A different love story

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Being Valentine’s Day it seems fitting to post about love. The problem is, as a society our idea of love has become synonymous with flowers, chocolates and hearts or worse still we have confused the concept of love with lust.

For me personally Valentine’s Day is just like any other, not because my husband is unromantic, or because I myself am, but because I don’t think love is something you express on only one day of the year or that it should only be focused on for one day.

I was asked by yesheis.com to review their new video for Valentine’s Day – it is entitled ‘A different love story’ and can be found here

The video begins with a girl telling us she was waiting to be swept off her feet by a Prince Charming the way it is portrayed in films and songs. The fairytale of love we are taught to buy into.

In fact all she really wanted was to be treasured.

Then the voice changes to a male voice saying ‘We are all just looking, looking for someone.’

Both tell their own stories of seeking love as they believed it should be and how it left them wanting.

They tell the story of their own
journey in finding the love of Jesus.
What I like about this video is that it is based around the whole idea of personal story – we are being told about their journey first hand.

There is something powerful to me about someone’s story and experience – getting to know where they were and where they are now.

There is contrast in the two stories in their starting points and how they came to seek out love and although they both find that it is the love of Jesus that ultimately satisfies it shows how different that relationship is for each of them.

We are left with the text ‘Jesus thinks you’re to die for. Get to know him for yourself.’

A clever play on words – it makes you think and that is the ultimate success of the video – it makes you think.

If you were asked to define love what would you say? If you had to talk about your experiences of it would they be similar to the stories in the video?

You see even though they are two personal stories they could be any of ours.

This Valentine’s Day, why not watch the video for yourself and think, really think about your understanding of love.

I chose Nurture – How am I doing?

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At the beginning of the year I chose nurture as my #oneword365 and as we are now in February it’s probably an idea to think about how that is going.

I am currently sat in front of the television with a blanket wrapped around my shoulders and my husband’s monster slippers on. I have a cup of decaf tea and a bowl of sugar puffs.

My 4 month old has gone down for a nap and my slippers and cardigan are in the same room.

I consider the week ahead, our timetable of events. I feel more awake than I have for a while thanks to a good night’s sleep.

As a parent, I realise that talking about sleep, naps and being pleased my son does both can be a source of contention. In fact talking about children in general opens you up to a plethora of responses – some less than desirable. The only thing I know about is my own son. I don’t paint myself as an expert, a super parent or earth mother.

In some respects to nurture myself as a mother I should simply avoid opening my mouth to speak about anything child related but that has never really been my style. I have learnt that you need to have a thick skin and to keep talking. I have also learnt that the world of motherhood can be the most cliquey arena of all. Let’s all just talk to each other a bit more hey? At groups, in coffee shops etc… It’s not a competition, why don’t we try nurturing each other a bit more?

As a Christian, I acknowledge that I have fallen into the trap of believing there is a specific mould I should fit in to and that had rendered my silent for a while. Instead of nurturing my faith I hid away becoming slightly insular, turning up but not really being there. That’s stopped now. I speak, I contribute, I use my voice. It was quite easy to convince myself that nurture was about keeping safe and quiet.

As someone who likes to blog, I wrote a post at the beginning of the year about nurture and then stopped blaming time constraints or making excuses for my lack of posts. So easy to do, so easy to avoid writing posts but as someone who is fairly creative it wasn’t nurture just simply avoidance and giving in to the ‘I’m so busy’ mentality. The same with reading…

So it could seem like I haven’t been doing so well at nurture.

But I don’t feel that way. This isn’t a post about beating myself up because I think I have failed.

It has been about discovery, for the first month of this year I have been discovering what nurture isn’t and challenging my own perceptions of it.

I have spent a lot of time with friends, enjoying their company, asking for support when needed.

I have begun to realise that I need to allow myself to be nurtured by others and have taken steps to allow myself that vulnerability.

Nurture isn’t about hiding away, it’s about growing. It isn’t about being quiet, it’s about finding your voice and using it. It’s not about making excuses but about being proactive.

One month in and I don’t think I’m doing so badly at nurture at all.

I choose nurture

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My one word for 2014 – Nurture

#oneword365 @oneword365

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Choosing one word is difficult I had considered a few others and how they would play out if I focused on them for every day of the nest year so why nurture?

Type nurture into google and it offers the following –

Definition: care for and protect (someone or something) while they are growing.

help or encourage the development of.

cherish (a hope, belief, or ambition).

synonyms:bring up, care for, provide for, take care of, attend to, look after, rear, support, raise, foster, parent, mother, tend; encourage, promote, stimulate, develop, foster, cultivate, further, advance, boost, forward, contribute to, be conducive to, assist, help, aid, abet, strengthen, advantage, fuel

Being an English teacher I find synonyms useful in helping to understand the scope of a word, the many facets that it holds. Words are not just one dimensional after all. The list of synonyms inspires me and is aspirational – it opens up so many possibilities in how this one word can become a lifestyle.

As a ‘new’ mother ( my son is 14 weeks old) nurture features heavily in my vocabulary and I see the daily benefits and effect of nurturing a person. This is something I am actively doing with my son each and every day and it got me thinking about how to apply it to all areas of my life.

Nurturing people involves encouragement so I need to approach each day with that it mind. What can I do and say that actively encourages those around me and more importantly what do I choose not to do and say which may discourage?

What can I nurture within myself? My blog posts have been conspicuous by their absence recently. Why? I have neglected my writing. My to read book shelf has stayed full. Why? I have neglected my reading. Both of these things are important to me and who I am as a person, I have not looked after myself in this respect and subsequently by ability to nurture and look after others has been hindered.

That’s a thing isn’t it? One we don’t often acknowledge. Is it fear of sounding selfish or self indulgent? I am not a fan of ‘me time’ as a phrase but I do like ‘be time’. We all need time to ‘be’ sometimes and that will look different for us all. For me, it’s taking some time to write or read. This replenishes my sense of being and restores my nurturing abilities. The tension is that I love to be sociable and find it energised me. Reading and writing are not social activities – they can become so but initially it is a solo activity. So, I need to develop some solo time into my life. The key is ensuring balance.

What am I going to do – actively. How will I live with nurture as my word?

Below I am going to bullet point some ideas – things to aspire to. Ways that I can incorporate this word in my life without it becoming a chore but an integral part of my year.

Continue to create memories and traditions with my family
Take part in the #emptyshelf challenge ( see @jonacuff) this will encourage me to read and be accountable for what I have done – not in a negative way but motivational one.
Aim to blog once a week.
Send that text, email, card, note to someone when I initially think of it and not procrastinate.
Embrace my role as a mother as part of my whole not all of my whole.
Develop new and existing relationships through meals and social time.
Re start my book club.
Take care of myself and others.
Remember that nurture is ultimately all about love.
Cultivate my relationship with God.

Now a list may seem a little clinical perhaps? Or maybe arduous but when I look at it I am excited about getting going and reviewing my progress. I am inspired and encouraged by it. For me, it It is all about nurture and I can’t wait to get started.

What does nurture mean to you?

When was the last time you experienced being nurtured?

What would be your one word?

Competitors or companions? How we define each other

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I tweeted this quote from ‘Am I Beautiful?’ yesterday because it really spoke to me.

The world is too broken for us to be preoccupied with feeling ugly. And life is too short not to feel beautiful.

What I tend to do with books is devour them in a matter of hours and then reflect on them but something has prompted me with Chine’s book to take it one stage at at a time and not rush to the end. There are far too many gems and deep truths to decipher in one sitting.

This one quote provides enough to write a hundred blog posts on – it opens up so many avenues of thought.

Firstly, why, especially as women are we often preoccupied with feeling ugly?

For some, it becomes a default setting and it works in distracting us from the broken world around us.

What a master stroke of genius to ensure women ignore their attributes and abilities. What a way to keep us silent, static, solo.

Admit it, when you meet other women there is an element of comparison that takes place as a first thought.

There is a deep rooted sense of competition that hits us before we even consider the wider benefits of companionship. Why?

What are you and the world missing out on because you wrote that woman off as a competitor rather than a companion?

It comes down to this seed that plants in us, this word ‘ugly’.

In my previous post Beauty, Identity and asking the question I asked when we first acknowledged and had an understanding of beautiful and now I ask the same about ugly.

We all have our own definitions but where did we get them from and when? Why do we allow ourselves to be held captive by it?

What have you failed to do, say, step out into because you have allowed yourself to become defined by these words?

Think about it. Think about the women you know, those who you have allowed to become companions and those you keep at arms length as competitors. Do you need to have a rethink have you unwittingly caused someone to feel ugly because of your decision?

Do you need a rethink? Do you need to reach out? Do you need to be vulnerable and admit exactly where you are at?

Do it today. ‘Life is too short not to feel beautiful.’ this applies to you but who else needs to know it today?

To those women who I have written off, made to feel ugly or placed as competitors – I am sorry.

We need each other – we are not enemies.

Making the most of your 'moment'

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This image popped up on my Facebook page a few days ago and it spoke exactly to where I am right now.

Today, I am 39 weeks plus 6 days pregnant. Part of me can’t believe it and another part feels I have been pregnant forever!

So my next ‘moment’ will be motherhood. The thing is, I have no way of knowing when this ‘moment’ will arrive.

At this point it would be so easy to just become static and wait. To count down the days and hours until I reach it.

I have been offered the common place advice of eating curry, hot food, pineapple, drinking raspberry leaf tea, walking and of course sex to kick start my labour.

There is a sense of expectation and excitement of what is to come.

The quote above got me thinking though. What about right now? Does the fact I am about to have a baby make all of this time pre baby redundant? Does this current ‘moment’ I am in not matter?

I have a choice here. I can believe that as I am in a transition, I have nothing to offer until I become a mother or I can do all I can, as I can right now.

I don’t want to miss out by rushing ahead. I don’t want to miss opportunities that I will not get to have again.

Maybe this strikes a chord with you? You may not be pregnant but are you rushing to get to a new ‘moment’ rather than making the most of the one you are in?

It may not be where you want to be. It may feel uncomfortable, difficult or dull but right now it’s your ‘moment’

Will you make the most of it?

Beauty, Identity and asking the question

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I have been a little slack in blogging recently, partly because I currently sit in this weird limbo period of life between being a career woman and a mother. Right now I am neither.

As I ponder my identity it comes as no surprise to me, knowing God and his sense of humour, that Sunday morning I had a copy of ‘Am I Beautiful?’ by @ChineMbubaegu thrust into my hand.

It is a signed copy with the message ‘Dear Louise, See you on Twitter! Never doubt your beauty. Chine x’

These few words strike a chord as I am sure they would with most women – Never doubt your beauty.

At almost 40 weeks pregnant and having spent the last 9 months watching my very familiar petite frame completely change, I have thought a lot about ‘beauty’

Having been in a blogging lull this book gives me an opportunity to focus on the ideas and questions raised and to explore them through my new posts.

Funny how God does that isn’t it? You are working through something – for me, my current identity and all of a sudden he provides a way to explore it that you hadn’t considered.

I believe beauty and identity are inextricably linked in our society and it makes me feel quite sad.

The title of the book – ‘Am I Beautiful?’ is a question I have asked myself many a time as I have stood looking in the mirror but I can’t remember the first time I asked it.

When do we begin to have an understanding of the word beautiful? Are we 5? 7? 11? and what is that understanding? Where do we get our definition?

Before I have even opened the book I felt it was important to ask these questions, to realise how deep rooted this is within each of us and how as much as we may wish to deny it – this forms a huge part of our daily lives.

So as I embark on my own journey navigating identity and beauty. I hope that you will join me with your own.

I leave you with the question:

When did you first start asking ‘Am I Beautiful? Where do you source¬† your answer from?

A new season – no holding back

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On the eve of the first day back to school it seems only right to blog.

Usually, at this time of year there is a real sense of expectancy about what is to come over the next academic year – how will I engage the students, what ideas can I use, when will I hit the wall? This has been routine for me for over ten years.

This year however, things are different. Yes, I am going back and excited to see the students but this time it will only be for a week. After that, maternity leave starts and along with that a new season in my life.

I had never really entertained the idea of becoming a mother, mainly because a doctor felt it was a good idea to tell me at 15 years old that I would have trouble conceiving because of having X-rays.

This was a seed that planted in my mind and I believed I would not be able to have children.

Whenever people asked, I said I wasn’t ready yet but what I wasn’t saying was that I was too frightened to even consider the idea as the doctor’s words echoed in my head on a daily basis.

3 months into trying and I fell pregnant. Still now at 37.5 weeks it is so surreal to me.

This is a new season for me, I am moving from years of being very comfortable, having a career and a routine that worked for me. Moving on from knowing what to expect, planning, organising and feeling in control.

All of that is about to change…

I believe that this is part of me growing in my faith and going on with God.

I am to be taken out of my comfort zone, which is where we need to be for God to fully work in us and through us.

I am no longer in control. I don’t know when the baby will come or what my life will be like.

I have a choice, I can either wait in fear of what is to come or wait in peace, believing that God has plans and purposes for me.

I choose the latter. I am looking forward to the adventure that lies before me. I am expectant for what is to come and I truly believe that the best is ahead!

Are you heading into a new season?

Are you letting words spoken over you hold you back?

Are you expectant for a new adventure?