Little life snippets, Seasons

Focus for a fresh year – JOY

Moving from one year to the next is always a good time to reflect and refocus. What do we want 2019 to look like? Is there something you want to do or achieve? Maybe it’s being healthier, to run a marathon, maybe you’re clinging to a dream you want so badly, or maybe you want to change something about yourself. Whatever you’re adding to your resolutions or focus for the year ahead, you can guarantee it won’t just fall into your lap. You’ll need to work at it and make an effort to achieve your goal.

Having some time off work over Christmas has helped me really think about what I want to do in 2019. Obviously there’s the usual stuff – lose weight, be more active and get the work-life balance right. But there’s a bigger picture and a challenge I have set myself – and I would love others to join me on the journey.

One word keeps following me around and jumping out at me in everything I do – JOY. It’s taken me a while to really grasp the meaning and what it might look like in action.

In Philippians Paul teaches about genuinely living as Christians – what it really means to be a light in the world…

“Do everything without complaining or arguing. Then you will be blameless and innocent. You will be God’s children without any faults among people who are crooked and corrupt. You will shine like stars among them in the world as you hold firmly to the word of life. Then I can brag on the day of Christ that my effort was not wasted and that my work produced results. My life is being poured out as a part of the sacrifice and service ⌊I offer to God⌋ for your faith.

Yet, I am filled with joy, and I share that joy with all of you. For this same reason you also should be filled with joy and share that joy with me.”
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭2:14-18‬ ‭GW‬‬

Did you catch that? Paul’s life wasn’t easy – he was persecuted, imprisoned and ultimately executed for his beliefs. But in every situation he could find JOY and he wanted to share that joy with others too. Easier said than done right?! I know when we’re facing challenges or low points in our life it can be hard to find joy but please just give me a few minutes to explain how I’m approaching 2019 with my heart set on finding joy even on the tough days. Why don’t you consider joining me on the journey?

When I did my usual research to find the dictionary meaning of the word JOY there was of course a selection of explanations…

“The emotion evoked by well being, success, or good fortune, or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.”

A source or cause of delight.”

“A fruit of the Holy Spirit… having a sense of happinesss regardless of what is happening to you!”

Reading all of these descriptions I had a bit of a revelation – joy is a feeling. It isn’t something someone can give you or take from you. It’s something you choose to feel – deep down in your soul and your heart you have to make a choice to feel joy. You are the only person who can make that decision whether or not to feel joy. Yes what others do or say can play a part in how you feel – our actions and words can help someone or hinder someone in their quest for joy but ultimately we’re the only ones who can control our reaction and feelings.

To give you a personal example from the last month or so… when I was working long hours to meet important milestones on our project – it was draining, at times it pushed me to my limits emotionally and physically but when I came home each evening to my wee family I remembered that there is so much joy and love waiting here for me at the end of the day. It wasn’t always easy to switch off but a smile or a huggle from my girls and hubby filled my heart and soul with joy. I try to remember that, while the stress isn’t pleasant or ideal, if I focus on the joy in my life (beyond the moment I’m in) it can help me get through the every day trials. At my desk I surround myself with photos of the girls, bible verses for encouragement in my stationary (thanks Ali Marriott) and if I’m facing a particularly challenging task or review I say a little prayer and remember…

“I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me.”
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:13‬ ‭GW‬‬

God never promised us an easy life – but he promises to be with us every step of the way and if you look hard enough there will always be something or someone he has put in your life to help you find joy even in the darkest days.

And what about our roles as sisters and brothers in Christ to share joy just like Paul wanted to do? My dear friends have no idea how much a simple text asking how my week is going or offering a little encouragement can help me hold on to the joy in my 9to5. God’s timing is perfect, he uses us all in different ways but one thing I am sure of – we can all impact the lives of others and bring joy in any situation.

There are massive projects like our dear friends in Angel House India who are literally giving everything to build the orphanage the Lord has set on their hearts – what an awesome work they’re doing. But we have smaller personal ministries like the mum at home with three kids who by simply being there and offering support and encouragement to others via coffee dates, text messages or a Facebook post can lift spirits and hearts.

God uses the resources we have at hand in order to use us to help bring joy to the world – we may be blessed with money, it may be abilities and talents or it may be giving your time and energy. You may feel inadequate, you may think you don’t have anything to offer but that’s not how it works – throughout the Bible we hear of the Lord taking little and multiplying it beyond what we could ever imagine. The boy who gave his loaves and fish, the widow and her pot of oil and of course the awesome miracle we’ve heard so much about in the last few weeks – the baby born in a manger who became the sacrifice and salvation for us all. You see God doesn’t need you to be rich or famous – he needs you to be willing and faithful.

So this year – I urge you not only to consider searching for the joy in your own lives but consider how you can boost others and help them choose joy!

Is there someone you know to be lonely? Go spend time with them.

Can you help that person who is down to their last penny before pay day? Slip a tenner into their purse.

Do you see a couple struggling to get out of the house without the kids? Offer to babysit for a couple of hours.

Is your heart touched by a good cause or charity? Volunteer to help with a fundraiser or do something practical to help them.

When you notice your work colleague is under pressure and stressing out – why not offer to help them with their task? Or if you can’t help practically could you make them a cuppa or ask if they fancy a walk at lunch time?

Do you see that mother or father struggling and feeling inadequate? Remind them they’re awesome!

Do you know someone who is facing a health battle and you feel helpless? Simply reach out to offer your prayers and support.

That may be all it takes to help bring some joy to others – a simple act of kindness with no expectation of getting anything back in return.

In this crazy dog-eat-dog world that is driving so many to depression let’s make 2019 the year we shine like stars and focus on choosing and sharing joy.

Little life snippets, Seasons

#MeYouDontSee

Today we went for a quiet family lunch in a nice restaurant like normal people do – this photo my hubby took while I wasn’t looking pretty much sums up how that went.

It wasn’t what I would call fun to be honest but the food was nice – poor Hubby ate his lunch one handed while trying to keep control of the littlest one and the big one spent a lot of the time moaning before they discovered the window sill for dancing! Thankfully the place wasn’t very busy and no one complained. Don’t get me wrong, I love my girls with all my heart and I appreciate how truly blessed we are to be their parents but like everything in life there are difficult moments and situations. If I only shared with you the picture perfect moments I’d be living a lie and pretending that I don’t have challenging days.

Seeing this photo got me thinking about something I read about recently – the #MeYouDontSee photo series started by @have.you.seen.that.girl

If you haven’t heard of it I would suggest you search the # and get more info. It’s such a refreshing approach in a world where social media creates false images and expectations.

The #MeYouDontSee in this photo is thinking I wish we’d got a babysitter while trying to keep it together and not lose it with the kiddies who are simply enjoying themselves and their new surroundings. Just because we have kids we shouldn’t lock ourselves away at home or only eat at KFC or Pizza restaurants – as parents we need to try and introduce new social settings into their little lives or they’ll never learn to behave correctly!

The Lord never promised us a smooth ride and there will be times we will be challenged and we will struggle to find the calm within but no one is perfect and all we can do is keep looking to him for guidance and instruction.

“Fathers [Mothers in my case!], don’t exasperate your children by coming down hard on them. Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master.”
‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭6:4‬ ‭MSG‬‬

#Littlelifesnippets #Keeplookingup #Mummylife #PostBedtimeReflections

Little life snippets, Seasons

Bedtime Progress

When I was pregnant with our first born, the ladies at our church prayed for a healthy wee sleeper – and that she was! E.E. (as her sister now calls her and it matches her initials so I quite like it) slept through the night from two weeks old and even loved snoozing throughout the day. But every night since we moved her out of her cot one of us has had to stay by her side until she dozes off.

This weekend we turned a corner and at just under 5 years and 11 months she is now putting herself to bed at night – unaccompanied! Some people might think we’re mad doing it all those years and don’t get me wrong it has been tough at times but it was all done with love – a 1Corinthians 13 love – we’ve been patient, kind, we never gave up as we were always hopeful that this day would come in HER time so we endured it all.

Yes it was trying and tiring especially when little A.J. arrived and there was no longer a “night off” bedtime duty. But reflecting back E.E. knew by our dedication to her needs that she is loved and those little bed time discussions and cuddles have been so precious – those I will miss!!

So if you’re in a season, whether you’re a parent or not, that seems like it will go on forever, hang in there and just keep focusing on that big L word… LOVE – through it we can achieve so much!

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever!

‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭13:4-8‬ ‭NLT‬‬

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