Thoughts & Ponderings

Balancing Act

How many hats have you worn this week? Project manager, mother, wife, friend, chaffeur, tour guide, events organiser, baker, daughter, sister, cleaner, chef, teddy bear (our little one likes a cuddle at night)… I’m pretty sure there are more I could add after a pretty busy and eventful week. I’m also sure there are more hats I could have worn but there are only so many hours in the day and only so much I can do. But in the busyness of life – how should we balance it all and make sure nothing important is forgotten?

I love a to-list in work at my desk to tick off each action as I go but at home I’m not great with lists as they usually get lost or I simply don’t have time to refer to them when I need them most. At home it’s all in my head – sometimes my hubby will ask if I’m ok as we sit down in the evenings to relax after we’ve finished the bedtime routine because he can see me deep in thought as my brain works overtime trying to tick off everything we need to do to prepare for the next day of school and work. We have a chalkboard, with nothing written on it, a meal planner which still has an old plan from weeks ago – writing on these things is just an additional task to add to the bottom of the to-do list so for now its in my head. (If anyone has any great time saving tips for organising at home or preparing things for a more organised family life please feel free to share them in the comments.)

Last year I kept forgetting to send Evie’s library book in her bag on a Friday so she could get a new one – I set myself a reminder in my phone but I still forgot quite a lot! Thankfully it never worried my cheery girl too much; I think she got used to it after a while! But I always remembered to read stories at bed time, to take her to church, to give cuddles and to celebrate her birthday. Reflecting now, even at a young age I think she knew sweating the small things wasn’t worth it as long as the bigger picture was ok – she is looked after and feels loved. It isn’t always possible to do absolutely everything so we have to focus on the important things in life and hope that we remember the little things while not being too hard on ourselves when we don’t.

When I consider my schedule for the week ahead  I ask myself what should I be doing to make the best use of my time. Church on a Sunday is a given – it’s an important part of our life and Sundays simply aren’t Sundays without a trip to church. We have a great church family and it’s always lovely to catch up with them and get some encouragement to fuel us for the week ahead. I also try to get out to our midweek meetings as much as possible but I don’t manage it every week – something I hope that as the girls grow up will become easier but for now I am thankful for when I can make it.

Then I have work five days a week – well we’ve got to provide and pay the bills somehow! I thank the Lord every day for the job – it may not always be fun and games but it enables me to help our family live comfortably, buy gifts for others and to contribute towards my church. We are currently facing a period of uncertainty but I trust that the Lord will provide for us whatever happens within my organisation and the global market.

Working full time means time with my family is all the more precious as it’s limited. During the week the focus is dinner and bedtime routines so at the weekends we try to pack in as much quality time as possible.

The photo I’ve shared shows you a typical Saturday morning in our house – chores being done while we make sure our sunshine and joy are having fun!

Our extended family (my parents and my brother’s family) meet once a week for dinner. We see each other all through the week doing school runs, pick ups and whatever else might be happening but in the busyness of life it is nice for us all to have that set time to sit down together every Monday night.

Those are my 3 must-haves on a daily/weekly basis for me – then I plan everything else in the time I have left…

  • Meeting friends for coffee – I always call it coffee even though I drink tea! For me it’s important to stay connected with friends and get a good chinwag about life outside of the usual social media interfaces that have taken the place of proper interaction in this age.
  • Shopping – I usually do my food shopping online these days to save time that could be better spent with hubby and the girls but when I do get the chance to go out and do it in person it can be a good way to clear your head and refuel as a mummy while planning everything for the week ahead.
  • Date time with hubby – this is important but we don’t get to do it much with the season of life we’re in and limited babysitting options. Someday, when the girls are grown and it’s just the two of us in the house again every night will be date night. So for now once every couple of months will do us just fine as we get time to sit together once we conquer the bedtime duties every night.
  • Cleaning & Chores – I love my house being clean and tidy but with two rascals (especially the youngest) it is impossible for the place to be spotless all the time so we do as much as we can at the weekends while ensuring we still get to have fun and as much quality time as possible!

So going back to my first question – how can we balance it all? It’s all about knowing your priorities and how to prioritise life to make sure the most important things are taken care of. We need to seek guidance from the Lord through his word, through prayer, sharing experiences with his people and watching out for all of the ways he moves in our lives and points us in the right direction. When I look at my diary or get an invite for something I consider the best use of my time asking myself… Will it involve me spreading love? Is it important for me to do that? Is it honouring Jesus Christ?

So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31  

 

Worship Wednesdays

Set my heart

This week has started off with some challenges for us in the ACF house. Our 5 year old has been having wee worries and scary thoughts and she keeps getting anxious when she sees a certain colour. She got herself into a right state on Monday night going to bed and the only thing that calmed her (eventually) was this song that I’m sharing for this week’s Worship Wednesday.

She loves it and often sings it about the house but this time I told her to listen to the words as I sang it…

Quiet the voice of doubt again
Echo within me every promise
Let your Word be louder than my fears

I’ve found myself singing those words over and over again lately in a sort of prayer when I face challenges or worries and I hoped that she would feel a calmness from it too.

It’s so hard to watch our little people facing anxiety – it can make us feel so helpless and it can be so difficult to explain to them at that age that we have a powerful God who can move and work in every situation if we just put all our hope in him. Thankfully after much prayer and some TLC from her awesome Nanny&Pa Tuesday bedtime was much easier.

Do you have a song that you sing to yourself when you’re scared or anxious? I’d love to hear from some of you so please feel free to share them in the comments below.

 

Thoughts & Ponderings

Obedience

Our youngest princess is a ‘sleep ninja’ – she fights her sleep with high kicks and special skills like poking mummy in the eye or sitting on my head. From a very young age she has defied the laws of sleep and I’ll never understand how she stays so full of energy and fun on so little sleep for someone of her age.

When I was fighting my little Shinobi at bedtime last night it ocurred to me that she doesn’t realise that I want her to sleep because it’s good for her and I want her to be well rested and healthy. I only want what is best for her and I can only pray that one day she realises how awesome sleep is and embraces it fully – although I’d say she’ll be a teenager by that point!

I feel like in the very busy week that has just passed I spent a lot of time telling my girls off or asking them not to do certain things because they were dangerous or not in their best interests. But at 5 and 18 months they’re both too young to understand why I’m saying no to protect them and keep them safe. It can be frustrating and upsetting when you give yourself a sore head from shouting or nagging but they’re only little and don’t know to consider the consequences of actions.

It got me thinking… how often do we ignore what God wants for us or a command he has given us? How often must the Lord look at us and feel frustrated or upset when we ignore his plan and calling for our lives? Let’s be honest,  just like my two girls we don’t always see the good in what we’re being asked to step up to or lean into – we can sometimes lose sight of his promises and think we know best.

When I was studying obedience a little more I found this great quote..

“Obedience doesn’t make God love you more but it does show that you love God.” Pastor Greg J. Barber

It really struck a chord with me – when my girls are disobeying me I don’t love them any less but when they’re being obedient it makes me feel a little more loved and appreciated. So while they’re too young to understand how they make me feel there is no excuse for me not to be obedient to the Lord and his command. I should always be showing him that I love him and I need to remember that he wants what is best for me. 

If you love me, show it by doing what I’ve told you. I will talk to the Father, and he’ll provide you another Friend so that you will always have someone with you. This Friend is the Spirit of Truth. The godless world can’t take him in because it doesn’t have eyes to see him, doesn’t know what to look for. But you know him already because he has been staying with you, and will even be in you! John 14:15-17 

Worship Wednesdays

Anchor

At church on Sunday night I had a little chuckle to myself. I felt like I’d encountered a “God wink” – a little message from God in our Pastor’s message reminding me that he has faith in me and that he wants me to use my potential to share his love and to use it for good. Then we started singing this beautiful song and I felt even more encouraged – after writing about Seasons on my blog, the song opened with the line…

In every season, in every change
You are near

Then later in the song we sang..

My great Redeemer,
My constant Friend
You are near

Well at that point I knew the Lord was definitely speaking to me! So if I had any doubts or fears that this blog wasn’t in his plan for me I certainly didn’t have any by the end of singing this! He’s the anchor for my soul, I’m fully letting go – I’m surrendered to his ways.

I can count on him! 

 

Little life snippets

It takes a Village…

Most of you will have heard the old African proverb – “It takes a village to raise a child.” Well yesterday I was reminded just how true this is – except we have a TRIBE! 

After months of secret planning, our church had a surprise celebration for our wonderful TRIBE kids. We had a bubble machine, balloons, party games and a fab message from one of our Pastors reminding the kids and their parents of the power of our words. Of course there was a little gift for each child presented with some lovely words about each of them. As our Pastor spoke about the kids I looked around and noticed, tears and pride in the eyes of our whole congregation. Not just the parents and the grandparents – but everyone. Because as a tribe we all play a role in the lives of the children who appeared one by one at the front of church. 

Both of my girls have been a part of our ‘tribe’ since the day they were born. In fact I’m pretty sure my eldest knew who some of our church family were from their voices having heard them from the womb! As she has grown both spiritually and physically in the last 5 years her little life has been shaped by both her physical family and spiritual family. I expect that most of those who have contributed along the way don’t even realise the role they play but every member of our tribe, especially our kids church volunteers, who have spoken to and interacted with her, have impacted her life.  We shouldn’t underestimate the importance of a good role model on a child’s life.

Parenting is tough! While they are blessings and they fill our lives with happiness and joy, they do also bring new challenges with them. It’s reassuring to know there is a whole tribe behind us giving us all kinds of support…

  • Offering us advice or a listening ear
  • Helping us escape for a child free hour or two for a chinway and a cuppa 
  • Providing babysitting services  
  • Organising play dates
  • Simply showing an interest in their little lives 
  • And most importantly, lifting them up in prayer 

(Now this is where it might get a little weird for some of you – stay with me!)

At the end of yesterday’s celebration we shared a little clip of a song by Justin Bieber – Children. The lyrics ask …

What about the children? Look at all the children we can change. What about a vision? Be a visionary for a change. 

It’s a rally cry for a generation who need someone to fight for their future. Regardless of who you are, your marital status, your current season in life – everyone can contribute in some way to the vision of our children – to protect them and ensure they grow up knowing the love and kindness of Jesus. As the old proverb says, as part of your TRIBE you can make a difference – you can help raise the children – but have you got the heart?

He took a child, had him stand among them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them. “Whoever welcomes one little child such as this in my name welcomes me. And whoever welcomes me does not welcome me, but him who sent me. ” Mark 9:36-37

Seasons

In Every Season

Autumn has officially arrived in Belfast – the temperatures have dropped and the nights are growing darker earlier. Everyone has their favourite season of the year – some people love summer for the warm days and summer nights, some love the new promise that comes with Spring while others love Winter because of Christmas celebrations. Personally, I love autumn because it means fresh walks in cosy clothes with the beautiful colourful leaves falling from the trees. It was only after a business trip to Montreal that I realised how magical and captivating the season is after experiencing their celebration of ‘Fall Foliage’.

We have a gorgeous big maple tree in our garden and when the leaves fell last year and gathered on the ground we had some friends round to play in the big piles of leaves followed by some creative painting. It was really lovely to embrace the season and enjoy the beautiful leaves and colours. I might even arrange to do it again this year. (Must note that down in my diary!)

But for some people Autumn is depressing with it’s darker nights, coldness, rain (although doesn’t it rain in every season here in NI?!) and all of the stresses of back to school. Like the climatic seasons we all have seasons in our lives that can challenge us and season that bring joy and happiness. Like Autumn, if we look hard enough we will find beauty in them all. I can look back at many seasons of my life both good and bad…

My hubby and I went from enjoying quiet meals out for two during our courting and newlywed season to meals out now where we tag team who gets to eat while keeping our two rascals happy and under our control. But we wouldn’t change it for the world as we know how blessed we are to have our two divas.

Seasons

I enjoyed sleep in my younger years – glorious sleep! Although looking back I probably missed out on doing things while I lay in my bed until noon or later! Since the arrival of our babies we celebrate a 7:30am “lie in” at the weekends. I never thought I’d be the type of person to have the shopping done by 11am on a Saturday morning but now I love it!

Seasons

As a 20-something when I lived on my own I was lonely sometimes and struggled to fill my time at the weekends. Now weekends are a bit crazy with so much to do but full of fun and laughter.

Seasons

As a teenager I fought with my parents at times and thought I knew best – now they’re two of my best friends and I would be lost without them.

 Seasons

My best friend (an actual person not my constant friend) has taught me that whatever I’m facing, whether it’s good and I dont’ want it to end or it’s tough and I’m trying to find the light at the end of the tunnel – to keep saying that one word to myself  – SeasonsOne of the things you can be sure of in life is that things change even if you don’t realise it in the every day. As local boy, C.S. Lewis once put it…

“Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back everything is different.”

When you look back a few months, a year or a decade you can see just how much change you’ve come through as you’ve moved from season to season. In church we sing a song written by one of my favourite singer/songwriters, Brooke Ligertwood, which sums up how I try to approach seasons… 

All of my life, in every season, you are still God

I have a reason to sing, I have a reason to worship 

 I will still face challenging seasons, and I will likely have a meltdown or two but I find it reassuring that through everything I have faced and will face there is a constant friend there through it all – our Heavenly Father. So if you’re in the midst of a challenging season trust me when I say hang in there and keep looking up. 

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1 

 

Worship Wednesdays

Sparrow

It’s time to introduce “Worship Wednesdays” – my weekly musical mini post. It’ll come as no surprise that I absolutely love the song “His eye is on the Sparrow” and there are so many beautiful versions out there – Whitney singing it always brings tears to my eyes. But tonight I want to share an upbeat modern twist by Audrey Assad to lift your week. It’s hard not to be happy and chirpy when you sing along to this version! I sing because I’m happy… and I sing because I’m free…

Thoughts & Ponderings

It’s ok to have a bad day!

Do you ever get those days when it feels like everything is going wrong and the world is against you?! You just want to crawl into bed and pull the duvet over your head so you can hide away from life.

It’s ok to feel like that! 

In this new age of social media it is so easy to focus on the magical people who appear to have everything together. Mothers who have well behaved kids and immaculate houses, airbrushed celebs who make it seem like they have the perfect skin, new celeb mums that have fab ‘post baby bodies’ two weeks after giving birth (don’t get me started on that one)! Not forgetting the footballers earning millions and posing in glossy mags with their ‘perfect’ families when behind closed doors there is heartbreak and trouble! Don’t get me wrong, I salute all of these people for their hard work and success but for most its simply not reality.

I know in our house the morning routine can be pretty stressful and crazy – trying to make sure I remember everything the girls need for the day (I forgot my eldest’s school uniform this morning – Doh!), packing lunches, making beds (well, sometimes!) and basically making sure we all have a pair of matching shoes while I contend with cries for chocolate, bobo and teddy bears. I know this might sound a bit trivial but the first hour of action every morning can make or break my mood for the day. If I get to work and have my first cuppa without any tears from me or the girls then I consider it a success. 

But of course I always smile and share a good morning in the office with everyone in the office regardless of how I’m really feeling. We do that don’t we? Because even if there is something annoying us or a worry on our mind it’s polite and easier to just keep smiling and get on with it. Climbing under our desks with a duvet isn’t really an option!

As a Christian I feel there’s a pressure to show people that we have that inner peace that comes from knowing in the midst of the storms, we have faith that God’s got it! And while that’s obviously what we should be aiming for, we are human and if we’re honest, sometimes we lose sight of his promises, get overwhelmed by our fears, disappointments , sadness and the daily challenges of life. But you know what …that’s ok!

It’s ok to have a bad day! 

When we look at the bible and think of Jesus we always remember all that he endured and how he accepted it all. Matthew 14:13-14 sticks in my mind when life gets too much. John the Baptist had just been beheaded by Herod and it tells us…

“When Jesus heard about it, he withdrew from there by boat to a remote place to be alone. When the crowds heard this, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a large crowd, had compassion on them, and healed their sick.” 

He was grieving and this would have been a really bad day for Jesus. He needed time out to process the news and gather his thoughts away from his disciples. When he got off the boat there were crowds expecting him to do miracles – and of course Jesus being Jesus he didn’t let them down. In fact later that day, we’re told he fed 5000 men with five loaves and two fish!

God had allowed him that little bit of respite but we know he wasn’t completely alone – God was by his side the whole time and he knew when it was time for Jesus to come ashore and continue his mission.

Our bad days might not be quite as bad as Jesus’ situation but if he can come out the other side and perform miracles then I can certainly bounce back from an emotional morning or upsetting experience to take on the challenges of life once again. Because even if I did climb back under that duvet and hide, God would be under there with me willing me to get back up and face the world until the bad day becomes a good day again. 

On our worst days, when we’re trying to hide our misery or conceal our failures, our perfect God doesn’t stand at a distance, waiting for us to pull ourselves together. He crawls right in beside us, amid the dust bunnies and clutter of our lives, to show that we’re never alone in our messes. In fact, that’s the very reason Jesus left the shiny halls of heaven to dine in the dusty homes of ordinary people: because God refuses to leave us alone to wallow in our misery and sin.” Lisa Harper 

Thoughts & Ponderings

Hello world!

There’s at least one good thing about being up early with my kiddies – I love to stand in my kitchen and watch the birds in the garden as they enjoy the quiet stillness of those early hours. They soar and they sing and they almost dance from one tree to the next, one fence to the other. They’re HAPPY, they’re FREE! They don’t have a care in the world and it always takes me back to the lyrics of that beautiful song …

“His eye is on the sparrow and I know he watches me”

Life is full of joy, adventures and challenges but it’s very easy to be discouraged and to let the shadows come. We can be lonely, troubled, lose hope, have fears and doubts. We can be let down by people, question ourselves and our own actions but that song in it’s first verse gives me five words to cling to; words I hold close whenever the clouds appear….

“A constant friend is he”

Did you get that? He’s constant! I like to look up words to check the specific, intended meanings and when I looked up constant the dictionary says: continually occurring, unchanging, steadfast in purpose, loyalty or affection, faithful.

How reassuring is to know that regardless of what happens, whatever you’re faced with in life you have a constant friend? He will be there continually, unchanging and steadfastly faithful. Someone whose eye is always watching us as we soar from tree to tree, fence to fence. Who whispers “let not your heart be troubled”. We’re not alone, we’re never forgotten – we have a reason to sing because his eye is on the sparrow and he watches me.

As I embarked on writing this first post ( I promise they won’t all be as long) I looked into the origin of these words and I found out it came from the writer’s encounter with a Mr and Mrs Doolittle. Mrs Doolittle was bedridden for nearly 20 years and Mr Doolittle was a cripple who had to get himself to and from work in a wheelchair. (And this was in 1905 so it wouldn’t have been a very advanced wheelchair!) The story goes that despite their afflictions they lived happy Christian lives and continued to inspire and comfort anyone they met. When asked about their bright hopefulness and questioned what their secret was Mrs Doolittle replied..

“His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me”

How beautiful yet simple! Life isn’t always easy, we will be faced with challenges and heartbreak as well as joy and happiness but wouldn’t it be amazing if we could remember even in the toughest times to keep hold of that simple truth and promise.

So this is my challenge and mission as I launch into the world of ‘blogging’ – to look at life, no matter what season I’m in ( and I will share them all – good, bad and everything in between) while remembering who is there singing and flying with me – a constant friend. 

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Luke 12:6-7