Friday, 27 November 2015

Advent for me


When you've been a Christian for a while, it can be all too easy to take who Jesus is and what He has done for granted. At least, it is for me. I find that the passion and real heart connection with the story of Jesus ebbs and flows. I have just finished a six week study on Mark through Hello Mornings. I found myself reconnecting with the foundation of the gospel message again, the person of Jesus. The last few days of looking afresh at His crucifixion and resurrection have particularly had an impact on me. Many tears have been shed. I had already determined to find an Advent devotional before starting this study, but was convinced even more by my desire to keep pressing in to the story of Jesus. With the busyness of the season and the holiday break in the Hello Mornings calendar, I know I need to be intentional about keeping my daily time with God a priority.

In the process of seeking an Advent devotional that was accessible in my limited budget without compromising on value, an opportunity came up in a writer's group I am a part of. The offer was a free digital copy of an Advent devotional in exchange for an honest review and helping to promote it if I liked it. The clincher for me? It looks at the names of Jesus. I have long wanted to look at that in more depth. What better way to prepare my heart for Christmas, the celebration of Jesus' birth, than by daily meditating on His names?

For the sake of being able to provide an honest review, I read through the first week and a bit of "Unwrapping the Names of Jesus" by Asheritah Ciuciu. I loved it! Each week starts with a family devotional to go along with lighting the candles of the Advent wreath. I have never done an Advent wreath before but am so looking forward to adding this as a family tradition. Each day of Advent, a different name of Jesus from the Bible is focused on. Asheritah has written an insightful short devotion on each name. My favourite part of the devotional is the challenge section. This allows you to dig deeper in your faith and really examine your belief of who Jesus is and the impact of that particular name in your life. I am not a fan of devotionals that give all their own words with little opportunity to wrestle through for yourself. Another big highlight for me are the "In Action" sections at the end of each week. Some great ideas for practical ways to live out Jesus' love and get the family involved. Only a couple more days and I get to dive in to this.

Click on the image below to get a copy for yourself (affiliate link that helps to support me without adding extra cost for you):

I will be posting some highlights from our Advent celebrations as we go. Our tree and decorations go up this weekend!

How will you be spending time with God over the Advent season?

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Thankful Thursday


I sat down to reflect on this week and write this post and all I could think about was the negatives. This is exactly why I started this link up. I want to be intentional about overcoming my negative default and notice the things in my life that I am thankful for. So here goes:

  • Having rose bushes in bloom right outside my front door. I have to walk past them to take the rubbish to the bin. I chose to stop and smell the roses (literally) to notice that good in the midst of my mundane.

  • The opportunity to sit with other writers encouraging each other and gleaning wisdom from the wonderful Amanda Viviers. It was so freeing to sit around a table feeling awkward and unsure, knowing that every person at that table was feeling the same and we understood each other. A group of introvert writers connecting. I hope I get the opportunity again soon.
  • Play dates with the kids and mums from the mother's group that I joined when my daughter was 6 weeks old. I love that some of us still catch up  four years later and can watch our kids grow and develop and stay friends.
  • Being able to go to my daughter's music class at daycare for their display. She was so excited to have me there. 
I guess there was a lot to be thankful for in my week.

I have also just realised that today is Thanksgiving for all my American readers so Happy Thanksgiving! What are you thankful for today?



Sunday, 22 November 2015

Advent as a family



The catalyst for me looking into celebrating Advent last year was my desire to instil the real meaning of Christmas in my daughter's heart and try to drown out some of the commercialism and focus on Santa. I have come to love it for my own heart preparation and focus on Jesus in a busy season too.

Last year I tried to pack so many ideas into how we celebrated Advent that it did become overwhelming and another to do at times (you can read about these plans in this post). This year, I am streamlining my plans. I wrestled a little with wanting to create traditions in our family but still being responsive to where our family is at. I have come to accept that Advent celebrations will evolve over time as my daughter gets older and as the demands on our time fluctuates over the years. I have tried to pick a few things that we would like to be set traditions each year, with the rest being changed up each year to match family development and interests at the time.

I spent some time this week filling in my Advent planner (you can find a free printable of the planner here) and trying to get organised with supplies to take the pressure off December. 



Christmas decorations and Advent Sundays

Our Advent celebrations will begin with setting up our tree and putting up Christmas decorations on Saturday November 28. This will allow us to have everything up and ready for the first Sunday of Advent. This will be the first year of following the tradition of celebrating Advent for the four Sundays before Christmas. The devotional I am using for myself (a post for another day) has a family page for each Sunday with verses to read and words that you can use with your family as you light the candle for that week. I am really looking forward to this new tradition. I have even made our own Advent wreath to allow us to do this without blowing out the budget. (Pictures will follow when I have all the decorations up!) We will be lighting the candle in the mornings as evenings in December are filled with carols events and other get togethers. 


Truth in the Tinsel


Last year I only selected a few activities from this amazing kids Advent devotional. My daughter loved them. This year, I am attempting every day! I am making this achievable for us by pre-packing the supplies for each day's craft in a zip lock bag so they are ready to go. I have seen some people do swaps where each person makes enough supply bags for one of the days for the whole group then swap. A great idea that I may attempt next year. I am also keeping it achievable by planning in advance to use the printable ornaments on those days that I know we will be too busy to do a craft. I will have these printed out in advance too. 

Truth in the Tinsel is so flexible and adaptable to age groups and even has  suggestions for when you only want to do a few days of it. 

Click on the image below if you want to buy a copy (comes as an ebook for you to download and print as you need) 
(contains an affiliate link which helps to support me without costing you any extra.)


You can get the printable ornaments here:


Kindness Angel

Christmas so quickly becomes a time of "what can I get?" that I wanted a way to be intentional with focusing on how we can help others in a way that my daughter can participate in and has meaning to her. I was inspired by The Imagination Tree's Kindness Elves idea. I already had an angel doll so adapted the idea to what I had. There is no way I could fit it in every day in December so I have written in one or two activities each week that the Kindness Angel will ask my daughter to do. They mostly involve helping or making gifts for people that she knows and contributing to food hampers that our church gives out. There are so many ideas out there for this. 

Those three areas are what we will focus on as a family. Last year I included Ann Voskamp's Unwrapping the Greatest Gift. I quickly realised that my daughter is just too young. I have put our copy away for when she is older. If you have older children (maybe 7 years old plus) I would highly recommend this book. I am looking forward to using it in future years.


(affiliate link)

What Advent plans do you have for this year? I am so excited and can't wait for next weekend to dive in.


Friday, 20 November 2015

Dwell: Five Minute Friday


When I saw the Five Minute Friday prompt "dwell" this verse immediately came to mind. Dwell and abide have been two words that are coming up often for me at the moment. I love this verse but often question what that actually looks like in my daily life. How do I dwell in the secret place? I think I am figuring it out slowly. So often I try to work to make it happen instead of rest, which is required. 

Accepting a new leadership position felt so right at the time, then all the thoughts of inadequacy hit. I could choose to dwell on all of those doubts and fears or dwell in the security of knowing it was from God and He will equip me for it. I dwell in His truth when I declare it with my mouth, surround myself with Scripture and worship music and don't listen to the negatives in my head. 

How I would love to be "stable and fixed". I know many who know me in real life often think I have it all together but my internal often doesn't match up. More dwelling required!

I wrote this quote on a tile at a MOPS morning. It was obviously meant for the season I am now in!

This post was written in response to the Five Minute Friday prompt, "dwell". and is linked up there. Click on the image below to read what others have written.




Thursday, 19 November 2015

Thankful Thursday


It's that time of the week again- time to stop and take stock of the big and little things in my previous week that I am thankful for.

  • God blowing me away with a call to take a huge next step in leadership and giving me the peace and agreement from my husband to take the leap.
  • The opportunity to visit another MOPS group and be able to sit without responsibilities and indulge in some craft time. It turned out beautifully (but unfortunately I must not have baked it quite right as the pink colour has smudged with washing.)

  • Family fun playing Monopoly Junior

  • Friends who encourage me without even knowing that I was struggling with anxiety in the moment.
  • Deep soul rest from sitting in a park under stunning blue skies watching the wind in the trees.

  • A week of thankfuls couldn't possibly not include this precious girl who lights up my days. Moments like these are beyond precious. 





Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Planning for Advent: including a free printable!


How fast is this year going?! Advent is almost upon us. I loved being intentional with planning Advent activities to do with my daughter last year. I did go quite overboard though trying to include several different ideas all into one season. This year, I plan to pare back a bit and be more focused. I don't want Advent to become a stressed, rushed time as that defeats the purpose of meditating on and preparing our hearts for the real message of Christmas. 

To help me prepare for Advent so that I can reduce the stress during December, I created an Advent planner for myself. Before putting up more posts sharing the activities that I plan to do in the Advent season, I thought I would share this planner with you. There are 2 versions below: a PDF copy that you can print out and complete by hand if that is what you prefer or the Word version that you can edit to make it work for you. I included the weekend before December actually begins as that is when our family usually decorates. I have included two boxes for each day to allow you to list activities on one side and supplies on the other (my preference), split into activities for the kids and personal Advent reflections or record activities on one side and have the other for comments on how they worked to refer to next year. Make the planner work for you. Just because there are boxes for every day does NOT mean you have to do something everyday to get the benefit of Advent. There is also a one page overview if you are wanting to keep it really simple. 

Click on the icon on the top right of the document viewer to open in a new tab of your browser. You can then download the documents from there.

PDF version:



Word version:




I hope this planner helps you to get organised this Advent.
Keep a look out for the posts that will share more details about what I am hoping to do this Advent. You can click on the images below for a sneak peek at a couple of books that will be a large part of it. (contain affiliate links which help support me at no extra cost to you)





Sunday, 15 November 2015

Be careful what you write/pray about! More letting go.


I had somehow developed this idea that following all the growth this year, the roles I had taken on and the writing series I had completed that I was now in for a year of consolidating. I had grown reasonably comfortable and was quite ok with that. Silly me!! 

For quite a while I had been sensing God nudging me to take Netflix off my tablet to help cut down the time suck that it has often been in my days. I kept thinking that I would just control the time and that would be fine. Finally this week, I obeyed. I took the app off of my tablet. I can still access it on TV and my laptop but don't use these much during the day with my daughter around as they aren't portable and compatible with my bluetooth headphones. I let go of this as a distraction in my day.

Lo and behold I get a phone call the next day completely out of the blue. This call was offering me a greater role in a ministry that I love. It is, however, a large commitment. I was shocked, excited and daunted. Over the next few days, I prayed, journalled, discussed with my husband and a couple of key prayer partners. The agreement between all these areas was that this would require letting go of other roles that I enjoy. I wrote a post in October talking about exactly this (you can read that here).  Be careful what you write about! You might just be called to take your own advice at times. Today I made the final decision to say yes to that position. That meant having to contact other people to say no to continuing. That is hard. They are good things in my life. They are 

For right now, I choose to say yes to the next big scary step that God is calling me to. I don't feel fully equipped or capable but didn't at the start of this year either. He has been faithful in equipping me and increasing my capacity to cope and I know He won't fail me now. I have had a sense of peace and yes from God in this process. I am reminded of this verse:


I have no idea of what else I may still have to let go of as I enter into this role. Looking back I can see little nudges towards letting go of these roles and aspects of the new position for several months. I love how God works gently changing our hearts in preparation long before it is apparent to us. Onward in the journey of increasing capacity, letting go and growth!

This post was inspired by the Tuesday at Ten link up prompt for this week "Letting go". You can read other people's responses by clicking on the image below.


Friday, 13 November 2015

Weary: Five Minute Friday



It is Friday night. My daughter is FINALLY asleep. My husband is out doing the grocery shopping (oh yes, I have an awesome husband!). After a busy day and a full week, I am weary. Today I don't see that as a negative. I am weary from serving an amazing bunch of ladies at MOPS, building relationships there. I am weary from putting myself out there to meet new people at a 2016 Kindy kids playdate. I am weary from wrestling through a very unexpected decision with God. I am weary from working in a job I love with people who build me up. I am weary from interrupted sleep and early mornings that are still a hundred times better than they used to be.

Those are some awesome things to weary me. There is a purpose to the weariness. It is there to remind me that God made me to need rest. He designed my body, mind and emotions to let me know when to stop and restore my body and soul. So tonight, I write. I read encouraging things. I drink yummy drinks and take time for me.

This post was written for the prompt word "weary" from Five Minute Friday.


Thursday, 12 November 2015

Thankful Thursday


This week has been a blur of recovering from illness and supporting my daughter as she does then attempting to return to our regular routine. This thankful list is needed more than ever.

  • Figuring out a plan that worked for the class I have on a Monday, keeping everyone engaged and feeling more manageable. We'll see if it works next week!
  • Stunning blue skies with wispy clouds
  • Christmas decorations up in the shops and seeing my daughter's delight at every Christmas tree she sees.
  • The shopping centre near us including a nativity scene for Christmas and my daughter's delight at seeing "baby Jesus".






Monday, 9 November 2015

Change



Change. This word is a cornerstone in my work and a large part of my personal life too. I work for an amazing school called Alta-1 College, specifically in the online schooling program for students with mental health issues or other challenges that make attending a campus too difficult. The key criteria we look for when enrolling a student? The willingness to change and engage in the change process. It can't be the parents or guardians wanting the change either. It has to be the student themselves for it to work.

One truth that becomes apparent quickly is that beginning to change is not all that difficult but persisting with the change process to where you reach a new normal is not. There have been so many times of watching students beginning to make progress then faltering and falling away (and honestly, in my life too). So often I just want to grab them and yell at them not to give up because it is worth it. If only I could shake that truth into them. I don't because that would be inappropriate of course but find other ways of trying to get the message through. 

Some of the stories we hear in this job rip at your heart. These kids face an uphill slog through thick mud to reach their goals. I don't for one moment think that it is easy and we celebrate each little victory. It seems too common that they believe that as soon as change starts happening that everything should be fixed and no struggles be present anymore. They expect all vertical progress. I wish life worked that way but it doesn't. Change happens in twists and turns, sliding backwards and fighting forwards again. It is messy and hard to see in the midst of it. I know in my own life how subtle change is. It is only when you look back over a significant period of time that you can see the difference.

So don't give up. Keep pushing forward. Remember that it's ok to slide back at times. Find those people who can cheerlead you on your way. Above all else, remember that God loves you exactly as you are but is waiting to be able to pour into you to help you change into all He created you to be. You have to be willing to accept that help. 

This post was written for the Tuesday @ Ten link up for the prompt word "change". 


Friday, 6 November 2015

Freedom to Dance



One of the great joys I have as a mum is watching my daughter dance with wild abandon. There is not a self conscious thought in her head at this age. I love the joy it brings her. There have been many a grumpy moment turned around by putting on some music.

The biggest benefit to her dancing? She often gets me involved. To take on that childlike freedom and allow my soul to dance is a breath of fresh air in my day. I have even done it at the shops once when she asked. She sets my soul free. What a privilege as a parent to recognise that she teaches me just as much as I teach her. 

When do we become so consumed by what others think or the "shoulds and should nots" of life that we lose that ability to let loose? I almost never dance at weddings or other functions as those self conscious thoughts keep me paralysed. Oh to carry that freedom my daughter teaches me wherever I go, to allow my soul to dance in whatever way that looks like. 


The blur of joyful dancing

This post was written for Five Minute Friday, writing unedited for five minutes on a prompt word. This week's prompt was "dance". You can check out the other contributions to this link up at Kate Motaung's blog.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

The Thankful Thursday link up is launched!


One of my favourite posts to write each week of the Write 31 Days 2015 challenge was my Thankful Thursday post. The weekly habit of stopping to write a list of what I was thankful for in the previous week refocused my mind to notice the good in my life- the big and the little things- and develop gratitude. I made the decision to keep these as a regular feature. This progressed to opening up a link up to encourage others in their pursuit of noticing good and developing gratitude. Link up at the bottom of this post.

Here is my Thankful Thursday list for this week:

  • Children's pain and fever medication- my little girl has been down with a nasty virus this week leaving her screaming in pain with high fever and unable to even tolerate being touched or held (a major change for our cuddlebug). The difference between when she was adequately medicated was chalk and cheese. I'm not a fan of overusing medication but I am so very grateful that I live in a country and have the resources where these are available. I have shed tears thinking of those families (e.g. Syrian refugees) where this is a tremendous luxury and they have to watch their children suffer and die.



  • Breathtaking sunset made even sweeter being shared on a date with my husband. The bliss of having 15 minutes to sit quietly and enjoy the glory unfolding before us.



  • Great parks and playgrounds in our city 
  • Shoots starting to sprout from the surprise flower seeds I planted. Still have no idea what they will be!
  • Keeping my succulents alive on my window sill. I usually have black thumbs.




Monday, 2 November 2015

Patience


Patience would have to be one of the toughest parts of parenting for me right now. I hate that I snap at my daughter at times. I hate that I can go straight from spending time with God to spitting out words through clenched teeth. I could justify this with sleep deprivation or hormones. That won't change anything though. 

The speed at which I can go from patience to snapping frustration does have a positive side. For one, it makes me more understanding of my daughter. If I can't keep myself under control, how on earth will a four year old?! That doesn't mean that I allow her to get away with bad attitudes and behaviour but it does mean that I have to be gracious in how I deal with her and be modelling how I work on calming down and apologising. I sometimes stop and pray out loud for patience. She has started asking me not to pray for patience as I think she realises that it means I am really struggling not to yell.

The other benefit that I have noticed is growing levels of appreciation for God's patience. His unending grace astounds me frequently. I have to admit that often my attitudes and behaviour may not be any better than a toddler's. And yet He persists with me. He hasn't cut me out of His plans or rained punishment down. I often sense His patient, calm demeanour as He gently pulls me up through His Word or others. 

I can only continue to seek after God and allow Him to change me. I can make the choice each moment to stop and breathe before opening my mouth. Being a parent is certainly developing my patience muscle in a whole new way!

Sunday, 1 November 2015

What I learned in October


October has been a huge month! Here are a few things that I've learned this month:

  • I CAN write and be consistent and organised on my blog. I actually completed the Write 31 Days challenge this year and am still posting this so it obviously didn't burn me out!! Click on the button below to go to that series.



  • The reality of a vision in your mind may not quite be the same but it can still be beautiful. The MOPS State Conference decor that took so long to create really came together well. (You can see some pictures in this post)

  • I have amazing friends and family who encourage me and build me up (I already knew this but it has taken on fresh meaning for me this month.)


  • Putting sprinkles into pikelets in an attempt to be a fun mum may only result in a weird colour of batter with little white crunchy bits throughout!



  • I really do love colouring in, especially when it doubles as meditating on Scripture.
I'd love to hear what you've learned in October!

This post is linking up with Emily P. Freeman at Chatting at the Sky