Fear

We all have fears.

And thats ok.

Sometimes we are fearful in a real life situation, and that fear can save our lives. This type of fear is essential and it puts us into our sympathetic nervous system releasing stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, getting our body ready to protect itself. It can help us flee from an attack, run fast to pull a child away from danger, or sharpen our minds in an important meeting.

Problems begin when we live too much in this hyper alert state and it begins to take its toll on our health. Our brains are very advanced but they have a hard time distinguishing between real threats and perceived threats, and this where our work begins.

Like I said we all have fears, a lot of them can be expressed by worrying over the past or fearing about the future and potential outcomes we can’t control. Its true that we cant always control everything that will happen to us or how people respond to us, but we can become more aware of our thought life and when we putting ourselves under stress because of these things.

Contemplative practices are a concrete way I am growing in this.

But still there are always fears to be faced. This week is Holy Week and we’ve been lingering in the scriptures that lead towards the cross, Jon noticed this little passage and gave it me when I was stressing out and panicking about being misjudged over something.

“Many people did believe in him, however, including some of the Jewish leaders. But they wouldn’t admit it for fear that the Pharisees would expel them from the synagogue.  For they loved human praise more than the praise of God.” John 12:42-43

It made me smile so much, people having been stressing out over what people think about them for thousands of years!

After Jon shared it with me I went for a shower, my mind endlessly ruminating over and over my dilemma. I was just at the point of my body being covered in soap and my hair full of conditioner when the hot water started running out. I began to rush frantically trying to get all the soap off as the water got colder and colder. My eyes were wide and my already panicked heart was pounding even faster when suddenly I felt this invitation from God

Would it really be so bad for the water to go cold? Or is your fear of it worse that the reality will be?

God is so sneaky, with these back up lessons!

So I chose to slow down and to stay in the discomfort. I actively relaxed and deepened my breathing resisting the urge to flee. I continued slowly rinsing my hair and body is the now absolutely freezing water. My brain focused, my heart rate settled and all feelings of panic and anxiety left. I had successfully come into my parasympathetic nervous system.

The cold water was nowhere near as bad as my fear of it was.

I stayed in the freezing water completely at peace for another couple of minutes and stepped out feeling grateful and empowered. We do have an incredible amount of choice over these parts of our physiology. But it starts with paying attention.

Yesterday I faced the silly little fear of a cold shower

But today maybe I will be that little bit more ready to face some of my bigger fears

The fear of misjudged

The fear of being disliked

The fear of being unsuccessful

The fear of making mistakes

The fear of …………………fill in the blank for you

I would love to invite you to spend a few minutes in your journal seeing if there are places that fear has a hold in your life, and see if you can begin to let that fear go. The link below follows to a short practice that you may find helpful.

Emma x

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Brain Fog and how beauty and colour help!

It’s been a tiring year on planet earth.

No matter how this year has been for you personally, the global situation leaves a load that we carry either consciously or unconsciously and that takes it toll.

There are many consequences to this but a common one is a general feeling of tiredness, lethargy and brain fog. Our souls weren’t designed to carry the amount of information we are exposed to. If you even just watch the news then you are aware of suffering on a global scale.

Almost every person I chat to on the school run, at church or in shops say a variation of the same thing.

‘I’m just ready for the holidays’

‘I’m looking forward to a break a Christmas’

‘the kids are so tired this year’

‘I’m just exhausted, I don’t know what’s wrong with me….’

So with kindness I would like to offer that global pandemics, racial tensions and divisive politics are whats wrong.

Our souls are tired.

I’m reminded of the very early days of having children, sleepless nights, no solitude just getting through each day the best I could.

I found those years pushed me into finding new ways to recieve connection and life from God. My old ways no longer worked I was too tired to concentrate on anything.

I feel like that now.

But I’m still desperate for spiritual nourishment.

I would like to offer something that has been so helpful to me. I offer it with shyness and a little bit of embarrassment as drawing/art is not a gift I have!

If you feel tired try shorter, creative ways of prayer or bible reading.

~ Use colours in your journal or bible

~ choose tiny bits of scripture/truth to meditate on

~ Go for a walk and use your senses to worship and wonder.

~ set a phone alarm and do a simple 1 minute breath prayer

Create a beautiful little space in your home to just sit quietly

Notice what is bringing you life and what is zapping it. Make sure you find ways to include the life giving stuff.

Most of all be kind to yourself

If this inspires you to give something new a go feel free to share it with me or ask any questions

Love and blessings

Emma x

Respond or React?

I’m finding myself really irritable lately.

I’m not sure why, I think a big mash of not enough solitude, hormones, not eating well, going to bed too late and you know the general global pandemic situation.

Ive been a parent almost 13 years and as the years roll by one thing is becoming clear, there’s always something going on with someone in our home if it’s not one of us it’s the flipping dog. Someone struggling with a friendship, someone with difficult behaviour, someone over-sensitive, someone not sleeping, someone with some highly skilled, button pushing back chat before the coffee has kicked in! I don’t know about your life but for me the opportunities to be irritated are a plenty folks…..

So unless an overnight miracle turns us into the Waltons, I guess accepting that is going to be a really helpful thing to do. Contemplative prayer practices such as breath prayer and the examen are helping me to be present to what is. The actual reality of my life and the day Im living in right now. They are helping me slowly but surely respond to the life around me instead of react, its a lesson Im expecting to be learning my whole life.

Yesterday I woke up and I just knew, wow I am not in a good mood. So I shut myself in my room for 20 minutes (interrupted 4 times, take another deep breath!) and got my journal out and dug into the psalms. My resulting prayer was pretty much ‘God please help me think before I speak today and respond to people with kindness’

I felt much better and came down stairs and I’m not joking literally 30 seconds later got into a reactive argument. My very first thought was shame, oh no Ive totally screwed up straight away….

But, here comes the good part (I promise there is something positive in this blog),

My very next thought was, be kind to yourself, let it go, just start again. And you know what? I did and I can’t tell you how hard that is for me. But I just moved on and actually had a really great day where 80% of the time I paused before I spoke and responded to whatever was happening after actually engaging my brain. Thats total breakthrough and the fruit of contemplative prayer in my actual everyday life. Not perfection but progress.

I love this quote from the late Cistercian monk Father Thomas Keating

“We know we are making progress on the spiritual journey when things that used to drive us up the wall now drive us only halfway up the wall”

So if you find yourself struggling with being reactive or a more passive behaviour such as going silent and non engaging I really recommend a small daily contemplative practice. Something as simple as 5 minutes of silence and deep breathing is a great start. A solid way to renew your mind and see some change. 24/7 prayer have some great resources in their toolshed and I have a free 20 min pilates and contemplative prayer session on my youtube channel if you want to try that.

And most of all I encourage you to do the hard work of being kind to yourself, saying no to shame and guilt and yes to grace and mercy.

Big love to you all

Emma x

 

 

 

Embarrassed in Tesco

I’m in the queue outside at Tesco for a good 30 minutes, as I’m sure many of you know it feels very strange. A bit of nervous, jovial chatter with people around me and some mindless scrolling on my phone, it’s like being in a movie.

I see signs everywhere about the new one way system to keep people safe in store, its very clearly marked on the floors and I begin following the arrows. Mushrooms, broccoli, tomatoes and peppers go in my trolley. An awkward moment at the bananas whilst another shopper and myself try not to get too close to each other. Then on I go down the next aisle.

I’m lost in thought wandering around up and down the aisles putting my usual things in the trolley. I pause at the frozen section mildly annoyed that all the cheaper sweetcorn has run out and I’m having to buy the Birdseye one, which is not on offer I hasten to add!

Suddenly I am snapped out my deep and important thoughts about sweetcorn when I realise the ‘Excuse me madam’ that I can hear is being directed at me.

‘You’re going the wrong way.’

I look up from my sweetcorn dilemma and notice a few amused shoppers and a slightly exasperated shop assistant all facing me coming in the opposite direction. I then look down at the giant blue arrows pointing the opposite direction to the way that I am walking. ‘I’m so sorry’ I mumble, becoming really hot, I grab my overpriced sweetcorn and turn and the other way.

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I find myself wanting to cry a little bit, and inwardly berating myself. How could I be so stupid there are literally giant blue arrows on the floor, how have I managed to walk the wrong way up and down several aisles and not notice? I finish my shop and get home glad to put it behind me.

Later in the week I was on a zoom webinar, (you know for a change!) called rope in snowstorm. It was around the subject of creating rhythms and practices in life that sustain us. A framework if you like that our life can grow in. It went through many wonderful things, but one spoke to me about my time in Tesco.

A community of shared practice.

The invitation was not just to create independent rhythms, but to live them out in a community.

It’s a scientific fact that we live most of our life on autopilot. We do what we normally do, we all have a rhythm of sorts whether its intentional or not. We get up, we drink a drink, we eat things, we think things, we say things a lot of it without a lot of intentionality.

In tesco I was on autopilot. I started off following the new instruction of the big blue arrows but by the time I got to the bananas I was on autopilot. I go to Tesco every week and have done for years and I walk up and down the aisles the same way buying pretty much the same thing week in week out. Even the giant blue arrows weren’t enough for me to see that I was going completely the wrong way. It took another person seeing me to interrupt me, embarrass me a little bit and tell me;

‘You’re going the wrong way.’

I am a strong, independent person. Always have been so this isn’t something I find easy. We also live in a culture of self sufficiency. True community requires vulnerability, honesty and a willingness to both give and receive.

In life just like in Tesco it’s not always clear the right way to go in the big and the small things. In Tesco I need the shop assistant to reach out and correct me, even the big blue arrows pointing the way weren’t enough it took another human being close enough to observe me, and willing to intervene.

I hope to grow in living in community within my own household and wider church family, sharing enough that people can both cheer me on and when needed tell me

‘Emma, you’re going the wrong way.’

Have a great week everyone, I hope this blog gets you thinking about community today. Please message me with any questions about rhythms of life, prayer requests or for a chat

Emma x

 

 

For the juggling parent right now…..

Theres no prescription for this.

No formula.

No right or wrong.

No one size fits all.

There is no way to ‘balance everything’ during the coronavirus lockdown. Never before has it been more essential to turn away from comparison and shame, and turn towards hope and grace.

Theres no prescription for how you and your household will get through this time of juggling, work, schooling, all being together all the time, fear, loneliness, the unknown and our own 4 walls.

There is only a dimly lit path that we each must walk.

My encouragement to you is to carve out a bit of time late in the evening or early in the morning where there is no rush, no pressure and no interruption. Get a pen and paper and ask yourself these questions……

(For the sake of example I will show you my unique answers, self reflection is a habit I’ve cultivated over many years and I know some of you won’t find it easy so hopefully it might help, as always its not prescriptive)

Looking back over the last week what has driven me insane!? Not being on my own, the constant noise and being interrupted, the feeling that Im not doing anything well enough, looking at my phone obsessively

What has been good? our daily walks, nice moments as a family, appreciating nature, church online, seeing people help each other, reading.

On the other side of this what would I love to look back and say? That I was kind, and I tried my best, that I focused on what really mattered

What is one small thing I could implement this coming week that would help me towards that goal? To pause before I respond to the kids and Jon, work on responding over reacting. Let it go quickly and forgive myself when I mess up

How will I sustain my spiritual life this week? Practising the examen before bed

How will I help my emotional life this week? Being quick to forgive myself

How will I take care of my physical health this week? drink enough water

What burdens am I carrying, what could I let go of? Let go of striving for perfection, the burden of that….

This isn’t something you might sit and finish in 30 minutes it might be something you ponder over a few days.

This is a practice of intentionality, we’ve lost a lot of our normal rhythms and that is going to be hard for a lot of us. For me my work has gone online and Im busier than ever, it reminds me of years ago when all the kids were preschool and I had to reimagine my walk with God. But reimagining is good. False crutches being swept away is good. God is ever present and closer than our Breath, he is our deepest reality.

I hope this helps!!

Let me know if you do it, or if you need prayer!

Emma x x

 

Fight? Surrender? Or both?

My body and my mind are tired today, my muscles ache, I’m sluggish and a bit grumpy. The kids are moaning about jumpers feeling funny and wrong lunch boxes, arguing over the bathroom and the pain in my tummy is pulsing. I pull my dressing gown tighter around the cold in the kitchen, even though the heating is on. Im supposed to be sea swimming at 9am and I don’t want to go. Its about -5 with the icy wind chill and the north sea in march isn’t really appealing to me right now. I want to hide from the cold not get colder!

I walk heavily up the stairs and put my swimsuit under my clothes…just in case. I see my swim friend and her smily face at the school gate and I know its going to be worth the fight.

I choose to fight.

We get to the beach and walk across to the low tide sea chatting about our lives, the sun is shining and the wind is almost knocking us off our feet, we are pulled sharply away from our chat as we realise…. our stuff is going to blow away.

We choose to fight.

A bit of a walk around and we find a wet rock that we can shove our stuff behind and peg down with our boots, we decide without a lot of confidence it will probably hold. My side is still hurting but Im determined now. I take my boots off and my already numb feet sting as I put them down on wet sand, I pull my leggings off and laugh at how cold my bum is in the wind. We undress quickly and shove everything in our bags before we change our minds.

A shift is occurring, Its no longer time to fight.

Its time to surrender.

Unless you want to be overcome by panic, you don’t fight gale force wind and freezing water, you surrender to it. I do a couple of handstands on the way to the water and begin to run with joy. We breathe deeply preparing ourselves to enter this wild world. No time to lose we are submerged and swimming within 10 seconds. We don’t want to risk hypothermia so we know we have about 2 minutes in our swimsuits. We are each lost in our own internal journey now. I yelp and squeal very loudly in wild worship surrendering everything to the God I love, I feel completely alive, completely free, completely myself. Its over so quickly, humbled we exchange a knowing glance and big, slightly disappointed grins, our time is up, we are not the masters of this place. We surrender to that fact and get out before either of us want to,changing quickly and chatting away. I notice in amazement that the pain in my side is gone, not for the first time after a cold swim. I got my friend to take this picture, I wanted to remember today.

I needed to swim. I had to fight to get there, and then surrender to the elements. I needed both. I believe life requires us being willing to do both. We don’t want to live so hard and rigid that we are always fighting and we don’t want to live so surrendered that we stand for nothing. I cant help but think of Jesus…. fighting for the oppressed, yet surrendering to this death. Obedient, attentive, willing to be interrupted, compassionate and soft, wild and strong. The sea made me feel close to him today in a way I have no words for just a deep knowing and peace within.

I wonder, is there something you need to fight for today?

Or maybe something you need to surrender to?

Lets be people living awake and humble enough to do both!

Big love to everyone who takes the time to read my blog, and let me know if it sparks something in you!

Em x

 

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Facing fears and growing through failure

This is unedited brought directly to you from bar burrito at Gatwick Airport. I’ve been up since 3.30am so please move on if you want filtered thoughts and polished sentences….. This is more raw emotion, crying into my burrito bowl kind of blog… I know, lovely mental image.

Today I stared some long inbedded fears straight in the face. I have a lot of irrational anxiety around travelling alone, and I’m married to Jon who is as happy and relaxed as can be around travel. So naturally I’ve hidden behind him in travel since I was 21.

I knew I had to take this trip alone just booking it was awful. I made my flight, and train OK. Then I was faced with the tube. I understand this is fine for some people but I’m really claustrophobic and it’s a nightmare for me. I saw the bus stop and nearly bottled it but I just kept walking and got 2 tubes. The joy of actually doing it and not fainting…. And getting out back above ground was so empowering. I felt like I’d just climbed everest.

I took my pilates exam and failed. One success straight into a failure. I left crushed, my mind assaulted by self hatred, embarrassment and disbelief.

What will my clients think?

What will my kids think?

What will my work think?

I think it’s so important to talk about our failures, our feelings of shame and lack of self worth. I know in my intellect that exams don’t define my worth. But my heart was telling a different story.

I’m choosing kindness to myself.

I did so well today. Wow that’s hard to type, and increasing the tears rolling down my face. Why is it so hard to be kind to yourself?

I can’t wait to see my kids and Jon. To cry in front of them. For my kids to see that sometimes you study hard and you still fail.

I cant wait for them to see that failing is both hard and normal.

I also can’t wait for them to see me keep studying, to risk failure again and keep going. I can’t wait to pave a way for them to see that life can hurt and be hard but that we can both feel our feelings and move on.

Next time. I will be further from fainting as I sit before take off. I will go to my exam more prepared, My heart will pound less as I pass security armed with guns and dogs {OK I might not manage that last one}

Face your fears. The only way out is through.

Embrace failure and learn.

I hope this makes some sort of sense.

Being human is tricky. My faith has grounded me today. I know I’m loved and accepted just as I am, it helps silence the shame.

So I raise my nettle tea to you all (which I brought from home of course) let’s keep going!

 

Em x

 

 

Disappointment and Desire

Today I was due to take a pilgrimage up to Perth to the Bield retreat centre for my first ever silent day retreat. My heart has been longing for this day. Ive curiously gazed at the people wearing the ‘Im in silence’ badges on my previous visits. Ive daydreamed and allowed my heart to fully anticipate and desire this day. I was going to swim, slowly walk the labyrinth, get a Henri Nouwen book I’ve been reading on my visits off the shelf and read at leisure by the fire, drawing pictures and taking notes. I was going to sit on the silence table for lunch and eat my food slowly and thoughtfully. I was going to write and wrestle out some things that have been swirling through my mind. I was going to listen to God and my own heart.

But the car is losing water and I can’t go.

So I’m still in my dressing gown fighting back tears and swallowing back disappointment, trying to have a good attitude.

At least I was an hour ago…

Until I felt the sweet nudge of the Holy Spirit inviting me to fully feel my disappointment, so I did and let the tears flow as I stirred my breakfast in the pan. Brene Brown always says you can’t selectively numb you’re emotions. So if I numb to my disappointment in some sort of effort to have a great attitude I crush my desire and sabotage myself.

So, yes I’m really disappointed I feel robbed and angry and like I’ve missed out on something that was sacred and mattered to me. As someone who is plagued with this pressure to always do, say and feel the right things this is hard for me. Im fighting the lie that this is self pity but its not. WE ARE ALLOWED TO BE SAD, DISAPPOINTED, ANGRY AND HURT!! As long as we don’t wallow in it or hurt other people by it, we are allowed to fully feel.

I’m hopeful

Im hopeful that as I own my disappointment and let myself feel it, that Im becoming more alive. As I feel these negative emotions Im unlocking the door on all my emotions.

Could it be as I say yes to my disappointment, Im also unlocking the potential of finding true joy today? I don’t know….I wouldn’t normally do it. I will tell you later!

So I can’t drive anywhere there’s no retreat centre for me today. But my feet seem to be working today so Im going to get dressed and Im going to start walking. First stop the Labyrinth we built as a church, next stop….I’m not sure.

Do you allow yourself to feel disappointed?

Could it be that joy is on the other side?

I sure hope so, because where else can we begin? Except where we truly are

Emma x

 

Rhythms: Swapping perfection for contentment

I write a lot about this.

How do I find a sustainable rhythm in my spiritual life, my family life, my work life, my friendships, my health and downtime?? How do I give each of my four children the time and attention they need? How do I stay present to what is in front of me without getting sucked into my worries, my fears or a screen?

Why I ask you, do I have to check my emails, instagram and Facebook religiously before I embark on any task?? (Oh and don’t forget the weather) Why??!!! I hate distractions and being interrupted yet I choose to do it to myself all day long…..

The mirage of perfection just on the horizon has kept me feeling like a failure my whole life. Peace and contentment always just out of reach. If i can just stick with getting up at 5.30am I will have time in the morning to pray, do exercise and journal. If I could just keep the house really orderly I wouldn’t get so stressed. If I could just check social media for 10 minutes a day Id be more present. If I could just eat well all the time Id be happier. If I could just keep everyone happy….

If, If , If, When, When, When.

Contentment and peace always just out of reach.

After struggling for a long time with lots of things I made the decision to see a spiritual director once a month. Ive never made time for anything like this before and Ive battled some guilt about doing it and spending the money. But I need help to navigate and build the life Ive been given and thats ok. Friends and family are fantastic but a spiritual director or counsellor can unlock things us and support us in a professional way that we can’t expect from those around us.

One of the things Im learning to do to greet the day as it comes to me and just do my best. That might sound obvious but if you’ve struggled with perfectionism you will know what a relief it is to realise your best is good enough. Amidst endless failing, half starts and frustrations I have actually managed to develop and sustain some really simple and helpful rhythms. These are a random mix of parenting, spiritual development and health….which pretty much sums up my life! Im not sharing these in a prescriptive way but just as ideas and to spark your own imagination.

Walking and talking

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So this may seem pretty simple!! But getting out with the kids for a big walk always gets them opening up and talking. There are no screens or household distractions and it just works. If they are sharing something big thats happening for them if often comes out in stages in-between climbing trees and leaping about theres no pressure, they can see that we are present and they just talk. We spend hours every week doing this and it really keeps us all connected.

Cold water swimming

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This is possibly the best thing Ive done in along time thats just for me. It brings joy, it clears the mind, I’ve made new friends, its actually good for you, its free….it ticks all the boxes. On a deeper level its reconnecting me with something I loved as a kid and lost as an adult. Im finding healing through it in ways i don’t even know how to write about. I commit to twice a week no matter what and I often manage three.

The Examen

This is an Ignation practise done once or twice a day as a kind of review of the movements of God in your day. There is endless resource online and lots of varieties but for me I do it just before bed and its a variation of the original. Ive done it most nights for the last 2 years and it really helps me to deal with things, practise gratitude and stop any resentments building up.

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Tracking my cycle

So this is a new one for me and its not something I will be stopping because it is literally changing my life. If you want to know more Clare baker has tons of info online. But basically I follow my cycle and I track my emotions and how I feel. Then I use that information to help me in the future. Simple silly story of it in action. A couple of months ago I had to plan a communion thing for church and it wasn’t a big deal but Id left it to the last minute and it was making me so stressed I couldn’t figure out how best to do it and I was really overreacting my heart was pounding and I was very frustrated. Fast forward about a month (funnily enough) and I’m making a new recipe, same emotions come up I’m panicking, I feel overwhelmed, I want everyone to be quiet. Its a familiar pattern so instead of getting mad I just accept it, I know why, and I slow down I read the list carefully, I ask the kids calmly to just give me a minute, Im kind to myself instead of angry…..I don’t have a meltdown. Success!! On the positive end of things there are times of the month when I have more energy, Or I’m more creative or i have more empathy. So instead of fighting against myself and my hormones I work with them. Its so good.

Anyway theres a few random rhythms that help me, I hope it encourages you to explore some life giving rhythms for you.

 

Emma x

 

Closing the gap

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Tomorrow is the last day of 21 days of real food. 21 days of saying yes to nourishing my body and 21 days of saying no my cravings and lingering emotional attachments to food. 21 days of saying yes to discipline and preparation, and 21 days of saying no to compromising and rushing.

And yeah, I feel better, I’m sleeping better, my digestion is better, my skin is clearer and I have more energy and thats wonderful, but do you know whats even more valuable than the health benefits??

I feel peaceful because Ive spent 21 days closing the gap….

21 days of closing the gap between my values about food and what I actually put on my plate. 21 days of integrity. 21 days of good choices for the planet. 21 days of practising what I preach more consistently. 21 days of embodying and living out my beliefs about food. 21 days of eating real food because Im growing to love my body not because I want to punish it.

21 days of closing the gap.

This got me thinking about my whole life and feeling of subtle unease I have when I don’t  at least try to live out my values, be that in any area, my parenting, my spirituality or my friendships. We had the privilege of having the wonderful Joel Mckerrow at our little church community today sharing his poetry and wisdom. His life is about closing the gap. Closing the gap between what it means to be a follower of Jesus and his actual life. Closing the gap between the reality of who he is and who he wants to be. Closing the gap between the way the world is and the way it could be. He’s closing the gap like a boss!! (www.joelmckerrow.com)

I struggle a lot with being hard on myself and I fight perfectionism so for me the next step to close the gap between who I am and who I know I could be is definitely not ‘try harder’ Ive tried that for like a decade and if anything the gap is wider. I think the next step for me is to relax a little and try and enjoy the ride!

I want to be a person of joy instead of a person who is fearful. Ive been asking God a lot to help me to close that gap. I wish I had some wonderful revelation about the answer to living in joy but I don’t yet. I guess I have to walk it out day by day like everything else. So I guess this blog post is an invitation.

Where would you like to the close the gap in your life??

Whats one tangible thing you could do to make that a reality??

Keep me posted!

Emma x

 

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