Bring on the Christmas glitter!!

Merry Christmas

“How did it get so late so soon? Its night before its afternoon. December is here before its June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?” Dr Seuss

That quote embodies my life as it only seems like yesterday I was sitting in my garden enjoying the odd bit of summer sun. How did we get to the month of December so quickly?

At the moment I am running about like a demented chicken trying to see people, buy presents, organise events, attend the MANY occasions that are on our family calendar (am so disappointed that I have already missed two!!) as well as doing all the normal, everyday things that constantly need doing.

LIFE IS CRAZY!

Life is crazy and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Through those I meet I am constantly reminded life is short and fleeting. Although we all plan, pray and hope for it we are not guaranteed tomorrow so must make the most of today.

My young daughter is one of lives giver’s. Her love language is to give gifts. She enjoys giving people things (which can be quite annoying when they have only just been bought for her with my money!!), she gets great pleasure from making people feel happy, despises any type of injustice and can’t bear for people to be left out. She is incredibly loving.

If you didn’t know this about her, if you looked for the obvious ways of showing love and affection, you could easily believe she’s unloving as she doesn’t give kisses (she is horrified by the number of germs that could be on another’s lips) but if she likes/loves you she gives the best hugs as well as lots of craft! I have a box full of lovingly crafted boxes, pictures and numerous weird and wonderful bits she has made me…she is a giver.

Recently, she wrote several encouraging post it notes and placed them strategically in our house (windows, doors, my desk…) knowing I would find them. She then showed amazing patience, especially for someone who shares my genes, as she sat back and waited for me to organically discover them. Below are two of her notes.

Throughout the day as I moved around the house she followed me enquiring “do you notice anything different?” then was incredibly thrilled when I spotted her handiwork and she witnessed how it impacted and lifted me.

Never at any time did she hint there were more notes to be found although the question “do you notice anything different” gave me a strong indication!

At Christmas most of us will notice a difference. Houses are decorated with lights and ornaments, shops are more exciting and colourful, people appear happier, festive songs are played on the radio and the world has more glitter.

Christmas for some is the best time of the year, for others one of the worst and for those going through a trauma the season becomes insignificant but regardless of how you personally feel, you can’t fail to notice Christmas has arrived.

I read recently that an actress called Dale Evans is quoted as declaring “Christmas, my child, is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give, it’s Christmas.” I love this quote! I love the positivity, generosity and peacefulness it inspires.

Christmas, which came about to celebrate the birth of Jesus who gave His disciples through the ages clear instructions on the importance of love, is love in action.

Even Charles Dickens, a social reformer who wrote some of the best but most disturbing novels (five of which were about Christmas), often majored on the importance of sharing lives and showing love.

Love can take many forms dependant on personality, preference and situation but it is always an action…even if that action is as submissive as graciously accepting the particular gift someone wants to give.

So as this will (probably) be my last blog of 2017 I would like to wish you an active, merry, glitter filled Christmas!

God Save the Queen!

Union Jack 1

Many of us have probably mimed or hummed along to our British National Anthem. Everyone knows the first line but will need to guess all of the others…a bit like Auld Lang Syne!!

The British National Anthem dates back to the eighteenth century and was a patriotic song first publicly performed in London in 1745. The words and tune are anonymous, and in total, around 140 composers, including Beethoven, Haydn and Brahms, have used the tune in their compositions.

The British National Anthem is a tune that has been on ‘repeat’ in my brain for approximately the last month, which is not something that has happened before!

It all began when a few weeks ago I woke to see my husband sitting bolt upright in bed exclaiming that something dreadful had happened. The news was saturated with the same story, as was the majority of social media. Despite the beautiful sunshine it felt like the world would never be quite the same again, not as bright and not as warm.

And I was not and am not, the only person to feel like this. We became a nation united in its determination to stand against that which sought to destroy us, as one we embraced those who had suffered and whose lives were ended or would never be the same.

The reason for the nations unity was the haunting photos of young lives prematurely ended by a terrorist bomber in Manchester that has been our worst terrorist incident since the London Train Bombing.

Many, if not all of us, would have been deeply moved and maybe shed a tear (or ten!) as we sympathised with people we have never met and in all likelihood never will.

We may have looked heavenward and prayed earnestly for God’s strength, peace and joy to fill and uphold them. To look with mercy and grace upon those souls that had expected to spend the evening screaming along to Ariana Grande and instead found themselves standing in front of Jesus Christ.

Then just as we the world started to take on a semblance of normality we had the London Bridge attack, Grenfell Tower tragedy and the attack at Finsbury Mosque. More innocent lives needlessly lost and worlds turned upside down.

Whilst I struggle to understand what would lead a person to take another’s life, my nationalistic pride has magnified as clips of policeman, fireman, doctors, nurses, celebrities and everyday heroes battling against destructive forces have been shown almost continuously. Many millions of pounds have been raised and numerous items donated as people showed love and tried to do what they could with what they have.

As it’s been written many, many times in terrorist and disaster situations we see the best and worst of humanity…we could probably add we also see the best and worst of humanity when it comes to money as Grenfell Tower highlights.

But despite the rapidly shifting landscape, the overwhelming feeling that nowhere is safe, some things remain steadfastly the same.

Our Bibles remain the infallible Word of God (2 Tim 3:16). The Holy Spirit will still fill the lives and bodies of those who invite Him in (Luke 11:9-13). Jesus remains ‘the same, yesterday and today and forever’ (Heb 13:8).

We are still to be people that grow and show good fruit (Gal 5:22-23) and acknowledge that ‘God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind’ (2 Tim 1:7) which means we listen to the truth, not the media hype.

Our commission (Matt 28:16-20) hasn’t changed and neither has the message (John 14:6). We can stand assured that John 3:16 still has the power to change lives, families, neighbourhoods, towns, cities and nations.

Our politicians are still fallible, capable of making mistakes and in desperate need of support through prayer (1 Tim 2:1-3).

Our earthly Queen still sits on her throne and our Heavenly King still rule’s eternal on His.

As hate, in it’s many disguises, tries to worm its way into our everyday existence we need to fight back with love. To accept people for who they are regardless of whether they accept us, to match actions to our words and be ‘light’ wherever we are and whomever we are with.

“Stop the world…I want to get off!!”

spinning world

Have you ever had a season, a time in your life when you want to shout ‘STOP!!’

I am in the midst of one of those seasons right now.

For the last seven years there have been so many changes. We grew from a family of two adults and two children to two adults and three children…sounds small but it has made a massive difference to how we ‘do’ life.

As a family we have moved home four times, our two eldest children in addition to this have between them moved a further seven times.

We have had one child leave home to study at university then move back again at the end of his studies then move to London, our second child then picked up the baton and is just finishing his second year in a university that is a two hours drive away.

Our youngest child has raced through not being able to walk to happily planning an imminent sleepover in minute detail. This has included writing lists and distributing to the parent who she feels is most likely to procure the desired goods in the appropriate time frame

We have had a variety of upsets with family members (some that we have known about and others that have been relayed by a third party months later) that have caused confusion and heartbreak as well as revealing our collective ‘true colours’.

Some of these upsets have been resolved with time and an earnest apology, usually echoed by all involved, others are still on going with no obvious or desirable end in sight. This has left scars.

Within my immediate family there have been many new job titles and promotions that have led to new skills being learned, luxuries being had and headaches endured.

We have watched those we love wither and die whilst simultaneously welcoming the addition of tiny feet, wet little mouths, irresistible laughter and soggy nappies.

Those that have previously appeared invincible are seeming frail and those that needed help are now the ones offering a hand of assistance.

At times we have had to watch the pennies seemingly drain from our bank account…any saving accounts we had are long gone, whilst at others we have happily sipped champagne and enjoyed dipping a toe into another lifestyle.

In short the landscape has been continually changing not with slow growth or gradual erosion but with mind spinning, unsettling madness. The landscape of 2017 is vastly different to how it looked in 2010. What made sense then would no longer make sense now.

But I am happy, I am very happy. I would never want to stop change or attempt to stand in its way. We have all experienced that ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’ and ‘see you later’ are part and parcel of life.

However, as I look back it makes me even more determined to savour every moment, to make time for those I cherish, to share the endearments that are in my heart, to enjoy the journey we call life and to welcome every new season…whatever it may bring!!

Words, words and more words!!

words-have-power

This week a word was used to describe me that made me do a double take. It wasn’t an insulting or offensive word, it wasn’t said in a nasty tone, but I was mildly affronted.

I thought I had made a genuine impression, had a reasonably deep connection with this individual when they applied this word to me. We had laughed, shared stories, made plans, shared hurts, we had gone beyond pleasantries when the word made an appearance.

It’s a word that I’d connect with vanilla ice cream, ready salted crisps, warm water, salted popcorn, plain rice and mash potatoes…in short the type of thing you have if nothing else is available.

It’s the type of word you’d apply when viewing someone’s house, sampling a desert dry cake or admiring a child’s painting and you can’t think of anything positive to say.

Almost like a ‘make do’, bland, tasteless, meaningless, left over type of word: a word to be found in the junkyard of words.

Which made me think about the power of words and the way they can affect us. With Valentines Day fast approaching the word LOVE immediately sprang to mind. I can remember the first time my husband uttered those three little words, “I LOVE YOU”, and how my heart almost escaped from my chest and a million butterflies took flight in my belly.

How heart breaking it would have been for him if instead of replying “I LOVE YOU” right back, I mumbled “I DON’T LOVE YOU”. The appearance of one word, DON’T, changing the meaning of the whole sentence.

Another word that carries so much power is the word THEREFORE. I have recently preached on the Book of Philemon and the Apostle Paul’s use of the word THEREFORE. The way THEREFORE connects a strong affirmation of Philemon’s personal characteristics followed by the behaviour he expects from him, massive meaning contained within one little nine-letter word.

Then comes the famous BUT. You’re doing really well BUT, I think you’re great BUT, I would like to help BUT. How many of us have had great conversations immediately slayed by the killer BUT?

Another two words that can propel or postpone us are PASS and FAIL. This week I passed my driving test and am ecstatic, over the moon, elated, relieved and deliriously happy. I almost hugged the examiner but held back and replaced physical touch with verbal gushing’s. She was embarrassed and horrified…the power of words!!!

YES and NO elicit similar reactions to PASS and FAIL and can be just as positive or destructive.

The spoken word has the power to tear us down, stop us in our tracks and leave scars that last a lifetime. On the contrary they can also build us up and inspire us to achieve greater feats than we ever dared to dream.

Conversely the most powerful words can be rendered powerless if the eyes, body language and tone of voice don’t match what’s being said. Ever had someone say sorry to you grudgingly, with glaring eyes, hunched shoulders and a clipped tone?

I read this anonymous quote an thought it incredibly apt “Words start wars and end them, create love and choke it, bring us to laughter and joy and tears. Words cause men and women to willingly risk their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor. Our world, as we know it, revolves on the power of words.”

Words are powerful and have a longer lasting effect than most give them credit for. They stick in our head, and often unwittingly, come pouring out of our mouths.

They are living entities and evolve with each new generation and different location.

If you’re wondering what the word used to describe me was, it was…NICE! Bland, flavourless, boring…zzzzzzz!

But, if I put aside my insipid connotations of this word and focus on the persons tone, body language and the expression in their eyes it really was quite a compliment…thanks!!

Rainbow is the New Green…

In April 2016 we made, despite all objections, the monumental decision to enlarge our family. Whilst we had been happily coasting as a fully functioning family of five and had become attuned to each other’s wants, needs and foibles, it was decided we would numerically expand.

We looked at our options, discussed the impact it would make and restrictions we would now need to consider. Then we bit the bullet and bought two rabbits…we became a family of seven (five humans and two incredibly cute bunnies).

Both rabbits were incredibly cute but very shy. My daughter Freya named them Floppy and Spotty and spent hours singing to them, trying to stroke them, sitting in their specially built run whilst they played, fed them carrots and generally tried to bond.

One of the rabbits, Spotty – who now resembles the large rabbit from the movie Watership Down, responded and although still shy, will let Freya pet her.

The smaller, feistier rabbit Floppy continually treated all who came into contact with her as the enemy. She would attack poor Spotty; we had to separate them, and would hide from all of us.

Floppy proved to be an amazing escape artist, and would escape from any run we placed her in by burrowing under or climbing, yes climbing, over!

Eventually escaping from a run wasn’t a big enough challenge for Floppy and she began to gnaw her way through her wooden hutch and metal grille. Escaping seemed to become an obsession with her as whilst sitting in our living room, which is about forty foot away from her hutch, we could hear her trying to kick her way out!!

We tried to restrain her in a number of creative ways but she bit through them all. After numerous times of chasing her round our garden, getting stung by nettles, missing meetings and being soaked by the rain we decided that the next time she escaped we’d let her go. That as we’d always had reserves about animals being in cages, if she wanted her freedom that much we wouldn’t get in her way (not any more!).

So the next time Floppy escaped we made no attempt to catch her, we watched as she hopped around the garden, we hoped that she would be safe but we let her hop free. Emotionally we said our goodbyes!

The next morning we checked our garden (all the while praying she hadn’t met a nasty end) and saw her sitting outside her hutch. As I have never been able to catch her (she’s fast!!), my husband went out in his pyjamas picked her up and returned her to the soft hay, toys, bowl of food and accessible water that was her home.

We made the decision not to repair the hole she has made which means Floppy can escape again whenever she wants…there is no obstacle in her way.

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But the funny thing is since her night of freedom Floppy hasn’t wanted to escape. She pops her head through the hole but that’s as far as she goes. It’s almost as if the challenge has now gone and now she knows she can have it (freedom), she no longer wants it.

I love a saying; a cliché, and this made me think of one of my favourites, ‘the grass is greener on the other side’.

I know there are lots of examples where this can be true and one situation is a better situation than the current one (for example, a healthy relationship versus an abusive one) but as human beings I wonder if we always want what we don’t have?

That in wanting the grass we don’t currently have and perceive to be greener, we are placing personal unhappiness with ourselves onto something outside of us. We rely on polishing our external environment to soothe a deeper internal dissatisfaction.

I’m not trying to psychoanalyse my rabbit (!) but wonder if the cliché should be changed to “Green grass needs maintenance” or “Rainbow is the new green”.

What do you think? What clichés have been key to your life or what sayings would you rephrase to make them more personally applicable?