She makes pancakes

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Ok, so I know it isn’t pancake day anymore but it was life group night and pancake day this week so it had to be done.

This week has been trying and challenging. At the beginning of it tonight seemed like a distant dream never to arrive.

Tonight I sat round the table with a small amount of people who have the biggest impact on my life. We made pancakes, we laughed, we talked, we posed those questions we all usually keep in our heads like :

‘Why do we find it so difficult to be real with others?’ 

‘Why is being vulnerable and revealing our true self so hard?’

Why do we constantly pretend we have it all together and only let people know we are struggling when we reach the end of our rope?’

These people are those I am my most real and my most raw with, my warts and all people, my take me as I am people.

These people change my life on a daily basis.

Tonight, there was no where I would rather have been than sat in my kitchen making pancakes.

Are you a 'what it could be' friend?

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As is my current routine, I have begun the morning listening to the above message. I like to start my day listening to truth and focussing my mind on God. It would be so easy just to turn the television on and get lost in the plethora of daytime shows but I have intentionally avoided this.

This message talks about the fact Jesus was fully grace and fully truth. 100 per cent truth and 100 per cent grace. It speaks of our struggle with this – that we tend to favour one over the other.

One quote that stuck with me today and got me thinking:

Everybody needs a ‘what it could be’ kind of friend in their life.

What does that mean exactly? We are often good at listening and supporting, we are probably better at offering advice and explaining exactly where they have gone wrong. We may even get to a point of frustration when they keep doing things that are detrimental to them and their life.

We look at the ‘truth’ that we know about them and we want to use it to judge them and call them out on it and say ‘stop!’

Many of us will not want to admit to this but if you really think about it , if you are really honest with yourself – you do this. We struggle to be gracious to people when we know a lot of the truth about them and their life. it makes it difficult for us.

Yet…

He sees and knows the truth about you fully, yet he fully extends grace. What you have done, what you are doing and what you are going to do.

We have access to one hundred per cent grace in spite of the the truth about us. How often do we offer the same to those around us?

  • How often have we focussed on the journey that someone has made instead of the mistake?
  • How often have we given someone hope – ‘It doesn’t have to be what it is’ instead of ‘It is what it is’
  • How often have we in spite of knowing the truth – offered grace

My guess is not too often, my guess is like me you have read those questions and they have made you think, maybe they have convicted you.

So what now?

As you have read this post has a name come to mind? Has a recent encounter come to mind?

To my friends and those who read this:

I want to say, I am sorry for the times I have said “It is what is.’ when I should have said ‘It doesn’t have to be what it is.’

I am sorry for the times that I have let the truths I have known about you cloud my ability to show you grace.

I want you to know that just like me you are not who you should be but you are not who you used to be.

I want to be a ‘what it could be.’ friend

I want to socially and relationally function full of grace and truth.

And… when I get it wrong, I hope there will be grace there for me.

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?

We are called to love…

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Have read a lot of Adrian Plass recently. Completely compelling writing, tongue in cheek at times but also quite pointed. Has made me think a lot about Christianity and church.

‘The Church’ to the outside world is often viewed as a place full of pious, out of touch people who closet themselves away on a Sunday, sing hymns and feel that they are superior to everyone else.
TV does little to dispel this myth. Have seen a couple of dramas recently where the Christian character comes across as a ‘weirdo’. One of the most high profile churches in the media is Westboro Baptist known for their messages of hatred.

Church in reality is very different. I tweeted on Sunday that I had really enjoyed church because it felt like family. Now when we consider the word family, we think of different generations, personalities, characters etc who all get together and spend time together because they are related. For me, church is the same, I spend time with people of different ages to me. I love the fact that my friends would not be considered my peer group. I have learnt so much and been really supported by having friends of different ages. This is something that is often missed out on.

Also, like family there are times you fall out, people get on your nerves and it can be strained but ultimately what unites us is so much stronger than that. There is a shared mutual love and support and an inbuilt support system when things are tough.

Sometimes we get things wrong and that is because we are all broken, messy people. We don’t have it all together but we do have each other and recognise that we are better together than we are apart.

It is not an exclusive club it is an inclusive club.

Sadly, many people will not set foot in a church because of misconception, because of the message that has often been heard, because of silence when there should have been words.

Ultimately we are called to love and we all need to get that little bit better at doing just that.

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.

Finally Friday

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Today, I went to work dressed a pirate. Children in Need, meant that we had a fancy dress day. The students gave me an A for effort and it caused a lot of amusement.

I then spent the next four hours hiding away in the meeting room, with the HLTA, writing medium term plans for our new curriculum. I had the radio on and they were playing Christmas songs, plus I was sat in a Tri corner hat with red feather edging. It was a surreal day to say the least.

Being in Ofsted ready mode is taking its toll. There is so much that needs to be in place, paperwork that needs updating, plans that need adapting, new courses that we are implementing. It feels never ending.

Today, I felt I could breathe and it was also acknowledged what I have been doing and that I am making good progress. Extra support has been put in place in terms of time and resources and I feel we are getting somewhere.

Next week, I am only in for two days, I am visiting our primary school to observe students who will be joining us in September and then on Read Write Inc training. My week will be quite disjointed and I am not sure how that makes me feel.

Sometimes, I think I am the only person who can’t switch off. My mind is like a constant treadmill.

Tonight, is Friday night. I finished reading WarHorse for book club a couple of hours ago. I am looking forward to a few glasses of wine and a good discussion with friends. This will put me more at ease, help me to transition into the weekend. Help me to relax.

Our Internet is fixed, so we are back connected to the world.

The John Lewis Chrsitmas advert has just been on and set me off again, have already cried my eyes out reading WarHorse.

I am definitely on a journey to be more accepting of myself, my emotional nature, my quirks. I need to learn to let things go, to pause, to rest.

Thankfully, I know that He who began a good work in me, will carry it on to completion.
I have the weekend to spend with those who nourish me, support me, remind me that the me I so often beat myself up about being is the me that they love.

Have a great weekend.

Tonight I am thankful

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Today, I spent some time in the office, managed to get some paperwork done and had some positive conversations.

I realised how little I do it, as when I went to do my lunch duty the students exclaimed ‘Miss! We haven’t seen you all day!’

There have been a lot of good moments today. I have spent a lot of time laughing with the students, talking to them, listening to one of them in crisis, allowing them to vent and then bringing them back to a point of being able to smile.

I think my students are the best people I know, they teach me so much about myself and about life and what is important.

After work, we visited some friends. It was a proper catch up and really good for the soul. We chatted and prayed for each other. It is great to be able to share my worries and the things I am struggling with.There is something releasing about talking it out.

We were then asked to be godparents, one of the best moments of my life. I am completely overwhelmed and touched.

Tonight I feel refreshed, renewed and full of purpose.

Tonight I am so thankful.

Over and Above

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Yesterday, We drove back from our holiday. Over six hours in the car and we didn’t want to kill each other, I am sure that is some kind of record!

We had barely been back when I received a text inviting us out for dinner. After a week away we were ready for a catch up with friends. We went to a pub for a meal and drinks.

Mistakes were made with our order, the starter turned up cold which when it is baked cheese is not good. However, instead of the usual apology, we received a new starter, free cocktail and free bottle of wine (not just the house wine either) this was a huge gesture in my eyes. Yes, you can say they were hoping for return custom and saving reputation but despite that, for me it was over and above.

I started thinking about the concept of going over and above and I was trying to remember when I last did that for someone and I was found wanting. Don’t get me wrong, I help people out, encourage people and like to think that I am a good friend, but I have been a little minimalist recently I feel.

It is easy isn’t it when you aren’t to happy with yourself to start making excuses, I have been busy at work, my health hasn’t been so good recently, I don’t have time etc…

The thing is, it doesn’t wash with me. Those things will often be true in my life, if I wait for a time when I am not busy, or fully healthy or feeling rested then I have a feeling it will never come.

It brings me back to the word sacrifice. Quite strong isn’t it? Not one we like to think of, seems extreme like it belongs in a super hero or action film.

The thing is, I think there needs to be more of it. Not in the sense of performing sacrifices or anything macabre like that but in terms of people making sacrifices for others.

When was the last time you went over and above?

What about your friend who has been on the quiet side recently, have you text them? Called? Made attempts to find out why?

What about those on the fringes of your social group or without family close by? Have you invited them for a meal? To the pub? Cinema? Coffee?

I am of course talking to myself as much as anyone else here.

It is so easy to become cocooned, to be closeted in our own little world. Maintaining surface relationships, doing the bare minimum. Is it satisfying? Short term probably. Long term I am not sure.

I am setting myself a challenge over the next few weeks, before Christmas, to go over and above more often. To go out of my way to do things for people. To stop hiding in my cocoon.

I don’t know how it will turn out, but that isn’t a reason not to try.

So who wants to join me?

Hiding from silence

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When was the last time that you experienced silence? I mean, no talking, no TV, no Internet, no phone -no noise? Maybe when you were asleep? Did you check your phone the moment you woke up?

Sounds ridiculous when it is said out loud, how much time we spend surrounded by noise.

We watch films instead of reading books, we send tweets instead of having a conversation, we write a blog rather than a diary. Convenience, the need to be occupied, the idea of a 24/7 society.

There are of course positives of this, being able to communicate with people on the other side of the world, being more aware of situations in other countries, being able to share resources to name but a few.

What about the negatives? What about the relationships that are being eroded in real life because we invest so much time online? What about the fact we spend more time staring at a screen than looking at someone during a face to face conversation.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that you cannot develop meaningful friendships online but should they involve the a sacrifice of ¬†relationships with family and friends?

I honestly can’t remember the last time I had a phone conversation that was longer than about ten minutes. Text messages have become the norm – they are quicker, faster, more convenient.

I am currently on holiday, miles away from home. Taking a break from the busyness, the noise.
Yes, I am still using social media, yes I am still blogging but, I am having longer periods of quiet, of silence. Going for walks, sitting and looking at scenery. Listening to the wind blow leaves from the trees, watching the sunlight catch across the windowpane.

Moments without noise. I have also been reading books, in silence, without the television or radio on as accompaniment as is my usual habit. This habit grew out of finding silence scary.

At a recent conference I went to #CNMAC12 @digitalnun said that ‘Silence can be scary but it can also be healing.’

This concept really stuck with me and made me honestly think and question how much time I spent hiding from silence in noise and why I was hiding from it?

For me, it was fear. Fear of silence. The inability to be still. The frightening concept of being alone with my thoughts.

The thing is, if we are never alone with our thoughts then we begin to lose an essential part of who we are. We begin to fill ourselves full of the noise, ideas and opinions that are all around us and fail to take the time to develop our own. We lose our sense of creativity. We lose the essence of us.

Silence can be healing, it can be the opportunity to get back to who we really are, to remove all the additions, to remove all the distractions and just to be. To sit with our thoughts.

Are you hiding from the silence?

Overcoming

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I have just finished watching the film ‘Soul surfer’ the story of Bethany Hamilton. She lost an arm in a shark attack and yet still became a professional surfer.

One of the main themes of the film is that of overcoming.

It got me thinking about overcoming and that throughout life each of us is attempting to overcome something.

It may not be as extreme as a shark attack but it may be overcoming an obstacle, overcoming our own fears, overcoming our past, overcoming a health issue, financial issues, redundancy, bereavement.

Today, I think there are people who will read this post and it will strike a chord. To those people, I want you to know that you are not alone.

We are all striving, we are all working on something, battling something, we are all imperfect.

Let’s stop pretending. Let’s stop answering ‘I’m fine’ when it isn’t true. I am not condoning pity parties but simply asking that we talk more.

There are numerous times when the right words from someone have turned my whole day around.

Who should you be talking to?
Who could you be listening to?

When my obstacles seek to overwhelm me, when I begin to lose hope, I lift my eyes to one who is greater than all of those things.

To those who are overcoming – my prayers are with you today.

‘In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’ John 16:33