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.

Everybody is I

A few weeks ago my friend Vicky said this statement during a conversation we were having.

Everybody is I.

Vicky shared how much this statement had affected her and her perceptions many years ago. I have found myself similarly affected by it. I think of it almost daily.

I guess on one level is astoundingly obvious. Of course ‘everyone is I’ of course everyone has their own world going on inside of them, their own feelings and emotions, motives and insecurities.

Yet on another level its astoundingly complex and profound. Yes its true, but do I live like its true? Do I love like it’s true? Do I interpret the way life happens to me like its true? Do I consistently treat people with the dignity they deserve like its true? Do I love them like I love myself?

No.

No, I don’t.

If I’m honest I largely interpret things based from my worldview, how it affects me, what I would mean if I was to speak or act in that way. A lot of us are much more egocentric than we would care to admit or are even aware of. Jesus knew what he was talking about when he told us to remove the stick from our own eye before worrying about the speck in someone else’s.

Ive been giving it a go recently just trying to interpret life as if it was true. Practising kindness and non-judgement. Im not good at it! But parenting, marriage, friendships and just life in general are giving me so many times to practise…heres a couple of ones to make you smile. I am a bit embarrassed to share this, but Jesus never said humility was easy.

1. I do a community charity toilet roll order, they arrived Friday and I still have 9 giant boxes left in my hall. I began to feel irritated. Why haven’t people collected them? Don’t they realise how in the way they are? Then my favourite one… I would have collected them straight away if they were at someone else’s house.

Judge. Blame. Self righteousness. Yuck.

I feel a nudge from the Spirit interrupt my horrible thinking. I blush and remember that I haven’t taken my insurance form into work for 2 weeks.

Everybody is I. Remove the log.

Maybe they just forgot like me, maybe they are busy like me, maybe they have other stuff going on.

I say sorry to God. I feel so much better and I no longer care about the boxes. I tell Jon and he laughs with me. He’s so awesome.

2. I receive a difficult and unfair message from someone and I flip out inside. How could they say that to me? Are they really that insecure? Do they have any idea how that makes me feel? and the big one, Im never enough….this one comes up a lot in me.

I chat it through with Jon and let off some steam, I go to reply and then sense to wait.

Everybody is I. Remove the log.

They are not in a good place, they didn’t mean to hurt you, don’t you remember feeling that way? I send a kind message back. Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because I want to. I know the truth. I choose to be gracious. I feel compassion and empathy. God is softening me as I yield and follow Him. He is so good.

3. One of my children is perpetually difficult to get out of the house in the morning and Im not handling it well. Its ending in stress and shouting I feel powerless so I begin to blame. Why can’t they just get ready calmly? Why is it so stressful? Why do I have to put up with this? If they complain one more time about how their socks feel Im going to cry/shout/explode.

I feel that familiar nudge, my tinnitus was so bad last week every noise was just awful and I struggled to cope and complained a lot.

Everybody is I. Remove the log.

Maybe they need more time and a bit more help. Maybe they are worried about something at school. Maybe their sock really does feel weird! I leave more time this morning to help them through it. I show compassion and kindness. It goes so much better. Im so grateful.

I had a few minutes to practice some lectio divina today,  a discipline I have done intermittently over the last couple of years. One that doesn’t come especially naturally to my ‘get it done’ way of living. It’s a way of attending to scripture, a way of slowing down and letting a small part of it really sink in.

I chose a small part of Matthew 22 ‘……love your neighbour as yourself…’ . In the contemplation part of the exercise I was drawn back to my “everybody is I” statement. Lord will I ever be someone who can do this, really love people? Really treat people with the dignity and compassion they all deserve?

I feel the answer. Keep following me. Keep remembering everyone is I. Keep forgiving yourself when you mess up.

I smile. I am I as well.

So are you.

Lets be kind to ourselves and others. We are all learning what it means to be human and see that humanity in everyone else.

Emma

Why I bother reflecting….

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I spend time regularly reflecting on my thoughts, attitudes and the way I interact with those around me. It is one of the most valuable things I do. This is where the rubber hits the road, This is where I do business with the Lord. This is where I grow, mature, repent, forgive and am humbled again and again.

I can’t hide here.

Since the 18inch Journey last April I have spent more time intentionally writing it all down. Over and over I take time to discover the ‘why behind the what’.

‘Why did I overact so strongly when I was misunderstood earlier?’ ( Because I hate injustice of any kind)

‘Why did I get frustrated with Jon when he tried to help me?’ (Because I love to be in control)

‘Why were my thoughts so critical towards myself for making a simple mistake?’ (Because part of my value still comes from getting everything right)

‘Why can’t I let it go when I don’t fully understand something about God’ (Because I don’t always trust Him)

Theres always a reason for our broken ways of thinking, feeling and relating. The Holy Spirit will always reveal the truth if you’re willing to hear it. The more you do it the quicker your pride breaks down, the more you do it you begin to see patterns to your brokenness. Healing and wholeness come hot on the heals of truth and vulnerability.

Because I have practised this sometimes quite painful and pretence crushing discipline, Im starting to do it without the pen and paper every day as I live my life….It’s brilliant. I quickly recognise when one of my ‘sticky struggles’ is rearing its head and sort it much quicker. The fruit is beginning to grow both in my more positive mindset and my relationships, particularly my marriage and parenting.

A recent example;

On Thursday morning I really wanted to have some quiet time as it had been a while. So I decided to get up super early and nail my jobs to make the most of it. I got to crossfit for 6.30am, then straight to Tesco. I got home for 9am and had the fairly unrealistic expectation that I would have the whole 2 and a half hours before nursery pick up to spend reading/writing. (I’m always over ambitious and deluded when it comes to time) Jon had of course got all the kids up, sorted, done lunches school run etc and had started work on my return. As reality kicked in and I realised I now had to eat, shower, pack the shopping away, sort the breakfast pots etc my irritation grew and grew. As the minutes slipped away all my negative agreements began to rear up in mind.

‘theres never enough time’

‘nothing ever goes to plan’

As well as very unfair feelings of anger and blame to the rest of my family

‘Why didn’t the kids put the cereals/bowls away’

‘why didn’t Jon straighten the kitchen’

Slam, Huff. Slam, Huff.

Poor Jon who had only helped me out came in to make a coffee and made the mistake of asking me if I was ok….my selfish complaining began to come out. Historically my whole morning would have been ruined in my eyes and Jon and I would probably have an argument…

However I caught myself quickly and quietened quickly. I felt that inner nudge, notice all he has done to help you instead of the one thing he missed. Say thank you. Your not making eye contact (another thing I do when I’m annoyed) All of this is happening in my head and nobody is going to notice or pull me up on it. But I notice, I don’t want to be like this.

So I make a choice I know I’m freaking out and being horrible because I never think there is enough time, the tighter I grip it the more it falls away from me. So I do the exact opposite of what I want to do I breathe deeply, I stop stomping around, I give eye contact and I say thank you. It hurts, it crushes my selfishness. The fruit is beautiful…

My morning isn’t ruined. We don’t have an argument. I kicked selfishness’s ass!

I’m embarrassed to write this. I feel ridiculous that I have these thoughts but even as I risk vulnerability and share them with you I’m becoming more free. I don’t want to stay where I am and use excuses to justify unacceptable ways of thinking and behaving. I want to grow and I want my life to marked my love and kindness. I think it’s worth the work.

I encourage you reflect on your life, admit your faults, find your freedom.

Its so beautiful and every part of your life will begin to flourish

Love Emma

Listening and letting go

‘Theres always room for everything that matters’ ( Call the midwife, Christmas Day 2018)

As a mother I have learned over the last 11 years to listen out for the voice of the Lord in and through everything. For years I punished and tormented myself with striving to create a life where I could meet with God and experience him according to my preconceptions and preferences. I love the quiet, solitude, nature and my journal. I always meet Him there, I make sure I go there regularly, but it isn’t my daily reality. Through the fire, through persistence, through desperation I have found a new way, a way I will keep on finding for the rest of my life;

Everything is sacred.

The Lord is always present and always speaking, that’s the deepest reality, not how we feel or our circumstances.

Sometimes He uses words, sometimes films, nature, heartache, relationship, bible study, beauty, song, church gatherings, poetry or suffering. But more often than not its a whisper, not a shout. Sometimes He even speaks through silence and you have to extra quiet deep down inside to hear that…..

For the last decade Jon and I have created a rhythm of seeking a word of theme for our year. The Lord has always answered that prayer, his response is often a surprise and nearly always disruptive. I always begin the year with a fast, reactive interpretation of the word or theme and I finish the year realising I had no idea what God had meant by it, and what He worked in and through me was far deeper and richer than anything I could have come up with.

My word for 2018 was grace. I imagined spending the year trying to give more grace to Jon and the kids, to our team at church and to wider friends and family. I ended the year knowing God has been teaching me how to receive it.  This morning a tiny reaction, so small and insignificant showed me I’m making progress. I woke late, the house is a bit messy and as I sat on the toilet (such a glamorous story!) I glanced over and saw our bathroom plant totally dead

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Instead of my usual reaction of anger towards myself for neglecting it, annoyance at the waste of money to replace it, I found myself letting it go and deciding to just go and buy another one. Not really choosing to have a good and rational attitude just having one. Grace towards myself, fruit growing in my life, change happening.  Tiny, small, insignificant yet so beautiful to me. I felt heavens smile. Went downstairs and the first thing that caught my attention was this little lemon tree shoot i’m nurturing a gift from a friend. It’s thriving.

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It’s unrealistic to expect everything in our live to be thriving all the same time. No one can live like that. I found gratitude springing up. I do do some things well, and it’s OK that I make mistakes. Other people are also allowed to make mistakes, whatever we first live and do the work in in our own lives will always spill out to those around us. Without a doubt I have given out more grace this year to those around me than ever before as I have learned to receive it.

SO this year my word is focus. God gave me the word about two weeks ago and in that time I began my usual race to interpret it and make a plan. I was halted in my tracks. No more rushing ahead this year, Im waiting. Partly wisdom is making my wait on the Lord, partly circumstances is forcing me. But Im waiting all the same. Below is the list that began to swirl in my mind of what God might want me to focus on in 2019. This isn’t a joke by the way this is how intense and unrealistic I can be!

  • Getting up at 5.30am
  • A daily pilates routine
  • one to one time with my kids
  • supporting Jon
  • keeping the house really clean
  • the youth work at church
  • cross fit
  • my close friendships
  • my broader friendships
  • my prayer life
  • my giving
  • my bible reading
  • my marriage
  • decluttering
  • getting my book published

So waiting is new unsettling, control freak crushing, Jesus’s sense of humour plan.

He’s given me the word focus and then led me to a place through different circumstances  where I am unable to make plans and choose my focus. I mean He’s brilliant, I just love Him!

Christmas Day I was watching Call the midwife with my mum, I wasn’t prayerful or attentive but I was quiet, my heart, thoughts and plans were quiet as I allowed myself to rest and be present with my mum and the show.

Suddenly these words jumped straight out of the screen and grabbed at my heart

‘theres always room for everything that matters’

I filed it for later and when I went to bed I scribbled it at the start of my new journal. Whatever surprising things end up being my focus in 2019 He quieted my fears by interrupting call the midwife and telling me that whatever he calls me to focus on in 2019 will leave room for everything that matters. It won’t require my old ways of striving and needing to know everything, I can use what I’ve learnt in 2018 trust him to lead me in 2019.

Everything is sacred. He is always speaking. He is always present.

I pray Gods richest blessing over your 2019, and I pray you show yourself kindness however things end up playing out

Love Emma

Handling Disappointment

Life is full of disappointments.

Its not cheery, but its true. They come in all shapes and sizes and they matter.

I’ve been journeying through a few disappointments recently. Some of them big, some of them small, some personal and some relational.

As we grow up we learn so many practical and educational things but not many people grow up with someone teaching them to properly care for their hearts and handle their emotions. When it comes to handling disappointment I admit Ive never really known what to do. I guess Ive mashed together what I saw around me growing up with what Ive learnt from observing both the world and the church. The messages Ive received go something like this…

  • keep calm and carry on
  • have a good attitude
  • find the positive in it
  • be sad inside but don’t show it
  • but on a brave face in front of people
  • handle with humour, sarcasm and diminishment
  • toughen up and move on

Ive chosen to disregard most of those ways. They don’t work for me.

Im trying a different way, a more honest way, a more wholehearted way, a way that honours my story, reflects my faith, grows my character. A way that keeps me soft, open, willing to risk and try again. A way that I would advise others to do but struggle to give myself the grace for. By no means have I got this nailed but I’ve been trying this instead of the above….

  • Brutal honesty in prayer, there’s no point of sugar coating stuff with God…he knows what we really think and feel, and he resides in our reality not our denial.
  • Honesty with my family and a trusted few.
  • Acknowledging and owning my disappointment and other consequential feelings.
  • Catching and rejecting lies about God, myself and others that come up.
  • Allowing myself to fully feel the range of emotions that ensue.
  • Acknowledging that whatever it is matters.
  • Receiving love and comfort from the Lord.
  • Mourning what I’ve lost if its a big disappointment
  • Looking forward with gratitude and hope….I’m going to be ok
  • Seeing what I can learn from it

That sounds like a lot but considering most of this stuff happens in our minds and we think thousands and thousands of thoughts every day its not really. I want to give you an example of how this looks with a real situation to bring it to life.

I had a writing rejection last week and I was deeply sad and disappointed. When I got the email I knew immediately that it was a big moment, I felt the weight of it, I knew my response was critical. I could sense the love of the Father so strongly inviting me to walk with him right from the beginning, I knew there much freedom he wanted to teach me.

Its personal and raw but I want to walk you through it, because God walked me through it and it was hard, beautiful and worth sharing.

I got the email in front of Jon and Sophia as I read it out I tried not to cry, I knew instantly, this is worth tears…let them come…so I did. I wanted to harden up to protect Sophia but instead I was vulnerable in an age appropriate way, giving her permission to be sad when she is disappointed. I wanted to go inward and shut Jon out, but I softened and let him comfort me. It was so hard and so holy.

It was time for the school run and Jon offered to do it and take Soph. I wanted to say no, I hate feeling like a burden, but I didn’t I gave in and let him help me. It was so hard and so holy.

The dog needed a pee so I took him out in the garden, horrible thoughts assaulted my mind

‘Your a rubbish mum anyway, your not the right person to have written that book’

‘Your writing isn’t good enough’

‘Just give up’

‘Im totally overwhelmed, Im never looking at it again’

I wanted to agree with the negative thoughts, indulge in them, let them grow, allow in negativity and self pity. But I didn’t I rejected them and replaced them with truth

‘Im an imperfect writer and mum but I try my best’

‘I can cope’

‘Im not giving up’

It was so hard and so holy.

I went upstairs got in the bath and sobbed my heart out, I felt ridiculous but it was so releasing. I prayed, I read psalms, I journaled honestly about it all. I fought against ‘putting my best foot forward’ and ignoring what I felt, I let all my emotions pour out. This took a couple of days because Im a mum and my life isn’t filled with endless hours to reflect, but I found the time when I could. It was so hard and so holy.

I spoke to a couple of people I love and trust about it all. I wanted to sound super spiritual and say all the right things, I wanted to make jokes to lighten it all, but I didn’t. I let their words of love and encouragement come into my heart, I told the truth about how I was doing. It broke down my pride and faking it. It was so hard and so holy.

One of the most beautiful parts of it all was chatting it though with my kids. Letting them see me sad, inviting them into my process with the Lord, letting them see that I get affected by life too, and thats its ok to have feelings. Showing them we can be disappointed without giving up hope.

Finally I began to look forward with hope and honesty, trusting the Lord for my future. Im still figuring out all that Ive learnt through the rejection and disappointment, but one things for sure Ive learnt how to handle my heart better in disappointment! Im shedding off the false messages and destructive coping mechanisms. Im saying no to medicating, distracting and diminishing my pain, and you know what I feel good. I feel hopeful for the future.

Sorry for the long blog, it was a long journey!

As always I hope it gets you thinking about your own story

Love Emma x

 

 

 

 

 

 

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