Chaos, clothes and cleansing

I’m sat on my bedroom floor surrounded by utter chaos. Actually I’m sat right in it, in piles of clean clothes (and a few dirty ones) so I can keep my iPad on charge and write this quick unedited post while the kids are all content.

  
I woke early today after a late night and dragged myself out of bed, the need for a bit of solitude greater than my need for sleep. Groggy and grumpy I sat with my bible and journal and tried to connect, it was hard going at first and I ended up flicking through an old journal and reading. 

What I found brought me to tears, I saw myself and my striving through an unusual lense of kindness and mercy, instead of my usual critical and ‘try harder’ lense. I saw how much I try and fail and try and fail to have everything together. I sensed the Fathers smile and warmth over me and my efforts to live in relationship with Him. I ditched my agenda and just sat accepting that I am loved just as I am, room full of chaos and all.

Life has been really full recently. Full of trips, visitors, possibilities and challenges. Within it all I’ve lost any sense of rhythm and the care of my spiritual life, my home and my body have dissolved. Slowly and silently little foxes come in. I let worry and anxious thoughts run riot in my mind, I scroll mindlessly on my phone, I go to bed too late and sleep poorly, I speak and react without thinking, I don’t tidy properly and walk around my house in frustration at the chaos that is everywhere. 

Order leaves and clutter and chaos come and fill the void.

Sometimes we try and climb the mountain and put all the good stuff back in before we clear out the bad… It never works.

Sometimes a cleanse is needed.

We all know it In a physical way after lots of partying or over eating our body needs a cleanse, our houses sometimes need a cleanse, a sping clean. So do our spirits. What does that look like? 

For me it looks like going to bed early so I can get up early. It looks like order and routine. It looks like ditching the internet on my phone. It looks like treating myself with kindness and mercy, taking it one day at a time and embracing the messy process. It looks like time outside and time alone. It looks like repentance and intentional thought towards my thoughts, words and decisions. It looks like love.

It also looks like cleaning and decluttering my home and body, because we are one. Body, soul and spirit, mind, will and emotions. One affects the other.

How about you? Is there an area in your life that feels like chaos and could do with a cleanse? If so pray, start slowly, embrace the process and be kind to yourself like you would a friend or your child if they were struggling. Reject overwhelm and just begin.

I’m starting where I am. I’m starting with sorting and putting away clothes….

If this encourages you today, let me know your start point and I will be praying for you

Love Emma x

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Crispy around the edges 

I got up early this morning.

I’ve been trying on and off for months with little success to get out of bed bright and early before my already bright and early household. I got the bread in the oven grabbed a hot water and lemon (caffeine mostly off  limits for now…another story! ) I gathered my books and journal and sat at the desk. I never sit here but I felt drawn to it today. 

I opened my journal and read over my last entry, which was about 3 weeks ago….I felt instantly sad that I hadn’t been to my journal for that long, as it is a source of life for me. I began reading and saw that the things I had written, I had’nt implemented either…

Sadness was moving like a freight train past conviction into guilt and condemnation. It’s not even 6am and I’m feeling terrible. I got up to fill my mind and heart with God and start my day well, and instead it’s filled with self condemnation.

I look up and stare mindlessly at the plant on the desk, a source of further irritation as I see one of the beautiful peace lily leaves browning and curling around the edges. I can’t even water the sodding plant I inwardly berate myself. I twist off the ruined leaf and put it down by plant. I try to get back to my journal but I’ve nothing to write.

I pick up the half dead leaf and begin to twiddle with it unsure of what to do. I begin to write and my pen runs out…..my frustration levels are rising, I place the pen down calmly and rummage in the drawer for another. I come across the kids crayons and an idea enters my mind to draw the leaf. I feel slightly ridiculous as I am unable to draw and to be honest what’s the point? That will take up all my time to do something productive. I decide to go for it. I know I am the leaf. Not watered enough and becoming pot bound. I too am curling and crispy around the edges.

I breathe out the frustration and begin to draw. Because I have no clue what I’m doing I have to concentrate and be slow. This is both hard for me and a sense of absolute relief because my mind runs at a million an hour for most of the day. I feel myself soothing and I sense Gods smile. 

I’ve been set up.

Holy Spirit is our inner compass, our guide and our friend. I believe he wooed me to the desk this morning because my effort and striving to have my life together would have got me nowhere today. I needed to relax, accept my reality. I’m loved just as I am.

I believe with my whole heart in abiding with God, in soaking in the vine you will see it is the basis of this blog. But round the mountain I go again.

Even as I write now I feel the temptation to edit, and twist the truth a bit. Man I hate failure. But I’m still typing and I will not edit my life. My value of authenticity is a non negotiable. The beauty and the power is in the mess. It’s in the failing and the getting up. It’s in the fact that I try again and although not completly free and light, I’m miles on from where I was. We don’t need perfect people to encourage us along the journey…who can relate to them! 

Have a great weekend and I pray you find a little bit of time to do something that brings you life. For me today I’m laying aside productivity and I’m going to try my best to relax and have some fun. Hopefully I will be slightly less crispy around the edges tomorrow. 
  

Eyes wide open

On a Tuesday morning I have a 20 minute drive alone to work. The drive takes me along beautiful country roads, around plenty of lovely twists and turns with a mix of woodlands and sweeping vistas over fields and out to the ocean. It’s a time I cherish and use to quiet myself and pray. But I’ve noticed recently it’s turned into more of a time to worry, with a vague awareness of God, and maybe a couple of one line prayers thrown in. Something that once punctuated my week with hope and space has been lost.

This morning I got about 5 minutes into the drive before I finally became conciously aware of my thoughts, without noticing I realised I was grappling with some negative thoughts that weren’t going anywhere good. I’m all for grappling and wrestling with stuff, as long as it’s headed somewhere hopeful, and done in the light of how good God is….these thoughts were not like that.

We all have our battles, and a lot of them begin in the mind, and one of mine is fear. Fear of the future, fear of tragedy, fear of what could be. Fear is a big thing to fight, and I don’t mind admitting that I haven’t been on the winning side recently. Some prayer with friends a couple of weeks ago marked a shift in me and I began to find hope and sense the radiance of God and how much bigger he was than my fear. 

I heard a great quote from Bill Johnson this week. He said we don’t fight fear by engaging with it, but my shifting our focus onto who God is and how good he is. Then His love casts out fear. I factually know this to be true but this week I’ve begun to actually experience this truth, as it’s made it’s way from my head to my heart.

So today 5 minutes into my sacred Tuesday morning drive I make a choice, I don’t engage with my thoughts of fear, I don’t try to pray my way out. Instead I try something new and I surrender. Now I’m a pretty strong willed, determined personality and surrender is not my go to! But today I did and I began to ask God to show me his goodness, and boom sure enough the fear was gone.

In the sunrise, was his faithfulness. In the bird of prey was his majesty, in the old castle was his sovereignty, in the winter trees were his steadfastness, in the ocean was his vastness and in my heart and mind was his peace. I stopped to cry and took this photo of the sunrise. 

We try so hard, and he just wants us to let go and trust him.

He is so good.

This Christmas time my prayer is going to be, open my eyes to see you everywhere and in everything. I invite you to pray it too. He came to earth, born a man, died on a cross on rose again so we could know him.

I pray in all the fun, chaos, wider family and presents that you have eyes wide open to see him in the most wonderful and surprising of places, and that you can celebrate and be full of joy whatever you are facing.

Merry Christmas

Thank you for reading 

Love Emma 

Lessons in grace from bread

I’ve been making sourdough bread for about a month now.

Mostly I love it! I love the steady 3 day process, I love the simplicity of bread made from flour, water and salt. I love the smell that fills our house when it bakes. I love that no two loaves look the same. I love holding in my hands something I’ve created with love and care. I love giving it away to friends or inviting others over to share it. I love wrapping it up in a beautiful cloth, taking it out on our family adventures and eating it, feeling for a moment that we live in a more simple age.

But do you know what I don’t love?……

I don’t love how I’m not great at it already. I mean come on, it’s been 4 weeks why doesn’t it look like the one I buy at the bakery! I’m following the instructions, where are my perfect results! Patience and ‘the long road’ aren’t really my happy place. Recent explorations of personality tests and enneagram tests reveal what I’m already painfully aware of. I give myself a hard time and want everything to be right and just and fair all of the time. I can never achieve the ridiculously high standards I set for myself and therefore nor can anyone else around me. Grace is a lesson I’m going to have the learn the long and steady way, just like baking my bread….an overnight success this will not be.

A familiar call to john 15 and the vine and branches. (Read the whole chapter, it’s amazing)

Soaking not striving

Soaking in God often doesn’t feel dramatic or cause spectacular overnight results. Sometimes I pray first thing in the morning , declare a couple of scriptures and am disappointed that I haven’t turned into mother teresa by lunchtime. How can I have just shouted at my toddler for accidentally dropping milk everywhere, I chastise myself! I prayed this morning where is my self control. The fruit of the spirit is more of a slow and steady, day by day, glory by glory situation. We don’t eat a salad one day and have lost a stone by the next…..transformation takes time. Slow steady obedience brings transformation. It isn’t glamorous but it is real. And real change stands the test of time. As you faithfully abide you will be transformed. You’re gonna need a lot of patience and a lot of grace for yourself, but the fruit will come in due season if we do not give up, fix our eyes and keep going.

One of my loaves got stuck this week and the beautiful bottom crust got ripped off the bread and stuck to the tray. I pushed away initial disappointment and made a choice to be grateful. I ate it this morning and smiled.

It’s real, I made it with my own hands and I tried my best. 

Give yourself grace today in the midst of everything you do, and one day you will wake up put the bread in the oven and out will come a loaf like the one from the bakery.

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Anchor points

Life as a mum is constantly shifting and evolving, it requires so much flexibility, patience, humility, grace  and love. Just as you learn how to handle one situation, another one creeps up and smacks you in the face. It demands your whole self and if you feel like a day off to call in sick, guess what? You can’t! It’s kind of a 24/7 situation.

Call in sick we can’t, but rest and restore we must.

Jesus teaches us “from the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks”

The state of our heart will seep out and affect every part of our lives. Particularly the lives of our families. We are foolish to think we can give out constantly without ever pausing to recieve and fill up ourselves. 

In our busy and demanding culture finding rest is a battle.

There are so many ways to do this, and it will look so different for all of us. But it is essential to our connection to God and to the quality of life we pour into others that we seek out sustainable rhythms. 

What works for our family probably won’t work for yours and what works for yours probably won’t work for your friend down the street. To top it off what worked for you last year, just might not work this year! It’s something that needs to evolve as our family does. We all have our own challenges, work commitments and family dynamics to work with so comparison, as usual, is useless!

The key is to partner with God in prayer to find some ‘anchor points’

An anchor is ‘a person or thing which provides stability or confidence in an otherwise uncertain situation.’ It’s what grounds you in life and holds firm in any storm.

Maybe it will be helpful to think of them in catorgories. ( I have included personal examples for reference, they are not meant to be prescriptive) 

Anchor point 1. Values.

So for me this would be my Christian faith. Something always there holding me firm through life. This one doesn’t change it’s just there. A commitment to marriage etc

Anchor point 2. Yearly 

For jon and I we have committed to a  night away together every year since we’ve had kids. It’s become something so special and life giving… Not an anchor point we intend changing. When we’ve been broke it’s been a very budget event and when we can it’s been a spa or trip away.

Anchor point 3 monthly 

Every month we have some sort of adventure as a whole family for a whole day, away from commitments, pressures and jobs.

Every month jon and I try to give each other some form of alone time. We go up and down with our commitment to this, when we don’t make it happen the strain shows. For us alone time is essential to our Wellbeing.

Anchor point 4 weekly

We practise a loose form of sabbath. Saturday looks and feels different to every other day…the kids love having our attention and time. It provides an opportunity for great conversations and memory making. The busier we get the more sacred it becomes. It’s not strict or complicated, it just stops the treadmill.

After almost 10years of parenting today we reached a place where our youngest started nursery and it will allow us 2 hours together on a Monday morning for a date. After moving away from family and babysitters this is a timely gift.

Anchor point 4 daily

Bible reading, prayer, friendship, solitude, a cup of tea with a view….daily anchor points are just moments where we remember what’s really important and we recieve tiny grace notes to help us through our day

If your life is anything like mine, I’m sure it’s jam packed with paid or unpaid work, cooking, cleaning, organising, getting everyone to where they need to be, interrupted sleep and never ending to do lists….it’s fine to have a break! If taking a break doesn’t come easy to you, then start slow and simple. Otherwise what started positively will soon become a source of stress. A few women in our wee community have been looking at this and our diversity is fascinating! But we all agree that it’s worth the fight for healthy minds and families.
I encourage you to journey to find your anchor points…and please share any wisdom you discover
Emma 

Where I am right now 

  

Where I am right now is Home.

Home Alone.

  
Those two words above deserve there own line because its rare I get to say them. I love being at home raising our kids and working just a few hours, its the path we have chosen as a family. But that doesnt make it always easy or without cost. As an individual I thrive off time with my friends and family, but also time alone. There have been seasons where this has been naturally impossible with a large, close in age family, but I have come to realise it is unsustainable for me to have this continually, and to live my life well.

As most of you know we are approaching a year since we left family and friends and relocated to Scotland for the next stage of our journey. Within that year I have come to understand and accept myself and my story a lot more. We are travelling back tomorrow for our first visit back and it has thrown a lot of old emotions back to the surface. 

They say that “comparison is the theif of joy”

They are right.

Moving hundreds of miles away places you in a unique postion to really take stock of who you are away from the pressures , expectations and opinions of others. Real or percieved. I have found it easier here to explore and express my true nature and am finding peace with my slightly introverted personality, and need for time alone.

However Jon and I made a decision recently which really exposed how affected I am by “mum guilt” for any time away from my kids unless Im working. I figured if I’m battling with guilt over this then lots of you are probably battling with your own version of it. Most of the amazing mums I know are normally giving themselves a hard time over something or other. 

We have paid for Sophia to do an extra 4 hours in nursery from August which will give me an entire school day without the kids when im not working….and I am racked with guilt. Even though logically I know she will be fine and I will be a better wife, parent and general human being because of it. 

Yet I can’t shake the guilt and comparison….and I am suprised at myself for it.. I thought I was past this.. I know its bad because Im normally happy to share my heart and I dont want to write this. As I type I’m  worrying what certain people will be thinking!! That in turn makes me feel paranoid, silly and exposed, which I do not enjoy.

The truth is we are as mums we are all so different, and we have different pressures and coping thresholds.  But the one thing we share is our love for our families and the fact that we are all trying our best. So lets be champions of each other and find peace with ourselves on a true and deep heart level.  We all need time to recieve life from God and just have fun, and its worth fighting and planning to find it. 

Jon and I are big believers in investing in marriage. So term time monday mornings are going to become date morning! and monday afternoon will be time to finish a writing project for me. I hope I can embrace it with thanksgiving and find a way to let go of the guilt….

I pray my vulnerable rant will inspire you to take stock of some of the things you get ‘mum guilt’ for, and for you to see if thats some baggage you can throw overboard!

Heres to the journey towards freedom

I will leave you with these lyrics from Jared Andersons song  “where i am right now’

   

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Living the micro in light of the macro

It’s 10.30am, The kids and I are all still unwashed in our pajamas relishing the slowness of this day. So far it’s comprised of eating, slouching, playing, reading and way beyond the recommended daily allowance of screen time. It’s one of those rare blissful days in a large family, one where everyone is occupied and happy, no one is arguing…after a busy, fantastic and fun festive period it’s heavenly.

Whilst I have pottered doing washing, making snacks and fetching things for people, I have also read my book and felt God speaking to me through it. And so unexpectedly I’m writing. I never write in the day when all the kids are home…there’s too many jobs to do, I feel guilty that my attention is elsewhere, it’s too noisy, the list goes on. But today it’s different, I’m still being interrupted every 2 minutes, it’s noisy but I don’t care….the need to write is great today. I kind of need to communicate the swirl inside my heart and spirit and this I realise is how I do it, by writing. I do not need to feel guilt if I’m honest what would I be doing otherwise in my slouchy pajamed state? Flicking through social media or gazing in the cupboard looking for leftover Christmas chocolate..would that be a more helpful use of time?

On the 3rd January 2017 at 33years old I finally understand something about myself in a new way. I’m a writer, not the best, most eloquent or creative one. But a writer all the same. God reminded me today through the book im reading, that as a little girl, a teen and a young adult one free of time constraints and responsibilities…I was always writing. Even as a mother of 1 and 2 children I wrote a lot. Yesterday whilst looking for some lost paperwork I came across 70000 words of a book I wrote a few years ago..discarded and shoved under lots of old files. Hours upon hours of my heart poured out, buried.

Life. What can I say…it’s messy and beautiful, it’s painful and joy filled, it’s dull and it’s wonderful, it’s ordinary and it’s glorious. And it’s flying by….

It’s days that roll into weeks, that roll into months and then into years. But they are made up of moments. The very moment that each of you are in right now is truly the only life that you really have. What’s gone is memories and what’s ahead hasn’t happened yet and truly we don’t know if it ever will.

So how then should we live. As people occupying this earth in 2017 how should we spend this wild and precious life that each of us have? I think it in the micro. In the moments, in the small descisions to forgive or be kind. To pick up an apple instead of a cake, and sometimes a cake instead of an apple. To add an item to our shopping trolleys for the food bank, or put down our screens and share a meal with someone important to us. To stop what we are doing and look our children fully in the face when they choose to share something seemingly small, but important in their world. 

Yet if we only live in the moment and the micro we won’t get to where we want or need to go. These moments need to be lived in light of the macro. In the light of vision and purpose and direction. 
It’s kind of like a giant puzzle made up of tiny pieces. We need the puzzle cover box to glance up at as we handle the small pieces that make it up…or we won’t have a clue how it all fits together.

So I encourage you to take time to figure out what the macro things are in your life. What’s important? Where’s God leading you? What does your giant puzzle look like? What needs to be introduced in the micro, in the daily to get you where you need to go? What’s in the way? What’s got to be eliminated?

Although it’s kind of cliche the new year is a good time to take stock of where you are. One of the things that Jon and I have always done to help position us is to pray for a word, a phrase or a scripture for the year. Sometimes it comes immediately, sometimes it takes weeks. But God is faithful and He always speaks to those who seek Him.

I’ve never shared mine before..it’s so personal. But this year I will as means of example and encouragement. And because someone else who lives miles away that I barely know has the same one…maybe it will be the word for one of you?

My word is ENOUGH.

God is enough, I’m enough, there’s enough time, I have enough stuff……

Well it’s sat for 45 minutes and my window to write this is well and truly over…it’s probably full of slightly over honest musings and typos…but hey if you’ve bothered to read this far I’m sure you don’t mind the unedited me.

Happy new year

May you take time to discover, renew and prune your macro. And enjoy, be present in and relish your micro wild and precious life

Love Emma x x 

 

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