Thursday, 19 November 2015

Comparison is a killer

Comparison is a killer of contentment. I've been learning recently to find joy in the seemingly mundane and in the life that God has called me to. In the season that I'm in and in the tasks at hand. It's easy for me to look forward and long for the next thing. It's also tempting to look back and wish for things that once were. Comparing now to then just kills my contentment, and it's something that I'm more and more challenged to let go of.

Being thankful is part of all of this. I'm reading through Ann Voskamps 1000 gifts devotional again at the moment and it's so helpful to me to practice thankfulness, counting the gifts of each ordinary day, and from it experience the contentment that comes from enjoying the moment. The here and now. 

Saturday, 31 October 2015

The Fringe Hours

I'm hitting the "new post" button for the first time since April! It feels good to be back and blogging is something I've put to one side for a while and yet it's always been in the back of my mind, knowing it's something I've wanted to get back to. Reading a book recently called "The Fringe Hours", has prompted me to get back to it.  The book was by Jessica N Turner and I'd highly recommend it. It was a challenging and inspiring read and I wanted to share a few thoughts...

Her theme for the book is "making time for you". This is something I do manage to do generally but is more and more difficult now being a Mum!  A few other bloggers/podcasts I follow kept mentioning this book and so I was interested to read it. I was finding that my life was revolving around cooking, cleaning, changing nappies, doing dishes, laundry... And I was beginning to resent it, feeling like a slave. It's not that I don't love my family, and I'm thankful for our home and food on the table, but I knew I also needed to pursue some stuff just for me. I'm a creative person and I felt like that part of me was dying. 

So I started reading "The Fringe Hours" and soon got hooked, not able to put it down. This woman was speaking to me! Lots of things I already knew, just needed reminding of. She writes that we're all creative by nature whether we realise it or not, we've been made by a Creator God and made in His image, and so that made so much sense to me. The problem is that we spend so much of our time and our days consuming that we forget about the joy of creating. 

So I've purposed to organise myself and prioritise time for creativity above other things. We don't watch a lot of TV and I'm finding that helps. There's also a lot of little sections of time that I find I was wasting, and if I could just plan a little bit better I could use them for the things I wanted to do and that bring me joy. What would those things be for you? It's the gifts and talents God has given you, the things that you get excited about or that make you feel fulfilled and satisfied. The things that bring you joy and others too. How amazing would it be if we all set aside some of the consuming to get creating instead? I think we'd live fuller, more interesting and satisfied lives and probably bless others in the process.

So that's my challenge, to create more and consume less... Screens, TV, social media... To make time for things that matter by filtering out the things that don't. To prioritise the fulfilling and side-step the time-wasting. The laundry, dishes, nappy-changing and cleaning still has to get done, but I'm learning to look for "The Fringe Hours" and make them count!


Thursday, 2 April 2015

You want peace?

"You want peace?  It starts by yoking yourself with the prince of peace.  But be careful,  You'll find yourself going to parties with people you didn't think you'd like, visiting seniors who are lonely, and sharing a drink with someone whose theology is, by your standards at least, "off".  You'll find yourself looking for ways to bless those around with little thought of whether they're 'worthy', agree with you, or even like you.  Your fear will be melting away like a spring thaw.  Love will blossom.  And the tomb that held your bitterness, rancor, and pride, especially your religious pride - well you'll wake up one Sunday spring morning and find it:  empty.
Peace.  Don't let your hearts be troubled.
Happy Easter..."

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Leave me in peace!

Are you a Mary or a Martha? Do you find it easier to give or to receive? Do you show love by doing things for people, or by giving gifts or speaking kind words? 
These things fascinate me. We're all made differently and communicate differently. By nature I am busy. I like to do. I like to go, go, go. I like to help more than I like to be helped. It's who I am. That's can be both a good and a bad thing. My natural slant and leaning would be towards burn out, and so I'm slowly learning to "smell smoke" before I'm in flames! Sometimes it's too late though. Sometimes I'm all about the exhaling. The giving out. I forget to inhale. To recharge. To rest. 
I was in that place again last week and over and over again these few well known verses kept hitting me - either just coming to mind, or being put quite literally in front of me!

"The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul."
Psalm 23:1-3

As I think on what it might look like to actually live like this is actually true in my life, I'm challenged by how far from being a reality this often looks for me. To actually live by these words is pretty against the flow of how life looks for most...

"I shall not want" is easier said than done in a materialistic, comparison-filled world.

"He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters" - again, whether literal or just a state of mind and being, easier said than done. We live in a busy, stress-filled world, often rushing from one thing to the next without coming up for air, never mind taking time to "lie down" or "be still". And even if not physically, it's hard enough to mentally be still.

"He restores my soul"... My soul needs restoring often. My attitude is off. I'm annoyed. Impatient. Undisciplined. Ungrateful. Complaining. The list is long. I'm thankful though that God obviously knows that we will get off track and that our souls will be in need of restoration. I'll take it!

So what would it look like to actually live this out? I think for me it means remembering the importance of taking time out to be quiet and be still. To physically rest and to also allow Him to "restore my soul". 

I think it looks like contentment. Rest. Peace. Fullness. Satisfaction. Remembering who God is and who we are not. We don't have to be all and do all. That's His job.

Listening to a sermon today I came across these verses, and to me, they're perspective-altering and peace-inducing.

"He has made everything beautiful in its time. He also has planted eternity in men's hearts and minds [a divinely implanted sense of a purpose working through the ages which nothing under the sun but God alone can satisfy.]

"I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil - this is Gods gift to man."

"I know that whatever God does, it endures forever; nothing can be added to it nor anything taken from it. And God does it so that men will [reverently] fear Him, [revere and worship Him, knowing He is]. 
-Ecclesiastes 3:11,13&14 AMP&ESV

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Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Making the most of life?

This week a friend of mine had some sad news that someone she knew who was a similar young age to us had been killed in an accident.  What a shock.  In those circumstances it's hard to know what to say.  For me though it was a reminder again to make the most of life and to live intentionally. We really don't know what tomorrow holds.  We have to make today count.

"So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom." - Psalm 90:12

It starts with the heart.  Today we were listening to a podcast interview with John Maxwell.  He asked two questions:

Who are you?
What breaks your heart?

Answering those questions I believe, leads us to find purpose and meaning in life, pursuing what God has for us to do as we join Him in His bigger picture.

He said some things to challenge what we fill our hearts and minds with because it's out of what we take in that we're able to give out to others.  It starts with filling up with the good stuff, so that we can be fuelled for deep and meaningful friendships, relationships and conversations that can bless, challenge and encourage others.


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Sunday, 22 February 2015

Sometimes I just need space!

Maybe you've read about my word for the year being routine, in my recent blog post. Specifically health and routine and the link between the two is a focus for my year. One area I've been thinking about recently, and actually struggling with a bit is the routine of finding quiet time with God to read and pray. It's directly linked to spiritual health and actually probably physical and emotional health too, I'm sure. Jesus did it. He instructed His disciples to do it (Mark 6:31), and I recognise the importance of it in my life too....

...All that said, what does it look like practically? Between sleep deprivation and busy days with family, work... And did I mention sleep deprivation!? I'd love my routine to be to wake up early and have quiet and a good start to the day, but at this stage with a little early bird to take care of, that is just not working! And I've come to the conclusion that.... That's ok! Routine though is healthy, and as with anything that we want to prioritise, sometimes it takes a planned and deliberate routine to make those priorities a reality.

For me, I've settled on evenings once R is asleep and I can actually focus. I'm relatively fresh early in the evening and I can fairly predictably carve out a bit of space for some quiet. So what next? It's always a work in progress and different days and seasons look different, sometimes it's only a few minutes, sometimes longer and sometimes something comes up and it doesn't happen at all. And that's ok too. Tomorrow is always a new day. 

A few things I do find helpful though are a reading plan, like perhaps choosing to read one proverb per day of a psalm per day, or reading through the gospels, those are good places to start. The past few years I've chosen a plan to aim to read the Bible in a Year. This year I have the Bible in One Year App on my phone and am just reading the Old Tesatmant passages each day as I find the chunks of reading too long in this season of life and I like to think and journal and take it slow. So I read, I think, I pray, I make notes. My aim is to also regularly read some good blogs on faith and applying faith as part of this. Some of my favourites are:

So what's the point?  Today's commentary on the Bible in One Year puts it well and definitely hit home for me tonight:
"Prayer and action go hand in hand. The activity comes out of relationship." 
That means if our faith is going to lead us to action rather than just a lot of theories and rules then there needs to be relationship, and relationship needs time and space. Richard Dahlstrom calls it his "coffee with God":

As we put our faith into action and actually live what we believe, it can be challenging and less than easy. Growth sometimes causes growing pains, refining and shaping often is through the fire! 

"Even when we are doing what Jesus tells us to do, it is sometimes very difficult and hard work... It is an uphill struggle unless we are conscious of Jesus' presence with us." -BiOY App

Time for quiet and reflection, reading and prayer is a reminder of the presence of God in whatever we're dealing with. There's encouragement and inspiration. Instruction for next steps. Conviction and the need for forgiveness. Mercy and grace. Reminders and reality checks! 

What it looks like for you might be different than what it looks like for me, but it's the spiritual version of breathing and we can't really live what we believe without it. 


Tuesday, 20 January 2015


"You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." (2 Timothy 2:12)
"Thus did Paul remind Timothy that faith is much more than a set of propositions one signs off on, as if you were reading an employee handbook and then signing your initials to say you agree. It's more like riding a bike; if you're to live it effectively, you will have to intentionally develop certain skills, skills which are best learned in the context of relationship." -O2, Richard Dahlstrom

Faith isn't just about following a set of rules - the way I once lived. I'm a rule follower by nature and so to me, that's honestly the easy option. But it's not rules to be followed, or even rules to be a guilt trip when not followed. So if not rules, then what? Relationship. Relationship with one another and relationship with God. Its a living breathing thing that affects day to day life. There's growth, there's transformation, there's highs, lows, successes and failures, joys and trials.  Faith is a journey and what we believe is evident not in the rules we say we follow, but in the way we live our lives. Our actions, not our words, are what reflect what we actually believe. 

I'm re-reading this book at the moment which I would really recommend to anyone who's looking for some input and challenge on what it looks like to have a living faith. Richard talks about, practically, what it might look like to live out the truth of the Bible, and what it means to have a faith that affects all areas of our day to day - how we spend our time, our money,  how we relate to one another, and to God and more. It's a great book and a good starting point for thinking and praying through some of this stuff.  If you read it, or already have, I'd love to know your thoughts


Friday, 16 January 2015

Word for the year 2015

Last week Ken and I got away for a few days. It's always our aim to take some time out each quarter, and especially at the beginning of a new year, to think, pray and plan.  This time for us is so refreshing and a chance to refocus and look at where we're at in all areas of life - marriage, family, hospitality, finances, business, personal goals and health etc.  Chatting, praying and taking time to think and plan help us to get clear on what the next steps should be. It's a time to make sure that what we believe is affecting our lives. Sometimes it's a step back, sometimes a step forward and sometimes God completely convicts us and changes our course. We want to be always open to that.

This time, as it was the beginning of the year, I chose a "word for the year" again. Maybe you've heard of people who do this? It's my third year doing it and I find it really helpful. I'm not even sure where I first heard the idea.  For me, the process is pretty simple, as I look at the year ahead and pray about what areas of my life need work, there's often a bit of a theme and that becomes my "word for the year". This year my word is routine. There's a few reasons behind this, but mostly I want to be more productive and use my time well - taking care of a family, a home and a business - not wasting the days. 

Practically I've found it helps to plan the next day the night before. And put in place a few tasks that I always just do at the same time as something else. Slowly they become just part of the day and I don't have to think about them. Ann Voskamp has blogged about this recently and I love her thoughts and practical ideas - you can read it here

Already the days feel more productive and things are less stressful. One example - taking care of this farmhouse! - there's lots of rooms and I'm thankful for a house that's big enough for us to enjoy sharing it, but sometimes I feel the weight of responsibility in taking care of it! Cleaning isn't really my favourite (ha!), and my tendency is to procrastinate or get busy doing other things and then one day just snap, hit the adrenaline button and go crazy cleaning from top to bottom. In the end I'm exhausted and know that it's not great for my health (or anyone's!) to run on adrenaline to get stuff done. (...preaching to myself here!!) In between these manic days of domestic transformation I'm stressed because there's always something staring me in the face that needs doing.... The solution? Routine. 

This word is popping up in other areas of my life too, and I'm seeing the benefits there too.  It's not rigid and it's not something I'll cling to with white knuckles at all costs, but it's healthier all round, at least in our house, when there's a structure to work from. So far it's helping us de-stress and simplify life - and that can only be a good thing in my book!