What I’m Making: Crumpets

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Ever since I was little, I really liked baking bread. I’m more of a savoury person than a sweet one so bread is always my preference to turn to when I bake. The first bread I ever made were those hedgehog rolls with little cloves for eyes when I was in infant school or nursery, I did a whole project on bread when I hit secondary school making banana breads and Italian plaits, and ever since, I’ve been experimenting in the kitchen with different flavours and flours and shapes.

Last year, I spent many weekends playing about with making English muffins and croissants, but this year I got given some chef rings for Christmas so I’ve turned to try out the traditional crumpet. It’s been really cold weather recently so the idea of buttery warm crumpets was very appealing.

Crumpet’s use plain flour so you don’t need any fancy types or flour, just a couple of chef rings in to griddle the batter in. It’s also more of a batter than a dough so you knead it instead of whisk it, but here’s what I did (based on the River Cottage recipe).

Makes about 12 (although I made 10 due to an incident where the bowl got knocked from its proving position across the carpet…)

  • 450g plain flour
  • 350ml milk
  • 350ml warm water
  • 5g instant dried yeast
  • 10g salt
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • Oil for griddling

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  1. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, milk, water and yeast. You’ll end up with a frothy batter. Cover it with cling film (or a shower cap) and leave somewhere warm until really bubbly (anywhere between 1-4 hours is fine).IMG_4362
  2. After the mixture has proved, whisk in the baking powder and salt.
  3. Heat a frying pan or flat griddle over a medium-high heat and grease your pan and crumpet rings ready for the batter.
  4. IMG_4364First test the batter with a trial crumpet. Put a crumpet ring in the pan, and pour batter in until ¾ full. The batter expands when baking so don’t overfill it. The batter should be thick enough to stay inside the ring and not run out, but thin enough that the top fills with lots of bubbles and holes on the surface within the first few minutes. If the mixture is too runny, it will seep under the crumpet rings so whisk in some more flour. If it’s too thick, bubbles won’t appear on the top so whisk in a little more water.
  5. IMG_4370After 5-10 minutes once the surface is just set, flip the crumpet over and griddle the top for 2-3 minutes until golden brown. If the base of the crumpet is too dark, turn the heat down. You can butter them straight away to eat or leave them to cool for toasting later.IMG_4371IMG_4375

Rats, emails and the first hour of my working day

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How many times have I gone into work, opened up my computer and checked my email? Basically every day of my working life. I do it to clear the decks before I actually begin work. I tell myself that it’ll be easier to focus once my inbox is empty. There might be people waiting for responses. I’ve heard the temptation of email put down to random reinforcement by Dan Ariely:

“ Psychologist B. F. Skinner came up with the idea of random reinforcement, where you give a rat a lever and every hundred times it presses the lever, it gets a piece of food. For the rat, that’s exciting. But if the number is a random number – any number between one and one hundred – it actually ends up being more exciting. And the rat keeps working much more, even if you take the reward away all together. Email and social networks are a great example of random reinforcement. Usually, when we pull the lever to check our email, it’s not that interesting. But, from time to time, it’s exciting and the excitement, which happens at random intervals, keeps us coming back to check our email all the time.”

A very pleasing comparison I’m sure you’ll agree – when it comes to our emails, we effectively behave like rats.

Also dealing with emails feels like you’re making progress. You can tick off emails and file them away. It’s visible progress right in front of you.

The trouble with doing emails first things is that the best part of my day is the morning.   By the time I’ve got through my emails, I’m flagging, my energy’s dipped and concentration is gone. Your email and incoming calls are basically a list of other people’s priorities for your time. Every time you check them or answer a call, you’re reacting to their priorities and not spending time on your own.

I’m currently trying to change my working day so I’m becoming proactive and creative first and then reactive second.

Here’s what I’m trying to do at the moment to manage my working day better:

  1. Know what my work priorities and goals are. A few years ago, I heard about Bill Hybel’s 6×6 tool. You answer the question, “What are the 6 greatest things that you can accomplish to contribute to your organisation in the next 6 weeks?” Knowing the answer to this question keeps me focussed on the important instead of the urgent. These are taped onto a post it on my laptop and travel with me wherever I’m working.
  2. Block off the first hours of the day to work on these priorities. I’m now blocking off the first portion of the day to work on these priorities. I have the most energy and concentration in the morning, therefore, if I need to write a preach/teaching session or create a strategy document, I’ll do that first. Do your most meaningful creative work at the beginning of the day and then leave all your reactive work for the afternoon.
  3. Kill the Background Noise. Don’t open your emails, turn off apps, avoid answering the phone as much as possible. We lack self-discipline and with emails running in the background and social media apps pinging and number next to them ever increasing, we’ll find it too tempting to flick onto them to see what’s waiting for us.

I know there’ll be many mornings when I don’t do this, when I get into work and squander my time dealing with email and the trivial but I hope this plan will make my time far more proactive and fruitful in the long run, which will ultimately be of greater benefit to the church that I work in the long run.

Delightfully Chaotic, a Beautiful Mess

I liked maths at school. I liked the concreteness of it. The answer was either right or wrong. There were no grey areas. You either got the answer right, or you didn’t. I grew up enjoying the security of the correct answer, knowing that if I picked appropriately, I then would meet the standard and be satisfactory. But then always getting the answer right became hard work. When I got the answer wrong, feelings of shame and blame and judgement erupted. I saw those who around me striving to meet particular unattainable standards and melt down under the belief “If I do everything perfectly and get all straight A’s, I’ll avoid shame and be OK”. Being correct and right and looking perfect and flawless all the time became this unattainable goal. I see it now in other areas too, wanting the perfect job, the perfect home, the perfect relationship, the perfect life – we want perfection and to have it all together. And when we know that we’re not meeting these levels of perfection, we say to ourselves “I’m not good enough”.

Gretchin Rubin talks about perfection this way:

“Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. A twenty minute walk that I do is better than the run that I don’t do. The imperfect book that gets published is better than the perfect book that never leaves my computer. The dinner party of takeout Chinese food is better than the elegant dinner that I never host.”

As a self-confessed achiever, I need to tape this to my mirror. Good enough is still very good. Romans 3:23, it says “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. Perfection is a hoax. It’s unattainable, all of us fall short. As long as we strive for it, we’ll be stressed and discontent and ashamed and frustrated. We need to learn to be kind to ourselves.

In my teams work in the creative office, I have a saying “done is better than perfect”. Yes, we aim for high standards and excellence but that’s not the same as perfection. Aiming for excellence is about healthy achievement and growth. Perfectionism is a weight that we lug around with the belief that if we do anything other than reach this burdensome standard, we’ll be deficient.

And I think that’s why I love art. With artwork, perfection is subjective. There is no wrong or right and so creating can be an antidote to perfectionism. I like the experimental nature of it. The different colours that someone could paint a daffodil and it still is beautiful and right. The different words that people used to illustrate a scenario and capture the details in different ways. There’s safety and freedom in art.

2 Corinthians 12:9 says “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” We ourselves are living works of art with weaknesses and cracks and imperfections. My husband often laughs at my chaotic, disordered way of living. He once came home and thought the house had been burgled. It hadn’t, I’d just got changed and couldn’t decide what to wear. I’m currently wearing jogging bottoms, 2 woolly jumpers, hair tied in a top knot – I look a scruff. But there is beauty in imperfection. My slippers are comfy, my glasses give my eyes a rest and my oversized jumper reminds me of my family as it was a gift from my brother.

There is beauty in imperfection so be kind to yourself. Embrace your imperfections and free yourself to create.

“When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are.” Don Millar

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On Collecting Inspiration

I am a collector.

I’m inquisitive. I collect all information – articles, ideas, stories, words, facts, books, quotations. I collect images – pictures, graphics, design ideas, decoration ideas, photographs. Our bookcase is overflowing. My bedside table is crammed full of catalogue pages, printed articles, pages ripped from magazines and notebooks full of notes from all sorts of places. I collect because it interests me. One of my top strengths in Gallups StrengthsFinders test is “Input”. I read a lot to add and archive information, tips, strategies, processes – I never know when I’ll need it but it might be useful one day. So I keep acquiring and compiling and filing stuff away.

I don’t collect rubbish. I’m really quite choosy and particular and only collect things that I’m drawn to. I care about that random post it with the quote on or that doodle on the back of a receipt that my husband’s thrown away. I am all about collecting in various different fashions:

  1. Pen and Paper

I carry a notebook and a pen wherever I go. I am forever pulling it out and scribbling down notes and lists and diagrams and doodles. If I don’t have paper and pen, it’ll go on my notes pages or drawing app on my phone or tablet. I heard that Artist David Hockney had all the inside pockets of his suit jackets tailored to fit a sketchbook. The musician Arthur Russell liked to wear shirts with two front pockets so he could fill them with scraps of score sheets. Pen and Paper are perfect for collections.

  1. Pinterest

As a huge advocate of “pinning is winning”, I believe Pinterest is the ultimate solution for collectors and creatives.  No longer do I need to print it off and file it away. I can store everything onto digital pinboards. I have different categories: recipes, DIY ideas, gift ideas, useful stuff for church, travel, books I want to read, ideas for conferences, creative ideas, useful articles. The upside (and downside) to Pinterest is that there will always be more to collect and a precursor to all users – my inquisitiveness can lead me to spend a lot of time down very intriguing (but often distracting) avenues.

  1. Website Bookmarks

For those of you that find Pinterest too girly/ confusing/ Ryan-Gosling themed, you can also just bookmark tabs. Soon after meeting my friend, I opened my computer, he noticed the seven thousand tabs that I had open, cue him saying “so you’re a new tab kind of girl huh?”. I think it’s a girl thing as I know lots of women who like lots of tabs but men tend to prefer a new window…I digress. Anyway, I like to remember the useful sites that I’ve come across and the good things that I’ve found in case I want to come back to them later. I agree that keeping them open in a separate tab is a bit ridiculous when you can just bookmark them. My mum is the ultimate bookmarker that I know and keeps all her online collections neatly bookmarked away (FYI. Don’t mess with my Mum’s system, I made that mistake once and accidentally deleted them all…).

  1. A camera

There have been so many times that I’ve taken photos of a brilliant passage in a book, an excellent window display we could use for stage design, a brand or designer I come across in a shop I want to look at or a colour combination in a shop that I really like. Capturing visual images are a quick way of capturing information and sharing ideas.

Collecting keeps my mind fresh. I love to review my boards for inspiration or ideas. It keeps my creative levels topped up. It gets me out of a rut when I’m bored.

So I encourage you, keep a place for your collections, digital or analog, scrapbook or storage box. Keep a place to store your inspirations. A place to go to to be inspired.  Collect in a way that works for you.

you are an explorer

Courageous Feedback

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When I was at university, I took a module where your results were simply “pass” or “fail”. Pass mark was 40% and I put in the work and passed. But they didn’t tell me my mark – just that I had passed. They didn’t attach a feedback sheet, about where I did well and where I could improve. Just “pass”. And it was so annoying. I wanted to know whether I had just scraped by or passed with flying colours. I wanted that criticism or comment or praise or reaction. I learned that I like feedback. I want to know how to get better. I want that pointer on how I can grow.

Feedback keeps propping up in various shapes and forms during my days at the moment. We’ve had review meetings after Christmas going through feedback from our festive meetings, we’re compiling a Sandhurst Review of the church congregation that Ben and I lead and I’ve been getting personal feedback too as I’ve been doing 360 performance reviews. And it’s been helpful. And it’s been hard.

Feedback takes courage. It requires us to be vulnerable. You need to be vulnerable enough to listen to the feedback and vulnerable enough to risk initiating those hard conversations, being emotionally exposed and venturing into uncertain territory.

And I’m convinced that these conversations are worth having. Feedback leads to transformative change. We are all desperate for feedback as we all want to grow. These conversations were never meant to be easy, they’re supposed to be uncomfortable. Discomfort is necessary for growth. When we got marks and feedback at school, report cards and exams results, it was always a little unnerving but it was there to help us to recognise areas we were great at and areas to focus on improving.

In our formal review meetings in the office, we split it into 2 sections:

Which parts were great

Where there were opportunities for growth.

We’re building a culture where we know that we’re all on the same team. We all take ownership for the problems. We recognise strengths and celebrate those as well as addressing how to combat weaknesses. If someone’s held accountable, there’s no blame or shaming or pushing the problem towards other people.

Feedback should be a conversation. Any written feedback should be there to initiate dialogue, where you’re sitting on the same side of the table, you know that you’re on the same team and the problem is in front of you. You take the barriers down and are less likely to be defensive and self-protect.

I want to work at developing a culture of feedback. I want to learn to take it well and to offer it to others in a helpful manner. I want to get better at asking for it from my peers and inviting comment. At requesting for advice and being open to opinion. Feedback is hard and a really tricky area to negotiate but honest, vulnerable, “sitting on the same side of the table” feedback inspires growth and progression and is hugely valuable in the end.808c0b9577ae7679de95aca30a3b117e

Winter Wandering

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When I lived in Finland, there was no such thing as “wet play” where children had to stay indoors if it was raining. You went outdoors whatever the weather, with the exception of the temperature being below -20°C and then children were allowed to stay indoors. We bundled the children into their all-weather suits and wellies and off they went to play in the puddles and rain. There were covered areas to play and not get soaked too, lots of Scandinavian life is outdoors so Finland’s infrastructure and way of doing things supports this. I completely loved their way of doing this – it didn’t feel like you had to organise your life around the weather and the day was never wasted if it was raining. With 1 in 3 days in the UK being rainy, I’m not sure why we don’t have a different set up here, everyone seems to flock to the cinema or soft play centres if the dark clouds come in and cross any options of being outdoors off the list rearranging their plans.

In the winter, I get hugely claustrophobic. After a while, I need some fresh air and big skies. I need to get out of centrally heated buildings and climb out from under my blankets to air my lungs, get some vitamin D from the winter sun and feel some breeze. Ben knows how much I love a good landscape and bit of scenery so last year, he decided that I needed to join all the senior citizens and middle class families with children under 10 and get a national trust membership…and I completely loved it! Just before Christmas, we wrapped up warm and took our niece and nephew for a day out running in the gardens of Cliveden.

I’m not going to lie – I was expecting them to whine and get bored very quickly. Cliveden is effectively just big gardens with an old house. There were no screens, and just lawns and topiary for entertainment. We took some cameras along and gave them free reigns on the day. What I love is that they made a game out of everything: the little bridges, the sticks, the pathways, running and skipping in the fields. We gave them our cameras and they decided to be photographers for the day. They ran around in the maze and at the end of the day they discovered the giant slide and frolicked as they raced down it. When you’re not given amusement or entertainment and have to create your own fun, you’re forced to be more creative.

Here are our budding photographer’s portfolios along with some other favourites from the day:

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We’re planning some more days out this winter, determining not to let the rain and hail stop us. Watch this space.

My Favourite Things – IF:Equip

In February last year, a bunch of my favourite bible teachers gathered together and put on a conference in America called the IF:Gathering. It was a conference based simply around the question “If God is real, then what?” and looks at the calling that God’s placed on each of our lives. There were some fantastic sessions that I listened to online and if the podcasts are available, I’d encourage you to give them a listen.There are a ton of resources off the back of the conference (I love the idea of IF tables – you can find out about them here, who doesn’t love food and great conversation!).

One of my favourite things about this group is IF : Equip. It’s a Bible reading plan for every weekday (Monday-Friday), where you read a passage of scripture, jot down a few thoughts and then hear what other women have learnt from that passage. There are a load of comments to read and add to, and also a 2 minute video from different bible teachers to watch for some extra insights too.

I’ve been using it as my bible reading plan for the most past of this year – we’ve gone through the book of John, Acts, Galatians and have just finished up Genesis (although I’m still doing it as I’m a fair few days behind!). I really like the videos too. There’s a whole load of people that are filmed sharing their thoughts on each passage (Natalie Grant, Ann Voskamp, Shauna Niequist, Jenni Allen, Jenn Hatmaker, Lindsey Nobles, Angie Smith, Kelly Minter, Jennie Catron, Lisa Harper… to name a handful!)

On Monday 19th January, they are starting their next book Joshua which lasts for 3 weeks – if you’re looking for a reading plan, it’s the perfect time to start. If you have 15 minutes, I’d really encourage you to join in – it’s completely free and a really wonderful resource in my mornings. I’d love to hear if you’re using it too!

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Steal Like an Artist – Where do you get ideas from?

A while ago, I read a great book called “Steal like an Artist”. The author Austin Kleon is a poet who also writes books about creativity and speaks to organizations such as Pixar, Google, TED talks, and The Economist.

His whole concept of collecting ideas and inspiration can be summed up in 2 stages:

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His method of writing poems reflects this. He takes someone else’s artwork, the piece of writing that they’ve produced, selects the most interesting and compelling words in a newspaper article and crosses out the rest with a marker pen to form single line poetry. Picture2

Austin makes the case that every new idea is effectively a mash up or a remix of previous ideas. Every potential lyric that you could dream up has already been written. Every chord progression already used. Every film shot has been captured before.

At first, I thought this was quite a pessimistic view and in a world that’s so concerned with plagiarism, questioned the ethics of such an approach, but I began to think about this and even the bible points to this:

Ecclesiastes 1:9

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.

We learn to develop our style through imitation and taking aspects of artwork from other artists. The way we learn and improve in an instrument is through playing other peoples pieces. Our church worship team plays songs that other people have written. Our drama team perform scripts that others have scripted. I learn different styles of calligraphy through imitating other calligraphers lettering. We can get better and improve our technique by using and producing our own versions of other people’s artwork. And this helps us to develop our own style, producing our own versions of others artwork.

TS Eliot says “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different from that from which it was torn.” —T. S. Eliot.

If our motivation is to create something meaningful and of influence, then you can remove the burden of the blank page and pressure of making something “original” and you can embrace influences instead of trying to hide them.

Looking back at our projects at church, some of our best ideas have been inspired by other’s artwork.

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I believe that each artist is a collector, selecting the beautiful, the captivating and compelling. The more ideas you collect, the greater the pool is that you can pick from and be influenced by.

 

“Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic.”

(Jim Jarmusch – Film Director)

On Running

I’m a sprinter. I don’t do long distance running. When I was a girl, I would win every sports day in my red tshirt for Kennet, our school house. Long distance running, I would fake twisting my ankle so I could get out of it and sit and watch (one time I produced real tears and everything…). I attempted running with Ben on a few occasions but after about 7 minutes it usually ended up with me getting cross with him for being patronising or going to fast or going to slow or running too close or too far away (I’m a demanding exercise partner) and then walking home, leaving Ben to carry on alone.

However in February a few years ago this began to change. I was sitting with 2 friends in Carluccios having lunch and we began to discuss running. Lots of people we knew were running long distance, going jogging and generally sounding like they were models in Nike adverts exercising through the fields and beaches of Bracknell at sunrise before facing the world each morning. We had a “yeah we should do that” type conversation and then tucked into the Italian balsamic goodness of a Carluccios lunch.

So it took me 3 months to get started (I figured I’d wait for the warmer weather) and then I began a couch to 5k plan.

If you want to get into running I would HUGELY recommend doing a couch to 5k plan. I began it in secret when Ben had gone away for the week as I didn’t want the pressure of people knowing (bearing in mind I’m married to Mr Half Marathon, and am daughter of “I started doing 26.2 mile Marathons in my mid 50’s” Dad… my 5k plan looked meagre in comparison). But this was my kind of running plan. The first session is walk for 90 seconds then jog for 1 minute six times. It’s basically lots of sprints and then walking as soon as you get tired. I LOVED it and stuck at it and was just amazed at how my health and fitness improved so quickly. Over 8 weeks, Miss “I fake twisting my ankle to get out of running at school” went from only being able to run for 1 minutes to running for 30 minutes and doing a 5k. There’s even evidence (I am irrationally proud of this photo as through the majority of this particular run, I felt like I was about to throw up, but here I have the casual “yeah, I do this all the time” nonchalant kind of look):

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I initially started running for the health benefits and as an excuse to buy some flashy new florescent trainers. But one of the big benefits for me was in the self-discipline it taught me. Paul says to the Corinthians “But I discipline my body and keep it under control,[a] lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:27). Other than the obvious health benefits , running has improved my self-discipline; It’s taught me to get up early, to go running in horrific hours of the morning, to run in torrential rain when dogs look out the windows of houses and wonder what I’m doing, to keep going when it’s hard, to ignore what others think of you when you run past people you know and get “encouragement” from the group of 14 year old boys loitering at the park, to stick to a plan and to work towards a goal.

Bill Hybels talks about discipline as “delayed gratification”. He says “the key to practising discipline can be described in three words –advance decision making. You are making an advance decision to delay gratification as long as necessary to achieve the results you most desire.” As much as lying in bed would be gratifying, getting up and exercising to feel more awake and achieve better health is the greater reward in the long run. Although bad mouthing that person may feel good at the time, a greater reward is holding my tongue and receiving the blessing God promises the blameless life. The satisfaction in the long run in being self-disciplined will always outweigh the short-term pleasure of instant gratification.

This year, I’m going to carry on to a 10k plan and see what happens now. The app I’ve been using is c25k Run for Pink which is one produced by Breast Cancer, you can download it here. I’m pleased to say that both my friends also have now run 5k and if we can do it, really anyone can!

14 things I learned in 2014

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Another year has passed so I thought it would be fun to see what I’d actually learned from it. Here goes:

1. Don’t Shrink Back
Let’s face it, we are one of the most empowered generations of women to ever exist. We have been given ridiculous amounts of power and influence but so often, we don’t use it. We don’t utilise our influence to build, or even destroy. Our tendency is to do nothing. Back in January, I heard Jennie Allen preach on not shrinking back and it felt like someone grabbed my shoulders, shook me and woke me up to the responsibility I have, not for my sake but for the sake of others.

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2. I love the outdoors, like REALLY love it.

I love big open outdoor spaces. I’ve visited a lot of cities this year but my favourite places have been the mountains and fields and lakes and the spaces where you feel tiny in comparison to the landscape – I’m a sucker for a good view. Being outdoors is good for my soul.

3. Coaching keeps me healthy and accelerates my spiritual growth.

At the beginning of the year, I began meeting up with Lisa who is a coach and spiritual director, a dear friend and all round amazing human being. She has been the helpful and hopeful voice in my life, through asking questions, highlighting the nuances of my answers and providing tools to help me process situations I’m facing. From reading past journal entries and reflecting on the year, I feel like this year has been a season of accelerated growth and I understand myself far more now than I did going into the year. Much of that has been down to time spent with Lisa reflecting and processing and with her sharing her insights. I could not recommend it enough.

4. I can make meaningful friendships quickly.
This year, we’ve made some wonderful new friends and I’ve learnt that if you’re intentional about it, opening up over some round the table conversation, you really can build meaningful friendships in a few days – it doesn’t take a lifetime.

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5. Writing and making takes vulnerability.
Since starting this blog and knowing that others will read it, the temptation for me is too strip away a layer or two of my juiciest creativity and innovation to make the revealing less risky – to create in line with what people want me to say as opposed to what I want to say. It makes you feel exposed and vulnerable. As the things you make and create are personal to you, it can feel like there’s too much on the line to just put my wildest creations out there. If I do share it in its wildest and unrefined form and the reception isn’t great, I have to remember who I’m creating for and the purpose behind this blog. This writing is a risky business.

6. To just start where I am

Don’t wait for everything to be perfect. You can read about that here.

7. To stop wearing busyness and exhaustion as a badge of honour.

I was driven by “should do” instead of “want to do” and thought that if I did more, I would be more. I had mistaken efficiency with love and am learning to answer “how are you?” with responses other than “busy” or “tired”. I’m avoiding these words as then I have to find something more interesting to be.

8. The art of calligraphy.

In the Autumn, I took a calligraphy course and learnt copperplate lettering. I loved doing something so practical and enjoyed every minute – I’ll write about it soon.B1WMT3fIAAA619k

9. To delight

Celebrating is important. Enjoying and cherishing and reveling. This year, we’ve been intentional about celebrating and delighting in the small things – the end of a busy season, pulling off a great conference, birthdays. Its been great for our souls.

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10. There’s a difference between rest and recreation.

I think I’ve always thought that rest and recreation were interchangeable and as long as you were doing something fun, it still counted as rest. Turns out, I was wrong. I’ve tried to pack lots of playing into holidays as possible (days out, hosting dinner parties, holiday activities and projects) but left no time for stopping and stillness. There have been a few times this year when I’ve come back to work after a holiday filled with lots of fun things but not feeling rested at all. It’s R and R not R or R for a reason. You need both.

11. I can keep 2 living creatures alive for a whole month (with help from Ben).

I’ve wanted a dog for a while but I was never convinced I was responsible enough to look after something living and wasn’t sure whether we’d be able to give them enough attention, time and walks as we’re quite busy. However, in the summer, we spent a month looking after our friends lovely labradors and we completely loved it. Granted, we may have taught them some bad habits (sorry about the whole sofa thing Catrina!) and there were a few precarious incidents with some cows, but we had lots of fun with them.

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12. Use every emotion as fuel for prayer.
I did a study on the life of David this year with some friends and my big take away from it was how he used every emotion that he experienced and used it as fuel for a conversation with God. The psalms are a collection of those emotion driven conversations – he complained to God, was angry, delighted, he mourned, he shared his disgust and fear. Through every emotion, he cried out to God because God can handle out emotions. This year, I’ve begun to get better at doing it.

13. I can finish things.

This year, I did a two month program of exercising an hour a day for 6 days a week. I never finish anything as I get bored before the end so this was a major achievement for me.

14. A change of place + change of pace = change of perspective.

There have been many times this year when I’ve realised that I haven’t left that same 10 mile patch of land for weeks. I live, work, shop, visit family and friends all in this same patch of land and I regularly get claustrophobic. It is so life giving for me to leave Bracknell and go to the beach for the day or take a picnic in the countryside. When I’m stuck in that rut and feeling hemmed in, I know I need to slow down and get out of Bracknell, whether just for the day or for a holiday. It helps.

It feels good to track the journey and document the progress that you’re making. What did you learn this year? I’d love to hear it!