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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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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Own it!

 

 

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Earlier this year my husband and I went on a 4 day retreat in North Carolina called the 18 inch journey, a head to heart experience of who God is and who we are in him. When we came back naturally lots of people asked us ‘how was it?’ which was a hard question to answer about something so deeply personal that has impacted us so profoundly.

But now almost 6 months months later I want to share with you one simple thing that I learnt. Im ready to share it now because for 6 months Ive practised it consistently, and its starting to bear fruit….

Own it.

Own your life, your story, your victories, your sins, your failures, your disappointments, your joys and your frustrations. Because until you own something you don’t posses it, and if you don’t possess it, you can neither keep it or give it away.

Being aware of things is not the same as owning them. Lots of people are well aware of their limitations, damaging behaviours and bad habits. But finding true breakthrough and freedom from these things doesn’t come easy. Well it hasn’t come easy for me thats for sure.

It goes back to the garden. I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid.

We’ve all been hiding in one form or another since then. An example of my experience would be something like this. I shout at the kids over something minor, then I feel a pang of guilt and shame ( I was afraid ) I feel embarrassed to have acted out in front of my family ( I was naked ) So I either ignore it or blame someone else ( So I hid )

Owning simple moments like the one described above is simple but not always easy to do. It means coming out of hiding, saying no to pride and being humble.

‘Im sorry for shouting guys’. Full stop. No buts…. ‘Im sorry for shouting guys, but you are driving me crazy’ Doesn’t count as owning the behaviour thats just blaming someone else for it.

We use wonderful excuses to validate our thoughts and behaviours, we think or say things like:

‘Oh well, you know what I’m like I just can’t keep quiet about anything’

‘Im just an angry person I can’t help overreacting’

‘I hate confrontation thats just how I am so Im not going to say anything to my coworker for publicly disrespecting me, I don’t like to cause a fuss.’

‘they always push my buttons and make me respond like this, if only they pulled themselves together I would never react badly’

Judge. Blame. Run. Hide.

So basically my major spiritual breakthrough this year has come from saying sorry. A lot.  I can literally feel myself softening and changing every time I say no to pride and yes to humility. Im starting to become less critical and judgemental of others as I do the simple and profound work of owning my life.

And today something incredible happened, it was small, invisible if you weren’t paying attention, but joy exploded in my heart as I watched one of my kids reject pride and own something. This small thing was the fruit of the spirit growing in our home right in front of our eyes.

They had misplaced something for a while and found it this morning. ‘I found my thing’ they shouted up the stairs ‘it was in my bag, someone must have put it there’. ‘no one really goes in you bag, are you sure it couldn’t have been you’ I responded ready for the battle I was sure that was coming about everything being someone else’s fault. He responded ‘ You’re right, I must have put them in there and forgot’

Jon and I just looked at each other in shock, ‘did he just admit something was his fault….’ For this child this is a big deal.

You better believe we celebrated this victory with him and Im happy to share it with you. Part of breaking down pride and owning your life is being able to share both the failures and the victories…otherwise you get false humility….and don’t even get me started on that!

The way I live my life and respond to things affects people, and yours does too. Our children particularly are unconsciously absorbing the way we deal with life and learning from it. Thats a fact.

I could have shared with you 1000 stories of failure in this area of my life but Im choosing to share this tiny victory because it works. Owning your life works!

Maybe saying sorry isn’t something you struggle with but just fill in the bank. Cant accept a compliment? Why is that? Cant have anyone disagree with you? Cant accept criticism? Cant let things go? Go silent and passive in the face of difficulty? Flip out every time you make a mistake?

The list is endless, and Im here to break the news that just trying really hard to act right doesn’t bring breakthrough. Thats just a recipe for a pressure cooker, I shouldn’t be angry, ram down the emotion, I shouldn’t be angry, ram down the emotion over and over smiling sweetly until one day a lady treads on your toe at the bus stop and you explode like Hulk. Theres a better way;

One of the kindest and wonderful gifts of the gospel is repentance. Super religious word with some weird connotations. But honestly I love repentance, don’t know what Id do without it. The freedom and joy that comes from admitting stuff, saying sorry to God and any people if applicable, then turning away from that thing towards freedom. Thats all repentance is and its amazing.

Anyway there you go, heart on my sleeve

I pray it helps you today

Love Emma

 

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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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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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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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