365 Days with Rafa

365 Days with Rafa

A video scrapbook from the crazy paths of parenthood…

Harold Wilson famously said that a week was a long time in British politics. As a two-time Prime Minister, he obviously knew what he was talking about. But I’m interested to know what Mr Wilson would have said about parenting. Sometimes just one night feels like a long time in parenting, never mind a week!

So what about a year? Well…

Today we’re celebrating Rafa turning one, and here’s a snapshot of those first 365 days, with one second (or thereabouts!) from each of them.

We tried it first with Evie, after a friend challenged me to film one second a day. We figured it would be a cute way of seeing her grow – and, hey, it turns out it was. But afterwards we also realised it helped us to be thankful to God for each of those days and the way in which he had provided for us in different ways throughout that first year.

Because, as many of us can so often forget, life is a breath.

Back in January I wrote about how my word of 2017 was going to be hebel, a little Hebrew expression that means breath or vapour. It’s found riddled throughout one of the Bible’s hidden gems, an often-avoided mysterious book called Ecclesiastes. In it the author makes the rather refreshing point that life is vapour.

Often frustrating. Always fleeting. Certainly not meaningless. But most definitely vapour.

And in different ways we’ll all have experienced that this year.

And yet this vapourous life is also a God-given gift to receive and enjoy.

Rather than trying to sculpt life and make it a means for our own gain, the wise response is to see this fleeting experience as a gift and to revere the God who made it and gives it to us. Don’t strive to gain. Joy and purpose are found in receiving and revering.

And I reckon this helps frame parenting too.

Sometimes it’s good to slow down. To count the days. To receive it and revere the One who holds each day in his hands.

And so, just as Huddy got the same gift for his first birthday, now it’s Rafa’s turn.

They say two’s company and three’s a crowd. Well, we love what Raphael Phoenix brings to this crowd: the dignified role of ‘chilled observer’, the evergreen smile, the outrageous appetite that consumes as much as his older siblings combined…

Why the Spanish sounding name? Contrary to popular belief, Rafa’s not named after the tennis ace or the rosy-cheeked former Liverpool FC manager. Raphael is from the Hebrew; roughly-speaking, ‘God is healer’.

And Phoenix? As well as being the name of Peter Kay’s favourite club and a cactus-populated city in Arizona, the Phoenix is of course that mythical creature, born again from the ashes of its former self. Or as we like to say, it’s a resurrection bird.

Because in this world of hebel, we know there is something that lasts and doesn’t burn up like dew in the morning sun. In the resurrection of Jesus we have – marked on the pages of history – a foretaste of how God will bring eternal healing, offering new life beyond the grave.

On December 1st 2016 we were ‘waiting’ at Barrow’s Furness General hospital (admittedly, describing it as waiting makes Zoe’s part seem a rather more passive and painless process than it was!). I thought it would be the fun-supportive-husband-thing-to-do to sing a few carols, after all it was the first of December. And as I made my way through Hark the Herald Angels Sing and got to the third verse, we found ourselves smiling at Charles Wesley’s own Rafa Phoenix moment:

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace,
Hail, the Sun of Righteousness
Light and life to all He brings,
Risen with healing in His Wings.

Of course, Wesley was citing the Old Testament prophet Malachi, through whom God promised the hope of a new dawn after the darkest night, Jesus Christ:

“But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings.” (Malachi 4:2)

So we thank God for Rafa, and for all these moments and all who have shared them with us. And we pray that he would bask in the light of the Son whose first sunrise came in a stable in a Jewish backwater and whose second advent will mean the tears, pain and sorrow of this vapourous world are no more.