Just Another Day

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God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning

For some reason the 90’s hit ‘Just another day’ by Jon Secada was on the play list at our local Body Shop in 2002. I was working part-time as a supervisor whilst running a graphic design business with my husband. I loved the rich creams, the poignant fragrances and the free make-over we pretty much got before each shift!  It was early spring when the waves of nausea started, I didn’t so much like the smells then. I remember serving a customer and having to abruptly excuse myself to run up to the staff toilets to, well, you know!

My motherhood journey was beginning right there in the midst of customers, chaos, retail and the rawness of real life. I had to deal with the dire, the delicate and the dream of motherhood amidst the busy world around me.

My introduction to the rhythm of motherhood didn’t come from the bowels of the Body Shop toilet, although it was a big part of it for a while – it came from a change in my womb, in my circumstance and in my life. I fell in love with this kidney bean Boden that was causing disruption to my day. I woke up every day knowing that there would be growth, knowing a new day could mean anything and just maybe this would be the day when I didn’t feel sick!

And these ‘disruptions’ mark our day; from never being able to go the bathroom alone or the little step that gets pulled up in the kitchen as you’re just about to start a ‘quick’ dinner and you hear that voice “I’ll help you mama” or maybe now you’re laying awake in bed late at night waiting for your older teenager to arrive home.

Children change us, they stretch our hearts, homes and pelvic floor muscles to the greatest extent, and only one of those has any hope of returning to its former state (smile). And our days are full of moments; glimpses of wonder that bring a wide smile to any tired mama’s eyes, moments of mayhem when you’re desperately googling ‘how to deal with tantrum’ and moments that bring us to our knees knowing only Father God can help and heal this one.

I’m not sure what your day was like yesterday or what your hopes are for today but my encouragement to you is that it IS a new day. The possibilities are endless and there is always hope. There will be growth, change is inevitable and maybe, just maybe today will be the day when you don’t feel sick.

I love the Italian phrase ‘attraversiamo‘ which means ‘let’s cross over’. Elizabeth Gilbert brought it to our non-Italian attention through her 2006 bestseller ‘Eat, Pray, Love’. It literally means let’s cross over to the other side of the street. Or maybe today for us it means ‘let’s cross over to another day’. Let’s draw a line, not turn back and believe that today can be so much better.

Your strength will be renewed each day like the morning dew – Psalm 110:3

 

Social Media Straight Talk – ‘Advice To My Daughter’

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As a daughter of the king of kings, your purpose is not to turn heads but to turn hearts toward our Heavenly Father.

Today we’re celebrating the 13th birthday of our brilliant and beautiful first born, Nyah Bethia! We’re celebrating the faithfulness of God, the wonder of a daughter journeying into womanhood and the adventure of finally becoming parents to a teenager after working with and investing in young people’s lives for many many years (we love them).

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On Saturday we threw her a party; surrounded her with friends, family and significant women who have journeyed so far with her. We ate cake from vintage plates, took crazy photo’s, danced to an awesome play-list, my friends shared with her what they would say to their 13 year old selves (that was amazing, one to share another day) but more importantly we prayed, we gathered a circle of sisters around her and prayed over her life.

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I’m not going to linger on my blog today, more celebrating to do – but I wanted to share with you 13 bits of advice that my husband wrote for Nyah alongside the log-in details to her first facebook account; it is brilliant advice for for anyone starting up on social media, or for those of us who have been around for a while – check them out:

“Nyah, welcome to Facebook, here is some fatherly advice for you”

1. Real life is always more interesting. Don’t ever miss a moment for a megabyte.

2. When you feel the pressure to go with the flow of the latest cause, charity or viral “do good” thing make sure you don’t just respond for show. If you really care about it, pray, give, serve and DO Something… remember that the first person you can change is yourself.

3. Celebrate life. It is absolutely fine to share what you do and see and think with others. I don’t expect you to only communicate by carrier pigeon.

4. Some of what you see on social media will try to mess with your head. You will feel that nagging voice come in and tempt you to believe you are not enough. You are enough. You are more beautiful than any photo shopped scantily clad fake model. You are more famous to your friends and family because of your kindness and grace than they will ever be because of the fact that they happen to be in the spotlight for 15 minutes. You will be remembered for who you are long after they will be forgotten for what they did.

5. People are very selective about themselves online. Sorry but it is a fact that some downright lie. I don’t just mean the weirdos who make up false identities and try to befriend you. I mean real people. Don’t judge them. You are only ever responsible for yourself. But don’t be misled into thinking that everyone else has it altogether all of the time. You know your dad well enough to know that he might be brilliant at some things, but he falls apart if he can’t find his shoes in the morning. You won’t ever hear about this online (until today).

6. Authenticity is more important than conformity.

7. If someone adds you as a friend on Facebook, make sure you are their friend in real life.

8. Check your privacy settings

9. Before you ever post a status just to get likes or seek attention if you are feeling sad, scared, upset or worried, you might want to come for a hug from your dad first. Seek your father in heaven.
Then see if you still want to post it. Unless you are upset about your dad. In which case talk to mum. Or follow the usual family protocol involving your little sister.

10. Read your bible more than you read blog posts, statuses and twitter comments about God. Check your sources. And try to ask why they might be posting. Sometimes Christians want to sell their ministry, their ideology or their product and event more than they want to encourage you in Christ.

11. Facebook is an amazing way to encourage people and build connections around the world.

12. Don’t post anything online you wouldn’t say in real life or to someone’s face

13. Have a blast. Live your life. You will always be my daughter. I love who you are offline. Be yourself online.

You can find Dave on Twitter here.

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.

Fighting Insecurity – Time to Win!

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I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. Isaiah 41:9-10

It’s time my friends – I’m calling you out on this business of insecurity and the way it’s eating you up inside everyday. Listen up to mama Leah, I’m 40 now so you have to (smile), pull up a chair, let me fill your coffee cup and let’s talk.

I’m going to break this series into 3 parts so we can process together, learn from God’s Word and make some changes that could radically change our lives!

The raging war against comparison and insignificance is seemingly at its peak right now but we’re about to bring it down; I’m fighting for you, I’m praying for you and this will NOT rule you any longer. Life is too short and too precious to be sapped by insecurity; it’s a total waste of time, energy and attention and it has.to.STOP!

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When you stop living your life based on what others think of you real life begins. At that moment, you will finally see the door of self acceptance opened. ― Shannon L. Alder

I could start by telling you that you’re beautiful, you ARE enough and that God loves you just as you are (all of which are true) but your heart and your head has to believe it. Maybe you’re not at your physical peak right now (wink), maybe you’re at the breastfeeding, three months postpartum phase where nothing fits, everything is hanging out, the babymoon has worn off and you’re lucky if you manage to get a shower never mind blow dry your hair! Maybe you’re heartbroken, beaten down or discouraged by very real situations; being told by me that you’re beautiful by me doesn’t quite hit it does it?

But something has to change! You can’t go on avoiding gatherings where other women are present and you instantly feel intimidated, you can’t allow social media to put you in a stinking, bad mood everyday just because you scrolled your way through someone else’s seemingly ‘perfect’ world, you can’t go on gossiping, quietly seething or judging others on the 1% of their life you just so happened to ‘see’. It’s eating you up and it has to end!

Before I go on, let me let you into a secret; Instagram, Facebook and blogs are mostly snippets of life and loveliness in someone’s day. I genuinely don’t believe that these beautiful daily gallery exhibits are trying to tell you ‘I’m perfect’, they’re sharing soul and creating memories. We all face laundry, tantrums, bad hair days and chaos but it’s too ‘normal’ (and slightly boring really) to tell the world about so instead we choose to photograph the morning light catching the edge of our recovery cup of coffee after we’ve dealt with the second tantrum that day, right?

I genuinely don’t believe that these beautiful daily gallery exhibits are trying to tell you ‘I’m perfect’, they’re sharing soul and creating memories.

There are many real and raw issues in my home and daily dire but you know it because you have them too! Once you remember and believe that about ‘Miss IG’ with her crusty homemade bread and tea cups (totally me, I know I know) then maybe we can move on?

You’ve heard it before, ‘comparison is the thief of joy’ which is true but it’s so much more. Insecurity changes who you are because of how you view yourself, which impacts how you see others, and in turn affects how you treat other people; hurt people, hurt people. Fact!

Insecurity changes who you are because of how you view yourself, which impacts how you see others, and in turn affects how you treat other people.

So before we move on into part 2 and 3 with further insight, some bible and a bunch of top tips here’s a question for you:

What would you (and your day) look like if you weren’t struggling with insecurity?  How would you feel? What would you do? How would you be around other people? What would you achieve?

Write down your answers and come back for part 2 next week; we’re going to talk about how to be the ‘Leading Lady’ in your own life!

Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out – Romans 12: 2 (The Message)

Less Balance And More Crowd Control!

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If you’re interested in ‘balancing’ work and pleasure, stop trying to balance them. Instead make your work more pleasurable.

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I’ve never been particularly ‘fitness’ inclined; I did start a gymnastics class when I was a child and achieved a couple of ‘Coca Cola’ badges for my mum to sew onto my leotard (which I proudly annoyingly pronounced ‘Leah-tard’) but I just think the instructors felt sorry for me! I mean why balance on a bar when you can walk around the room?

I still feel the same today; I’m a little more aware of the need to intentionally work-out my body everyday but I’d still rather walk around a room than balance on a bar, a box or a tightrope!

The seasons of our life ebb and flow over the years; some come in like a crashing wave and knock us to the ground, others gently tickle our toes as a reminder things are changing. The problem with ‘finding balance’ in our lives is the need to repeat the wobbly, eyes to your toes bit over and over again. Balance can only last for a few moments, or if you’re really good a bit longer but no matter how great of a acrobat you are, eventually, everyone falls off, or has to get off.

So let’s keep our feet firmly on the ground and eyes fixed on Jesus, let’s assess the space that God has given us; look around the room, have we been invaded by unnecessary responsibilities, have people been ‘fly tipping’ or dumping in our protected area? Or do we just need to rearrange a little?

Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.

Matt 11: 28 – 29

Crowd Control

I am an introvert; I only discovered this in my 30’s which helped me greatly to understand why I felt so exhausted after a big event, party or church gathering. According to the Myers Briggs test I’m an INFJ (Introversion, iNtuition, Feeling and Judging); I can do the loud and the crowd, but only for short spurts of time, only if I can escape of my own accord (with a book – wink), and only if I can energise alone either before or after.

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This is me!

I don’t like being crowded out in any sphere of my life. About 12 years ago Dave and I were doing some exhibition work in London promoting our graphic design company we ran at the time. We had to ride the tube at rush hour to commute to the venue over the few days we were there. I’ve never experienced anything like it and HATED it! Just as you thought the person stood next to you was pressed close enough to your ear the train would stop at another station and a whole new load of people would get on.

Being crowded out is no fun for anyone, infact it becomes dangerous and hence the need at large events for ‘crowd control’.

Maybe it’s time for some crowd control in our lives; stop shoving yourself in the corner and letting the responsibilities of the day suck you up. YOU have responsibility for your own life, own it, lead it and take control again!

Remember, God has brought you to a place of space and you have room to grow, be fruitful and move in the land. He wants you to learn the unforced rhythms of grace; nothing forced, nothing heavy – and you’re not teetering on your tiptoes waiting to fall off; you just need to apply a little crowd control to your space.

“The willingness to show up changes us, It makes us a little braver each time.”
― Brené Brown

 

If you missed last week’s thoughts on ‘balance’ you can read it here.

5 Reasons (or reminders) Why We Should Read Aloud To Our Children

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“Reading aloud with children is known to be the single most important activity for building the knowledge and skills they will eventually require for learning to read.”
― Marilyn Jager Adams

In a time where there are SO many distractions and forms of digital entertainment for our children it’s so easy to drop the beautiful habit of reading aloud. Whether you have babes in arms, preschoolers, homeschoolers or children in full-time school; reading aloud is a gift we give our children, a chance to snuggle up with them and a perfect opportunity to slow down and immerse ourselves in a child’s literary world.

Some of the happiest memories of my childhood were when my beautiful mother would gather myself and my siblings on her bed and she would either read a book or make up an adventure story! The bed would become a flying carpet or a ship at sea; we’d be lost on a desert island or taking flight over sights and scenery that she would describe and that I can still ‘picture’ today.

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“To receive many blessings, read to your children from the womb to the tomb.”
― Joyce Herzog

So here are 5 reasons (or reminders) why we should read aloud to our children:

  1.  Improves Their Long Term Reading Success

Decades of research shows that reading aloud to a child daily is one of the most important activities for their reading success. That goes for older children, too. Studies show that children who are read-to are more likely to have good vocabularies, write well, and do well overall in school . They’re also more likely to keep reading on their own

2.  Helps Expand Their Vocabulary

Your child’s auditory understanding is higher than their reading comprehension. When you pick a difficult book that your kids can’t read on their own, you are exposing them to a treasure chest of new vocabulary words. This stretches a child’s language development, particularly if you stop to talk about the meaning of these harder words.

I encourage my children to write down ‘hard words’ on a piece of paper whilst they are reading, and look them up later; a little habit I picked up from my Dad. Obviously if they can’t understand the story due to said hard word I help them out!

3. Increases Their Imagination And Creativity

When our children have travelled to the country fayre with Wilbur and Charlotte and ‘tasted’ Templeton’s treats, when they’ve ‘smelt’ the Shire and lost themselves in Middle-earth; when you’ve gasped together and cried (that would be me) whilst reading about the life of Bruno and Shmuel the books do their own work in our listeners hearts and imaginations. I finished reading ‘Charlotte’s Web’ to my youngest children over a week ago and they are still playing and crafting games around the characters they’ve fallen in love with!

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4.   It’s Time Spent Together.

Reading time is time when you’re focusing on no one else and nothing else but them. It’s impossible to read to your son or daughter and look at your smart phone or watch TV at the same time! It’s a prime opportunity to slow down, sit down, snuggle up and breath in a book with your children – now, who doesn’t want to do that?!

5.  It Builds Life Skills

It builds listening skills, increases a child’s attention span, and develops the ability to concentrate at length of which all are learned skills.

So where should I Start?

  1. Pick a perfect 15 minute slot every day and create a habit
  2. Pull yourself a book list together; there are some helpful ideas here
  3. Ask your children what they would like to read
  4. Just DO IT! It doesn’t matter if you’re not the best reader or eloquent speaker; you’re creating a bond, amazing memories and instilling life skills into your children!

We have an obligation to read aloud to our children. To read them things they enjoy. To read to them stories we are already tired of. To do the voices, to make it interesting, and not to stop reading to them just because they learn to read to themselves – Neil Gaiman

Want to hear more? Tomorrow morning on my radio show ‘Live With Leah’ I’m interviewing primary school teacher and English subject leader Jenny Jenkins. We’re going to be chatting about the joy of books, reading aloud to our children and how we can encourage this in family life amidst the digital distractions we’re bombarded with!

Check out the show live at 8am (GMT), listen locally on 101.5fm or stream from Radioplus.org.uk.

Connect with us during the show via our Facebook page – tell us where you’re listening from and ask questions to add to our live conversation!

And finally, check out this book for more inspiration:

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Caught up in story by Sarah Clarkson

Finding Balance (dispelling the myth)

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“We are not what we know but what we are willing to learn.”
― Mary Catherine Bateson

So  maybe this is all a matter of semantics, but I’m pretty sensitive when it comes to language; I’m aware of the impact words have on the way we see and live out our very precious lives.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading, research and periscope viewing around issues of time management and organisation; I’m always looking to tweak my methods and shape my very full life more effectively. I’ve become overly aware of the term ‘balance’ and that as women and mothers we somehow have to find it!

When I picture balance I see me walking with a horizontal pole in my hand walking a very fine line (high in the sky) with the possibility of falling off at any one time. That’s not how I want to live my life.

So please excuse me as I process with you and share my developing thoughts on this motherhood ‘myth’ of balance over a couple of blog posts. Are you in?

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As for me, I am in your hands, do with me as you think best – Jeremiah 26:14

I guess I want to change and challenge the language we use; I want us to consider our journey with God in the fact that He brings us to a wide and spacious place to move, dance and shape our lives with our eyes fixed on Him, the author and perfecter of our faith.

…keep on doing what we told you to do to please God, not in a dogged religious plod, but in a living, spirited dance –  1 Thessalonians 4: 1-3

When Isaac was redigging the wells (Gen 26); after many miles, attempts and arguments they finally dug a well without any dispute and Isaac named the well ‘Rehoboth’ and declared “at last the LORD has created enough space for us to prosper in this land.”

God wants you to move, flourish and prosper in His plan for your life; the question is not ‘can I find balance’, the  question is ‘does this fit in my space right now’. Am I bold enough to put down a dream, an aspiration or additional work for a season because it clearly doesn’t not fit in the space God has given me?

Let’s imagine our life as a room; a big beautiful well designed one at that, and place into your room all that you’re working on, involved in and responsible for at this time. How does it feel? Are you squashed mama? Can you move freely in that living, spirited dance? Can you see clearly? No? Then something needs to leave?

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Over my 13 years of mothering I’ve tried to force ‘dreams’ into my space alongside babies, breastfeeding and minimal amounts of sleep; the result? Exhaustion, feeling inconvenienced by normal life and ultimately left me feeling frustrated. In some seasons it took a smack in the face to stop me in my driven tracks and slow down, in others, a gentle reminder from the Holy Spirit of what my priorities were.

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God has expanded my space as my children have got older, yes, I’ve had to rearrange, de-clutter and throw away ‘things’ from my room…but I’m going to tell you more about that next week!

So for now, let’s stop talking about trying to get ‘balance’ – God didn’t intend for your life to feel like a cumbersome package you have to carry whilst tip-toeing along a high-rope. God has brought you today to a wide, open space; a space that you’re able to move in, walk around in and hey even dance in if you dare!

There is more than enough room in my Father’s home – John 14:2