Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Age of Opportunity {#vtreadingchallenge}

(This post contains affiliate links)

I wanted to share with you about one of the books I am reading, even though I have nowhere NEAR finished it yet!

I can't even remember where I saw this book recommended. It may have been a blog or a podcast, or it may have come up in a related Amazon search. What I DO know, is that when I saw it I knew I needed to read it.

Parenting is not an easy job. In fact, I would go as far as to say it's a hard job. It's a perfect example of how hard things are not always bad things. I LOVE being a parent, but there are challenges around every corner.

Challenges are not always a negative, or they certainly don't have to be negative, but I have been navigating a season of life that was seeming to throw up challenges on a regular basis.

The teen years.

I won't say it's been awful, because it hasn't. Challenges, however, are the reality. Issues come up that you simply don't face with a young child. I have said to others that there is a wilfulness about the things you handle with an older child.  There's also a temptation to feel like you, as the parent, have somehow gone wrong for that child to make the choices they do.

I don't want these years to be constant battles and conflict - I want them to be years that both us as parents, and our children, look back on with happiness.

The blurb on this book was what won me over.

"The argument over the last donut. The cry of nothing to wear a half hour before school. The “I’m the only one whose parents make them . . .”

Teenage hassles that disrupt parents’ lives? Or prime opportunities to connect with, listen to, and nurture our kids?

Paul Tripp uncovers the heart issues affecting parents and their teenagers during the often chaotic adolescent years. With wit, wisdom, humility, and compassion, he shows parents how to seize the countless opportunities to deepen communication, learn, and grow with their teenagers."

It is not a long description, but that word "opportunity" struck a chord in my heart. 

I want to have the right perspective in my parenting and this word "opportunity" really flipped my perspective on this season of life. 

"These are not years to be merely survived!  They are to be approached with a sense of hope and a sense of mission.  Almost every day brings a new opportunity to enter the life of your teen with help, hope, and truth.  We should not resign ourselves to an increasingly distant relationship.  This is the time to connect with our children as never before. These are years of great opportunity."

I have only finished the first chapter, but the simple concept in that quote transformed my thinking. The premise that instead of seeing conflicts and the errant moments as something to survive, we take the opportunity to turn it on its head and teach and train them in how to respond. 

Maybe your teen makes a poor choice. Instead of simply instilling some kind of punishment and lecturing them on the error of their ways, take the opportunity to gently teach them and guide them in how to make a better choice next time. Draw from scripture and explain how their choices should be shaped by God's perspective. Show them how the poor choice has impacted their life. Teach them that one poor choice can lead to further problems.  Furthermore, take that opportunity to express your love for them and a desire to see them prosper and not fail. 

I can only assume that their is a wealth of teaching and guidance still to come, because I have only finished one chapter!!! 

I have already been able to put this principle into practice many times - not just with the teens, I hasten to add! Turning events on their head and grasping with both hands the opportunity to come alongside my growing-up-into-adulthood children, and pointing them towards making better choices.

I love all my children SO much. If I can do ANYTHING to help them navigate these years, when they are faced with many changes and choices, and make them more of a joy, I will do it. I don't want to be a parent who neglects them just when they need me most. 

I will come back and share more with you when I have finished the book, or perhaps share some quotes with you on the way through.

So far, for certain, I would HIGHLY recommend this book to parents of preteens or teens. Having the right approach before you even hit the struggles would be better than me - picking it up part way through!

Find it on Amazon, through this link

Friday, 20 January 2017

Perspective {finding contentment}

So, this week I finally got back on here and told you that it was a time of new things for me. This week, one of those "new things" was a thing of pure joy, along with some lessons learned on the way.

Last week I decided that I needed to exercise more. I used to do a Davina DVD, but our DVD player isn't working in the lounge. I KNOW I will feel the benefit if I do it, but thought of lugging another TV downstairs, then finding somewhere to plug it, before even STARTING to exercise, has admittedly, put me off somewhat.

I know.

I am lazy.  I should put in some more effort and just DO it.


I decided, instead, to take a more leisurely adjustment back into bodily exercise (which, as we know, only profits a little.... *aherm*)

Walking at a fast pace is supposed to be a good workout, and far better for your knees than running. But, have you ever tried walking with a gaggle of small people. Half the time you spend walking at snail's pace. Another fraction is spent RUNNING after a child who is speeding away, hat on and hood up, oblivilous to your calls of impending danger. Then there are the multiple moments where you stop and observe things. Don't get me wrong - stopping and learning is BRILLIANT. I encourage 100%.  I just don't reccomend it as a pace of walking to induce weight loss or a cardiovascular workout of any consequence.

For years, this kind of walking has been my only way to walk.

Enter "the mid-teen-age" child, who is now responsible enough to be able to keep and eye on siblings.

You may hear my sigh of utter delight from across an ocean.

Dear mother-of-only-small-people. your day will come. Enjoy the days of only having little ones. At least endure it. Because, it doesn't last for ever, and one day you will realise that you and your husband can go out ALONE and leave the children behind for short times. BLISS, I say. PURE bliss.

The solution then hit me. I could go out for a walk every morning, at MY pace, with two children capable of keeping up with me. It would give them exercise, and me exercise. On the times we go out together, the others get their little bursts of exercise in sporadic moments of running, in between the snail pace of walking. Add to that the fact that they seem to literally bounce off the walls, run up and down the stairs, and generally burn off way more energy than me, even indoors on a winter's day.

Now, I live in a small village. I know, from experience, that the one pavemented route around the village is about a mile, maybe a little more. the village is only one circle-sort-of-shape, though. You can either go around it clockwise, or anti-clockwise. Not very inspiring for a would be regular walker.

I thought outside the box a little. I could walk OUT of the village in a few directions, then simply turn and walk back home. It would allow for some variation and take us in a new direction. It was also easier without small children or a pram, as one of those routes would require road walking, on a very quiet road. One day last week we took that route, and it was interesting to realise that road went up more of a hill than you notice when driving. It also gave us a lovely view of the village, and we spotted things we don't normally see.

The next walk took us to the furthest bounds of pavement out of the village in the opposite direction. It's the route we go usually once a year, to go blackberry picking. Again, a nice walk, but a "there and back again" scenario (suddenly feeling all Hobbit-ish.....) Whilst we were right at the end of the walk, by the village Church, one of the children noticed a public footpath sign, leading down through a field.

"What's down there, Mum?"

"Ummmmm, I don't know!"

Again, because it involved stiles, and gates, and fields, it wasn't somewhere I'd ever been with small children, prams etc. I kind of thought where it MIGHT lead, looking over into the other side of the village, but I wasn't completely sure. Public footpaths are fickle things.

I concluded that rather than trying it out that particular day, I would thrust my enquiry about good old Google, and see if I could find an OS map showing us the public footpaths near the village.

This I did.

And this is when an exciting revelation took place.

There were a number of public footpaths and bridleways around the village that I didn't know about!!! All of a sudden, potential walking routes were opened up to our horizon! One in particular captured my interest, and I determined that would be the next walk on our list.

The next day dawned, and once we had finished "morning time", it was break.  We rushed to don hats, gloves, scarves, and the welly boots we figured would be a necessary item of footwear.  Off we went, with just a "photographic memory" concept of where I needed to go.

It was a crisp, cold morning, with icy puddles all over the place. The first part of the walk was familiar to us, but then we crossed the road and headed up a lane that I had seen thousands of times, but never actually walked up. Shameful, given how close it is to my home!! We enjoyed observing all sorts of nature on our route, and easily followed the signs for the public footpath (given that road signs in the UK can be reliably unreliable, and tend to disappear just when you need them most, I was pleasantly surprised). At a couple of points, we could look back towards our village. But it was odd. It took us a few seconds to work out exactly where we looking at! It looked like a completely different village, observing it from a completely new angle! We found some landmarks and eventually worked out what we were looking at. When we eventually turned the corner to head back towards the village again, we saw things in the distance that we don't normally see, once again because we were simply looking at it from a new perspective.

That whole walk made me feel excited and refreshed about where we live. Now we could go for an interesting nature walk, seeing the seasons come and go and the different wildlife of our vicinity, just a dander from our home.

When we got back home, the neighbour was at the front of his house, and I chatted to him about my "discovery".

"Yes, that's where I walk my dog every day!"

Yikes! I felt like a bit of an idiot, as THAT is where all the dog walkers seem to go (I did often wonder, when I saw them walking up the road from the village, WHERE were they GOING?!) Not that we have seen a dog walker there the two days we have been so far.  To add to my enthusiasm, he then told me that there are a couple of other ways to vary the walk, and places to explore up there, including some woods.

Maybe this is not something that floats your boat, but it made me think of something that we ALL need in life.

It got me thinking about how perspective is SO important in all that we do. It's especially easy for mums to become bogged down by the mundane. Doing the same old same old, as a matter of routine. It's not that we don't have joy in doing it, but it's just "the same" all the time. But when we take the time to step back from all that we do, and look at it through fresh eyes, and from a different angle, we find new joy and enthusiasm for what we are doing.  A new perspective leads to CONTENTMENT.

Maybe you need to stop and look at your life from a third world perspective? Our "needs and wants" - those things we feel are lacking in our life by way of "stuff", suddenly seems less important if we consider how truly wealthy we are. We have so much in life that we often try and find ways to simplify and declutter, when those in other lands live a life of joy with SO much less. Contentment with what we already have.

Maybe we need to look at our life from the perspective of someone with ill health. Someone who struggles to do the things with their children or family that we can do without a second thought? Someone who has to say "no" repeatedly to their children, when they want to do something that is just beyond the bounds of their physical capabilities? Suddenly, the small inconveniences of activities that wear us out, or we're fed  up being asked to do, we are thankful that we can even accomplish at all?  Contentment that we can do what we do.

Maybe you need to look at your home school life from the perspective of someone who doesn't even have the liberty TO home school, or even get to school at all. There are still countries in the world where it is illegal to home educate, or else there are very strict rules about the "dos and don'ts". (Brits, be thankful you don't even live in some US states, where it's for more regulated than here!) Don't lose the joy you should have in keeping your children with you at home. Change things about a little, or add something new into your daily routine. Think back to your reasons for choosing to home school, and get a fresh joy for the opportunity you have. Contentment with the opportunities that we have.

Maybe you need to look at your Church life from a persecuted Church perspective? The World Watch List from Open Doors,  tells of the countries where there is most persecution for being a Christian - 11 are severe, another 21 very high, and another 10 are high. Believers in some of these lands can't even tell their CHILDREN of their new found faith in Christ, because the risk of them being taken away, or killed, if they told someone else, is simply too high. THEIR OWN CHILDREN. Can you imagine that? Maybe you can be doing more to teach your own family about the Lord. Maybe you can get more involved in your own Church, and find a way to reach out to those in your own community.  Contentment with the freedoms we have.

Maybe you're looking back over on your life, after things going a route you didn't expect? Sometimes it can be hard to see  things exactly the way they really are. Perhaps you need to just step back and see God's hand, and that He is always there. Nothing has changed. Perhaps you need to dig into God's Word and find precious truths that remind you about who God is - see how you are to live and why. Then you are just seeing it all from the perspective of God and His perfect Word. Contentment with our circumstances.

You see, changing your perspective will lead to contentment. A fresh look at your life will allow you to see that God is good, you are blessed, and you have SO much to be thankful for!

Whatever it is in your life that you feel is mundane or tedious, try just stepping back and finding a fresh way to look at it. You may be pleasantly surprised to find the renewed joy that you will have by gaining a fresh perspective, and the contentment that comes hand in hand with that joy!

I am certainly looking forward to stepping out and exploring more of the local countryside, all the while being thankful for so much in my life that enables me to do that at all.

Monday, 16 January 2017

New Year - New Challenges - New Plans (I'm back!)

(This post contains affiliate links - see the affiliate tab for more info)


I haven't written a post since OCTOBER.

I've thought about it so many times, but life has just happened.

However, when thinking about WHY I haven't written much, I realised I was putting too much pressure on myself. I was of the mindset that if I couldn't keep up with blogging at the rate I formerly posted, then I couldn't do it at all.  If I couldn't carry on in the same style and substance, I shouldn't carry on.


That's the conclusion I have come to.

WHO SAYS I have to do things how I always did?

Not a single person. And if they do, it matters not.  My blog. My writing. My choice.

So, I choose to start blogging again at the rate I can cope with, and not beat myself up over lack of posting, too much posting, or any other such silliness.

I would like to try and post once a week, but we will see how it goes.

I am going to start off by sharing about one of my plans for the new year.

Once upon a time, in a life time far, far away, I used to read voraciously.

Now I am a mother of nine, and reading for pleasure seems to have fallen away. Other things have come in - some profitable, others less so - and reading has dropped WAY down in volume.  I read aloud to the children a LOT, but I rarely read by choice for my own pleasure.

I read aloud to the children pretty much every day. I hugely enjoy that, especially as I learn alongside them with history based reading, and beautiful literature choices.  I regularly read a book for our Mum Heart group, too, as well as a few others here and there.  My reading, however, hasn't been INTENTIONAL. I haven't pushed myself to read new things and learn more by reading for the joy of reading.

So, when I saw the 2017 reading challenge from Tim Challies I decided it was a great idea!

Last year, my friend's eldest daughter (she's really my friend, too.... Mwuah), had done the 2016 version. I remember looking at her list as she crossed them off and added titles, thinking it was a good idea. Life needs to be more than SEEING a good idea. I reckon I need to actually DO it.

So when I saw someone share about it at the end of 2016 I decided to join in. I quickly joined an accountability/encouragement/sharing group, and started to choose my books.



Can you see my first problem??? Soooooo hard!!!

Some I knew right away. Others required some idea hunting, and getting suggestions from my online friends.

I got there in the end, and I now have a list!!!

My plan is to share my list with you and then share what I am learning from the books as I go along, and do a book review on each as I complete them.

I will link through to where you can find these books (mostly on Amazon), so you can have a closer look yourself, before I fill you in with more information.

1. God's Smuggler
2. Pollyanna
3. Stories of the Covenanters in Scotland
4. Mom Enough (this book is also available for FREE from Desiring God, as a download)
5. The Attributes of God
6. Wild Swans
7. Amazing Conversions
8. Keep it Shut
9. Stepping Heavenward 
10. Heidi St John's New book (not yet published)
11. The Desperate Journey
12. Age of Opportunity
13. The Challenge of Islam to the Church and its Mission

I am thoroughly enjoying getting dug into several of these. Yes, several. I just couldn't start one, finish, and then move onto the next! They are all on vastly different topics and genres and I read them all for different purposes. So, yes, I am reading a few. I've started with Mom Enough, Wild Swans (one of my ones on Kindle, so easy to read whenever I have my phone to hand), Stepping Heavenward (it's split into journal entries, so easy to pick up and put down), Amazing Conversions and Age of Opportunity. I'm just finding them all to be super reads and have no regrets at all with my choices. I can't wait to come back and share with you some details about them all!!! Every single one has been challenging on some level, but more importantly, on a spiritual level. Only Wild Swans isn't a "Christian" book, but challenges me AS a Christian!

Are you doing the reading challenge? Please share which books you have chosen in the comments, or link to a blog post if you have written one.

If you haven't seen this yet, it's not too late to start.

This isn't some kind of guilt trip - or a rigid list that someone is going to be testing you on or monitoring you as you read. Its simply to help you be more intentional about reading and making good choices in WHAT you read.