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?

Don't write off the small things…

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Hearing His Voice

I got a tweet yesterday in my timeline from @lisabevere with a link to the above message. I favourited it but did not listen to it until this morning. It is about the Holy Spirit and hearing from God. It feeds into exactly the journey I have been on recently. 

While listening I got emotional with God. I had tears. It really spoke deeply into my heart. 

Hearing from God is an odd phrase – often it is met with consternation and skepticism. It can fall into the weird category and can frighten people. We can build it up into something so big that we avoid it at all costs. We shy away from it and often times ignore it. 

For me, promptings from the Holy Spirit are not big booming voice encounters – it comes from within a nudge, a sense that I should do or say something. 

One part of the message really pierced my heart…

There are so many other things I said to you and you second guessed them.’

I know this is true in my own life – that I have felt promptings, to pray out, to sing out, to pray for people, to encourage, to acknowledge, to speak a word and I haven’t because i have second guessed myself. I have allowed fear and doubt to prevent me from doing what I have been called to do. 

I started a journal a week ago – I can see evidence of hearing from God, of being prompted by the Holy Spirit and I have been following those promptings. It hasn’t been anything ‘huge’ just small things. Sending a tweet, an email, writing a blog post but there has been fruit. There has been a momentum building. 

How often do we write off the small things? Does the word not say:

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin… Zechariah 4:10

The problem is that in our humanness we don’t want small, we desire big, we want more, we want fireworks and lights and fanfares. We go from following a prompting to wanting to build a ministry. We don’t want to start small but that is how it all begins. 

Starting small is exciting and we need to recognise that. Do you want your faith life to be a journey, an awesome adventure? Do you want to be able to see how God has worked in your life? It doesn’t happen overnight, as much as we would like it. It is about the small steps towards greater obedience. 

I love to praise and worship God. I have a real heart for worshipping. There is nothing better for me than singing my heart out to God. For me, it is through worship that the Holy Spirit stirs within me. It is through my recognition of who God is, of His love for me, of his amazing faithfulness that I feel the spirit stirring me and moving me. 

On Sunday, I went from dancing around my kitchen lost in wonder, love and praise to praying fervently for the church and weeping. That was a prompting – it came out of my worship. 

On Sunday, I was prompted to pray for a friend and I walked all the way to the back of the church, took them by the hand and said ‘Can I pray with you?’ Turns out they really needed prayer but wouldn’t have asked. 

As I listen to preaches and talks, I often hear passages read and the Holy Spirit will speak a name to me and I know I have to send them that passage. I don’t always get a response, or know how that has spoken to or affected them but does that mean I should stop?

Following promptings is not about our glory but God’s. It should not be done to get recognition for ourselves but for God. So it doesn’t matter about the response to me, it matters that I have been obedient. 

I don’t want to write off the small things. I want to make sure i don’t miss out. I want to follow every little prompting I get. 

How about you? Have you been prompted recently? Have you been too busy second guessing that you have missed opportunities? 

 Can I challenge you to follow a prompting today and see what happens? 

I want to finish with a video of a worship song that is constantly on my heart at the moment. It is about God’s faithfulness and the fact we are never alone.

Why not start from a place of worship and see where the Holy Spirit leads you today?

Getting emotional with God

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“What is it about tears that should be so terrifying? the touch of God is marked by tears…deep, soul-shaking tears, weeping…it comes when that last barrier is down and you surrender yourself to health and wholeness” David Wilkerson, The Cross and the Switchblade

I read this quote today and it really struck me. It spoke to me deeply about my own reactions to tears, it brought to mind many instances when I have experienced exactly the above. 

I would describe myself as an emotional person, I cry at adverts, I cry at new stories, I cry when I am angry, happy, frustrated. It seems to be a bit of a default and I suppose that is why when I experience tears in a spiritual context, I tend to write it off. 

I have said on many occasions ‘Why do I always get tears? Why can’t I get laughter?’ Belittling in a way the experience, the deep work that is taking place within me. But why?

In society, crying or tears are seen as weakness. A sense that you have lost control or have become ‘over emotional’. People who cry are often written off and not listened to – they have shown themselves to be fallible and incapable of maintaining their dignity.

I have sadly bought into this perception all to often and in the process been happy to write myself of as ’emotional’ as if it is a dirty word, not to be seen as a quality but to sneered at and embarrassed about. 

I believe that God is doing a work in me about this. I believe He has started gently with the quote above but I know need to accept it is a big part of who I am and who He created me to be.

On Sunday, as I prayed in my kitchen before church, I was overwhelmed by emotion and I cried. Thinking back to this now, this was about sensing God’s heart and I wiped my tears away and ‘pulled myself together’ ashamed, feeling silly. I repent of that now. 

After the service, when I prayed for friends again I was overwhelmed by tears and it was again God’s heart – I realised it more then, I did not allow it to hinder me but to spur me on and I felt that God was working, that he was moving. I accepted the tears.

Who am I to deny attributes in myself when ‘I am fearfully and wonderfully made’? I have not been called to write myself off. There are plenty who will, there is an enemy who will make sure of it but I am not to join in with that – to belittle God. 

Can we reclaim the word ’emotional’? Can we accept tears as the touch of God?

How often do we sing or pray ‘break my heart for what breaks yours’ and then berate ourselves for feeling the emotion and weeping? How often do we ask to see the world and people through God’s eyes and then put ourselves down for getting ’emotional’?

Will you join me from today and accept that tears are not a weakness but a sign that we have experienced something of the heart of God? The heart of God for those we are praying for, for our current situation, for the stories we read about and watch on the news.

Will you join me in recognising that compassion is something far more than just thinking ‘Oh that’s sad.’

Will you join me in getting emotional with God?

 

Enjoying God

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I spent the morning listening to a preach by Judah Smith about Enjoying God.

http://thecity.org/message/enjoying_god

There was so much in it that really spoke to me about where I am at the moment. It follows on from my posts about Coffee with God and Walking with God

As I was listening, I tweeted some of the content because I couldn’t help but want to share it. I also emailed the link to some friends who I know will be blessed by listening to the message. 

I am so fired up and inspired by what I am learning and experiencing at the moment from changing my whole approach to my relationship with God and my Christian walk. I am seeing how God is moving and working in my life and the lives of others in such a short space of time.

Keeping a journal really helps – not in a strict, I must write in it everyday kind of way but in a Wow! I need to write this down – I need to remember this, I need to be encouraged by this and I will need this to keep me going kind of way. 

There were a few snippets of the preach that really struck me…

‘A lot of us treat our relationship with God like a formal living room, to be looked at and admired but we don’t live with him.’

I was immediately reminded of my grandparents house. They had a formal living room at the front of the house and it was never used apart from on very special occasions. It was beautiful and awe inspiring but we hardly went into it. 

How true can this be of our relationship with God? We acknowledge that he is amazing, awesome, wonderful but we don’t take it any further – an arm’s length approach. A head knowledge approach – we know how to describe him and all that he is but do we know him?

Abide – continue, stay, dwell, remain. Don’t treat God like an antique piece of furniture but an Ikea couch!

I have a carving chair in my house, it was my Granddad’s. When I first got it I didn’t want anyone to sit on it. It was just to be looked at. Now, anyone can sit in it, after all that is what it is for!

I love the analogy used here – you are far more free to let people live on your Ikea couch than your antique furniture – you recognise it is it to be lived on and in. The same is true of our relationship with God – it is to be lived on and in. 

You have permission to enjoy God. You have permission to let him love you.

How often do we reduce ‘relationship’ with God to :

Daily quiet time

Reading the bible

Praying

Nothing wrong with any of those things but God wants all of our life and that means the making dinner, sitting in the sunshine, going for a walk, having a coffee, relaxing on the sofa parts of our lives too. The writing blog posts, posting on social media and watching a film parts. 

We need to stop ‘doing’ and start ‘being’

We need to stop trying to earn God’s love and favour.

We need to accept – we are loved, we are loved, we are loved.

We need to enjoy God.

How are you going to enjoy God today? How are you going to give yourself permission to accept his love?

 

 

Maintaining momentum

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Yesterday, I spoke my big dreams aloud, put them out there for the whole world to see – what now?
How do I ensure that I am maintaining momentum?

The key thing for me is to ensure that I don’t push things too hard or too quickly – this is a journey and the destination is not one that can be arrived at in a few days, weeks or even months.

Therefore, I could just sit back and wait for it all to happen but that isn’t how it works. There needs to be activity day to day that ensures I keep moving forward, however small the steps, and don’t stagnate.

I read a book yesterday ‘The Grace Outpouring – blessing others through prayer’ This is the story of God’s work at Ffald-y-Brenin, a retreat centre in rural Wales. It raised a few thoughts for me :

1. The ‘Grace First’ approach. One that Christians and churches claim they have but do we in practice?

2. Praying blessing over people, the local area and the nation. This is something I want to explore further. Is there a tendency to over complicate or to try and force things?

3. Building houses of prayer. This concept really moved something within me and has got me thinking about how it could work practically in my local area. Where would it be? Who would be involved? What impact could it make?

These seeds of ideas and inspiration being sown because I focused some time on reading about what others have done – what worked and what didn’t. How it all began and grew.

These are things I need to think further about, pray over and seek God for. The important thing is doing the seeking.

Friends contacted me about my post yesterday with encouragement and words that I need to spend time weighing and meditating on.

What if I hadn’t written the post? What if I had kept everything internal?

There is a momentum and it all began with speaking aloud the desires of my heart but I can’t stop there.

When you have felt stirred, moved or inspired to act, what have you done to ensure you have maintained momentum?

Wednesday Woes

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Have you ever had one of those days where you can’t do right for doing wrong?

Today, I had to go to our primary school to observe potential students for September.

I should have known when I left the house in the rain. My boots leaked so my feet were soaked by the time I arrived at the bus stop. I then had to wait 30 minutes for a bus.

I was chilled to the bone by the time I arrived but the observations went really well.

Work was another matter lots of moaning behind closed doors and emails flying around.

When I went out to do lunch duty, I wanted to burst into tears. A combination of no sleep and a constant barrage of negativity from colleagues had taken its toll.

At that point one of our lower functioning students grabbed my arm, tapped me and ran away. I realised he wanted me to chase him and we played it for the rest of lunch.

That one moment saved me today. That student who cannot communicate verbally recognised that I needed help and offered it through playing it.

It almost broke my heart. That he had sensed so much and yet, grown adults who should know better didn’t or just ignored.

I had my appraisal, it was very positive.

I got back to my computer and had a number of emails that nearly sent me over the edge.

What upsets me the most, is that I am approachable. I had a meeting with a staff member after school to listen to concerns and offer advice and some practical solutions.

One of the emails was verging on the abusive. The other I was cc’d into about an issue that had not been raised with me and they were going above my head with.

It makes me sad. I have cried this evening out of frustration, disappointment and exhaustion.

The best thing is to get a good night’s sleep and a fresh perspective.

Tomorrow is an early start to travel across London for training.

That student’s kindness will linger with me, it pulled me back from the edge, just enough. Just enough to take a breath and manage the rest of the day.

Two days out and then the weekend will help.

New week, new start from Monday.

I started the day posting:

‘Sometimes the only one to encourage you is you.’

Luckily for me, I had encouragement from another source.

Be yourself

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‘Be yourself everyone else is already taken’ Oscar Wilde

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about what it means to be yourself. I often comment that I am not feeling myself today, but what do I mean when I say that?

I think sometimes we have this idea that there are people who don’t care what people think of them, experience complete freedom in thought, word and deed, never experience anxiety or worry. This idea that there are people who can go through life, day by day, unaffected by the comments of others or their own analysis of situations.

I think this is a myth.

Deep down, we do care about others opinions of us, despite our protestations to the contrary. We are relational beings, as much as we may strive for independence and to do it all alone. We can’t.
We need other people, each other, relationship.

The thing is, because of this need for relationship we often spend our time trying to craft ourselves into the person we think others want us to be. We have a created ideal.

I need to appear strong, not too needy. I shouldn’t talk about myself too much and make sure I listen. I mustn’t appear too grumpy or angry, but on the overhand, I need to ensure I am not overly emotional. Being classified as emotional is close to be written off in our strange, created ideal.

Where do these ideals come from and why do we insist on maintaining them? Why do we have a natural bent towards criticism rather than encouragement? Judgement rather than grace? Fault finding rather than recognition of strength?

We need to start with ourselves, accepting who we are, what being ourselves means for us.

So I am going to tell you who I am, what being myself is for me.

I am emotional. I have highs and lows. In the highs, I experience euphoria and am able to take on most things that are thrown on me, I can give and give and give and feel no effect. In the lows, I feel lethargic, begin to second guess everything and everyone. I misread situations and withdraw.

I experience stress, anger and frustration. I can be very vocal about how I am feeling and my default expression of emotion is tears. When I am happy, sad, angry, frustrated, tired, I cry.

I love to spend time with people, but I can be affected by the moods and attitudes of others. I worry about what people think, my appearance, finances, health and the future.

I expect the best of myself all of the time and will often beat myself up about the slightest of errors. If I speak out of turn, I replay the moment continuously and cringe at my behaviour.

I giggle a lot, sing at every opportunity and find any opportunity I can to smile.

The authentic me is the person I have described above. I don’t think she sounds too bad actually.

What about the authentic you? What does being yourself mean for you?
Leave a comment, tell me who you are, let’s start destroying the myth and start enjoying being ourselves.