Flood waters

In England we are often mocked for our obsession with the weather, but on weeks like this I feel we’re slightly justified.  We’ve experienced cold mornings which have changed into gloriously sunny lunchtimes, followed by afternoons of thundery showers complete with flash flooding.

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Submerged: Three cars were swallowed by the floodwater Louise Garwood

 

Roads filled with water so quickly the emergency services weren’t able to respond in time to stop drivers from getting into difficulties.  Footage of cars floating in flood waters, and drivers being rescued from submerged vehicles, made our news as rain suddenly changed everything.

Sometimes life can change equally quickly. We can be enjoying a peaceful sunny season  when a sudden problem comes flooding in.  An unexpected bill to pay, a redundancy, or a diagnosis can instantly change our landscape. Everything suddenly looks different as we have to deal with a new reality and sometimes have to navigate a very different path.  At times like that it can be easy to feel overwhelmed, however God promises us that in those moments He will raise His battle standard and come to our defence.

When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him. Isaiah 59:19

Just as fast as the flood arrives it can disappear! The flooded road in the photo above, is now clear.  The waters have disappeared and the cars removed.  Likewise, in the midst of overwhelming situations God can turn things around.  Situations that seem hopeless can change overnight and problems that seem insurmountable can be solved.  No matter how deep the flood waters feel, we can rest assured He is with us in the midst of it all.

Step by step

Dreams can be fickle things.  They appear to us as big ideas that will fill us with happiness and well being.  Their simplicity encourages us to take that first step and head towards our promised land.  However as we get closer, the harsh realities of the work involved becomes apparent.  The novelty wears off and real cost becomes clear.  We are then faced with a challenge; to pay the price or turn our backs and pretend that it was never that important in the first place.

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She considers a field and buys it; from her profits she plants a vineyard – Proverbs 31:16

The woman described in Proverbs 31 had a dream to produce her own wine.  She carefully considered a field, assessed if it was the right step towards her dream,  and purchased it with her own money (quite an achievement for a woman in that society).  However then the hard work would have started.  The field would have to be cleared, and prepared. The new vines planted and nurtured.  After the first year there wouldn’t have been much to get excited about as the average vineyard takes 5-7 years before it becomes a profitable wine producing venture.  At each step along the road the temptation to quit would have presented itself.  The other demands of her life, her family, home and responsibilities would have continued to claim her time, while the new vineyard would have continued to claim her finances.

However she persevered until she was able to cook a meal and serve it with her own wine.  How sweet that meal would have been as they celebrated the fulfilment of a dream.  I wonder how many friends and family were invited to gather around that table as she thanked those who had encouraged her along her journey?

I recently heard about something called “The Ikea Effect”.  The idea is that the harder you have to work for something, the more you appreciate it.  Therefore you value that piece of flat pack furniture, that you sweated blood and tears over assembling, far more than the beautifully hand-crafted piece that you were given.

The bigger the dream, the harder we have to work to obtain it, but when it comes how sweet it is! Your dream may seem far off at the moment but if you keep taking steps towards it you will get there.

 

 

 

 

It’s Not About Me

In my head Thursday’s are sacred!  They’re not only my day off from work but they’re my day off from having to fit in around other people.  They’re my day to set my own agenda, have that coffee with a friend, read that book, enjoy that moment of silence and, most importantly, write that blog post. The reality however, is often different.

Today was spent running around doing a host of things for other people and yet maybe that’s the best way to spend a day off, after all – it’s not about me!

As we walked to school this morning I got talking to another mum about the difference between those who think only of themselves, and those who put others first.  Those who end up living very small lonely lives, and those who live large wide lives filled with friends and family. It can be inconvenient to put others first at times but the benefits far out weigh the cost.

If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.                                                                                                                        Philippians 2:1-4

In the business of my “Day Off” I may not have had time earlier to write a blog post but I’ve used my writing to skills to email someone in the midst of a housing crisis. I’ve helped my kids write a story and finish a book report and I helped my husband complete a job application.  All of which far out weigh a blog post in importance.

I may not have had a moment to think an uninterrupted thought, but I’ve enjoyed rich conversations where I’ve shared ideas with others.  I didn’t stress about getting dinner ready on time, instead I enjoyed the “inconvenience” of a spontaneous football match on our front lawn with friends. I didn’t manage to tick off all the items on my To-Do list today but I did enjoy the benefits of sharing my life with others.

 

The temptation to put ourselves first is always present but when we put others first life is so rewarding.

Lessons in Friendships

At home we often play the game This or That.  If you’ve never played it’s a word game where someone gives you two options, and you have to say which you prefer.  It can be very enlightening as you find out what people think and their current interests and likes.  As one of the kids celebrated a birthday this week, we ended playing an age based version; 10 or 30? 5 or 6? 5 or 100?

At one point my daughter groaned and said “Mummy, you always pick the youngest option!”  To be fair when the options are 5 or 100, I think that’s quite reasonable, but there are certain aspects of being a child I wouldn’t want to go through again.

This week, like many weeks before, we’ve had multiple discussions with our kids about how to be a good friend.  This weeks lessons have included “How to say No nicely,” “When to tell and when not to tell,” “The power of forgiveness,” “Your actions speak louder than words,” and I’m sure there have been many more along the way.

We want our children to learn how to get along with others and be part of a team; and yet be confident to go it alone when needed.  We want them to stand up against injustice; and yet understand when to choose to let things go without a complaint. We want them to take responsibility and understand how their actions have affected others; and yet realise that sometimes there’s nothing they could have done.

Oh the joys of childhood friendships!  I’m so thankful I’ve moved on from that stage and for the friends that I now have in my life.

“She opens her mouth with wisdom and on her tongue is the law of kindness” Proverbs 31:26

As I faced the challenges of the week I’ve had a variety of friends cheering me on and speaking words of wisdom and encouragement to me.  Hopefully, somewhere along the way, I was able to do that for them too.  I refuse to allow my own insecurities to motivate me to knock others down.  Instead I want to be known as a woman who uses her words to build others up and is the biggest cheerleader any friend could wish for!

In fact if I could teach my children just one thing about friendships it would be this; leave others feeling taller because they’ve spent time with you.

Just imagine a world where we all did that!

 

Oh the irony…

Having written several posts about work life balance, it’s just a little ironic that I find myself feeling like this week is out of balance!

Sometimes stuff happens that sends us into a tail spin, but right now I’m in the midst of self-inflicted chaos.  The lessons I’ve learnt, and written about, I simply haven’t applied, and so now I’m reaping the consequences of not following my own blueprint.

OJXHDWMWV9I first got a glimmer of what I’d done to myself on Saturday. A friend was hosting a Pin It Party, and gathered a group of girls together for a craft evening. The combination of friends, food and a creative project was lovely, and I could feel my shoulders relax as I  realised just how much I’d missed this.

I’d missed making something physical that uses a different part of my brain to normal.  Although I’d written about the importance of creativity, I’d somehow excused myself from doing anything about it.  After all I was writing a blog… isn’t that creative? Well yes and no.  Writing is always creative, but as I spend much of my work day sat in front of a computer, it’s important for me that my creativity takes a different shape. So why had I neglected this for so long?  It must have been at least 6 months since I’ve made anything!

I’d also written about the importance of planning ahead, and yet this week I’ve been playing catch up.  Since coming home from holiday I haven’t opened my diary once.  Dates and events are floating around my head, which in turn means I’ve avoid planning as I’m not sure how it all fits together. It’s such a silly little thing, but it’s just left me feeling uneasy for the past couple of weeks.

As I write I’m aware of what a Drama Queen I sound.  “My life is in turmoil because I didn’t update my diary!” We’re not exactly talking major life challenges here! However I wrote last week about how consistently doing the small steps helps us work towards our dreams.

The problem is here I am, ignoring my own small steps.  Nothing major has happened and I’m not in some terrible mess, but those little niggles were starting to build up and affect me like a small stone trapped in a shoe. Often when the big challenges come we brace ourselves and push through.  It’s the little niggles that more easily pull us off course.

So I’m updating my diary and I’m scanning pintrest for my next project. Just those two simple tweaks and I can already feel stress levels easing.  Writing a new blog post suddenly became easy and I can see the impact in other areas already too.

A small rudder can turn a large ship and it’s our small habits that can change the direction of our lives.

Is there a small step that you can take today that will make a larger difference in your life?

How to kill your dream

After 3 weeks of not writing a post it’s good to be back.  We recently had a family holiday and so, as I explained in my last post, I was giving myself permission not to stick to my normal writing schedule.  I didn’t want the pressure of having to find time to write, or the agony of finding good enough wifi to publish!

I thought after a few weeks rest I’d come back full of new ideas and inspiration and be able to take my blog to the next level, but the reality was very different.  Once the holiday was over, the washing was done, and kids back to school I sat down to write… nothing.9D4EF30D67

No ideas.

No inspiration.

Not even a little idea of where to start.

The harsh reality was my lack of discipline while on holiday, had caused my writing momentum to grind to a halt.  Thankfully, there are no drastic consequences and 4 days later I’m happily writing away with a head full of new ideas.  But what if it had been something more serious?

We all have dreams and ideas of where we want to be in the future.  Goals we want to achieve and people we want to become.  However the reality is we can’t just wake up and be that successful business owner, that great parent, or have that healthy body. It takes consistent habits and discipline to grow into any of our dreams.

I’m currently half way though my training to become an accredited Life Coach and it’s fascinating seeing this in the lives of the people I’m coaching.  Each person has a great goal that they are moving towards. However none of them are doing anything dramatic to get there.  Instead they have all identified small tasks that they have committed to doing regularly and are well on their way.

As I look at the dreams and goals I have for my own life they can sometimes seem overwhelming and impossible to reach.  However I know if I keep doing the  little things I will get there.  I’m just not going to take a holiday from following after them!

 

Getting ready to go

Mummy guilt can hit at any moment.  That feeling that if only you had… then your child could/would….  For me it generally arises  when work and family collide.  Those shows I have to miss, school trips I can’t attend, friends that can’t be invited back for tea and paperwork I some how misplaced, all because I’m not a stay at home mum.

It’s easy to tell people that I’m a better mother because I work.  It’s easy to explain to others that I find great fulfilment in my work which enables me to give more to my family.  However it’s sometimes hard to tell that to myself.

One of the things I admire greatly about the woman in Proverbs 31 is her relationship with her family.  She’s a busy business woman, who always seems to have a new project on the go, and yet her family clearly don’t feel neglected by her.

Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many daughters have done well, but you excel them all.” Proverbs 31:28-29

Sometimes when I’m rushing out to an evening meeting, or taking a work call in the midst of playtime, I wonder if my kids would call me blessed.  When my head is full of work, and my husband just wants to talk, I’d question if he’d say I was excelling!

TjBeachHowever there are times and seasons for everything.  I really value the fact that my family support me and encourage me in my work.  They understand when things get extra busy and do all they can to pick up the things I can’t carry.  But that just makes it sweeter when work is put on hold and family is the only priority.

On Monday we fly off for a 2 week family holiday in the sun.  We’ve enjoyed planning and preparing together, and now the reality is just around the corner.  There are new things to discover and memories to be made.  The children are growing up so fast I want to treasure every moment with them and take a thousand photos.  More than that, I’m looking forward to walking hand in hand with my husband as we talk and dream about the next season we face.

So forgive me if I don’t write a post for a couple of weeks but I’m praying we have lousy wifi and we can’t connect with the outside world!

10 Keys for Work Life Balance

 

Have you ever mis-judged someone?  I mean really misjudged them?  Believing you’d never get on with someone, only to discover they are the best mentor you’ve ever had? This is kind of how I feel about the woman described in Proverbs 31.  I totally misjudged her.

I thought she was similar to some of the women I knew who worked themselves to the bone for others, and were constantly tired.  I thought to be like her I’d have to be a submissive doormat, who stayed home sewing all day long, and that was not my idea of fun!

As I described in a previous post, I spent a while looking at this passage wondering why God would ever include it in the Bible.  As I went through it I realised how wrong I’d been.  She has now become one of my mentors, and her life has given me a blueprint to gaining better work life balance.

EFWMD3Q47WI’d love to say that I’m now living the perfect life but sadly that’s not true.  However when things do go a bit crazy  I can quickly see what is needed to restore order. As I’ve written about her over the past few weeks it’s helped to consolidate it down to 10 keys.

  1. Invest in the relationships that mean the most.  She is a busy entrepreneur involved in many projects and yet her family call her blessed and praise her.  They clearly don’t feel neglected by her or begrudge her being a workaholic.
  2. Keep learning new things.  Whether it’s learning new ways to cook, or investing in a new business, this woman is always learning something new.  She hasn’t allowed herself to settle or stagnate but is constantly learning.
  3. Have a creative outletOk so the reality is this woman did sew, but that doesn’t mean to say I have to.  God is a creative being and we are made in His image so it’s important to have a way to express that however that looks.  It’s amazing how quickly my stress levels drop when I do something creative.
  4. Give yourself head space to plan ahead.  My life is often most stressful when I simply don’t have time to stop and plan ahead.  It’s so easy to fall into the trap of doing everything last minute but it just piles on extra pressure.  So I’m doing my best to copy my mentor and I’ve already made a note of who needs a new winter coat for next winter.
  5. Nurture your spirit.   I believe anyone can implement these principles and bring more balance to their lives. For me though, this is the key that everything else flows from.  There’s only so much I can do on my own but when I submit to God, and rely on Him, everything else works so much better.
  6. Look after your body. When it talks about her girding her arms with strength it probably doesn’t mean she went to the gym.  It’s more likely to mean she rolls up her sleeves and is prepared to work.  However you can’t work if you’re not healthy.  She would have been quite fit as her work was a lot more physically demanding than mine.  So this is my reminder to look after my fitness.
  7. Use your talents and passions to generate income.  From her passion for sewing she created items to sell to the merchants.  The same merchants that she used to gain her “food from afar”.  Her love for food was possibly the inspiration behind her starting up her own vineyard.  I believe God gives each of us the ability to gain wealth and it’s up to us to recognise our gifts and find a way to serve others with them.
  8. Do life with others.  I mistakenly believed she was super woman because I didn’t realise how many other people were in her life helping make it all happen.  You can never achieve work life balance if you try to spin all the plates by yourself.  God created us to be interdependent with each other so that together we are stronger.
  9. Have a place where you take risks & a place that is safe and stable.  This woman has a very stable home and family which gave her the foundation from which to start her businesses.  We grow and develop as we take risks, but our growth is stronger if we have stable roots supporting us.
  10. Make time for yourself  Life is to be enjoyed and sometimes it’s just good to kick back and do something just because you love it.

It would be easy to add to this list and, as I continue to write these posts, I may well do.  I’m aware there’s nothing in there about being generous towards the poor or investing words of wisdom into the lives of others.  Maybe those are characteristics rather than keys?

So what else have I missed?  What would you include in your 10 keys for work life balance?

The Ancient Art of Me Time

I love Thursdays!  Thursdays are my day off in more ways than one.  Weekends are often filled with family, church, errands, parties, homework and sport.  But Thursdays are mine.  Once the kids are at school I relish the solitude of being home alone for just a few hours.  I can clean, tidy, read, write and think a whole thought without interruption.

Today, however, was not like that.

Easter Bonnet Parades and a lunchtime end to this school term, meant my child free hours were dramatically shortened.  Sadly, my To-Do list was not.  Instead it was lengthened with the knowledge that this was my last child-free moment until the holidays are over.

The afternoon became a blur of children and friends in various locations enjoying their new freedom,  while parents provided the necessary taxi services to make it all happen.

So now the kids are sleeping, and house is once again calm, I’ve found a moment of solace and an opportunity to write. And here I relax, knowing that I’m in good company.

Writing.jpg We often admire the creativity and work ethic of the woman described in Proverbs 31.  However we often overlook the fact that she knew how to indulge in Me Time too.

“She makes tapestry for herself” Proverbs 31:22

In the midst of her busyness she took time to recharge and do something that was purely for her own pleasure.  It may not be a big feature in this passage, but it is there none the less.  She was by no means a lady of leisure, but she still took time to do something that wasn’t necessary or needed by anyone else but her.

I may never line my walls with works of tapestry, but taking a moment to write tonight  is just the tonic I need before dealing with joys of school holidays tomorrow.

How to live an extraordinary life

The more I write about the woman in Proverbs 31 the more I am convinced her life makes a great blueprint for  work life balance. Her life demonstrates the benefits of healthy relationships, creativity, self-development, time management, risk taking, leadership etc. which are all so relevant for todays living.

Bible StudyHowever the one thing that changes it from a 10 point action plan to an extraordinary lifestyle is her relationship with God. The fear of God is the beginning of all wisdom and it’s from this wisdom that everything else in her life flows.

I don’t want to live my life interpreting a blueprint.  I want to spend my life in conversation with the architect.