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.

Worship Wednesdays

Angels we have heard on high

I love love love Christmas – especially in church! I love being able to come together with our tribe to celebrate the birth of Christ. But I also love how we get the opportunity to share that celebration with others who wouldn’t normally come to church.

Last Sunday evening we hosted our annual HOW “Christmas Worship Night” and it was so lovely sharing the experience with family and friends. There was so much love in one room!

It’s a busy time of year but the first thing in the calendar in our house will always be the church celebrations – everything else has to fit in around that.

This Sunday morning it’s all about the kids – they’ll be teaching us a thing or two about the stories behind the Worship of Christmas. I have so many awesome memories of Evie singing and dancing during past HOW Christmas celebrations but today I wanted to share with you one of the fab songs the kids will be performing this Sunday morning.

Pentatonix certainly know how to do Christmas so while our kids will be doing it a little different I’ve used their version of the song as it’s full of energy and it’s sure to put you in the Christmas mood.

If you don’t have anything else planned this Sunday morning, set the alarm and join us at 10:30am in Orby Drive!

 

 

 

 

Worship Wednesdays

That’s Christmas to Me

I found this lovely Christmas song by the acapella group Pentatonix to share with you today. It captures all of the different aspects of Christmas – children playing, kisses under the mistletoe, stockings hanging and candles glowing. But in the bridge they really capture the most important aspect of Christmas for me….

The joy that fills our hearts

When we strip back everything else – one thing remains at Christmas. JOY. Even in the most difficult Christmases we can find joy.

The joy of being with loved ones, the joy of time off work and the joy of giving to others. No matter how big or small the gift is, – or even if it’s a free gift like our presence, we can find pure joy in giving to others.

“In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ””
‭‭Acts‬ ‭20:35‬ ‭NIV‬‬

This Christmas wouldn’t it be great if that’s what we all focused on – giving to others?! Not looking for what we can get but what we can give!

To get you into the spirit of Christmas listen to today’s track and have a think about what Christmas really means to you.

 

 

 

Worship Wednesdays

God of this City

I had a wee day off today – a complete 8am-4pm day to myself. After the crazy couple of weeks I’ve had (maybe crazy is the new norm?!) it was very much needed.

I attended a business breakfast this morning, met up with two Claire’s for two different “coffee” dates (I have about 6 Claire/Clare’s in my life and hubby always gets very confused which one I’m talking about) then I dandered through the shops in Belfast city centre picking up some Christmas gifts and treats before bringing my little window of freedom to a close by dropping in to our first choice nursery school open day. Normally when I head into Belfast I’m rushing or too conscious of ensuring the girls are close by and I don’t get the chance to really soak up the atmosphere and appreciate our city.

Maybe it’s because the focus of this morning’s business breakfast was the regeneration of Belfast, maybe it’s because our wee city is fighting back after the devastation of the fire at Bank Buildings in August and making a lot of effort to attract visitors or maybe God was trying to tell me something today….

You’re the God of this city
You’re the king of these people
You’re the lord of this nation

Just like our wee city is facing turmoil, uncertainty and a battle to be everything to everyone, so am I. When I started this blog, I promised to share the rough and the smooth, warts and all. The last few weeks have been tough… I’ve been working long hours to try and keep up with the workload in our office with an added stress of yet more job cuts looming over us. It feels like I’m constantly adding more plates into the spinning/juggling act but there are so many that I love to spin that I’m doing my best to prioritise while trying to continue with the enjoyable aspects of  life; if I didn’t I’d go mad! I’ve missed bedtimes with the girls and some nights I can barely string two sentences together by the time I sit down on the sofa with hubby. But God has a plan. Just as I listened to the panel talk this morning about the plan to develop Belfast, I need to focus on the future strategy and be confident that God has a plan to develop me. He can take the derelict land, the forgotten quarters and the disconnected areas and bring light, hope and peace…

You’re the light in this darkness
You’re the hope to the hopeless
You’re the peace to the restless

I know, just as the song says, greater things have yet to come – and with the help of my family, friends and God I can get through this difficult season knowing there are better times ahead…

I know the plans that I have for you, declares the LORD. They are plans for peace and not disaster, plans to give you a future filled with hope.”
‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭29:11‬ ‭GW‬

 

 

Worship Wednesdays

Heroes

When we’re kids we think heroes have special powers & wear capes but as we get older and realise the most important things in life we find heroes in the every day.

It is amazing how much encouragement someone can add to your day with the simplest gesture or supportive helping hand …

  • The smiley face in the middle of a stressful situation or day.
  • The person who comes to your aid when you fall or knock something over.
  • The listening ear that has enough worries of it’s own but is always there for you to have a good moan.
  • The best friend who knows exactly what you need before you even know you need it!
  • The colleague who takes the time to congratulate you on a job well done.
  • The hubby/wife who steps in to support you and take care of the tasks that keep your house and family ticking over when life is busy.

I could add to this list every day of the week! And today’s Worship Wednesday track has made me so aware of the angels in disguise sent by God just as he promised…

“For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭91:11‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I can look back on my life and pinpoint exact moments God sent friends, family and even strangers into a situation or moment to move mountains and remind me that I’m not alone.

You may never know their names
But they’re moving mountains just the same
Instead of searching for the spotlight
They’ll follow Jesus into the darkest night

 

Worship Wednesdays

Build my Life

I’m pretty sure a crazy busy life is just the norm for my wee family in our current season. It’s been a week of ups, downs, sickness, joy, laughs, tantrums, late nights in work, early mornings with wee birds and just all round banter and hectic busyness.

In recent weeks I’ve found myself turning to my faith more and more in the every day …

I’ve added some extra worship time to my drive to and from work with the help of Spotify and an aux cable in the car.

I turn to my bible and prayer throughout the day when I’m facing challenges. I’ve even started to remind myself that the Lord is with me by imagining his guiding and comforting hand on my shoulder during difficult meetings or situations.

It can be so easy to walk through the doors of the office at 8am and be pulled into the way of the world. I wish I could say that I don’t get sucked in by the negative attitude and behaviours of corporate life but I am trying my best not to – I’m challenging myself to seek out opportunities to share the love, kindness and compassion that Jesus taught. I’ve even started to think about some small side projects that might practically bring that attitude into the workplace and get Christians in the office environment thinking about how we can encourage and support each other.

I heard this song for the first time a few weeks ago and it keeps getting stuck in my head.

What a powerful message to remember if we are to build our lives on the teachings and foundation set out in the Lord’s word, even within the pressures of the modern age..

And I will build my life upon your love it is a firm foundation
And I will put my trust in you alone and I will not be shaken

Thoughts & Ponderings

Lest we forget

Tomorrow is of course Remembrance Sunday – a special day to remember lives lost, lives torn about by loss and lives changed forever by experiences on the battlefield.

There is always one word that overwhelms me on the 11th day of the 11th month – LOVE. Those who went to war did so for the love of their country and to protect those they loved – they sacrificed everything to serve. #LestWeForget

During the Great War & WW2 those left behind rallied together – there are so many tales of kindness amidst the heartbreak and loss. Children from the cities welcomed by countryside families they’d never met before, communities keeping spirits up during air raids with songs and neighbours digging through rubble in the hope they might rescue friends. The sacrifice and love wasn’t restricted to the battlefields – it was in the every day as well.

Where along the way did the world lose that love for their neighbours? When did we become a dog eat dog world that looks for what it can get instead of what it can give? When did it become every man (or woman) for themselves?!

Tomorrow as we proudly wear our poppies, let’s (as always) honour those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom but let’s not also forget how we can honour their memory by serving one another. Take some time to think about how we can love one another, how we can embrace the attitude of so many who were willing to give EVERYTHING.

“For the greatest love of all is a love that sacrifices all. And this great love is demonstrated when a person sacrifices his life for his friends.”
‭‭John‬ ‭15:13‬ ‭TPT‬‬

Worship Wednesdays

God’s Will

I’ve spent a lot of time studying, researching and praying about this week’s Worship Wednesday. I’ve really felt the Lord speak to me in a big way this last week and I wanted to find a way of sharing that but I struggled to find the right worship track. If I’m honest I’d actually got to the point where I was going to skip today’s post all together.

As we enjoyed a little Halloween fun with the family tonight I remembered a beautiful slightly Halloween themed track by Martina McBride. Not only is it a fab song, it also has a gorgeous video full of autumn leaves (my fave) and to be honest it really sums up what I want to share with you. The last couple of months I’ve been struggling with some stressful elements of life – I’ve prayed, turned to God’s word and talked to friends and family. That’s all helped and encouraged me greatly but I think I was waiting on a big profound “Hallelujah Amen” moment where my whole situation would turn around and everything would be brilliant. Those crazy miracle moments can and do happen but most of the time God uses the people we already have around us or with us to subtlely send a message to guide us or simply hold our hand as we fight through the storm.

These last few weeks I have found myself moved by comments from my little baby birds, chats with friends & family and also some random encounters with strangers – and I just know that God put the words in their mouth at that moment with a purpose to help me. God puts people in our paths at the right time with the right message when we need to hear it. That’s what this song I’m sharing today reminds us. I could write a very long list of times in my life when God’s will smacked me bang in the face when I least expected it – in the strangest or least predictable ways. He is constantly moving and positioning people and things ahead of time to ensure that everything is in place for his purpose and plan for your life to be fulfilled! Don’t ignore it!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.”
‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭29:11-13 NLT

Little life snippets, Worship Wednesdays

None but Jesus

The word SILENCE has a few different connotations for me – some positive, some negative!

Silence” – with French pronunciation always reminds me of my first year French teacher! Our class loved to chat so she was always telling us to be quiet in a dramatic French accent.

In the crazy madness of life a walk in a peaceful silent forest or park sounds like bliss to me most days. How lovely it can be to escape the rat race and get out into the wild nature to relax and enjoy some fresh air.

Today I took myself off to a silent office to get some very important work done without interruptions. The silence helped me concentrate but boy was it lonely.

I love it when my girls cosy up on the sofa beside me, silently watching TV or reading a book (it doesn’t happen often but it’s so lovely when it does). Or when I’m putting them to bed and we cuddle in complete silence – I usually relax so much I doze off beside them.

About this time four years ago I remember facing a challenging personal situation in work and one of the things that really struck me was the silence of some people. Friends and colleagues who I would have expected to be supportive and reach out to check I was ok, didn’t bother – their silence really surprised me. On the other hand, and more positively, people who I would never have expected to care got in touch or stopped me in the corridor to offer support and kind words.

Silence can be such a good thing at times, there can be a calming side to it but it can be discouraging too. As C.S. Lewis put it best…

Spiteful words can hurt your feelings but silence breaks your heart.

I get it! As I grow older I seem to find myself dwelling more on the silences rather than nasty words that are thrown at me. I think it’s because if I have a disagreement or face a challenging relationship I can talk it through (I’m a talker incase you hadn’t realised) with someone else to understand the motive or the intent and then move on. But silence, well it drives me slowly crazy as I never know if it’s an intentional snub or not. I don’t discuss it most of the time as I don’t want to sound paranoid or insecure when maybe it was just because someone was too busy with their own life to care about what is going on with mine.

I’ve been sharing on this blog for over a year now and I’ve been privately reflecting lately on a few different aspects of my journey. I can say hand on heart if I was doing this for likes, reactions or comments I would have given up a long time ago. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not perfect so human nature does kick in and sometimes I get a little discouraged when I pour my heart and soul into a post that doesn’t result in a lot of engagement – silence. And equally, when I get a random message from someone unexpected to say they were encouraged or really liked a post that does give me a wee boost.

I remember not long after I started the blog someone asked me how many followers or subscribers I had. I wasn’t sure, as for me that didn’t matter, I wasn’t keeping a tally – because sometimes in life there’s a word or a story or a person that touches your heart and they never know that they made an impact. I can look back on the last year and know that in the silences there was only one voice that really mattered to me – the voice that spoke to me and through me – the voice that reassured me that this was part of the plan, this is how, in my current season I can serve the Lord.

It’s been a wonderful learning experience for me and I’ve encouraged myself through the studies and research if nothing else. By putting my heart and life stories out there – sharing what matters to me and how I get through life I think I’ve become more focused on my purpose, more focused on what really matters in everything I do – turning hearts towards the King.

So if like me, you struggle with the silence, remember that there is an opinion and a voice that matters more than anyone’s silence. So much can be achieved if we focus on what we can do through and for God.

Embrace the quiet, embrace the stillness and trust in None but Jesus…

In the quiet, in the stillness
I know that You are God
In the secret of Your presence
I know there I am restored

That is the message I cling to and want to shout from the rooftops – so I’ll keep sharing in the hope that just one heart will be encouraged or interested in learning more about my Constant Friend and the benefit of a life with him by your side.

Worship Wednesdays

Brother

I’ve been toying with sharing this song for a while and as today is World Mental Health Day it seems fitting that I share it now.

The Bible commands us…

“Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭13:1‬ ‭NLT

What would the world look like if everyone obeyed this command?! If there was more love than hate – for ourselves, for others, in our school playgrounds our workplaces and our wider communities?! But that’s not the world we live in today is it? Hate is raising and it’s creating new anxieties, new fears and increasing the stresses in our lives.

I’m a chatty person, I like to get things off my chest and talk if I’ve a worry or something/someone is stressing me out. While, I always sing this song to myself with the word ‘Brother’, it is my reminder that I have a great bunch of “Sisters” who always make me feel that I can turn to them (on top of my fab family circle of course who are such a great source of strength for me) – and they’ll always remind me that I am strong enough to face life and the challenges it throws at me.

Lately, I have shared a little on this blog about how the challenges have really started to push me to my limits. I’ve shared about how I need my Constant Friend’s guidance and love to help me through the tough times and I am truly thankful for all the fab experiences he blesses me with.

But just because I put my trust in God’s promises 99% of the time doesn’t mean I don’t have a 1% wobble from time to time when I listen to the negative voice inside my head telling me that it’s all too much and that I’ll never measure up to who the world wants me to be.

When I had both my girls I remember the ‘baby blues’ hitting shortly after their birth but after a lot of tears and emotion it quickly passed. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for mothers who face so much worse through no fault of their own – I have so much respect for those who not only battle Post Natal Depression but who speak out about their experiences in order to encourage and provide hope for others.

Now as my girls get older I have started to notice my mental health declining a little. The same way in my younger years I was focused on ensuring I exercised and looked after my body (Not a lot of time for that now so I embrace my size 12/14 shape and get on with it!) I’m now having to think more about my mental health – it starts by loving me for who I am and appreciating the things I have achieved instead of focusing on my shortfalls. More practically it’s about taking time out for me, spending quality time with my wee family, scheduling catchups with my friends and meeting up with my church Tribe at HOW. Love really can lift me when I’m down – simply feeling loved and being with those I love can really shift my mood.

And if I feel like this, then I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one so it’s important to share with others and understand how they cope with life and the bumps in the road. I rely so heavily on my Constant Friend but sometimes you can’t beat a face or voice on the end of the phone and I know that God uses others to guide me and encourage me too because those people aren’t there by coincidence, they’re there for a reason with a purpose and he has it all planned out.

But it’s not that easy for everyone and in different situations/environments it can feel like you are all alone. So today I simply want to share this song to remind everyone that there will always be ‘Brothers’ and ‘Sisters’ you can call on – they might be family members, friends, work colleagues, neighbours or they might even be strangers or acquaintances that you know have faced similar storms. Reach out to someone, let them be your lighthouse to guide you safely home…

Brother, I’m right here
And on those days
When the sky begins to fall
You’re the blood of my blood
We can get through it all