Learning to practice what I preach!

Oh why is it so much easier to see what other’s need to do than it is to apply it to ourselves?!

In a recent coaching conversation we were discussing the benefits of journalling and creating an end to the day.  My client was thrilled with the difference journalling had made to her life.  No longer did she wonder where her time had gone, instead she had time and space to reflect on the day.  It also gave her insight into what was needed to help her move forward the next day.  Her partner had even noticed the huge difference it was making for her.  No longer was she tossing and turning during the night, but sleeping soundly.

During the coaching session I celebrated this great win with her and thought about my own journalling process.  It is true that so far this year there is an entry for every single day!  However, a few of them have been written the morning after the night before.  The closure to the day that I had talked through during coaching wasn’t something I was diligently doing myself.

And the sad fact is that it was only in the middle of the night, as I was tossing and turning, that I realised once again how it’s the simple daily habits that we create that make the greatest difference in our lives.  It’s easy to know what we should be doing, it’s much harder to actually do it!  However, by building simple habits into our daily routines we can use these building blocks to create the life we dream of.

I do NOT wear Granny Clothes!

Recently Hubby and I were out nightwear shopping for his mum. As we made our way to the till, with selected garments in hand, we saw a couple we know. They’re about the same age as us and their kids are at school with ours.

As we chatted the lady spotted the garments in hubby’s arms. “I have that!” she exclaimed excitedly. I never in a million years would have thought she’d wear something so frumpy, and I panicked that Hubby would tell her we were buying it for his mother! I needn’t have worried, he did a great job talking about the fabric, it’s colour and softness and warmth and we made our way to the till to pay.

A few days later, as I drove past their house, I smiled to myself at how well we’d done not implying that our friend wears granny clothes when it hit me… They must have thought Gary was buying it for me! And I do NOT wear Granny Clothes!! I starting furiously thinking of ways I could set the record straight without insulting her taste in clothes. While of course I didn’t think for a moment she was frumpy, I would explain, I would certainly never wear anything like that!

It must have taken me a good 5-10 minutes before I got a grip. If she likes something, and thinks I’d wear it too, surely that’s a compliment! So why did it matter?  And why had I over reacted so strongly? Someone had misjudged me over something (very superficial), and I had felt a ridicously strong urge to justify myself.

As the weeks went on I watched helplessly, as one of my children had to deal with a playground of people spreading lies about them. It put the silly granny clothes incident into perspective, and I watched with admiration as my child wisely navigated a very unpleasant situation. They chose to say very little to justify themselves, and allowed time, and true friends, to ensure the truth was revealed.

I don’t know where the fine line is between needing to correct every minor misunderstanding, and speaking out to correct major injustices, but I do think our voice is louder when it’s used less. Or maybe our voice is loudest when we speak up for injustices affecting others rather than ourselves?

New Year Resolutions v Daily Choices

As the clock chimes to proudly proclaim the change from one year into the next, it seems as though our brains can’t help but join in.  In a rush to improve on the previous 12 months we proudly proclaim our New Year’s Resolutions… This will be the year when… I resolve to never again… I promise I will… I’m determined to be more…  I’ll make the most of…

And as the calendar turns from one day to the next, our resolve that everything will be different diminishes.  By the end of January it’s a well known fact that most resolutions are forgotten and life defaults to way we did it the year before.

However we can change.  Things can be improved.  We don’t have to settle for things to be the way they were.  A uniqueness of the human race is our ability to choose, and it’s these simple daily choices that we make that determine how our day, week, months will play out.  In fact, it’s often because we didn’t intentionally make a choice that finds us stuck in a place we never intended to be.  We didn’t intend to wake up over weight, in debt, emotionally exhausted, lonely etc.  But our lack of choices meant we defaulted there.

Why could it not be that if we simply do nothing our default would be to become healthier, happier, more qualified, content and surrounded by loved ones we enjoy spending quality time with?

So this year I’m not making resolutions to change everything over night, but I am deciding to be intentional about the daily choices I make, so slowly and gradually I build the type of future I want.

“You never know, in the future men might have to work hard too”

The title of this blog post comes from a conversation that was had in our house this morning.  My husband had left for work before the kids were awake, and I was now getting them up and ready for school.

As I loaded the dishwasher I noticed the food trap needed cleaning out.   Not the nicest of jobs, but still someone has to do it, so the kids chatted to me while I got on with it.

I’m sure similar scenes were happening across the world, but it was the conversation that followed that really made me think.  It went something like this…

DS: Mum that is so gross!

Me: It’s the joys of being a grown up!  Someone’s got to do it, and when you’re a grown up you’ll have to do things like this too.

DS: Mummies work really hard don’t they?

DD: You never know, in the future men might have to work hard too.

As my Darling Daughter said this I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry!  To be honest, I still chuckle when I think back on what she said, especially when I think of my son’s reaction to her comment!  However, at the same time, I still find it shocking!

Wrongly or rightly I felt proud that she viewed me as hard working, but horrified that she didn’t think her Daddy was working just as hard.  I also felt sad by her perception of  woman’s work and men’s work, however maybe I’m to blame for that.

It’s true that in our house, the children do see me do more than their father, but she didn’t remember that her Dad had gone to work before she was even awake!  His contribution to the house was out of sight, and sadly out of mind.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day I feel I should remind my children that a woman has just as much right to a fulfilling career as a man.  Maybe, for the sakes of their future marriages, I should remind them that everyone who lives in a house, has to help maintain the house. Or maybe they need to be reminded what a great partnership their parent’s marriage is?

Yes, I may well do more housework to enable him to do what he needs to do, but likewise, I could never do what I do without him!  Whether it’s doing his share of the childcare while I’m working, or his endless support and encouragement as I follow my dreams, he brings so much more to our home than simply cleaning the dishwasher!  In fact in the grand scheme of it all, cleaning the food trap was probably the easy bit!

Goodbye 2016

To say 2016 was an “interesting” year is perhaps an understatement!! Celebrity deaths, terror attacks in Europe, Brexit, American elections and of course the disappointing performances of the English football team!  However in the midst of that we also had so much to celebrate, the Queen turning 90, a great Olympic Games, Tim Peake in space and Leicester City winning the Premiership Title!

For us as a family, like many other families I know, 2016 was a tough year. We experienced all sorts of unexpected twists and turns on the journey. Finances, health, hopes and dreams all took a battering, and yet as I look back, I can clearly see a thread of God’s love and mercy holding us up and stopping us go under.

Amongst the tough times we also experienced some incredible moments; a holiday of a lifetime, family celebrations, amazing friendships and new adventures. My role at work totally changed and I also qualified as an accredited Life Coach!

Looking forward into 2017 I have a sense of excitement and anticipation for the good things that are coming. I also have a confidence that whatever challenges this year will bring, God already has a plan to bring us through!

Turbulence

Yesterday evening I started writing a post about Turbulence.  It began…

When you’re 40,000ft in the air it’s easy to forget about the law of gravity.  The routine of the air stewards announcements, the in-flight entertainment and even the refreshments  are all designed to help you relax and enjoy the ride.  Enjoy, that is, until you hit turbulence.  Then, even the calmest passenger has a second of uncertainty.  The ‘fasten your seat belt’ symbol lights up, your coffee jumps around in it’s cup and for that moment you wonder what will happen next…

EV0WQ57LE6.jpgThese past few weeks in Britain have clearly been turbulent.  We voted Out of Europe with the narrowest of margins, and everyone held their breath to see what would happen next.  Our Prime Minster resigned, the Leader of the Opposition refused to, the England Football Manager quit and even Top Gear started the search for a new leader.

It’s been turbulent indeed, and just like on an aircraft there have been an mixture of reactions.  Some barely raise an eyebrow as they hear the day’s latest events,  while others believe it to be a sign their worst fears are justified, and play out worst case scenarios in their minds.

Surely he will never be shaken; the righteous will be in everlasting remembrance.  He will not be afraid of evil tidings; his heart is steadfast trusting in the Lord.  His heart is established; he will not be afraid.                                                                      Psalm 112:6-8

And then I got stuck as to what to say next…

My faith that everything will be ok is not based on who has political power over our nation or any other factor.  My faith is firmly in God, trusting Him that my life is in His hands.  But how do you write that without seeming naive or offensive in the face of such global turbulence?

So I closed my laptop, skimmed the headlines and went to bed.  I vaguely saw that a lorry had hit some people in France and thought it must be a sad accident and fell asleep.

Little did I understand the horror that was behind that headline.  News the following morning was full of stories once again of fear, heartbreak and senseless loss of life, this time in Nice.

Turbulence had hit again and finding a way to finish this post seemed more important.

In our day of instant news and social media, news of horrific events are able to spread instantly and fear closely follows it.  These are certainly turbulent times and the future is uncertain and yet I cling to hope. I trust in the God who has never let me down. I put my faith in the One who has never broken a promise towards me.  That brings such a peace that I cannot explain, but I’m so thankful that I have.

 

A Great Gift

When we were young and child free it all seemed so obvious.  In fact we were verging on smug, as we could see the simplicity of the way ahead, and where so many others had gone wrong. “The greatest gift we could possibly give our future children…” we confidently stated, “…was a strong and happy marriage.”

Our future children would know their place and appreciate that our marriage always comes first.  We would frequently make time to continue to invest in our marriage and never allow the demands of parenting crowd out “Couple Time”.

1L9ZR6RZ99The arrival of 3 children quickly taught us 2 things.  The simplicity of that idea was absolutely right and yet so difficult to achieve.  “Couple Time” would often get abandoned as we crawled into bed just moments after we’d managed to get the kids asleep.  When we could stay awake later than the kids, the aftermath of the days adventures were still waiting to be washed, cleaned or tidied away.  Why waste those precious moments of energy on communicating when there were mountains to be moved?

Child-free evenings out involved Biblical proportions of organisation to get to a restaurant, just to spend an evening talking about the children whilst checking the mobile in case the babysitter had called.

In our naivety we may have been wrong about how simple it would be to put each other first but we weren’t wrong about how important it was. One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is a strong and happy marriage. It gives children security and confidence and besides, parenting is far easier when there are two of you in unity.

There have been times over the years when our marriage hasn’t been the strongest, but I’m so thankful we’ve always had a commitment to get things back on track.  We’ve watched our children struggle when there’s tensions in the home and we’ve seen the change as we’ve worked hard to invest in our marriage.

Today our lives are far from perfect.  We face problems and issues just as every other family does, but I’m so thankful we face them together.  We have a strong marriage but I know that can never be taken for granted if we want it to continue.

However today, an ordinary day that has no special signficance, in the midst of a busy week when we’ve hardly seen each other, in a month that has quite a lot of pressures, I still want to write about how much I love him.  That is surely worth celebrating and that is surely a great gift to give our children.

Feeling Unplugged

There is thankfully, one cure for most IT problems… turn it off and on again.  I’ve never understood why, but the simple act of unplugging a computer can solve so many issues.  Computers are supposed to be inanimate objects that just follow a logical line of computer code but, from time to time, they just decide to become irrational and need rebooting.

We can laugh so easily about this little quirk of computers, and yet we don’t see it in ourselves.  We feel overwhelmed by the amount of messages in our inbox and notifications on our social media, and yet FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) pushes us to keep checking and responding.

We strive to be mindful and present in the moment, but watch the major events of our lives through a screen.  We yearn for authentic relationships  with people who really know us, and yet we add filters to our photos, add spin to our statutes and check in to exciting locations to ensure everyone knows what a great life we live.

QYQWBJP85RA few years ago I was leaving a shop with my two youngest children, in a rush to collect to my eldest from school.  Of course in that moment I felt the need to check my phone for messages before I could continue on my way.

As I did, I dropped my phone and watched in horror as it bounced on the pavement.  Not only did the screen crack but the technology behind it shattered too.  There was no simple switch on and off to fix this particular IT problem.  Thankfully my contract was due to end in just a few weeks so I brought a basic phone to get me through.

For those few weeks I could phone and I could text.  In theory I could email too, but only with great difficulty.  There was certainly no social media or internet browsing.  Instead of being frustrated I quickly learnt to love that phone.  I had no reason to check it, I didn’t even feel the need to take it with me if I knew I wasn’t going to be out for long. For those few weeks I enjoyed the sense of freedom it gave me.

I’m doing my best to never break a phone again but a couple of times a year I remind myself that my phone is a tool to aid my life and not control it.  I delete the social media apps off my phone so I can only access them when I intentionally turn my computer on.  I switch my emails off when I get home and enjoy the benefits of once again being unplugged.

Instead of FOMO it’s amazing how much more I experience life as I live a little more unplugged.

Dining Room Tables

For some unknown reason, shortly after I first became engaged, I went out and brought a dining room table and 3 chairs for our future home!  One of my favourite shops at that time was a furniture store and I would frequently wander around looking at pieces, opening smooth drawers and enjoying the satisfying click of cupboard doors as they gently closed. In amongst my favourite pieces was a dining room table that seated 6 but extended to cater for 10 and I fell in love.

4GEV0GKV8WI didn’t live with my husband until we were married so at that time I was living at home with my mum. It was totally irrational to buy a dining table before we sorted out wedding plans, let alone a place to live, but at the time it didn’t seem to matter.

After a quick consultation with my fiancé we brought it, and the 3 chairs they had in stock, and waited for it to be delivered.  I then faithfully went back to the store every week until I was able to purchase 3 more chairs.  The table top lived, enveloped in bubblewrap, under my bed and the chairs were stacked in the corner with the table legs waiting to be used…

Once we started hunting for our first home one of the top criteria was that it had room for our table and chairs.  A breakfast bar and living space simply wouldn’t do! 16 years and 3 homes later, that table has been relegated to the office and we have a new dining table, but the chairs are still used whenever extra people gathering.

For many people the kitchen is the heart of the home but for me it’s the dining room.  Whether it’s simply coffee & cake with a friend,  or a large dinner party, I love having people gather around our table, but the best times are the simply daily routines of our family life.

Each morning starts with our family gathering around the table for breakfast.  Sometimes together, sometimes in shifts, but we all start the day with food and someone else knowing what’s lies ahead and is cheering us on.  After going our separate ways for the day we gather again around the table in the evening and share our news.  We discuss our highs and lows, our successes and failures.  With 3 children mealtimes can be loud and noisy, arguments can break out, drinks can be spilt and mess made, but it’s all worth it for those golden moments when everyone simply enjoys being together.  Memories are made as the plates are cleared, the coffee brewed and we linger at the table talking and playing games.

When I was first engaged I didn’t realise the impact that first purchase would have on our family.  It’s hard to co-ordinate everyone in the morning so no one eats alone, but I’m glad we have a habit our starting our day together.  It’s hard to resist the temptation to have dinner on trays in front of the telly, but I’m thankful we face each other and not just a screen.  It can be hard dealing with the chaos of children and mealtimes, but I’m thankful for the lessons we all learn in those moments.  It can be hard to not rush off quickly at the end of a meal to tackle that next task, but I’m thankful for the moments when we choose to linger.

It’s hard to know why a buying a table was so important to me at that time, but I’m thankful for all the memories it’s created.

United against hate

All day I’ve been mulling over ideas for today’s blog post.  All day that is, until I heard the news about Jo Cox MP.  A brilliantly talented woman who believed in the power of politics to bring about change and help those without a voice.  Having previously worked as a Charity campaigner and an Aid Worker, she moved into politics just over a year ago and had already made a significant impact.  Tonight she was credited by opposition MP’s for influencing policy decisions and affecting more lives than she could have ever realised.

Today, while she was going about her work listening to the cares and concerns of her constituents, she was attacked by a gunman.  A few hours later the news broke that she had been unable to survive her injuries leaving behind a husband and 2 young children.

brendan cox quote

Politics in Great Britain is poorer today without Jo’s input. However if we take her husband’s words to heart, and unite against the hatred that killed her, her influence in our nation will continue to live on. She gave her life to serve our country, the least we can do is ensure this country is one in which she would want her children to grow up in.  A country where hatred and fear have no place, but people are loved, honoured and accepted.