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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The necessary suffering of pruning

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This is our beautiful young apple tree, planted last year in our garden. Today was an emotional time for me and the tree.

Today was pruning day.

Today I stood in the rain and slowly picked every single tiny baby budding apple off, all 137 of them. Every one made me sad as I carefully removed it from its branch, ending its life prematurely. I remembered back to our trip to the garden centre to get the tree deliberating endlessly over which one to choose. I remembered back to the rock hard ground we had to use a pick axe on to plant the tree.

I did this pruning by my own free will even though it means no fruit this year. No watching the kids run out in the garden and eat an apple straight from the tree. No collecting and harvesting them,no turning them into crumbles and pickles to share and enjoy. Just nothingness in its place. It felt senseless, counterintuitive and painful to pick the healthy fruit from the healthy tree and put it straight in the compost.

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So why did I do it?

Firstly the tree is too young and its branches too weak to support the weight of its fully grown fruit. The apples would have broken the branches they grew on, destroying the tree for future years to come.

Secondly it takes an incredible amount of nutrients for the tree to produce fruit which means those nutrients are not going into strengthening the roots and branches, maturing the tree and enabling it to grow and enjoy a long healthy life.

John 15 Jesus famous passage about the vine and branches that this blog is rooted in (excuse the pun!) tells of this very process. It says that God the gardener prunes every branch that doesn’t bear fruit and even some of the good fruit in our lives so we can be even more fruitful.

How often do we resist this?

Ive been avoiding pruning the tree for weeks. Today I struggled to do it. I kept thinking, ‘maybe it will be alright it doesn’t look too thin’ ‘maybe the man at the garden centre was being a bit extreme when he said prune ALL the fruit, maybe I will just leave a few..’

In my own life it’s even harder to remove things, lay things down and let things die, especially the good stuff. Im in a season of pruning now and its so painful. But just like the tree I want to grow strong roots and branches to bear the weight of the fruit that my life produces. Ive seen people over and over bloom too quick and break, its not a path I want to choose. In our world of instant gratification and overnight success stories the temptation to skip the maturing process is massive… Lets just be honest here, I planted an apple tree because I wanted apples! I exercise because I want to be strong. I write my book because I want it published. I don’t want to wait for these things and many other things in my life! But the Kingdom works in seasons and we must not be afraid of the pruning and fallow ones….A life that only wants to bear fruit is not sustainable.

So I leave you with a couple of questions to ponder;

Where might God be leading me to do some pruning?

Could a so called ‘loss’ or ‘failure’ actually be the kindness of the Lord in your life?

One day in years to come Im sure I will plant another tree and go through this pruning process again. I know that the experience will be less painful because I will have watched my current apple tree flourish because of the pruning I did today. But for now Im a young inexperienced gardener and its hard, I only the stories of those more experienced to spur me on. I only have the hope of what my little apple tree and little life will be in the future.

But today I picked all 137 apples off my tree, because I want it to have a strong future and provide fruit for many years to come.

Today that unseen hope was enough.

 

 

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Sneak peek, book prologue draft.

Its May 2019 and I’m sitting on the sofa, our puppy Barney snuggled into my legs. Coffee in my favourite mug and an empty plate bearing the remnants of blueberry and banana baked porridge sits to the left of me. The table is strewn with notebooks and journals.

And its quiet.

Silent.

This is a reality that I thought would never come, my four children at school, and time to pull my book together. Rewind 6 years and I had 3 boys under school age and I was pregnant. This book was being written on scraps on paper in stolen moments here and there. I can’t believe it is still being written. I thought it would take a year, its taken a decade.

I’m writing the old fashioned way, pen and paper, I know no one does that anymore but I do and I love it, theres something so real and ancient about it, somewhere deep down I think it connects me to a simpler time my soul longs for, I can get a bit idealistic and romantic about such things.

The notebook Im writing in was a mothers day gift from the kids and is bright and beautiful covered with vines and fruit, I smile as I notice, as you read the book you’ll get why.

The pen is a rubbish one from some hardware store, the kind they give out for free, and its partly broken. I always imagined myself as the kind of person who has beautiful pens kept in an orderly manner. But my 35 year old self has finally accepted I will never be that person. I will remain until the end of my days the kind of person who runs around looking down the side of sofas and in my kids bags grateful to find anything that writes. Im all for transformation as you’ll soon learn but my need for perfection is waning at last…thank goodness.

After being a mum for almost 12 years my pen issue isn’t the only thing I’m finding peace with. Im journeying with intention to find peace with who I am. The type of mum I am, the type of wife I am, the type of friend I am, the type of writer I am, the type of body I have and way my voice sounds when its recorded. Ok I admit it, Im never going to find peace that last one.

One day Im going to shout ‘I’m enough!” from the rooftops in my beautifully flawed humanity, my weird voice and soft tummy thats held my 4 babies and mean it deep down in my bones.

With my wide array of flaws and mistakes Im loved and seen and known by a God who is  so very good and who is for me. My head knows its true and that knowledge is trickling into my heart day by day and transforming me. Its so beautiful. Where fear and control used to dominate my decisions and self worth, grace and surrender and gaining traction. Where what other people thought of me used to wrack my body in anxiety, peace is available for me to choose, and it isn’t always easy and I don’t choose well every time but I am making progress.

The book you hold in your hands is the culmination of the decades worth of notebooks and journals in front of me.

Who I am now as a mother is also a culmination of those years. As I do the final edit part of me wants to eradicate some of emotions and stories from the early days, when I was mid 20’s full of insecurity, doubt and striving. But I can’t edit her away because she is me. The broken, wounded parts of my motherhood are part of me, a beautiful part of the redemption story that has played out and will play out until the end.

This book is the result of a simple decision I made in 2009 when my second son was born. Its the result of imperfectly living out that decision every day for the last 10 years. That decision was to seek intimacy and connection with God in the busyness of being a mum. I can tell you truthfully that Ive never stopped searching, trying, failing, rejoicing, weeping and finding that connection.

So join me on a journey of discovering

I hope it leads you to grace, to self acceptance, to joy and to connection.

I hope it leads you to the heart of God every sacred, ordinary day of your life as a mum.

He is ever present, ever good and ever for you, and I have learnt that no matter what that is the deepest reality of our lives. He is the vine and we are the branches. Nothing will ever separate us from the love of God.

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