Do Something

My friend and I were talking about some projects that we've both been wanting to start for a while. We both have some time off work at the moment so we want to take the opportunity to explore various ideas we’ve been pondering – the “one day” projects, or “when I have a bit more time” dreams. And yet we have all these fears and questions that can paralyse us: the fear of knowing whether something is God’s will, the fear of knowing which idea to choose and go with, the fear of failure or wasting time. And so the danger is that we’ll both end up not doing anything.

We live in the age of options so we very often get choice overload and decision paralysis. But I'm learning to just pick a route, go with an idea, choose a dream, chase a goal and go for it.

In Deuteronomy 1:6-8, God said to the Israelites "'You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Turn and take your journey" and then goes on to list all of the places where He wants them to go. I wonder how the Israelites felt with the long list of places God was calling them to go: the hill country of the Amorites, the neighboring peoples in the Arabah, in the mountains, in the western foothills, in the Negev and along the coast, to the land of the Canaanites and to Lebanon, as far as the great river, the Euphrates. That list may have been pretty overwhelming for them. Where should they start? Which order should they travel to these places? What if they failed or it was going to be costly? I think often God says the same thing to us – He says "I've given you all of these passions and ideas and gifts and dreams, you've camped out on them long enough, turn and take your journey. Do them all, start somewhere, just move!”

In verse 8, God says “See, I have set the land before you. Go in and take possession of the land”. He doesn’t tell us it’s a road or a path that we can easily veer off and choose the wrong route, he tells us it’s a land, open and vast. God’s will for us is so often a land not a path, a field and not a tightrope. We can explore it and have choices and options – it’s not linear so as long as we’re listening to his voice, to the boundaries and guidelines he gives us in scripture, we have permission to play.

For the Israelites, it was a journey that should've lasted 11 days, but it took them 40 years. I don't want to camp out overwhelmed with all these ideas, and end up 40 years down the line still dawdling and procrastinating, putting off things that would have taken me 11 days.

It all starts with the first step. You have to just start and do something.

Running a marathon was always a "someday" thing. I could barely run 5k but I signed up for the Edinburgh Marathon in the October ready for a May race. I'd always wanted to finish one so I decided to just do something and sign up for one.

Getting a dog was a "someday" thing. We had talked and talked for years about whether we could fit one in to our lives and into our house and what kind of dog we might want. And then we decided to do something and go and visit one at the dog shelter.

Starting a church community was a "someday" thing. As was selling our house and writing and living abroad and vlogging and becoming parents.

After giving myself a good pep talk though, I've started working through the list & am busy initiating some projects that I've wanted to do for a while. Who knows if they'll be fruitful or any good, but I believe that God honours being a faithful steward of the idea, my talents and the time He’s given me.

Community

Over the last few months – we have experienced community at its finest. I'm not sure what the last 7 weeks would have looked like without the support of friends and family who have been helping us and praying for us and keeping our heads above water. Those around us have given us meals and food, walked the dog, done the washing up, helped pack up the house for moving, done food shops, showered us with presents and cards, prayed for us, cleaned the bathroom, folded laundry, given me lifts when I couldn't drive, shared advice, helped teach me to feed and to bath Jasper, hoovered, checked in on me, given Moses baskets, prams, car seats, clothes, baby carriers and generally got me to leave the house and the flurry of laundry and nappies to get some fresh air and have adult conversation. I am so incredibly grateful for the flesh and blood people who have carried me through these weeks and recognise how different life would have been without them. Community has been the unsung hero of this last season.

Sadly, I think community is a dwindling thing today. We are the most connected society ever to exist – I can see what my cousins in Canada are doing at the press of a button, I can FaceTime my friends the other side of the Atlantic, I can share in jokes and banter with colleagues, family and friends continuously throughout the week in whatsapp groups, but there are also a whole bunch of aspects about technology that act as a barrier to connection.

It's not just smart phones and Internet that have isolated us, historically most technological advances have brought with them isolation as machines replace people and automation replaces interaction. Tony Reinke talks about this in his book "12 ways your smart phone is changing you":

Heat – gathering round a fire gave way to central heating, which pushes us to all the corners of a house

News – Gathering together for local news at a pub gave way to the reading of newspapers, creating a paper wall shielding our faces from one another.

Video – The community cinema gave way to a large shared television in each families home, which gave way to portable televisions, and now to personal LED TVs in every bedroom.

Music – attending a live orchestra performance on a Saturday evening was replaced by a stationary phonograph (or record player) in the family room, which was replaced by a large transistor radio, which was replaced by a boombox with open speakers carried on the shoulder, which was replaced by a walk then click to the bout, which was replaced by a tiny iPod clip to the sleeve. Music went from a social community experience to a shared family experience to a private earbud experience

There are a whole load other areas where this is true too – transport evolving from public modes (like steam trains and buses) to personal cars, refrigeration meaning food won't spoil so food can be saved for personal meals instead of inviting others to join the meal to minimise waste. An increasing the technology has led to increased isolation.

Now there are loads of wonderful things that technology has done over the last weeks to build community – an online meal rota that friends put together to help us, sending photos and videos to family in whatsapp groups, friends sending NHS articles or links that might be useful for us – these were helpful and a blessing to us. But they were an extension of community, not a replacement.

I want to get grow in community this year, become a better friend, a more connected family member, more present in the lives of those I love & I want to bless them like they've been a blessing to me over the last weeks. To do that means that I want to be intentional about how I use my phone. I don't want to spend time using it to wander the maze of our friends' and acquaintances' projected identities, navigating what part of myself I want to present. I don't want to use my phone to numb and distract from relationships and people that I'm present with in a room, or to try and impress people with projections of myself that are a little over-generous. I want to use it to make much of Jesus and to to love people. To genuinely connect with family and friends, to have conversations with those far away, send prayer requests, to confirm schedules for meeting up in real life flesh and blood.

Now, I'm not about to throw out my phone. As with anything – knives, marriage, bleach, cars – it can used for good or it can be used for harm. Our job is to use these tools for good, to build God's kingdom and to learn to love a little better through using them.

Bookcases

We are currently taking on the mammoth task of packing up our house to move out: crockery, garden tools, stationary, Christmas decorations, clothes, furniture, photo frames and every other household item a family collects along the way…

This weekend I was packing up our bookshelves and the colossal number of books we appear to have accumulated over our married lives. We have fiction and non fiction, travel guides, business literature, leadership guides, cookery books, gardening manuals and a whole other range of genres. But we also have an awful lot of faith based writings. When I was flicking through all the Christian titles and organising them into their boxes, a thought occurred to me: I hope I’ve spent more time reading the bible than I’ve spent reading through these other Christian resources.

In the Old Testament, the Hebrew people would go to the high priest in order to know the will of God and ask him to atone for their sins– the priest would act as a middleman. But when Christ died on the cross, He tore the veil that separated us from God so we can talk directly to Him. We don’t need a go-between anymore: “For through him we have access to the Father by one Spirit” (Ephesians 2:18). We can draw near with confidence to God’s throne (Hebrews 4:16).

And yet I’ve noticed that we have this tendency to rely on someone else talking to God for us… listening to podcasts or preaches about what God said to the preacher, reading books and blogs about the author’s personal revelations, having someone else pray for us instead of praying for ourselves directly. We seem to default to go-betweens – a pastor, a priest, a king, a mediator, a speaker, an author, a prayer team – content to let someone else do the work and we get the message second hand. We’re not just looking for people to read scripture with us. We’re looking for people to read scripture instead of us. We’re not just looking for people to pray for us. We’re looking for people to pray instead of us. And what happens is, they get mightier and we get lazier – we end up outsourcing our intimacy with God so it exists purely through mediators. It removes our need to be in the Spirit-filled, transforming presence of Jesus.

In the bible, we see the Israelites demand to have a king who can talk to God and do his will, and a note of sadness when God says “They have rejected me from being king over them” (1 Sam 8:7).

I don’t want to reject God as king and outsource my faith through a go-between. Now I’m not about to throw out my boxes of beloved books – these resources serve me well and are good and helpful and useful. But they’re meant to supplement my conversations with God; the times I read the bible or journal or pray. There is a time for asking for prayer and reading the commentary and streaming the preach, but let’s make them an extension of our faith and not the foundation.

New Patterns

This time of year usually signifies the end of one era and the beginning of another. The school year is ending, families are off on holiday, uni students are frantically filling in job applications. For me, a change in season or a break from the usual routine has historically brought with it a slackness in my normal spiritual disciplines – prayer, bible reading, journaling.

I’ve just left the “married – no kids” period where I had lot of quiet, free time and the luxury of extended reading, study and prayer, and am now heading into the “young parent” period where I’ll most likely be time poor – with a newborn, silent and solitary moments are few and far between! I’ve had to be more creative about my spiritual disciplines incorporating them whilst feeding or walking the dog or doing the laundry… And the exciting thing that I wasn’t expecting is that I’m learning to connect with God in different ways.

It’s simply not true that prayer and study and the practices that require long periods of time and quiet are the only activities that count spiritually. If it were, it wipes out the opportunity for spiritual growth for all those with little spare time. I’ve had conversations with new mums who feel like they’re failing in their spiritual life, they feel guilty because they just aren’t able to do these things.

The truth is there are spiritual disciplines for every stage of life – it’s a lie that you can’t nurture your relationship with Jesus over the newborn months or exam season or year end at work. I may not be able to have long study sessions, but I can:

– connect with God in serving Jasper’s needs

– read through the bible whilst feeding

– pray on dogs walks

– fast from something throughout the day to make more space for Jesus (food, social media, TV etc)

– take moments of worship when I’m driving around

– read a verse in the morning and memorise and meditate on it throughout the day

– offer one line prayers of gratitude and pleas for help

– listen to preaches as I do housework

– protect our family sabbath to create space to hear God and enjoy Him

– do bedtime prayers and bible stories with Jasper

…and take moments to generally relish God’s goodness together (I like the idea of saying grace not just before meals, but also as we go on day trips out, or shopping, or before watching films or whatever else we get to enjoy).

John Ortberg says “our season of life – whatever it is – is no barrier to having Christ formed in us. Not in the least. Whatever our season is, it offers it’s own opportunities and challenges for spiritual growth. Instead of wishing we were in another season, we ought to find out what this one offers. Life counts – all of it. Every moment is potentially an opportunity to be guided by God into his way of living”. 

As a new mum, there are new opportunities for growth that haven’t previously been available to me (I don’t have to work for one!). Instead of seeing these months as a barrier to my relationship with God, it’s really an opportunity and invitation to connect with Jesus in new ways. It’s not about the discipline or practice that I do, it’s about taking those moments, however long or short, to allow God to speak to me. And when we create these pockets of time and arrange our days in such a way that we put God back at the centre and respond to his Spirit, God is faithful to meet with us, and bless us, and transform us into his likeness.

My prayer is that for all of us, in every season, we’ll be able to embrace the disciplines and practices that fit our current life stage – whether that’s being a student, on holiday somewhere exotic, with lively toddlers, embarking on retirement, wedding planning or house moving – that we’d maximise the opportunities available and creatively overcome the challenges.

Summertime

Summer is here and I’ve noticed the longer days, the warmer weather and the school holidays bring a presentness and a willingness to slow down and savour – businessmen and women crowd beer gardens and terraces after work, children squeal in the splash pads in parks, picnic produce and “outdoor living” line the aisles in shops, and employees actually leave the office in their lunch break to enjoy the sunshine.

In these periods of slowness, I become more alive to life and beauty, having a more intense sense of the “realness” of things. I live slowly enough to notice the daily wonders that I seem to ignore the rest of the year when I’m busy in the frantic pursuit of living.

CS Lewis talks about our tendency not to notice the beauty around us in his book The Aboliton of Man:

“You can’t go on “seeing through” things forever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see through it. It is good that the window should be transparent, because the street or garden beyond it is opaque. How if you saw through the garden too? It is no use trying to “see through” first principles. If you see through everything, then everything is transparent. But a wholly transparent world is an invisible world. To “see through” all things is the same as not to see.”

In the summertime, I find that I stop “seeing through” things and live slowly enough to notice and enjoy them – the sharpness of balsamic vinegar on a cold tomato salad, the sound of my husband soothing our little one, the ridiculous scruff our dog looks when his nose is covered in sticky grass balls from exploring in the bushes. And when I stop to appreciate the blueness of the sky, or the warmth of the sun on my face, or the pleasure my friend’s girls take picking flowers in the garden, my natural response is to marvel and savour and thank God, telling Him how great He is.

The Westminster Confessional is a list of questions and answers explaining the Christian faith and the very first question and answer on the confessional is this: 

Q1. What is the chief end of man? A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.  

Enjoying God is the sole purpose that we were created for – it’s not just a behaviour that we choose to do sometimes, it’s the sole purpose of our life. I think glorifying God and enjoying Him are intrinsically linked. When we enjoy God and delight in His goodness and creativity, when we seek happiness and satisfaction in Him, we display His glory. When we take the time to enjoy Him, it makes Him look immensely valuable and precious. I’ve heard it said that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.

I don’t want to take life and breath and health and friends for granted. All these things are free and undeserved gifts from God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all for the glory of God.” And so this summer, in our waking and sleeping and eating and living, that’s my prayer for each of us.

Believe

Over the past 6 years or so, I’ve done many Beth Moore bible studies. Flicking back through them is almost like a record of my spiritual growth. My absolute favourite and the one that’s had the most profound impact on me is “Believing God”. It’s about the difference between believing in God (that He exists) and actually believing what God says, by taking him at his word. It took my faith to another level, bringing to surface some of my doubts, challenging me to believe what the bible says about God and myself and causing me to step out in faith.

One of the things she encourages you to do practically to build your faith and help you believe God is to record daily moments of His faithfulness. It might be an unexpected blessing, seeing His beauty in creation, Him speaking to you in a verse, good coming from something hard or painful, significant moments with God or when something happens that you know is more than a coincidence.

I started doing it 3 years ago when I first did the study and found it so helpful and encouraging in noticing God’s hand that I’ve been doing it ever since.

Firstly, I started an Instagram account for me and God. When I spot God and moments of his faithfulness, I take a photo of something related and write how it spoke to me. No one else follows it and I don’t follow anyone else, it’s just a place for me to put “memorial stones” of moments I’ve seen God work and to scroll through them periodically and be reminded of them. I have photos of blessings that I didn’t ask for that were exactly what I needed (a pregnancy pillow, maternity clothes, a book someone gave me…), bible verses that spoke to me in the season I was in, prophetic words given to me, God’s supernatural provision of people with particular gifts who have helped me (electricians, photographers, great advice givers), photos representing financial provision, and pictures that represent little God coincidences when his timing and attention to detail has amazed me. I love scrolling through this pictures to remember that God continually threads his faithfulness through my everyday life, I just need to be aware enough to notice it.

The second thing I did was I started writing down answers to prayer as well as my prayer requests. Each day, I go for a dog walk and pray through my “7” prayer list (7 big things I pray for most days – I’m not sure why 7, it was probably the length of my first list and it stuck!). When I see God answer them or see progress in a certain area, I note it down. Over the last 12 months, I’ve seen God answer prayer about healing in a loved ones life, Ben and I falling pregnant, the safe arrival of our baby, the sale of our house, ministry fruit, a lost engagement ring found again, opportunities to share my faith with particular people, breakthrough in friends and families lives, material provision when we’ve been in need … and that’s just naming a handful. I have them as “tasks” on the lists app on my phone but it builds my faith to see “completed tasks” where God has shown up. There are things that have been on their since day 1 that God’s not yet answered and things I’m still waiting on God for but seeing how he’s worked in the other area feeds my faith when praying for the person that seems no closer to God than when I started praying for them, or for the house purchase that still seems a long way from over.

One of the greatest builders of our faith tomorrow is remembering the ways God worked today. I have a terrible memory so I know that if I hadn’t recorded these areas where God was faithful, I likely would forget that I found my engagement ring after praying, or that God opened the opportunity to do ministry in that place. Creating a record of Gods past faithfulness helps feed and build my faith going forward.

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This weekend, my church are hosting our annual women’s conference REAL and 2017 is rooted in the theme of “Believe”. I’m so looking forward to it as I know our faith will be refreshed, challenged and stretched, that we’ll leave this weekend believing God for bigger and greater things and further Gods kingdom among our communities off the back of it. If you don’t know anyone, come and sit with me and you can find out more information here.

Chapter 2 – J is for Jasper

It’s been 2 years since I wrote my last blog post on here but as I’m now on maternity leave for the next 12 months and will likely be around the house a bit more, I’ve decided to start up again and write a new chapter.

Jasper

13 days ago on 7th June at 08.51am, we welcomed little Jasper Samuel into the world. These last 2 weeks in the midst of a ridiculously hot heatwave, it’s been a blur of cuddles, staring at him, gazing at how small he is, meeting family and friends, snoozing in the garden and all the days and nights blending together in a happy, sleep-confused muddle. There are so many moments and photos I will savour as I know he will never be this little again – I’m soaking up every second.

We decided on the name Jasper mainly because we liked the named, but also because “Gasper” was supposedly one of the wise men in the nativity (it means “bringer of wisdom and treasure to Jesus”). After he was born, friends began sending us various verses about “jasper” in the bible – it’s a precious stone emblematic of the glory of God, it’s used in the high priests breastplate representing the tribe of Benjamin and it’s also a stone used in foundations of New Jerusalem. I’m praying that it’s a prophetic statement over his life that this tiny person will grow into someone that builds heaven on earth, he’ll represent God’s glory, and that he’ll bring his wisdom and treasure to Jesus.

Dependency

Over the final weeks of pregnancy and since Jasper’s been born, God’s been teaching me about dependency. I am a somewhat independent, capable person who likes to have a plan and push forward with it. For the last 9 months, I have had a fairly set plan. I’d planned for a natural birth, we’d move house and be settled into our new place ready for Jasper’s arrival. But it didn’t quite turn out that way. A few weeks before he was born, I discovered he was breech and natural birth was not going to be possible as Jasper was lying sideways so I ended up having a c-section. In terms of house move, we are still in our old house and have a date to move out but nowhere to move into yet.

There are many wonderful things about Caesareans (you skip the whole “labour” part for one!) but as its major abdominal surgery, it’s meant that I’ve had to rely on Ben to get me things and help me move about as for the first few days, walking and lifting and twisting are somewhat tricky. I had to become more dependent on Ben. As I’ve been getting to know and looking after Jasper, he is a strong little boy and has an equally independent streak in him. He will demand his own way, trying to nurse on his own pushing away my hands, he’ll wriggle and struggle as I remove his clothes when he’s too hot, or screams about nappy changes but is all comfy, clean and calm immediately after – Mummy knows best.

Just as Jasper demands his own way, how many times do I demand my own way striving and struggling, which ultimately cheats me of a better way that God has for me? Where have I been pushing and struggling with our house move or how I had planned labour to go? Just as Jasper is completely dependent on me for his existence, God’s been teaching me to be completely dependent on him. He loves us devotedly, He will provide for our every need. In his presence, I needn’t strive or demand my own way – I can rest safely and securely in his provision. I had a wonderfully positive time in hospital with Jasper and on reflection realised that God’s plan was way better than mine – it was very calm and peaceful, I skipped the long and tiring labour part, recovery has been remarkably straightforward, my little boy is healthy and happy, and under the circumstances, the consultants were adamant it was the safest way for him to arrive.

In terms of our accommodation, we’re still not at the end of moving house process, we’re moving out in 2 months time and have no idea where we’ll end up living or what these next 6 months will look like. But I’m trusting in God’s promise that He provides for our every need. His ways are higher than ours. He makes us dwell in safety and He keeps whoever’s mind is steadfast in perfect peace because they trust in Him.

The Heroines in my Story

IMG_5536Watching Grey’s Anatomy last night, I wondered why I am so drawn to the female characters in the plotlines. I watch Bailey, Meredith, Cristina and Lexie and I am inspired. I feel more able to take risks when they take risks. I feel more confident when I see them succeed. These driven, skilful and highly capable female surgeons incite me to achieve and be more ambitious.

I need a cast of heroines in my real life story to inspire me too.

I need Becca. I need to see her love Jesus and lead her girls in doing so too. I need her out ahead of me, meticulously raising two little ones to be creative, industrious and obedient, to be learners and love others. I need to see her speak kindly to her girls as her voice becomes their internal voice. I need Becca’s wisdom and reliability, her quiet fortitude and unassuming strength. When I see how her faith equips her to calmly overcome the battles in her life with grace and composure, I feel I can be more steady on my feet and peaceful in my walk with Jesus.

I need Catrina. I need Catrina who dreamt of a movement of women in our church who were real with each other, vulnerable and unified, grounded in truth, fierce and brave. Who cheered each other on and spoke life and truth and wisdom into each other. I need to see her preach with wit and warmth wearing beautiful but oh so uncomfortable shoes. I need to see the weeks and weeks of hard work that she puts in beforehand to make these life-changing moments happen. To see her on the days before she hosts those conferences, encouraging her team with love and compassion remembering the little details about their lives. When she gathers her team for playful, warm and merry meetings, when she’s “off duty.” When I see Catrina love the task God’s given her, I feel more in love with the job God’s given me to do. When she steps out her comfort zone, I feel a little braver too.

I need my mother. I need to see her hard work, self-discipline and dedication. As a child, I needed to see her organised and orderly home in the midst of raising 4 children, working full time, running home groups and leading as church warden, watching how you to fit everything in. I needed her to show me what it was to develop people, to bring out the best in the children in our school, even the really tough, ungrateful and difficult ones. I need to see her take on a project and complete them to ridiculously high standards, to go above and beyond, to watch her creativity and resourcefulness, whether it be a church stage design, school play scenery, wedding planning or a fashion show. I need her to demonstrate what it is to speak into peoples lives in an honest and fair manner.  When she strives for excellence, is conscientious, ethical and principled, living a God honouring life, I feel compelled to obey God in all his ways, to go the extra mile and to do what is right.

I need my Kendricks. I need these women who are hilarious and dangerous, who are ambitious, impressive, intelligent and strong. Doctors and lawyers, teachers and bankers, politicians, charity workers and change makers. They are reshaping our society from every angle. They remind me of what is possible and the power and responsibility that has been given to us. When they are ambitious, it spurs me on to dream a little bigger.

I need Claire and Rosie, Steffy and Jenn, Helen and Lisa, Beccy and Val. I need them as they’re smart and resilient, building each other up instead of tearing each other down. As they’re gentle and daring. The girls who do things and don’t just talk about doing things. Who live with passion and compassion and humour and style. I need their vibrancy and vitality. I need to see them be bossy and take the lead, filled with love and laughter.

I need the supporting cast in my life who will never know my name but have been written into my story. Beth and Bobbie, Charl and Sarah, Lori and Brene, Christine, Emily, Tsh and Holly. I need their preaching and writing and stories and art.

Whoever you are, whatever you’re doing your story is inspiring and igniting someone else. We need each other’s stories. And maybe someone needs yours too.

In a few weeks time, we have an event at my church called REAL for all the women in your life. Come and join us as we lean into all that God has for us through everyday women’s’ stories, inspiring teaching, wonderful music and arts, gifts, cake and loads of fun. I’d love for you to come and join in! You can find out more details here.

Best Bits

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I’ve just come back from a week of fun and silliness and pottering and playing on a campsite just outside Paris. Ben, myself, 4 friends and 2 children piled into 2 cars and 1 holiday lodge to escape for a few days involving day trips to Disney, some world class car packing, and ridiculously picturesque castles in French villages. Mornings were lazy with pain au chocolats, days spent reading on the deck, failing miserably at crazy golf, cheering as our friends girls learnt the ropes of swimming, bravely facing the kiddie slides and floating alongside the swans in pedalos. We barbecued everyday and ate outdoors with bare toes and full wine glasses.

Every evening, our friends 2 year old daughter has a very cute routine at dinner time where she asks each of us “What’s your best bit?” And we share our highlight from the day. So here are my best bits about the last week that I’m taking home with me.

Firstly, Disneyland. Oh my goodness. After 12 hours amidst Mickey and Elsa, Buzz and Baloo, I reached a whole new level in my desire to create awe inspiring, magical moments. The quality of the scenery and the characters and the staff at Disney are just exceptional. I went to Disneyworld in Florida with my family about 15 years ago and I remember my mum talking about the cleanliness of everything and how nicely painted the scenery all was but when you’re 12, you don’t notice the flowerbeds, you just care about the queue length of rock n rollercoaster and how fast you can run there with your siblings. I remember reading somewhere that the grass at Disney has to be cut to a certain length, all staff tattoos need to be covered, you’re allowed a single ear piercing and men aren’t allowed beards (unless perhaps they’re a pirate).

It’s been a lifelong ambition of mine to be a Disney imagineer, I’m the girl that watches the 3 hour behind the scenes making of Finding Nemo DVD’s. I would love to get inside Disney’s creative teams – the parades were incredible and the the firework and laser show was completely awe inspiring. At the end of the day, when Tinkerbell is flitting round Sleeping Beauty’s castle, leaving trails of pixie dust, Peter Pan is jumping about the fountains trying to catch his shadow, Quasimodo swings around the castle turrets, and where you’re standing in the main street is lit up by festoon lights and twinkly fireworks, Disney create unforgettable moments and you leave entirely speechless. I want to create moments for others like Disney, magical and memorable and full of the beauty and glory of God.

My other best bit was when the boys snuck off on a mission to collect firewood. They came back very pleased with themselves from their scavenge with all sorts of tales about the perils of their quest. They built a huge fire (some may argue too big a fire for the space it was in…!) and we sat around when the children had gone to bed and toasted s’mores and ate strawberry laces and sipped wine, wrapped up in blankets with cold noses. And we had amazing conversation. My friend started us off with a question or two and we shared our hopes and our fears, the best parts of the year and the hard parts. We talked about how we’d grown in the last season and what we were looking forward to in the next. Around the fire, snuggled under the blankets felt like a place of safety and warmth, where it was safe to be seen and heard and loved. It wasn’t fancy or epic, but it was real and memorable

It’s hard to explain all this to a 2 year old when they ask you what you’re best bit is – I think she wanted a one word answer. But my answers felt meaningful when I told them to her and now perhaps Ben and I will start sharing our Best Bits at dinner too.11351319_10153290859106730_6732708640091572043_n

How long do you spend online?

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I’m realising as I get older that I place a huge value in growth, productivity and the pursuit to embetter oneself. I love everything related to productivity, how to really get good at it, to the psychology behind it and the simple small tweaks that can yield huge results.

I like measuring stuff. I’m known as the stats and data girl at church. I’m one of the few that cares about the numbers and the figures. I love to track and document different areas of my life. Here’s a list of things that I am currently tracking:

  • How fast I run and how often I’m running (currently really slow and not very much)
  • Where our finances are going (mostly into our bathroom at the mo attempting to turn the 64 year old taps off)
  • How many steps I walk each day
  • Which books I’m reading
  • How many days till I go on holiday (36 days!)
  • How many people read this blog (Basically my Mum & Ben)
  • How much sleep I’m getting
  • How many buds the orchid that I killed but resurrected had on it (8 and going strong!)
  • How many buds the orchid that I killed & resurrected has on it since I snapped the stem since I knocked it off the windowsill (umm…zero.)

We measure a load of different aspects of church life: attendance on Sunday, how many people are getting baptised, how many people are engaging in small groups, how many of our visitors returned to church and got stuck into our community…

You can better control an area, manage and promote growth in it if you begin to measure and track its progress – I’m sure you’ve heard the old management saying “you can’t manage what you don’t measure”.

On this stream of thought, I’m sure you’ve noticed the recent conversations about people spending too much time online and connected to their smart devices and the Internet. My husband took this to extreme and did a Blackout of devices during lent – you can read about it here. I discovered 2 tools that help me track how much time I’m spending on my devices and on the computer each day. They are:

Rescue Time – Rescue Time is an Add On that runs securely in the background on your computer and mobile devices. It tracks time spent on applications and websites, and gives you an accurate picture of your day. I love the reports that you get at the end of the day which gives you a percentage for how much of your time was spent on productive applications (Excel/Word etc) and less productive sites (Facebook/ BBC News). It gives you detailed reports and data based on your activity and also shows you your most productive hours and time slots. You can set alerts to let you know when you spend a certain amount of time on an activity and also block distracting websites. It’s given me a different perspective on my workday – I’ve learnt what hours of the day I’m most and least productive and can see which websites are my time drains.

Moment – Moment is an iOS app that automatically tracks how much you use your iPhone and iPad each day. The idea is that encourages you to live in the moment rather than attached to your devices. If you’re using your phone too much, you can set daily limits on yourself and be notified when you go over. You can even force yourself off your device when you’re over your limit. When I’m on for 15 minutes, I get an alert to tell me to get off my phone – this happens basically 5 times a day at the moment, but you can personalised it to fit your lifestyle. Apparently after installing the app, Moment users spend 25 minutes less on their phone per day than before. The average moment users use their phone for 71 minutes overall and mostly in the evening after 6.

I’ve been using these both for 3 or so months now and am finding I’m more conscious of the time I’m spending digitally.

Don’t spend so much time scrolling through other people’s moments that you miss out on creating your own.