Be kind to yourself Monday…

Are you looking at a long list of ‘to-dos’ today or maybe more accurately a list of ‘don’t want to-dos’ or ‘not enough time to-dos’? That’s pretty much where I am. If I am not careful I can soon switch into mean boss mode and start beating myself up for what I haven’t done or have done and failed at.

Recently I have been reflecting on a verse in Proverbs 11:17 which says that a person who is kind benefits themselves, but a person who is cruel harms themselves. It is easy to see that the world can never get too much kindness but it can also be easy to forget that when we are harsh to ourselves, we are also being unkind, or could we even say – cruel? Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28

Be kind to yourself this Monday. Follow Gods gentle way and add a little something to your to do list that brings you joy and then it is so much easier to sprinkle kindness into all the lives around you too.

Be encouraged 🙂

For me it will be a big cup of tea and either crochet or drawing or reading a good book. What has God given you that brings you pleasure that you can add to your to-dos today?

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The joys of sharing a book…

 

I love to read and I read a lot. But the most pleasure I get from reading is to be able to share a book. Some of the most precious memories I have with my family are of us sharing books together.

We have recently been on holiday and we got an audio book of The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo to listen to on the journey and we loved it. In the tale, stories are depicted as bringing light and hope. There are other themes of love, forgiveness, heroism and stories, which provided lots of material for us to talk about together. We learn so much from reading the Bible together, but stories we read often provide a living example of a character quality lived out that the children can relate to. For example, we know we must forgive, but in Despereaux we see forgiveness lived out in the lives of the characters and the transforming power it had in their narrative. We saw the truth that to forgive means healing for ourselves, as well as being the right thing to do.

 

However, on a basic level, it was a great story to enjoy together * and it reminds me of the quote that I use as a measure for our books we read together – “No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.”  C S Lewis. For me the key to wanting to read aloud with the children is finding books that we all enjoy.

I have shared before of my Isaiah principle and using the concept of small amounts of time to achieve goals. This year it has really borne fruit in being able to enjoy books together. I began by reading the Little House on the Prairie books with Miss N at bedtime and this quickly expanded to the younger children (Miss H nearly always chooses non-fiction – so far we have had a book on dinosaurs and currently we are reading a geography book, I love how different they all are, and Miss E the Peanuts cartoons or Batman stories, of course) I have even begun reading to my 11 year old Miss G this year and we have slowly made our way through Rosemary Sutcliffe’s Eagle of the Ninth. It’s not possible to read aloud with Miss Em who is not living with us at the moment – but the next best thing, we have both read Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier at the same time, which has been a lot of fun. And if you are wondering, Mr T and I do share books together too. We will sit and listen to an audio book in the evening together, while I crochet and Mr T models.

I suppose I just wanted to remind you that it is a lot of fun to share a book. I have had so much joy this year sharing books with my family. Even though I don’t have lots of time, we have busy lives and there are 7 of us at home, just 5 or 10 minutes every night (well no-one does something every night, but aiming for every night helps it happen most of the time) we have managed to read a lot together and make some great memories. And #keepingitreal, our read-a-louds during the day often consist of children poking each other, noise at inappropriate times and interruptions to change nappies on occasion, but I just persevere and we do get there in the end. It was a lot better when I let go of my need for it all to be perfect and accepted ‘good enough’. A benefit of the evening reading is that it does tend to be a lot less interrupted.

Be encouraged – it is worth trying to find the time and persevering through interruptions etc. There is a lot of joy to be found in sharing a story together 🙂

* Nb some parts of The Tale of Despereaux were hard going in that nasty stuff happened. I would recommend pre-reading yourself to check that you are happy with it.

P.S. The featured image is from Pixabay – where many people kindly provide images for use in the public domain

And So I began to read – a book review…

 

I was extremely blessed this summer to be part of a secret sister book swap. If you get the chance, I’d highly recommend it. You get a name and address of someone that you secretly send a book to, and also someone gets given your name and address and sends you a book. I super love sending things secretly and as a surprise, so it is enjoyment enough getting to send a book to bless someone else, but it was very lovely to receive a book myself.

The Book I was sent is And So I Began to Read… Books that have influenced me by Faith Cook. I had not come across Faith Cook before, so it was exciting to receive a book by an author I didn’t know, but also, this is just the kind of book I would choose for myself, as I love to read and many books have really influence and impacted my life. I returned to Christian life as an adult, after reading Mere Christianity by C S Lewis – and so I was thrilled by the idea of reading about books that have had this impact in someone else’s life.

 

I found the book a really easy read – Faith Cook writes very well and I enjoyed the mix of autobiographical detail, along with extracts from books, hymns, poems etc. that had been important in Faith’s life. However, it did also challenge me and gave me some fresh perspectives and ideas, always important to me in a book.

Whenever finish reading a book, I always journal my learning points from it, so that I haven’t just read the book and then go on to something else and forget about it, but actually embed the learning and use it. These are my learning points from And So I Began To Read:

  1. The benefits of reading biographies: Faith Cook has written many biographies herself and reading this book and listening to the impact of biographies in Faith’s own life, reminded me of how faith building they are. As Faith points out in her book, we learn more about God’s faithful dealings with Christians in the past, we learn what nurtured and sustained them in times of trial and difficulty, we learn about their mistakes (yes we all make them, even the spiritual giants) and how God brought good from those mistakes so that we can be inspired and encouraged by these true stories and so it builds our faith.
  2. The power of hymns: I was brought up on a diet of hymns and actually our current church mostly uses hymns. It reminded me anew of how wonderful hymns can be. Modern choruses are great too, but the old hymns – so often tell a story and deal with difficulties and triumphs and the stories of some of the hymn writers are really humbling and inspiring. I like a mix of modern songs and hymns, but this just reminded me of why we should appreciate hymns and their words.
  3. When reading time is scarce – read poems! This is going to sound silly, but I really had never thought about this. What a great idea and one I am going to be using.
  4. Learning about heaven –and having an upward focus. This was a real eye-opener to me. I had never really thought about meditating on heaven and eternal life. This book has led me to buy a great book by Sharon James called The Dawn of Heaven Breaks which is a brilliant book collecting together Bible readings, hymns, poems and pieces of writing on eternity. We are sojourners in this world and it is right that we should spend time thinking about the hope we have in God and what that hope actually is. It can be very helpful during difficult times to remember the temporary nature of our life here.

I am very grateful for these insights I gained and I really loved And So I Began To Read by Faith Cook. I am very appreciative to my secret book sister and I would thoroughly recommend this book as a really enjoyable, very well written and thought-provoking read.

Be Encouraged 🙂

P.S. Open Book image is from Pixabay here

 

Choosing joy… even when everything in me fights against it!

We have had a really tough time recently and although we have also had lots of blessings too life is pretty stressful for a whole number of reasons. In particular we are waiting on several life-puzzle pieces to come together to be able to take action and move forward. I am not the best at waiting and to be honest, I am way past the point of my own patience and I am currently totally reliant on God’s strength to be able to continue waiting. This memory verse has helped me a lot recently: “Wait on the Lord, Be of good courage and He will strengthen thine heart, Wait, I say, on the Lord.” Psalm 27:14

Nevertheless, over the last day I have still reached a pretty low point – falling back into frustration and worrying and feeing very down AND then beating myself up for worrying and my lack of faith and trust. I was thinking about what to write in my blog post and wondering how I was going to encourage anyone today?!

However, as I considered what to write, I found some notes I had made from a Sally Clarkson podcast that I listened to back in February. Through these God reminded me that choosing joy is a first and foremost a DAILY choice – in fact it is a moment by moment choice, choosing to find something to be thankful for, even if everything in us fights against it…

Secondly it is about having GRACE both for ourselves and those around us. It is easy to become the accuser to ourselves and others, but the Holy Spirit convicts of specific issues, He leaves us feeling forgiven and ready for a second chance, not guilty and condemned.

Finally, it is about choosing CONNECTION with God, over dejection with our lives/ the world around us. We must daily remind ourselves that God is with us in the trenches – He longs for us to experience that connection with Him, which we can only find by choosing to have that prayer connection by faith and choosing joy in Him. And let me be frank here, that connection allows us to be honest – brutally so, with God, when we need to be. We can pour out our hearts to Him and then leave it with Him and not have to keep thinking about it.

I feel invigorated again to remember that God intended for us to live in freedom and abundance, in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in. We will fail – but we can choose to use these as learning opportunities and get up and try again. So today, I choose joy and I hope I have encouraged you as much as I have encouraged myself to also choose joy too! 😀

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Speaking words of life – beyond balance to harmony…

 

A couple of weeks ago I published my review on Jennifer Flander’s excellent book Balance: The art of Minding What Matters Most. This week, whilst researching Victor Hugo, I came across a rather wonderful quote of his that I have been contemplating all week. “To put everything into balance is good; to put everything into harmony is better.” * I was actually trying to find the original French version of Victor Hugo’s poem goodnight – which is a short verse I have learnt and use as part of the evening blessing routine.

The idea of the evening blessing comes from Sally and Sarah Clarkson’s book The Life Giving Home. This is a wonderful book that I am working my way slowly through this year, and my current action to embed is speaking morning and evening blessings over each child.

In the morning I only have a quick simple verse of my own – “Good morning, Good morning, A new day is dawning, May God bless you today, as you walk in His way.” However, armed with the help of a Ted Hughes book on helping you to write your own poetry, I plan to soon have a better version composed.

I am currently using the Numbers blessing in the evening:

 

May the Lord bless you and keep you,

May He shine His face upon you and be gracious to you

May He turn His face towards you and grant you peace. Amen.

 

Followed by this:

 

Good night, good night,

Far flies the light,

But still God’s love

Shall shine above

Making all bright,

Goodnight, good night.

by Victor Hugo

 

I was searching on the internet to see if I could find the original French poem as some translate the line ‘Shall shine above’ and some ‘shall flame above’ and I was wondering what the original French was… [I didn’t find the original French, unfortunately, as I only have the poem in collections of poems, not in the original volume as published by Hugo. So, please do comment below if you know where I can get the French version from :-).]

Returning to that Victor hugo quote, my thoughts have turned out to be quite simple, although also incredibly profound. To begin with, it comes back to unicycling! My unicycling is going well and I am improving, but not really quite as quickly as I hoped for (although of course, I’m learning patience!…) This morning, Mr T made a great comment, “It is more than just learning to ride, it is about becoming one with your unicycle. I have noticed that the really great unicyclists I watch on youtube – they are totally relaxed and seem like they are at one with their unicycle.” Is it not the same with our heroes in life? Don’t they seem to have found a place beyond balancing all they have in their lives like spinning plates, but on another level, which is total peace and ‘oneness’ with God – what I understand Shalom to mean? I don’t mean they are perfect – but to use Sally Clarkson’s words – “Rarely do I meet women who are unburdened, who choose to live in grace, freedom and beauty. But when I do I feel that I have been in the presence of Jesus.” (page 79 Own Your life).

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An area that can be a burden for me, is controlling my tongue. I have improved so much over the years, but I am still far from the ‘perfection’ that James describes in his letter in the Bible. The morning and evening blessings are the life-giving first and last words I speak to my children each day. If I want to fill the day with life-giving words also, then I must be on a journey to find a way, not just to balance all the parts of my life into a whole, but to be in constant harmony with the Holy Spirit and being guided by Him in all I say and do. Easier said than done, but this work-in-progress is determined to give it a go!

Be encouraged 🙂

 

* Quote from Ninety-Three (Quatrevingt-treize) (1884) as translated by the A L Burt Company (1900) – Mettre tout en equilibre, c’est bien; metre tout en harmonie, c’est mieux.

 

Hiding God’s word in my heart…

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I have decided to try and memorise the book of Philippians *gulp*. I have been doing pretty well at memorising verses and collections of verses, with the children, over the last year and I have decided to try the same approach to memorising a whole book of the Bible.

We just do a tiny amount each day – literally minutes – after lunch, we read aloud a scripture, saying or poem… that’s it! When we are first learning a new poem or scripture, we probably only do one line a day, because we always put some simple visuals/ actions to help us remember the verse, which we eventually drop as we learn the words. I write what we are memorising on 3″ by 5″ pretty coloured index cards and they sit in a basket on the dining table, with our Bible and some prayer resources we use for devotions/ prayer time. 

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Also, where we can we use the Seeds Family Worship music resources too and sing the verses and listen to them while we are doing chores, because actually the music is beautiful and pretty cool (if you are an Amazon Prime member you can get most of their albums in prime music for FREE in Amazon music and I notice many albums are also on Spotify).

For memorising Philippians, I found this resource on-line by Tim Brister, which handily chunks the verses in the ESV translation of the Bible I use, as well as some top tips for memorising longer passages and a little pep talk by Doug Whitney at the end (I really love Doug Whitney, he is totally awesome).

I know I’m not going to be able to do it in the same timeframe and I decided, it doesn’t really matter how long it takes, what matters is that I’ve made a start and I will keep going, here a little, there a little… line upon line, line upon line. That is my Isaiah Principle, which I blogged about here.

God’s blessings to you all

Michaela 🙂 xx

P.S. If you wanted to start with smaller amounts, there is a fab new resource released this week – Matters of the Heart Scripture memorisation challenge – which is 52 weeks of learning a verse a week. You can find a detailed review at my friend’s blog here

P.P.S  I chose Philippians as I love it, it’s a relatively short book and I have already memorised quite a bit of it in little verse chunks, so I am mainly going to have to learn the bits in-between those.

 

Book Review of Balance: The Art of Minding What Matters Most by Jennifer Flanders

After my last post featured unicycling, I felt that this was a brilliant point at which to publish my book review on Balance by Jennifer Flanders. It has absolutely nothing to do with unicycling, but rather addressing the need for balance in life in general. I have been trying to make some changes in my life over the last year and a half, to try and find a better balance, so I was very excited to read the wisdom of mother of 12 – Jennifer Flanders’ in her latest book – Balance: The Art of Minding What Matters Most (with a foreword by her husband Doug Flanders). Ironically, the week that I began reading the book there were 2 children’s birthdays within 3 days, the tumble dryer broke down and couldn’t be fixed for a week and we all came down with a horrible cold/ flu bug, which funnily enough, demonstrated one of the principles of the book – that no matter how well you have things planned out, life doesn’t always go according to plan!

What I love about the Flanders’ books is that both Doug and Jennifer are great and engaging story tellers and from Doug’s foreword to the book, until the end, entertaining and interesting narrative relate the book to life in a way we can all connect with. I guess if we were going to go with hash tags, I would add #KeepingItReal.

The book was packed with lots of great information and inspiration, including loads of encouraging and challenging quotes and there was so much there, I know that I am going to be going back and rereading this book in a while and getting some more learning. However, these were the learning points for me this time round:

  1. Balance is more about mind-set that it is about schedules: as Jennifer says, “It is as much about focus and perspective and attitude as it is about juggling work, rest and play.” One of my favourite parts of the book was where Jennifer described our ultimate goal – to flourish as a flower whose fragrant life draws others to God. What is not to love about that?!
  2. Waiting on God: Another favourite quote from the book, “It is only by waiting on the Lord, co-operating with His design and by living in harmony with His plan and utilising His strength we can achieve balance”. I just love this idea that balance is going to look different for all of us and that it is about working within the not only the limits we have in our lives, but also the unique personalities and gifts that God has given to each one of us are going to determine how we achieve balance and what it looks like in our own lives. This is not a book that tells you how to think or tells you what to do – it is like having a coach to ask you questions and help you find what is going to work for you and your own unique situation.
  3. We are all works in progress and change takes time: I love how this experienced mother of 12 writes from a position of humility and grace of beginning the book by describing herself as a work in progress and of working alongside me – not pretending to have it all together and all sorted. As Jennifer tells us, achieving balance is not just a one off – tick, “I’m balanced, let’s move on now…” but that it takes work, maintenance and is an on-going process through the seasons of life. Another quote from Jennifer that I loved, “The bigger the change, the larger the adjustments to accommodate it so allow sufficient grace and time to make necessary adjustments.”
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Image free from Pixabay here

To be honest, for me at this point in my life, just that last quote was all I needed to read! We have had some pretty epic changes in our lives over the last two years, which remain unresolved to a large extent, and it was important to me to be reminded that it all takes time and waiting on God and His timing.

Have you read Jennifer’s book? What learning did you take from it? If you haven’t read it, I would recommend you do! I think there is something for everyone in Jennifer’s entertaining, engaging and easy to read book.

Be encouraged 🙂

P.S. It is now actually 6 months since I wrote this book review, I don’t know why I didn’t publish it sooner. It was kind of lost in my files.

I thought it might be useful to include an update of how I have actually gotten on with the principles in my life. Keeping them in mind has really helped us. I have managed to get to a point where the house is relatively orderly and clean most of the time. I have also begun to find a good balance for me health wise – I have some chronic health issues and if I don’t keep a good balance of rest and work, I burn out and get ill. I have also improved on our home ed organisation and found a position where we are better organised and achieve more of what I want for us to, but I don’t have to feel like a sergeant major. We are still works in progress, but I have found the principles from Jennifer’s book to be really helpful and will be continuing to use them in going forward. 🙂