Don’t Let Comparison Kill You!

The Braids

An excerpt from ‘Moments On Mothering’ – Reflective inspiration from one mother to another

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I often must sacrifice my own needs and desires for the purpose of giving my children what they need and modelling for them the depths of Christ’s love – Sally Clarkson

I was recently scanning Instagram – I like to read the ‘bio’s’ which tend to reveal what you’d like the world to know about you, to draw you in and win you to their world. Leave it blank, quote Mother Teresa or form a mini Curriculum Vitae – it all speaks. I came across one mother somewhere across the globe who was adamant that she wasn’t going to post ‘pretty pictures of folded laundry’ and luscious lavender trailing across her deck; neither was she going to quote ‘dead people’ but she was going to reveal her #reallife. The thing about that is that I can just look up and see my piles of dishes, unmade beds and unbrushed heads. I can smell the reality of my occasional unkempt life every time someone opens the fridge (it’s no.2 on my ‘to do’ list: clean out fridge) but I use Instagram because I am.

I am who I am – I’m a beauty seeker and treasure keeper; whether that’s in the form of a photo, a quote, a pine cone or a pre-loved coffee cup; I need these layers of simplicity to form in the quiet of my soul. Laundry will always be with us but that sunset that swept you away, that look of elation on your 4 year old’s face when the first snow fell and the page of that book that rocked your world, yes – I’m all about that. I’m all about celebrating the small, the seemingly insignificant; a well-crafted web of words, written or read that forms like a wax seal upon the envelope of another ‘normal’ day.

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We talk about ‘real’ and being authentic; we shout about our messy lives as if we have to prove to each other that these things exist – but mama I know. My day is filled with cleaning up spills, managing their (my) emotions, cleaning up dog mess from the yard, fighting off the temptation to scroll the day away on my phone, playing catch up and recovering from the repercussions of not finishing my ‘to do’ list last week! Yep, I’m there – I know it and I live it.

I am who I am – I’m a beauty seeker and treasure keeper; whether that’s in the form of a photo, a quote, a pine cone or a pre-loved coffee cup; I need these layers of simplicity to form in the quiet of my soul

The fact that I bare my soul through a book and a tea cup is a moment’s glimpse of treasure amongst a measure, of normal and beautiful…I’m not running away from being dutiful.

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My daughters and I have long hair; my eldest daughter likes to show me fancy braids on YouTube and we bumble along attempting to recreate them to some success. I was admiring (following, stalking – call it what you will) a displayer of braids from across the social media airwaves over a period of time and was quite abruptly stopped in my tracks and was shocked by what I discovered; her beautiful, long, blonde, thick, luscious, always looking fabulous locks were FAKE!! I trawled and discovered a video of her attaching her magnificent mane to a pretty average mop and naively sat there with my mouth open yelping “Nyah her hair is fake”, to which she obviously replied “yes Mum, how could you not know?”, to which I replied (mostly to Nyah but somewhat to said YouTuber) “but mine is real”. It’s sometimes messy and thrown up into a top knot, it’s sometimes blow dried and carefully curled, it generally gets in the way. But it’s real.

Mess is real and so is beauty. Unkempt and cluttered is real and yet so is neat and complete.

My favourite social scientist, awesome TED talker and shame researcher Brene Brown says “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it” and we run so much don’t we? We hear our songs in other musicians lyrics, we read our stories in other writers pages, we gaze upon art that came from our heart but we stay in the shadows, hiding under labels of ‘it’s all been done, said, painted or created before’ – but you, you have never been seen. It’s time to get our authentic selves out from under the duvet and step forward as it’s your time too.

We all have a story worthy of being told.

It’s time to stop being afraid of what might be and what could be and who you think you should be. Between the gaps of school runs, chopping onions and polishing taps there’s a dreamer. You’re pushing buggies and forming melodies and imagining words on a page or colours on a canvas or feet gently choreographed in movement to move people and lives and hearts. And if there’s time for this, there’s time for that.

That idea you can’t shake, that recipe you’re pining to bake is real and true. It’s you.

There’s so much of ‘us’ that we set aside for a time, especially in early motherhood, which is good and right because it’s all about sleep reserving and flying mushed food swerving. But stop looking longingly at that woman who’s creating and helping and doing and walking and see yourself as alive and able to do and be, at the right time; authentically and fully. Be you.

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So next time you’re scrolling and aching over a picture of perfectly folded floral napkins or a well kempt 3 year old wearing a floating dress and cute laced boots;  when you click onto Instagram tomorrow and she’s all over it again with her beach views and pastel hues – celebrate with her. That mama has carved some time out of her life just like yours to take a picture, savour a moment and share it with you.

Doesn’t that change our perspective? She’s not trying to portray perfection – she’s choosing a selection of important moments or creations that will mark her life and make her smile.

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Want to read more? Go over to Amazon and download your copy today; don’t miss the great $2.99 (£2.12) sale on now!

 

Truth Around The Table – More On The Morning Gathering

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“Every morning was a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal simplicity, and I may say innocence, with Nature herself.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Yesterday on The Charlotte Mason Show I shared about the power of short lessons as well as the our morning home school routine otherwise known as ‘Boden’s assemble’, ‘morning basket’ or ‘morning time’!

Periscope is wonderful and crazy all at the same time (especially when there’s a 5-year-old climbing all over you and trying to drink your tea whilst you’re broadcasting) and as I jumped off I realised I hadn’t said some of the most poignant thoughts I had about this daily ritual!

So, go ahead and watch the (long) replay but here are a few thoughts about beautiful life around the table…

Despite our every day morning intentions to gather before anything else starts, life happens right? I’ve found the habit of table time is a great way to reset the day if all is not going to plan; if meltdowns are occurring, motivation is low, fights are breaking out – I stick the kettle on, make a pot of tea, grab a snack and gather my children around the scribbled on, much-loved dining room table and say/read/(shout)/pray something!

Our dining room table gatherings are a place of education, rejuvenation and reconciliation

Education

Great books, poetry, theology, ideas, conversation, debate and heart-felt prayer are all thrown around during our morning gathering. Give a wiggly child a notebook, a pot of pencils and a snack and you’ve got their attention…for at least 10 minutes (wink)!

Don’t underestimate meal conversations and narrations about their day – so much of our children’s learning comes from their experiences around the table with family, make it count!

Rejuvenation

I find the table a great place for anxious children to breathe, over achieving children to take a break (!) and an overwhelmed mama to draw the children close and take stock of their work that day. As well as feeding their tummies, we’re feeding their precious souls.

Bring JOY to the table mama and make sure it’s a place of refreshing for everyone, not stress!

Choose your battles –  your three year old will try broccoli eventually, just maybe not today, and that’s ok!

Reconciliation

Our children need to see repentance and forgiveness in action to really grasp that it really is more than muttering ‘sorry’ through gritted teeth! The gospel is raw and real and we ALL need a saviour; let’s show and tell our children this reality.

I find if I’ve had a breakdown with a child or kids have been fighting I can gather them around the table, speak peace into the situation and reconcile our family before we move on; there’s a table between us, possibly a warm drink and we can breathe, talk and create space to see what we did/said and fully forgive.

So the next time you’re sweeping the food littered floor for the third time that day or doing another pile of dishes; remember the chatter and satisfied tums, remember that smile between siblings, remember that amazing question and discussion that followed and take heart – your table is a place of transformation and truth, keep up the good work mama!

Your table is a place of transformation and truth

My Year Of Paying Attention!

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To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work – Mary Oliver

Happy New Year to all those who spare a moment to click across to my space here on the big wide web; I appreciate your support, encouragement and friendship, both spoken loudly in real life or quietly whispered through your comments.

I pray that you’re able to embrace 2016 with hope and expectation; may it be a year of great opportunity, boundless strength and abundant joy!

You crown the year with a bountiful harvest; even the hard pathways overflow with abundance.
Psalm 65:11

I generally face the new year with scribbled notes, quiet contemplation and a spider diagram of how I envision this coming year to look. This year is no exception; I’m busy goal setting and schedule planning to boost the beginning of what will be a great year. I’ve often approached a new year with a specific word or scripture that has delicately marked my path; but this year I’m naming my year, a bit like a banner perpetually hanging over the days and weeks to come. I find that intentionally naming your year, after prayer and process, is an incredible prophetic declaration covering the next 365 6 days of opportunity.

So, 2016 will be my year of ‘paying attention’ – I will be paying attention to my God-given:

  • Passions
  • People
  • Places
  • Pursuits

I’m still processing the details of these; but I’m more and more aware that focus isn’t just honing in on one small space, but it’s more often the art of taking away what shouldn’t be there. I want to pay attention to what God has placed in my path in this season; I want to be content to emerge strong out of that place and establish rich ground for each of these areas of my life, some of that might be practicing the discipline of saying ‘no’ or even moving things out of the room for a while ever.

When we pay attention to something it grows and flourishes; the small things become the big things and the insignificant become magnificent.

I want to focus my attention and set my affection on Jesus – He leads me into all truth and that’s what my heart desires most.

So, have you named your year? What’s the banner over 2016 for you?

 

Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it. – Mary Oliver

 

The Power Of Atmosphere

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“Without atmosphere a painting is nothing.”
― Rembrandt

We’ve all heard the phrase ‘more things are caught, not taught’, but we forget it so often in our parenting, educating and home making. Atmosphere is a powerful tool when building a home and raising children.

I wasn’t home educated, and actually I don’t have many stand-out memories from school, it just kind of happened (and it got me through), but I do remember my home life fondly. I particularly remember the spiritual atmosphere of our home.

I remember seasons of my parents being particularly intentional with their ‘teaching’ us about the bible and gathering the family for prayer or worship but what has marked my heart and mind was the atmosphere of our home and our life together. I loved waking up to worship music gently playing in the dining room as my Dad was making porridge and preparing for work. The sound of my mum singing around the house and thanking God for every bargain we came across or gap in a busy road will ever be in my mind and now my practice. There wasn’t a split second after the mention of illness or talk of losing an important school book around the house when they didn’t say ‘let’s pray about it’. If any of us happened to wake before our parents got out of bed and creep into their room, you could guarantee you’d be greeted by my joyful mother sat in bed, sipping tea and reading her bible. If my Dad’s study door was closed we knew he was having his ‘quiet time’; his devotion to daily connecting with God has impacted my life greatly.

My family had a very open home to hospitality; if we had room and someone needed one then we welcomed them in, and they became part of the family! My mum was and still is great at sharing whatever is in the cupboard, whether little or plenty, it will always stretch. She’s renowned for saying ‘even if it’s just jam and bread you can share it’. In a pinterest culture where we’re so blinded by perfect meals and pristine homes we need a bit more of this ‘jam and bread’ attitude in our lives!

Life wasn’t perfect but it was safe, our home wasn’t always quiet but it was peaceful.

In the midst of so much intentional teaching and training in my home educating days with my children I am daily challenged to keep check on what they may be gleaning from the patterns of my life and the rhythms of my day ( and the volume of my voice)!

We need more faces than phones, more music than mayhem, more prayer than panic and when we’re drowning under the daily dire – we need to be anchored in devotion.

Our hearts are the catalyst for the rhythm of our homes; what’s in there will spill out into our work, our speech and our activity.

Maybe it’s time to examine our hearts?

Christmas is a perfect time to create beauty, pace and an atmosphere that will be remembered – why not start today, make peace and form memories than some day your children may blog about (wink).

Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life – Charlotte Mason

A Reflection On Rest

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“Rest and be thankful.”
― William Wordsworth

I am totally your classic ‘always something to do’ gal; I would have been your nightmare manager at McDonald’s (never actually worked there…I was a Pizza Hut waitress through my university days though) singing gleefully on an early shift ‘if you’ve got time to lean, you’ve got time to clean’ and all that – I’m a little exhausted just thinking about it! My University friend, Claire, would despair at me for never being able to relax and watch a film unless I was doing something else; writing a letter, writing in a journal, making my life goals etc.

A few weeks ago my son, Micah said “Mum, please come and sit with me and watch a film…and DON’T bring your book”. I laughed (cried a little inside) and met his request; we snuggled under a big Mexican blanket (which of course invites other little ones…and the dog) and melted into a film together. After a while Dave appeared at the door after being out, with a look of shock and awe on his face and said “wow, Mum is watching a film with you”!

Okay, okay – it’s not quite my jam to sit and watch any old film,  I really don’t like T.V and I am very intentional with my time – but I have had to learn to add into the baseline (and schedule) of my life a rhythm of rest.

And before you start to feel really sorry for my kids and plan to whip them off to the movies without me; I am with them 24/7 people! We sit with piles of books, we linger over tea and conversation at the table, we walk together and I hold them, kiss their little Boden faces and tell them emphatically that I love them many times a day!

BUT, I am learning to rest on their terms at times. We have a such a mulch of personalities and love languages in our home (moi: INFJ, Acts of service and time come out pretty high on my love tank needs) and as much as I need to be energised and fueled for life, so do my family – with me in the mix!

A few times a week I like to bring them over to my side (insert evil laugh); twice this weekend I planted myself sprawled full length on the sofa with Big Magic in hand and shouted ‘it’s quiet (book) time’! My 4-year-old grabbed a couple of Donaldson classics and found a nook between my body and the sofa we were on and wedged herself in; the dog snuggled on my feet, my husband read the newspaper, my (almost) teen flicked through Spotify on my Kindle Fire to plan her birthday playlist and while Joel napped upstairs Micah adventured through his favourite dinosaur book. I could hear a gentle hum of a child, the flicking of pages, the deep inhale and exhale of a black Bassadore heavy on my feet.

The left-overs remained on the table for a little longer, the dishes were piled up in the kitchen and who knows if anyone had clean underwear for tomorrow; that moment, right there is where I was fully present.

Over the top of Micah’s hum and Sienna’s quiet recitation of ‘The Gruffalo’, I looked up at my husband and said “this is a thousand times better than watching T.V”.

And it was.

Podcasts And Periscope – My Top 5 Picks!

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My personal hobbies are reading, listening to music, and silence. – Edith Sitwell

So I’m a stickler for using my time well, you know the vibe; if you’re doing dishes you can listen to an audio book, if you’re doing your hair and makeup you can listen/watch a periscope video, if you’re driving you can listen to a podcast or your favourite preacher! Yep, I’m all over this, everyday!

If you saw my post last week you’ll know I use audio books, I’ll keep that list updated every month, but I’m not including that info in this post!

So here are my top 5 listening loves right now:

Podcasts

 1.  Read-Aloud Revival

This podcast is all about building your family culture around books. This is not just for home educators although the host does homeschool her children she’s careful to be inclusive in her questions and content.

Two of my favourites are her interview with Susan Wise Bauer and her lovely chat with Sarah Clarkson from Storyformed – check it out book fans!

2.  On Being with Krista Tippett

On Being is a Peabody Award-winning public radio conversation and podcast, a Webby Award-winning website and online exploration, a publisher and public event convener. On Being opens up the animating questions at the center of human life: What does it mean to be human, and how do we want to live? We explore these questions in their richness and complexity in 21st-century lives and endeavors. We pursue wisdom and moral imagination as much as knowledge; we esteem nuance and poetry as much as fact. 

I just LOVE this podcast and I feel like I’m passing on a treasure by sharing it with you but it’s too good to keep to myself (smile). These conversations that accompany me whilst cleaning my kitchen and doing my dishes feed my poetic soul, stretch my capacity for language and constantly remind me why I took sociology at University! I also love this conversational style of broadcasting and I try to emulate it in my small community radio show. Two of my favourites are her treasured interview with poet Mary Oliver on ‘listening to the world’ and her inspiring conversation with Mary Catherine Bateson on ‘composing a life.’

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3.  Charlotte Gambill

“So much of the growth we could have had is lost because of the people we feared, or the opinions we allowed to redirect us.”
― Charlotte Gambill, The Miracle in the Middle: Finding God’s Voice in the Void

I love Charlotte; she’s a Yorkshire girl doing it large for Jesus! We both started life in the same church in Bradford many moons ago, and she’s now Senior Pastor at Life Church with her husband Steve. I like her down-to-earth style, her straight from The Word content and her lovely, lively personality.

She’s a mother, author and a mighty fine preacher – I learn from her style, her content and her leadership.

Here she is in action if you want to take a look! You can find lots on YouTube of course; there’s no regular pattern to her content on the web but I keep an eye out most weeks.

Periscope

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but live video can take you someplace and show you around.

So, if you haven’t discovered it yet, Periscope is the new phenomenon launched this past summer that has just gone wild! Periscope is a new live stream video app linked with Twitter that allows you to do live broadcasts about anything you want! I tried to start broadcasting myself but either my android phone or my home wi-fi doesn’t like it and it has been unsuccessful, but I can still watch them!

I don’t give Periscope a lot of time and I only watch scopes that have good content and are worth my time; so here are two I watch regularly:

4.  Money Saving Mom (Crystal Paine) – this is linked to her Katch account so you can catch up on her scopes.

Crystal is a mother, home educator, author and successful business woman; I’ve actually been reading her blog for around 10 years but only recently has she sprung to ‘success’ and I’m cheering her on. Her scopes talk about blogging, business, time management and book reviews – so right up my street!

5.  Chalene Johnson

Chalene is a fun, inspiring entrepreneur and business woman. She’s a leader, amazing communicator and a forerunner in the fitness industry! I find her motivating; her content isn’t always what I need so I don’t check in every day but there are generally a few a week that have really helpful content around ‘getting it done’ that relates to me right now!

There are a few more podcasts that I’m trying out at the moment but haven’t heard enough to put them on my fav’s list, but I am enjoying them…I’ll keep you posted!

I’d love to hear from you, who are you listening to at the moment?