years. Caitlin, Eleanor and Isabel are as ever a wonderful source of joy and life. They continue to grow much too fast but always seem to be the perfect age. Caitlin now 7 is doing really well at school, and takes great pride in reading books to her sisters. Eleanor (4) is now full time at school and although she finds it tiring enjoys getting stuck in. Isabel will turn 3 next month but has the will and stubbornness of a teenager. Together these three beautiful girls are a wonder to behold.
Church: We have had an amazing year at church. As mentioned last year, January saw the handing over of leadership and James is a part of that new team. This has seen James preach roughly 20 times this year, something which he loves and which he wants to continue to become better at. We have been amazed at how God is working in our lives especially in regard to church leadership. We are on a steep learning curve especially when learning to trust God but he continues to provide for us and bless us.
Work: This is perhaps the hardest part to write. Suzanne continues to work as an Occupational Therapist working with children. She is part of a good team and is fortunate to have the flexibility to help with the school runs and gets plenty of time at home with the family. However by now we were hoping to be able to say that James had started work as a driving instructor. Unfortunately this didn’t happen which is explained in full here. This has led to a lot of soul searching and we are still praying as to what our next move needs to be.
The year: We began the year with Bel’s 2nd birthday and with the help of some very generous friends and family we even managed a night in a stunning hotel to celebrate our 11th wedding anniversary.
February saw enough sunshine for the first of many trips to the beach and was quickly followed in March with the Coffee pot opening which always causes an unreasonable amount of squeals of delight from the girls.
We have continued to host foreign students whenever possible this year with some of the best being two girls from Guadeloupe who showered us with gifts which included home made rum!
At Easter we had a visit from (James’) Mum and Dad, something we are pleased to say has become more frequent due to their move to Sheffield which more than halves the distance. We also had a visit to their new house in June and our small town girls were blown away by a trip into the city on the tram.
The summer holidays kicked off with a wedding. We travelled to Bristol to see our friends Mike and Dani get married, which was a wonderful day.
For our summer holiday this year we house sat for a friend who has a large farmhouse hidden away in mid Wales. The girls loved exploring the large mature garden, Suzanne found time to read (something she rarely has a chance to do) and James looked after the Rayburn. It was a lovely time with some surprisingly great weather: we played hide and seek, took a steam train ride (which we all adored) and visited nearby landmarks.
Finally as the nights drew in and we started to hunker down for winter, we waved goodbye to George (Suzanne’s Dad) as he decided to head off for warmer weather. He is spending 6 months with family in New Zealand, but with facebook and skype we are kept in the loop with all his adventures.
So with Christmas just a few weeks away, the Buckley house is becoming increasingly excited with all that the holidays hold. We pray that you and your loved ones have a wonderful Christmas season and that 2012 will be full of God’s blessings on your life.
James, Suzanne, Caitlin, Eleanor and Isabel
“I think it’s time that I did a blog post” - these are the words that I have been repeating over and over again throughout the year and yet I have been unable to do it. I know the reason why and I am sure that for most people reading it will seem insignificant and unimportant but to me it has been in many ways debilitating. However with Christmas fast approaching and the need to write a family update (which will come sometime in December) and also with the realisation that I have not written a significant post since last winter, I think it is time to face my fears and get this monkey off my back.
Before I move on to the negative stuff, I think it is important to say that this year has been fantastic. We have had some great moments. Changes at church have been very exciting and I am feeling like I am getting the chance to do what I was made to do. My family continues to amaze me. Caitlin and Eleanor are both full time in school and Isabel does two mornings a week at playgroup. We had a lovely summer staying at a friend’s house, hidden away in Mid Wales. We have celebrated birthdays, anniversaries and weddings and have much to look back on with fondness (again our Christmas update will follow soon).
So without a doubt I live a blessed life and I have no doubt of God’s goodness and sovereignty. However at times I have also felt like a failure and a disappointment. For those that don’t know or those that have forgotten, Suzanne and I have been trying to make changes to our current work situation. Currently Suzanne is working part time (Tuesday-Friday school hours) and I have been looking after the kids. This was the natural progression following on from when I was doing youth work and worked part time. However I have not been happy about Suzanne having to carry the burden of providing the bulk of our income. So in order to turn things around, three years ago I started training to be a driving instructor. We spent a lot of time thinking about this and it seemed like a good idea. It was not a decision made on a whim, but one that we felt happy and excited about. Long term we felt it would allow me to bring in a steady income, thus freeing Suzanne of that burden and pressure and it also guaranteed a job at the end of the training (something that not even university can do). It allowed me to train while still looking after our girls and hopefully the job would be flexible enough for me to still have some time to give to church.
So we started out on what turned out to be a much longer process than we had imagined. To become a driving instructor you have to pass three tests. The first is an advanced theory and hazard perception test, the second is an advanced driving test, and the third is a teacher driving test. The tests have to be passed in that order and must be completed within two years of passing the theory, however if you fail either the part two or part three test three times then you have to wait until the two years have expired and start again from the beginning. I’m sure you can see where this story is going.
Well the theory and hazard perception was fine, more than fine, passed with flying colours. The driving not so much. I failed the advanced driving test twice before passing well on the third attempt. The frustration at this point and what was to continue was that I seemed to really struggle with the tests. I know it’s the classic excuse, but when driving with my instructor (or other instructors) my driving was spotless and they were at a loss for words as to why I struggled so much in the tests. I certainly felt nervous about them but isn’t that normal? Isn’t that what’s supposed to push you on? It could be that I was putting too much pressure on myself. After all this wasn’t just about a test - this was about a whole change of life for my family.
Anyway, after passing part two I felt a fresh excitement. I was over halfway and I was hoping that part three might prove easier. As the teacher driving part this would allow me to use skills I felt I already had and again in my lessons I became very good at it. My instructor was very confident in my ability to pass, but again whether due to pressure, nerves, bad luck or just not being good enough, I failed the test. I booked to do it again and, although feeling more than ready, I failed. My examiner almost apologised for failing me it was that close. He gave me some very encouraging comments and made me promise to take the test again for the third time, which I did, and which I failed.
Failed! I couldn’t believe it. The shock of failing hit me like a wave of disappointment and self doubt. I felt like a failure, a loser. I had wasted two and a half years and had let down so many people. Friends and family who had prayed and supported me, some who had even given money to help pay for lessons and tests. I felt guilty that I still couldn’t provide for my family as I wanted too. I hated having to explain to my 6 year old daughter that even though Daddy had worked hard and she had prayed so tenderly for me, I had still not passed the test. I felt like my failure was shrinking her faith right in front of my eyes. And I felt let down. Where was God in all this? Didn’t he love me and want the best for me? Didn’t he want me to provide? To work?
It had felt as if everything about the test was against me. The test was at school home time which made the roads crowded with cars stopping and starting and parents and kids crossing the roads. Added to that my examiner was being examined. In the back sat a very official looking DSA (Driving Standards Agency) representative. I don’t mention these as an excuse. I failed and I can accept that but they certainly were a source of frustration. I certainly didn’t feel as if God was helping me at that moment. So often I preach at my church about trusting God and yet I felt so abandoned. I have at times felt so unqualified to take a leading role in my church because of the last few years, and the failure of this year has only increased that feeling at a time when I have even greater responsibility for my church than I ever have had. Again I have been fortunate with friends and family who have only ever been supportive and encouraging and with Suzanne being the most supportive and most encouraging anyone could ever be. She has never doubted me, never wavered in her love and devotion to me and I am very fortunate to call her my wife.
Suzanne and I now had some decisions to make: do I start again from the beginning or do we cut loose and say it’s not to be? In the end the decision came down to a lack of options. I needed a job (something that could in the long term sustain our mortgage and other bills) and this seemed to be the only option. I had to wait a couple of months to end the two years since passing my theory and then start the process again. This required more forms to be filled in and another CRB check. Once that was all done and cleared I applied for the theory and hazard perception test and started revising. Of all the tests the first time round, this was the one I passed first time with good scores. So you can imagine my increased shock, frustration and disappointment when I failed it by 1 point.
This was beyond a joke! What was going on? 1 point. By now as you can imagine I was beginning to hate the idea of being a driving instructor. If I were to pass, I think I would resent the job so much it would make me miserable.
Just after that test we had a visiting minister from South Africa come and spend some time in our church. He is someone our church leadership value highly and someone Suzanne and I respect greatly. He leads a church of over two thousand people yet he took two weeks out to spend with us at North Coast Church. His visit had been planned for months but the timing was perfect. I was able to spend a morning with him at a local coffee shop and explained some of what had taken place over the last few years and why I was feeling frustrated. He was a tremendous source of encouragement and in just a few hours had done wonders for my faith. He encouraged me to trust God for the purpose of my life, something I have become clear about over the past six months, and to follow that purpose trusting that God will set the plans in place. This became one of a handful of conversations with different people that just seemed to inject faith and clarity into my life. It wasn’t a pass mark or a job offer. All the problems and issues are still there but it feels as if there is a new perspective coming into focus at the same time as a new and deeper trust in God and in what God can do.
Which leads us to today. Still frustrated and disappointed. Still unsure about the future. But praying and believing that God’s purpose and plans will be made clear. I have not completely let the idea of being a driving instructor go, but it is an ever decreasing thought in the back of my mind and going back to it seems like a denial of what God has so clearly said over over the last two months.
So as this ridiculously long post comes to an end, my hope would be to offer some nice, helpful thoughts about how to deal with failure and disappointment. Maybe even a few out of context bible verses. But the truth is I can’t, at least not yet. Maybe one day this will all become a wonderful preach full of inspiration and examples of trusting God. But for now all I know is that God is sovereign and that God is good, and I will trust in him.
Hopefully with this story told I will feel a bit of freedom to start and write a few more posts a bit more regularly.
Doing things the right way…