Monday, 29 December 2014

My One Word for 2015: Persist

How did we suddenly get to the last couple of days of the year??!! My focus on Advent this year resulted in the coming New Year sneaking up on me. I've seen a few blog posts and mentions around social media that started my thought processes in that direction. This morning I had the mental space to pull those thoughts together and spend a bit of time in prayer. Seeking God's direction for my focus for 2015 was paramount in my processing of the end of 2014 and the start of 2015.

In the 31 Days writing challenge I participated in for October, I reviewed the goals that I had set for myself around being intentional, my one word for 2014 (If you aren't familiar with the concept of using one word to focus on for the year instead of New Year's resolutions, you can find out more here and here). I don't feel the need to rehash a review again. In summary, I feel that God established a good grounding in me this year with some new habits established and a clearer view of who I am in Him and what living for Him looks like in my season of life. I was tempted just to use the word "Intentional" again for 2015 as it is still a work in progress but this didn't sit right. 

As I sat in prayer this morning, bits and pieces of Scriptures and blog posts that I had read consolidated into a focus for me. Don't you love it when God uses seemingly random writings, images and conversations to pull together a message that speaks directly to your heart in that moment?! The disparate ideas of standing firm and keep walking were competing within me. Keep on keeping on. Develop consistency in the habits established. The deep sense that God is calling me to do what I am already doing in this season. All of these fall under the word I have settled on for this year: persist. It doesn't do away with my focus areas of 2014 but builds on them. 

One of the areas that I want to persist in is my Scripture memorisation. I certainly couldn't quote word for word all 48 of the ones I sought to memorise this year, but the truth contained in them is there. For 2015, I am joining Beth Moore's Siesta Scripture Memory Team. I joined this challenge in 2013 as well but only lasted about half of the year. I am really excited to give it another go this time around. It will actually mean fewer Scriptures tackled for the year but I think this will mean a greater chance of actually committing them to memory. I will create my own graphic for each one for my wall though as I found the visuals of Ann Voskamp's Scripture memorisation challenges to be extremely helpful (read more here). 
Here is my spiral notebook all ready:

I feel at peace and content as I contemplate the end of this year and the beginning of the next. That isn't always the case so I am very grateful. 
How about you? Have you thought about what you want to achieve in 2015? Are you participating in either the One Word or SSMT? 

Monday, 22 December 2014

Advent Week 3: review and reflection on a mini-breakthrough day

There are only THREE days left until Christmas. In fact, I would say two as we celebrate with my husband's family on Christmas Eve. I know many people say it, but this time has come so quickly. I still feel like it has crept up on my even though I was organised for Advent and have been doing Advent activities. I definitely was not as organised with Christmas presents this year, which has had the potential to be very stressful. More on how my stress levels are going later in this post.

If you have missed any of my Advent posts, you can find them linked below:
Advent plans
Week 1
Week 2

Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp
My daughter continues to be uninterested in listening to me read but loves looking through the book herself and unwrapping the ornament each morning. She will go two or three days without colouring them in though and then suddenly do them all. She did let me read to her once this week! I have basically put this on the backburner for a future year but continue to do the ornaments with her and read the book for myself.

Kindness Angel

The Kindness Angel has probably been Isabel's favourite part of our Advent activities (except perhaps for the Lego Advent calendar that she has been doing with her Daddy). She gets so excited whenever the Angel visits. She did catch me setting up one of the activities once when she had only a short nap though. She keeps trying to change the Angel's nappy too- heehee.
This week our Angel had us making special ornaments for our family members (I can't show the finished product until after Christmas as they are a surprise!) and baking cookies and making Christmas cards for her daycare workers.

Truth in the Tinsel

I realised that I haven't done any of the Truth in the Tinsel crafts that I had planned for this week. We did make some angels from a kit that I bought on clearance at the start of the year. I used the Truth in the Tinsel angel day as inspiration for what we talked about while making them. Issy loves the craft and I really want to be more organised next year so that I have the materials I need to make all of the great ideas in here.

The little tree is getting very full!

Wondering about the mini- breakthrough day that I mentioned in the title? Friday last week contained a massive to do list for myself while my daughter was at daycare. This list not only included last minute Christmas shopping in the craziness of the shopping centres, cleaning the carpets with our carpet cleaner that I haven't used in the 2 years since we bought it but also a long drive into unfamiliar areas with busy roads to pick up my daughter's Christmas present. I find this particularly stressful usually. What made this a breakthrough day? The peace I experienced throughout the day. I had such a sense of God's presence as I drove around or walked through the shops. I had been listening to an amazing audiobook (Lioness Arising by Lisa Bevere) while I cleaned the carpets first thing in the morning and continued to talk to God anytime I starting feeling stress creep in. It was a phenomenal day and a real testament to all that God has been doing in me this year. I'd love to say that this has continued to be the case, but I have certainly had my cranky, feel the stress of the season moments since then! It has spurred me on to keep pursuing that peace that passes all understanding in my everyday life though. I can honestly say that this Christmas season has been the most positive. I have succeeded in my intention to keep Christ at the centre this year.

Do you feel prepared for Christmas? How are your stress levels?

Monday, 15 December 2014

Advent week 2: Keeping my peace despite plans failing

We're over half way through the Advent period already. Last week, Week 2, was hectic with unplanned for meetings, play dates and shopping trips throwing out my Advent plans. I had two choices, be upset that my plans weren't being followed or keep focused on the present and getting the most out of each day. I would love to say that I was peaceful and loving all week, with an angelic like nature. I would be lying! Overall though, it was a good week, which ended in an amazing night away with my hubby celebrating our 10 year anniversary and my favourite Christmas event- Heathridge Carols in the Park run by my church.

If you have missed any of the Advent posts, you can catch up on my plans here and my review of Week 1 here 

Here is a breakdown of our week of Advent:

Kindness Angel
Her two planned visits ended up only being one when an impromptu beach play date occurred. The one day was a brilliant one though. She asked us to go shopping for the Christmas food hampers that my church gives out to families in need in our community. We have had over 165 hamper requests this year and the need is great. My daughter was given a shopping list that had pictures for her to match to items that were needed. She LOVED going shopping for this and really seemed to grasp that this was to bless other people.

Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp
My concerns that she is too young for this were further confirmed this week when she now refuses to listen at all and didn't want to colour the ornaments. She still enjoys unwrapping them and looking at the book herself so we will persist with the occasional one line read to her. She suddenly coloured three the other day that had been left blank. Can you spot the one that Daddy helped her with?!

Truth in the Tinsel
I only attempted one activity last week instead of the extra I had planned but she seemed to enjoy it. We looked at Mary and Elizabeth and the story of John the Baptist leaping in Elizabeth's womb when Mary visited. Issy loved colouring the dolls but got frustrated dressing them. She also loved doing big jumps pretending to be the baby. She was in a very blue mood that day apparently!

'Then Came Jesus' by Lara Williams
I have kept up with my daily devotional! I love the encouragement each day and seeing the Christmas story through new eyes. Over half way now!
We are starting to prepare for the next Hello Mornings sessions starting in January looking at the book of Colossians. If you are a woman (sorry guys) in need of a boost to your commitment to spend time with God each day, consider joining a group. More information can be found by clicking the Hello Mornings logo below.

Carols in the Park
This event has marked the beginning of Christmas for me for the past 10 years. It has been difficult having my husband serving every time since my daughter was born but still a wonderful night with family and friends. This year was one of the best for me as my daughter LOVED it. We spent some time in the afternoon painting each other's nails. She stayed awake until close to the end, dancing most of the time and loving the music and atmosphere. She loved the Safe Candles this year and asked to go on the camels (real camels they have there to ride each year- I said no) and the teacup ride (I said yes despite having to go on with her even though I hate feeling dizzy). I came prepared this year with headphones and music to try to help with the loudness of the fireworks display at the end which has been a source of meltdowns for my very sound sensitive little girl. It worked beautifully with her falling asleep cuddled on my lap half way through after enjoying watching them with no trace of fear! Here are a few cute pics and a video from last night.

I am now on holidays from work. I am hoping to finish my Christmas shopping and many errands today while my daughter is in daycare to free up time for more Advent craft and fun this week. 

How is your Advent going?

Monday, 8 December 2014

Liminal spaces- that in-between place where we can learn through our discomfort.

This quote grabbed my attention in the sermon at church yesterday. It put words to the season of life I have felt like I've been wading through for the past couple of years. It did more than that though. It confirmed what I already had come to know in my heart- it has been about learning a new thing, consolidating previous learning and preparing for whatever is coming next. It is uncomfortable. It feels easier to just give up at times and remain in a state of hiatus, rather than seeking out what I need to be learning. This liminal space has felt like a really long time. I sense it is coming to an end though. I am filled with excitement and anticipation (and trepidation if I'm honest) about what the future holds. I know that I am in a stronger place with God than I have been in years, not based on flashes of His presence or learning at a conference (all good things still) but on a daily relationship. While my emotions still best me at times and I am far from perfect, I feel more in touch with His grace and more secure in my foundations.

If you are in that liminal space right now, have courage. You are exactly where God needs you to be to teach you new things. Seek Him and you will find those new things, even if it looks nothing like you have experienced before.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Advent Week 1: life happened but so did Advent!

Advent is here and almost a quarter of the way through already! My plans for daily blogging or at least managing three times a week were foiled by life and technology. I seriously underestimated the craziness of this past week, with two Awards Nights for work, preparing for my final session with my students, my husband's birthday and babysitting for a friend. The good news? I still stuck to my Advent plan and have Christ firmly at the centre of this season. This was especially important for me after an incident with a parent at our Awards Night on Monday that left me shaken emotionally and fighting to forgive and show grace while still dealing with the matter appropriately. 
If you didn't see my post on my plans for Advent, click here to catch up. So how did my plans turn out? A review of our week.....

Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp
As I suspected, my daughter is too young to engage with the readings each day but she has LOVED unwrapping the ornament, colouring it in and hanging it on her own special little tree each day. As a family, we read the Scriptures and then I pick out a couple of key sentences to read to her that capture the message of the day. I love that we have those few moments as a family each morning to focus on God before the busyness of the day kicks in and really look forward to a time when she is older and able to take in more of the stories and messages in this beautiful book. It has encouraged my heart each day.

Kindness Angel
The Kindness Angel made one visit this week. It was rather impromptu visit with a quickly handwritten post-it note stuck to her dress for instructions but the idea was grasped. Our task this week was to make a gift for Tara, Isabel's Jo Jingles music class teacher. Issy has been in her music classes for most of the terms since she was 4 months old and dearly loves Tara. Sadly, this is our last term and only have one more week. I really wanted to make something special. Isabel was completely in love with the idea and SO excited to give it to her. It was well received and made all of our hearts glad this week. I love seeing Isabel learn the joy of giving.

Truth in the Tinsel
If you haven't seen this awesome resource for a creative way of doing Advent with little ones, click here. I chose one of the activities to do with Issy this week as I knew that I would overload myself if I tried to do more. She LOVED it and I plan to add in a few more to our plans in the next couple of weeks. 
We read the passage in Isaiah 9 that prophesies about who Jesus will be- His various names. We then made a crown ornament symbolising Jesus as the Most High King. I'm not sure if the message fully got in but I figure it will as we build on these messages over time.

'Then Came Jesus'- an Advent study by Lara Williams thanks to Hello Mornings
My love of Hello Mornings continues with this study. It has been strange not checking in each day with my group but I have been loving this study. It is at the perfect level of depth for me in this season. I have looked at the Christmas story from different perspectives than previously explored and been encouraged each day. The Scripture memorisation part of it came along at the right time with my previous project through Ann Voskamp coming to a close. (Read more about that here) There are some beautiful Advent devotions out there and I would definitely encourage you to find one. It isn't too late for this Advent season! To purchase a copy of 'Then Came Jesus' click here.

I am really looking forward to the rest of Advent. 
How have your Advent plans turned out so far? It isn't too late to start getting Jesus back into your Christmas season.