Thursday, 29 December 2016

Simply Because

For me, the Christmas story had become too familiar and this year - once or twice - I have thought I would like to hear the story of that very first Christmas without knowing that next would come a busy Bethlehem, a birth in a stable, a visit from some shepherds and then later on some wise men who brought some special gifts.

So I am grateful that my thoughts have been led to some place new. Christmas is not just the story of a special baby, it reaches beyond that and tells the story of Jesus who came to show us and give us so much.

There is a line in a song that says, 'You didn't want heaven without us, so Jesus you brought heaven down.'

Jesus stepped down to give life and love simply because He wanted to and for that I am so thankful.

Why am I thankful? Why am I grateful for the birth of a baby that happened over 2000 years ago?

As I sit here now I know that I get it wrong. I mess up. I try to control what I say and then all the things I knew I did not need to say come tumbling out. I react because I am hurting. I try too hard. I expect too much of myself.

I could then see myself as a failure and not good enough. However because someone has hope for me I do not need to follow that path.

Instead I can dust off the wrong thoughts, words and deeds and begin again.

Regardless of what it would mean, someone reached down to grab hold of me with their love.

How beautiful.
How powerful.
How wonderful.

Actually, I am thankful for that old, familiar story simply because it will never change. I will always be held by a love that is greater than anything.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Advent #24

As always, it is Christmas Eve (I think all three are asleep!!) and there are still one or two or three jobs to do!

I will get on and do them, however for now, for this moment, I will pause and say thank you. Writing each day has meant I have thought more about Christmas and all that it means to me.

I am surrounded by love. People who are so willing to show love in a cuddle, an encouraging word, a smile, a text message or a what's app, through a thoughtful action. I am so thankful for that.

The greatest love though is the story of a baby, born in a manger. This baby came to show love that reaches out beyond anything. A Love that gave it's all to give me life. A life that is beyond anything I can imagine. An abundant life waiting - as each new day comes - for me to grab hold of it.

Friday, 23 December 2016

Advent #23

I have been reading about 'who I am' and as it is Christmas and a time to celebrate, I thought I would be a bit different! I am going to stand on what I know is true (although I sometimes struggle to believe it!) and celebrate who I am!

I am loved. I am known. I am worth it. I am very good. I am safe. I am secure. I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
All this goes for you too!

Today I would like to be brave and take my worth from a God who knows the real me and still wants to know me - WOW! I would like to shout out and celebrate that I am wonderful!

And why not?!?! As it is true!


Thursday, 22 December 2016

Advent #22

Only 3 more sleeps! How did that happen?!?!

Before he went to sleep, Noah and I were discussing how many more times we would be doing Advent Box. We were talking about how people countdown to Christmas differently and he was rather intrigued when I mentioned that some people start Advent early and for them it lasts 40 days. I think he thought it would be a good idea as it would mean doing Advent Box more times!

There are many different Advent traditions and themes and people experience Advent in a variety of ways. Around the world traditions will differ, maybe around the corner they will as well. Our experience of Advent may be quite similar or it may be quite varied.

For the last 22 days I have joined with many, many others in the countdown to Christmas. I know very few of these others, yet we have all been united in our waiting, hoping, anticipating.

One of Advent traditions that some follow is that each Sunday has a theme and these can be hope, peace, joy, and love. How amazing would that be if we were united in these things too?

To share hope - hope that lifts our gaze and holds on to the certainty of brighter, better days.
To feel peace - peace that comes from holding on to what is good and true.
To have joy - joy that comes from knowing I am where I am meant to be so I will live for today.
To share love - love that is real and honest.

I know that I would like to have more hope, more peace, more joy and more love - I am not going to turn down having more of these things in my life.

In 3 more sleeps, Advent will be over. However there are some parts of Advent I do not want to put away in a box until next year. I hope that I can continue on with hope, peace, joy and love.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Advent #21

As I watched my children bounce around this morning they were thoroughly enjoying themselves. It made me think that so often I over can over complicate things. 

I may have looked for more than I needed, either in material things or in words and actions from other people. I know that in the past my expectations of others were set too high. I also set my expectations of myself too high. 

I am learning that there really is a lot to be gained by living in the moment. Enjoying the jumping and the bouncing!! The children knew that for an hour they were going to be able to jump, bounce around and sometimes fall over. Simply, they were there to enjoy what they were doing - there and then. 

As the sun brings the new day, I too could choose to enjoy what I am doing - there and then. To know that I may jump and I may bounce and there may be a possibility that I may fall down too. I could keep things simple too and enjoy what I have, right there in that moment. 

One of the rules at the trampoline park is to 'ALWAYS be aware of those around you, it is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to avoid others'.

Maybe this could be a rule I apply to each moment. To always be aware of those around me means I take the time to really see the people around me, I should notice them and think of them before I think of myself. To take the next part of the rule literally would mean that I may become very lonely! However if I see it as my responsibility to not bump into other people or crash onto their path, then I believe I am not relying on others or expecting them to take responsibility for avoiding me. I would hope that I would no longer blame someone else for making things over complicated and instead I would consider how I can make my steps or jumps more thoughtfully. 

Maybe then I would thoroughly enjoy myself too... 

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Advent #20

Today, I haven't made the best choices with my words. I got cross when something was broken and I let myself get too stressed because I wanted it to be fixed when really it can wait until tomorrow.

I could make excuses and say I am tired and that I feel like I may be getting a bit of a cold. I could say there is so much extra to do so therefore it is understandable that I got stressy.

However, I spoke in a way I should not have and that is completely my fault. I know that I would rather show gentleness and kindness and self control. I know that I would like to behave better than I sometimes do.

Here in the moment, I have a choice. I could stop and stay in the guilt of getting it wrong or I could step forward. I am sorry and I have said sorry so I would like to step on in the grace and forgiveness that I am freely given. I would like to try again tomorrow and have another go at showing gentleness and kindness and self control.

With every sun comes a new day and new opportunities to make a better day.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Advent #19

Yay! It's the holidays!

If I am honest, I have not always been excited about the school holidays and have not always seen it as a blessing to have all this extra time with my children.

However, now I do.

Our holidays will not be picture perfect. There will still be mess and squabbles. I will still get stressed about things that I do not need to get stressed about! I imagine there will be words spoken that are not always encouraging and affirming and I hope I will be the first to apologise when those words have come from me.

There will also be laughter, lots of silliness and snuggles on the sofa as we watch another Christmas film. I hope there will be memories made and maybe new and unexpected Christmas traditions will be discovered.

I have come to realise that I must try my best to cherish my time with my children because as the sun brings its new day, my children are growing up.

So for now, I shall make the most of the fact that they are still happy to be with me and enjoy all that the holidays may bring!

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Advent #18

I often get to the end of the day and think where did that day go! Some days feel like they are over before they have even started!

Today has been another lovely day, with plenty of carols, a fantastic Nativity (I think I may be a slightly proud and biased mum!), friendship and laughter.

There may be more going on at the moment with all the Christmas events and activities which may make the day whizz along, yet for me, there is always a precious moment to be found in the day.

It may be an unexpected hug, a kind word, a laugh out loud moment, a thank you, a silly text message conversation or a message shared.

If I am not careful, I could miss these moments or not take the time to appreciate them. If I look only to myself then it may be that these things will pass me by. However if I am intentional and keep my eyes on the view around me, then I believe I am more likely to see others and see opportunities. To find these precious moments, my direction of looking must be outwards not inwards.

So tomorrow, the sun will bring its new day and my intention is to look around me and in the hustle and bustle of the season, I shall pause and hopefully find those shared precious moments.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Advent #17

With every sun comes a new day and today I choose this truth...I AM LOVED.

His love gives life:

Friday, 16 December 2016

Advent #16

I read today that 'my emotions are generated by my thoughts'.

For me Christmas time is not what I would have liked or hoped for and most days - at some point - I find myself taking a deep breath to then breathe the hurt away.

So, I must then rearrange my thinking. If I let my painful emotions rule my thinking then Christmas is not going to be a happy place.

The better choice, although it can be so hard to do, is to lift my gaze and lift my thoughts.

If I believe that I am where I am meant to be, then I should look only at this moment.

In this moment I can be thankful for all that I have - three beautiful children, a huge blessing of friends and family, my health, our home and so, so much more.
Thank You God. 

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Advent #15

For the first time in quite a few years, tonight, I went late night Christmas Shopping. Even though it was dark and it is Christmas, both my sister-in-law and I were very pleased and somewhat surprised to see the lovely Christmas lights decorating our fine city's streets!

The lights are all around and look really quite beautiful. There is even the UK's first 'tunnel of light' to appreciate and of course take the customary selfie inside!

The lights are attractive, I could have stood and gazed at them for a long time. As I write about them now the words I am using to describe the Christmas lights are all good.

Light is often mentioned during Advent and again this Light is good and bright and true.

With every sun comes a new day and the opportunity to, like the lights, shine out. I would like to be seen as bright and true. It is not going to happen all the time and there will be occasions when my light dims. However by looking to the Light that never dulls and always stays true, I hope I can find strength and encouragement to keep burning brightly.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Advent #14

'And there, in the stable, amongst the chickens and the donkeys and the cows, in the quiet of the night, God gave the world His wonderful gift. The baby that would change the world was born. His baby Son. 
Mary and Joseph wrapped Him up to keep Him warm. They made a soft bed of straw and used the animals' feeding trough as His cradle. And they gazed in wonder at God's Great Gift, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger. 
Mary and Joseph named Him Jesus, 'Emmanuel' - which means 'God has
 come to live with us'. 
Because, of course, He had.'
(Jesus Story Book Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones)

I was challenged this morning about being self-centred. Do I put my feelings first? Do I feel that my words are more important than anyone else's? Do I listen? Do I give the people I meet my full attention?

To be honest I can find it tricky to do these things. It kind of turns things upside down to put the feelings of someone else before mine or to let someone else speak first and to make my words less.

However it is possible and with perseverance it becomes easier. There are times when I really struggle to let go of 'me', although saying 'you first' is the better choice and makes for better relationships.

Also when it is a struggle. I can look to the example mentioned above...Jesus, who gave His all to say 'you first'.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Advent #13

Today has been a great day! I have had the privilege of enjoying not one but two Christmas performances. Today 'being mum' has been an absolute pleasure.

Taking time to consider what actually brings me joy has made me think about what I actually consider as important.

I know that in the past I have placed too much importance on Christmas being about the presents I receive. As I look back I can remember that I have expected too much and felt disappointed when my expectations were not met. However I am now beginning to realise that memories and shared moments can be more precious than material things.

Today I am thankful because I am blessed. As Advent continues on I would like to be mindful of the many blessings I have. Instead of pondering about what I do not have and what I think might make my life better, I choose to look at all that I do have and take pleasure and joy from that.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Advent #12

Advent comes and a lot of thought is given to what I might give others. This year I have been brave and moved away from the norm as I have bought people presents without looking at anyone's list! It has taken more thought and I hope people are happy with their Christmas presents.

Christmas time should not be the only time that I think about what I give to others. I believe I should be considering how I give all year round.

What I give to others is not all about material gifts, it is also how I give my words, my deeds, my time and my love.

As I think about how I have given today, I know that I could have given more thought to my words. I could have given better, encouraging and more loving words.

A short while ago, I made the better to choice to give part of me when what I really wanted to do was to put me first.

With every sun comes a new day and plenty of opportunities to give. I would like to be brave and give more of me. I would like to make the most of those opportunities and learn to give even when it is not the easiest choice. I hope I can find the strength to think more about how I give and be able to say 'you first'.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Advent #11

Today I heard a song which had the line in it, 'when love was born.' During Advent and at Christmas time it is Jesus as a baby we consider. How can a baby demonstrate such amazing love?

For me it goes further than Jesus as a baby. As the story continues Jesus grows into a man and in the Bible we read about all that He did. The life that He led was all about love.

This love was given freely. However sometimes I really struggle to accept that love because I feel rubbish and feel that I don’t deserve that love...because I don’t feel able to love someone in such an extravagant way...because, humanly, I don’t feel loved in that way.

However this love that was born in a stable does not actually ask me to do anything, because;

it was not a gift of love that had a list of terms and conditions attached
it was not a gift of love that gave on condition of return
it was not a gift of love that had a sell by date attached to it.

That night, 'when love was born', it was given as a perfect, limitless, eternal and unconditional gift. 

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Advent #10

Christmas has to go on hold for a day or two whilst we celebrate the birthday of my eldest daughter. As I make all the preparations for her special day, I know that I am very blessed.

In our house we try and remember to do 'one good thing'. This is when we say thank you for at least one good thing from the day. Today as I look at my beautiful, precious, unique daughter, I know that I can be thankful for many, many 'one good things'!

Tomorrow Advent will continue on and I hope to again pause and be thankful.

Friday, 9 December 2016

Advent #9

Today is almost done and tomorrow will come. Then there will be 15 more sleeps until Christmas Day!

Today is almost done and it has been a good day. In amongst the hustle and bustle of the day, of discos and birthday preparations, there have been many bright moments.

Today is almost done and I have been able to lift my gaze. There has been much to be thankful for, especially the blessing of wonderful family and friends.

Today is almost done and I know I can face tomorrow.

I know I can face tomorrow because I know I am chosen and I know I am loved.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Advent #8

Earlier today I opened a Christmas card and the sender had written, 'have a wonderful Christmas.' If I am honest my initial thought was negative and then I slightly surprised myself with how quickly I turned my thinking around.

I am going to have a wonderful Christmas! I am going to choose happiness, fun, laughter, craziness, joy and hope.

As the advent journey continues, I am going to look to my children and follow their example. Each morning they awake with excitement and wonder as to what they might find. Tomorrow, as the sun brings its new day, I would like to be bold enough to awaken with excitement and wonder as to what I might find.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Advent #7

Each year Advent happens. The countdown begins and then along comes Christmas. Is there anything I need to do to make it happen? No, it just does!

Maybe I should apply this truth to every day. If I believe that all my days are written, then the reality is that this day will come and I do not have to do anything to make it happen. In the same way there is nothing I can do to stop it from happening.

Sometimes I feel that I have strived too hard to make things happen.

The simple truth is I do not need to strive.

Instead I need to allow myself to be loved and to love.

With each new day, if I can find the courage to walk and 'just do, just be and just love', then I believe that is enough.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Advent #6

Christmas time can be busy and right now my to-do list seems quite long!
 - wrapping presents
- writing cards
- decorating the tree
- buying Christmas jumpers
- remembering the many things going on at school so that the right child ends up with the right thing and in the right place at the right time!
- sorting Advent box (preferably organised the night before rather than a startled thought first thing when the children wake up!)

Even though life seems to become extra crazy, I do enjoy all the additions that come with Christmas time. However I do not want my busy to become so hectic that it overwhelms me. Therefore I must add to my preparation!!

Why would I want to give myself more to do?!?

Yet, what if this one additional thing makes everything else better?

If I take time to focus on me then I believe I can be of more use to all that has to be done. Taking the time to slow down and rest can only strengthen me. To be still and find the calm - even when everything else might still be hurrying on by - may sharpen me.

In resting and through the stillness I can refill and refuel. I would then hope to get back on with the to-do list with more joy and purpose. Hopefully I will give the better part of me to those around me. The rush will not consume me, I will fill up on Love, which will in turn be my motivation. 

Monday, 5 December 2016

Advent #5

A baby was born and the whole world was turned upside down.

A demonstration of love that was incredibly different.

A love that says, "You first".

A love that has the power to change.

A love that shamelessly shouts, "I LOVE YOU!"

A love that simply just asks to be received.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Advent #4

Yesterday I read something about how God does not go out of fashion. I then went on to think about how the story we tell at Christmas time has not gone out of fashion either.

Over the coming weeks the story of a baby born in a manger will be told many, many times in a huge variety of ways. 

I believe it is because there is something special found in this Christmas Story.
A story that brings truth, hope, light and joy.
A story that brings wonder.
A story that tells of the impossible, however at the time it happened - for most - it was an insignificant story.

It is a story that continues to be told and every turn of the page tells a story of outrageous love.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Advent #3

'Just Write!'

As I sit here these words have just popped into my head. I have many other thoughts that also run round my head, however these two words are what stood out.

So as I 'just write' I consider how I should also apply that simplicity to my life and 'just do'!

Today I shall try to make it my aim to 'just do'. I know what I am planning to do and I hope that as I do that, I will simply 'just do'. Yet if something unexpected or something different comes along, again I hope that I will be able to continue to commit to 'just doing'!

I could also extend it further and 'just be'. If I believe that I am created for a purpose, then today I would like to live that out knowing I am where I am meant to be. Lifting my gaze, I shall not try to figure it all out, instead I shall 'just be'.

Then I could take an even bolder step and 'just love'. In this new day I would like to try to 'just love'. I will not ask for anything in return and I will choose love even when it may not be an easy choice to make.

How do I know that I can hope to simply just do, be and love? I know because I also hear the encouragement of my God saying, 'You go girl! You can do it...I am right here with you.'

Friday, 2 December 2016

Advent #2

Day 2..what will we find in Advent Box today? What chocolate will be behind door number 2? Which character or part will we add to our Nativity today? Before I know it, we will be on day 24 and all the Advent Box presents will be unwrapped, the chocolates will be eaten and the Nativity will be complete.

I know that I can get carried away by the run up to Christmas time. I can find myself rushing through the day thinking of all that needs to be done. When this happens I then fix too much on what I have to get done rather than enjoying the moment. 

If I spend my days rushing through to the next one, might I miss what is instore for me today? It might pass me by as I was too bothered about what I needed to get done before tomorrow. 

However if I slow down and take time to enjoy, I can make the most of each day. As I do today (and all the other days in Advent) I will do what I can. I have been given this day and I hope to grasp this day and live it to the full. I would like to take the time to make the most of each encounter and to see the wonder and blessings that are always around me...I just need to slow down, take the time to look and to receive. 

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Advent #1

I imagine that in a very short while there will be three excited children full of anticipation for the first day of this year's Advent Box (I am very grateful to a friend who introduced me to this wonderful idea last year). 

Throughout Advent, our morning routine will be brightened by a dance and a chant around the Advent Box and the children will each find a gift. 

Last year I was overly concerned about whether or not the presents would be exciting enough or would the opening of the presents be met with a groan when they realised the gift for the day was some socks!?!? However my children surprised me - as they often do - by always being grateful. I soon realised that the excitement was in the finding of the gift wrapped especially for them. 

As Advent begins I should make a fourth excited child who is eager and full of anticipation for this new day that God has gift wrapped especially for me. A day that is fresh and untrodden, a day that holds opportunities and encounters that may brighten my path. 

Will I be bold and embrace my gift? Will I be excited to go looking for goodness of this new day? I hope so, I may never get this opportunity again and today I would like to make the most of this new day I have been given.