Don’t Let Comparison Kill You!

The Braids

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

MARCH 18 NATURE WALK 116

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.

Morning Time 009

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.

IMG_20151130_085408

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.

20151121_122841

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.

Screenshot_2015-10-27-08-18-40-1

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!

 

They’re Watching You!

 

October nauture study 008

Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you – Robert Fulgham

 

The following post is an excerpt from ‘Moments on mothering

Who we are and what we say, what we do and how we play out our lives is really important to our children. Every day we influence and greatly impact the little lives in our homes and hearts – but often without even realising the longevity of our loving leadership.

A big part of my life is spent facilitating my children’s learning. We’ve been home educating for almost 9 years and my greatest thrill is seeing my children thrive in their learning, especially when we’re ‘off the clock’. I’m a huge lover of nature study; I frequently point out beauty with authentic awe and wonder on any journey; from picking up milk from the corner shop to a family hike in the Warwickshire countryside.  One of my greatest learning influences is an 18th century educator called Charlotte Mason, she put great emphasis (as many have done since her) on children spending lots of time outside; observing God’s incredible creation and making their own connection with what they see.

October nauture study 016

I can often teach and share life with my children but with very little immediate feedback, and then just like that your 18 month old wanders out into the garden and by using baby sign language tells you there’s a ‘bird’ whilst she watches the sparrows tap for worms on the lawn. And just last night I was out in the car with Nyah; she stopped me mid conversation and said “mum, look at the moon; it’s majestic”. It’s not merely that we suggest to our children what’s important to observe and commentate on, but we do it ourselves; we live it, we breathe it, we experience it and they see all.

And what if we saw all of life this way, what if we saw mothering as a plethora of perception, a nullah of noticing and a flowing river of recognition; how we live our life is how they will live theirs. Their lives may take on a different shape, but an oval is just a circle slightly squashed right? We can’t get away from the fact that our children will end up a lot like us.

12th Aug 2015 045

 

The hard thing is seeing the reality of our frailties and imperfection when we were hoping for momentary deflection. But hiding isn’t an option and neither is sitting on that pedestal. Our children need truth telling and wholehearted dwelling. They need to see conflict and wrong actions forgiven. They need blatant veracity and loving tenacity knowing that real is the raw deal but it’s within our capacity to feel and to heal.

I tell my children that I’m hopelessly flawed, very much human and I ask for forgiveness, regularly. The scandal of grace is in my face, every day and I drink it in. There’s no shame in taking the blame for what they do and say, but we have to be quick to forgive ourselves and remember tomorrow is another day.

Robert Fulghum said “Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you”; and as much as I endeavour to daily win my children’s hearts through what I say and what I do, they certainly don’t miss a thing.

Your life and choices are important to your children’s day dreams and life schemes, so you’d better watch your back mama, they’re watching you!

 

Screenshot_2015-10-27-08-18-40-1
Moments On Mothering – Reflective inspiration from one mother to another by Leah Boden

The Power Of Atmosphere

20151207_150732

“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

To The Mentees And The Mothers – An Open Letter

Screenshot_2015-11-27-14-54-59-1

If I could have, I would have hand written this note to all of  you with a fine writer and had it posted to your house. Here’s the next best thing.

Dear ones,

Thank you for believing that my journey is worth something, thank you for believing that by taking pieces of my story, it will help yours. Some of the pieces that glisten now were once broken and dull; Jesus has taken them into his wondrous workshop and spent time on them. You’re welcome to those too.

I want to remind you that you’re doing an incredible job, your children play, laugh, come to you for comfort and delight in the joy they bring you. I saw how you smiled at your son and your heart brimmed with love afresh; I know that look, I’ve felt it too. I love how you hold your 6 month old close, wrapped into your body – but I know you cry because some things aren’t perfect.

I’ve loved watching your journey, listened to you talk about the books you’ve read, the people who inspire you, the patterns you want to follow. I cried when I’ve heard of your pain, the loss of  a promise into the ‘old-familiar’ of a hospital where they see it everyday, but to you (and I) it was your baby and you have to wait for heavens hallelujah to embrace that child again. I remember seeing your face, being brave, but swirling inside. I know that feeling. I’ve felt it.

I know you feel you haven’t made the best choices, the right turns or danced to the same beat as your peers. But God. His redemption is now. His mercies are new today. Your strength is renewed in this moment. He is the God of fresh starts, I thank Him for that everyday.

And I hold your baby, giggle with your toddler, tease your teen because they are an extension of you and that is a sign and a wonder. I see the power of your prayers and the torment of the tears you have sown into this week and I praise God for the fruit of your toil, your labour and your longing. The years don’t go so fast when you live them fully. When we’re present in our children’s lives we live every moment.

That can be exhausting. That can be exhilarating.

I know you feel lonely at times. Sometimes even I miss that look amongst the crowd of masked faces. I like it when you take yours off and tell me. And we cry messy tears and make plans to make it better.

There are many inspired moments and methods and ways to do this and that, but I have to show you Jesus, He is the WAY.

There are many stories and successes and picture of grace and beauty; but I have to teach you through His Word. He is the TRUTH.

There are many elaborate celebrations, well-timed snapshots of light, life and creative callings, but life is the stuff we live between the clicking of the camera. Life is what I want to show you. He is the LIFE.

If my journey ever shows you the way, leads you into truth or draws life from your bones, it’s all because of Jesus.

There’s no such thing as super mum.

Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. James 1:17

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Brave And Beautiful Act Of Asking For Help

12th Aug 2015 021

Every woman must and will walk her own journey of motherhood treading carefully in faith and fragility

 

Micah was three weeks old when the excruciating pains in my body left me doubled over; just as I was beginning to recover and my womb had reduced back to that pear-like shape that the Miriam Stoppard books so beautifully describes. The bleeding and the after pain and the walking like John Wayne had diminished and then I got ill. It was a summer’s day; the warm sun was glistening and comforting on my home birthed boy who needed nothing more than a cloth nappy and a sleeveless white vest showing off his kissable arms. I traipsed my three children to numbing doctor’s appointments, chemists, blood test clinics yet no one seemed to know what was going on. I finally called in the cavalry; my mother-in-law held down the fort downstairs whilst I slept, held my stomach and cried between feeding intervals when she would bring Micah upstairs so I could nourish my son. What would be my final trip up to my doctor’s surgery with my brood resulted in two doctors trying to convince this super-woman-being-so-stubborn mother to go.to.hospital. My infection levels were really sky rocketing and my doctor commented on my obvious high pain threshold and said I shouldn’t have even been walking. I called Dave at work and all fell into place; like it should when we let go.

12th Aug 2015 043

I was admitted to a private room at the local hospital with a transparent cot by my side so Micah could stay with me; the interns and student doctors and consultants busily researched the appropriate antibiotics for a breastfeeding mother who refused to ‘pump and dump’ and with a final diagnosis of a major kidney infection (mostly major due to the fact they discovered one of my kidneys has been non-functioning since birth) I was cared for, medicated, hydrated and after two nights sent on my way to heal but mostly to realise that it’s ok to not be ok.

Authentic, wholehearted parenting means being exactly that – authentically you. Every woman must and will walk her own journey of motherhood treading carefully in faith and fragility. It’s that perfect place to be able to believe in ourselves and our ability to raise our children but being free to sing of our imperfections and ask for help when we need it.

12th Aug 2015 039

Let vulnerability reveal her freeing ways and watch; maybe a community of not-got-it-all-together mothers will gather around you.

You may not have a mother rushing to collect your washing, a neighbour eagerly ready with a casserole and home-baked ciabatta. You may not have sisters to help scrub and clean and de-ice your windscreen but you do have a voice. Let vulnerability reveal her freeing ways and watch; maybe a community of not-got-it-all-together mothers will gather around you.

It really is ok to not have it all together, to not get it right first (or second) time, to be in a mess or not quite know what your next move is. Grace is the forever giving and living hand of God reaching out and saying ‘let’s do this together’; and His grace is infectious and explosive and leaks out of us and makes us like Him. So let’s reach out to each other in heart and words and deeds and let’s ‘do this together’.

This is an excerpt from ‘Moments On Mothering’ – available on Kindle today!

Screenshot_2015-10-27-08-18-40-1

Just Another Day

IMG_20150907_084307

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’

25th October 052

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).

12244542_1135922109802773_8525157761134330296_o

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.

Nyahs 13th Birthday 029

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

IMG_20151020_100116 (1)

“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.

Less Balance And More Crowd Control!

25th October 024

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

Donald Trump

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.

Screenshot_2015-10-17-20-58-14-1

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

IMG_20151019_121330

“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.

IMG_20150915_123302

“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!

IMG_20150903_153733

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:

caught up in a story

Caught up in story by Sarah Clarkson