Reintroduction: Living Fearlessly

Reintroduction: Living Fearlessly

Living fearlessly is, for me, living happily. It’s about playing life to my own tune.

It’s about doing what is right and good for myself and my family.

It’s about doing things that challenge me.

It’s about living in the moment.

It’s about making choices that bring true joy.

It’s about being true to myself in what I think, say and do.

AND, it’s about achieving all of that without accepting resentment, obligation, and pressure from others. Not caring what other people think about the choices I make. And lots of saying no – without feeling guilty.

You could say that sounds harsh, yes. But you know what, if we don’t make the choices for ourselves (and as a mama, our family) to be happy,  I can pretty much guarantee that nobody else is going to make those choices for us.

So I’m stepping out and making choices for myself and my family that are right for us.

There will always be things we ‘have’ to do, places we ‘have’ to go. I’m totally about accepting responsibilities. But living fearlessly is not letting obligation make decisions that don’t bring us joy or meet up with the priorities we’ve set for our family.

For me, living fearlessly is being free.

More to follow on the specifics of this in my life – I’ve even created a new tag…

No longer longing

No longer longing

I no longer wistfully long for the life I once wanted, the life I dreamed I might grow into.

I have it.

I’m living my childhood dream. I’m a mama to children who are happy, healthy and fully engaged in everything life throws at them. I’m married to my very own ‘tall dark and handsome’, who also happens to be caring, loyal, loving, my best friend and more beyond that.  My wonderful husband supports me to stay at home and take charge of raising our family.  I have friends. I’ve seen a little of the world outside my own country. I have more in my life than I need. More in fact, than many on this great earth.

I am blessed.

I am grateful.

I am happy.

I don’t need to long. Because I have.

This post was written in response to The Daily Post writing prompt: “Longing”

Let me reintroduce myself

Let me reintroduce myself

There are moments in life that define us – maybe immediately, or perhaps they set off a transformation that rolls out over time. A journey.

The last few years have been the latter for me. Quite simply, I’m different to the me who was here two years ago. It’s fair to say I’ve been through the fire and I’ve come out differently. But the same. But different.

I’m still Abbie – I still like most of the same things, my heart hasn’t changed. But I now have a different view of the world … and how I want to live in the world. So I’m back, with plenty to say, and after a process of reinvention, I think I’ve found my voice again – the authentic voice that will speak truly from my heart, no bulls*it, always keeping it real.

The marketer in me wanted to come up with a few key words to sum up my priorities. To focus on those things that have a big impact in this stage of my life, and speak about who I am (or am striving to be).

This is what I came up with:

(See what I did there? LOVE alliteration!)

Over the next few weeks I will cover these aspects and hopefully from there, you’ll have a good idea of where I’ve been.

Yay, I’m blogging again! Well, blog, singular post, but Rome wasn’t built in a day 🙂

Thanks for reading x

 

Red lights

Red lights

Today I drove through a red light. Seriously, not just, the light was amber and I made a call to sneak through. Nope, the light was red, I didn’t even see it, I just kept driving. At an intersection I drive through daily! Man did I get a fright.

I’m so grateful for God’s protection on my life. That could have played out very differently.

I am far too tired. And I little freaked out that I could do that. It’s so not me, I’m not (usually) a careless driver. Sigh. Roll on the next specialist appointment and working out what is wrong with this body of mine so we can make a plan and take back control!!!

Blessed to live, live fullyI definitely received a reality check today.

A good reminder.

Life is uncertain, we don’t ever know what is around the corner.

We must treasure every step, every experience, every opportunity.

Every. Single. Day

Note to self: Honesty

Note to self: Honesty

There’s a song I’ve been playing over and over a lot lately.

If We’re Honest. I love love love this song. The tone, the lyrics, the message, and of course the divine voice of Francesca Battistelli (I love this vibe for her, much more than her more commercial ‘pop’ sound).

Honesty is something that’s very much on my heart at the moment. It always is, really. But I’ve been living ‘pretend’ for a while now and I’m really needing to not do that anymore.

I’ve been unwell for over a year. Really feeling horrible and struggling each day to do what is required of me. I’ve hidden it. Always pretending I’m fine. Pretending to myself to a point, yes, to the rest of the world, definitely. It’s only in the last couple of months I’ve been admitting my weaknesses to some friends and family. I find that really hard. Those who see my Instagram posts will have seen a little more transparency (isn’t it funny how I, and maybe you, find is easier to be real with complete strangers?!).

I’m so much about ‘keeping it real’ yet by hiding this very big part of my life, I’m not being authentic. And that bugs me. It’s hard to be happy when I’m not being myself.

I know why I hide. I grew up in a home where, if someone asked how you were, you replied ‘I’m fine thank you’. It’s not that nobody cared, I guess I was just taught that we keep our private issues private, we don’t head out into the world looking for sympathy. That stance right there has also stopped me being good at reaching out for help. I also place extreme standards upon myself. Yup, I’m a bit of an overachiever in a lot of ways. At the moment, I consider myself failing as a wife and mother because I’m physically not able to do all that’s required of me in these roles. I’m a stay at home mum, my kids are at school, yet I still struggle to do the basics – the driving, washing, meals, cleaning. And that’s really hard to admit.

So the time has come for honesty.

To be honest with myself about what is real and realistic foremost.

Nothing good will ever come from dishonesty. From lying or misleading, no matter how good the intentions.

To be authentic is to be honest, dependable, trustworthy and real. This is who I am.

So honestly: I’m not perfect, I’m fully flawed and I need to accept this. I am how my creator made me. I will not hide from or be ashamed of His plan for my life.


In case anyone is wondering, my Dr is working hard to reach a diagnosis for me on the health issues. It’s a process but after many (many!) tests and specialist appts we’re hopefully closer to working this out. That will be a happy day, to have an answer and hopefully, a plan…

Making memories

Making memories

Yesterday someone pointed something out to me. Something really important.

Something that I thought was a slightly funny but inconsequential moment, was actually potentially significant.

Bear with me…

Yesterday on the school run I had fractious kids – I blame Monday! I was pre-coffee and not really up for the noise levels that six kids, mostly boys, can produce (I also pick up another family en route to one of our schools). Drastic action was required.

“Right you lot, if you don’t tone it down, I’m going to blast this truck with opera music. Don’t think I won’t do it…”

Hmmmm, still really noisy. Right then.

And suddenly I had six kids pretending to be opera singers – full voice, full comedy act. I will never hear You Raise Me Up in quite the same way again! We laughed all the rest of the way and everyone jumped out of the car at their various schools in good spirits.

I would have totally forgotten this moment except for posting a smart comment about boys and opera music on my Facebook page. Then someone pointed this out to me:

We weren’t just making happy noise, we were making happy memories too.

Gosh that got me thinking.

How many other fleeting random or silly (or bad) moments am I dismissing that are actually becoming an important part of the memory bank that my children will look back on? I need to become more intentional about the now.

This is all part of a bigger change happening in me, it’s been coming for a while. I blogged about being present and needing to be happy with life in October/November last year. I have made some changes, both internally and in the way we go about life, that have made a huge difference, and now, it’s time to be even more intentional about chasing passion and happiness.

Hands Free MamaI’ve been reading a fantastic book called Hands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford. I had it sitting on my bedside table for at least a year before it was the right time to pick it up, but when I finally did, it hit me hard between the eyes.

In short, Hands Free Mama introduces a life philosophy, it’s about simplicity, being present and grasping what really matters in life.

I haven’t related so much to a book in a long time – you can see by the state of it that I’ve thumbed through it more than just a few times! I will be reflecting more on my own Hands Free journey in future posts.

I think yesterday was a great example of grasping what really matters. That laughter and happiness on the way to school, that’s good memories in the memory bank.

It’s so important to create those moments, or even better, to have time in life to just let those moments happen…

Prowess – I am / You are ENOUGH

Yesterday I posted about being enough. I am enough. You are enough. Even on the days when we feel like we don’t measure up WE ARE ENOUGH.

This morning a friend posted this story on her Facebook feed. This friend has the most amazingly beautiful heart and I’m almost always inspired by what she posts. She is such an encourager (as you can see). Today her words just tied in perfectly with what’s in my head and heart, and what I wrote yesterday.

Tracey Prowess

Here was this amazing woman, a life saver, carer, nurturer, who felt like she wasn’t enough because she wasn’t a great baker. Honestly, if that’s not getting tied up in society’s standards for us, I don’t know what is?! I love that my friend encouraged her so, a complete stranger, but she spoke to this woman’s heart. We should all encourage each other, these opportunities probably pass us by every day.

The word ‘prowess’ really hit me. It means “exceptional or superior ability, skill, or strength”. Yes! We’re all good at something, we can’t be good at everything. And that right there, is probably why we so often think we don’t measure up. We’re trying to be everything to everyone. Which I wrote about yesterday. Don’t do that. Be true to you and who you are. For me, that is my identity in Christ first, everything else second. I can focus on ONE thing and ONE set of standards – especially when I know those standards won’t change.

Remember – you are enough. Now go find someone else to tell that they are enough too!

Abbie x

I’m not enough

I’m not enough

I can’t be all things to all people. I’m always letting someone down. I know that. On some level, I know that trying to be what everyone else wants/needs is a pursuit that will never end well. I also know that I probably place more of those pressures on myself than anyone else.

But don’t we all have days where, in our own heads, we just don’t measure up?

The days I run non stop after the kids so that by the time I get to sit down with my husband in the evening I don’t have anything left to give him. I’ve let him down. The fact that I’m not the uncomplicated daughter/sister my family would like, the woman who will accept anything they say or do. To them, I’m a Jesus freak. I let them down all the time because I’m ‘different’. The days my body lets me down and then I barely function outside of the bathroom or lying on my bed. Those days I let everyone down.

I’m learning something though.

Even though I might fail to my own standards, or even to someone else’s standards, I am enough. Continue reading “I’m not enough”

Celiac journey – six weeks in

Brain filing cabinet
Image by Laura Lee found at This Illustrated Life

It is only six weeks since I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. Wow. Seriously, wow! It quite honestly feels like months. I can not believe how much information has been crammed into the part of my brain filing cabinet section labelled ‘food and nutrition’. Obviously, I have also had to start a whole new draw in that filing cabinet called ‘gluten free’.

On the emotional side of things, acceptance is still all good. I’m still happy that it was this diagnosis and not something worse. I do have days where I think how lovely it would be to just grab a sandwich for lunch, or pizza for tea, but I’m learning that these are no longer options in my reality. I have no doubt that the more I do this, the easier it will become.

There have been a few changes that are obvious to me since I became gluten free:

  • I spend a LOT more time thinking about food. Mostly what’s coming up, not like, obsessing over what I can’t have or anything (most of the time!).
  • I no longer wake up with my hands, feet, knees and everything in between aching everyday. This started easing within days of giving up gluten. I’m very happy about this.
  • The kids check ingredients on things for me, like salad dressings to make sure I’m ‘safe’. In reality I’ve checked EVERYTHING at the supermarket but it’s sweet that they’re looking out for me and I love them for it.
  • I take photos of my yummy meals and post them on Instagram now – it’s like I have something to prove. Gluten free can be yummy and beautiful too!
  • We go through up to four dish cloths a day in my kitchen now. I’m getting pretty finicky about cleanliness in there and it’s not like my standards were low to start with. My husband and kids are totally following suit and and mostly being so so so careful.
  • I’m a lot more motivated to get myself out walking and keep myself generally healthy. This is very good.
  • I can now go 2-3 days without a nap. Sometimes. This is huge progress from sleeping every day, up to 2-3 hours a day when I could fit it in.

So as you see, this doesn’t just affect me, my family have to be on board as well. I’m lucky they’re with me in this and willing to do what it takes to keep me healthy.  I read about others in shared accommodation trying to maintain gluten-free-ness – I can imagine that would be more challenging.

One of the biggest upsides, aside from the fact that I’m starting to feel better, is that I’ve really connected with a friend who has recently started on a full auto immune protocol diet, also for health reasons. You think gluten free is brutal? Her road is a lot tougher to walk. Realising we’re both on a similar path we share recipes and ideas and can be very honest with each other about how we’re feeling (physically and mentally) and what’s really going on. This has, and no doubt will continue to be, an incredible sanity saver for me. God is good, He knows what/who we need and has everything/everyone perfectly placed ahead of us.

If you’re a newbie on this journey like me, hang in there and look on the bright side, there will always be a bright side. And find someone else on the same journey to share with (I’m here). We can do this!

Abbie x

Our technology take down

Have you ever noticed you were watching something on TV that you weren’t really interested in … but there wasn’t anything else on? Or you get to bed only to think you’ll just check your Facebook page … one … more … time? Or get sick of the kids fighting over who has had a longer turn on the computer and who is going next?

Yeah we’ve all been there. Haven’t we?

Too much technology
photo credit: 128/365 C via photopin (license)

These were all happening at our place which we noticed all the more clearly over the summer holidays – while we were away from home and didn’t have all of our technology with us. There was a lovely calm without the screens and lot more walking, talking, bikeriding and card gaming happening. We as parents loved it, and the kids seemed really happy too.

So we came back from holiday deciding to get out of our screen rut and take control. And it’s been great. The new rules for our kids are that they may only have one hour per day on screens. Any screens – ipod’s, computer games, xbox, tv. I used to be good at monitoring their computer time but they’d just go straight to another screen when that was up! Now the rules cover everything. There are two exclusions – homework doesn’t count, you have to do what you have to do there; and listening to music doesn’t count as screen time (in our family that’s a chill out space that a lot of us actually need).

To be honest, the TV barely goes on any more. When it does, it’s almost annoying. We are all a lot more productive (I know I get a lot more done in the evenings, especially when my husband is working night shift) and the kids are gradually finding ways to entertain themselves that don’t involve screens.

Don’t get me wrong, I totally get the irony of typing this post as I sit at my laptop … while my ipad is playing music beside me! But the point of our family technology take down has not been to ban technology, it’s to ban the hold technology had over our lives and the amount of time we all spent staring at screens.

I have no doubt we’ll relax the one hour restriction during the winter – the kids all play a lot of sport so are active, and sometimes on a cold and wet Saturday afternoon you just need to sit down and watch a DVD. Fair call 🙂 But so far, I love how this is working for our family. Not saying we’d ever go without technology completely (oh no no no) but getting a little perspective has been super healthy for us all. Well I think so, but I’m confident the teens won’t agree with me there!

How do you manage technology times and turns in your home? We’ve tried white boards, timers, earning time credits and all sorts. Simple black and white time seems to be the easiest way to go. You can click here to see the rules we place around our technology.

Abbie x

INSTAblogging

As 2015 has well and truly set itself in motion, I realise how different this year is to the last one. Without getting all deep and personal about the big stuff (for a change), I just realistically, don’t have as much time on my hands to blog as I used to. Ironically, giving up work out of the home, has taken that away – my job last year had a lot of down time, I used that for writing.

Now however, I am better employed. I’m running my home properly, I’m really focused on my time with God every day, I’m (going to, yes definitely) exercising at least three times a week, I’m having time to catch up with friends, I’m full on mum duties from 2.30pm-8.00pm and I’m not doing all the domestic stuff in a hurry last thing at night (yay!). So while I do have a few windows to spend in my blog community, time is more precious.

So what’s my point?

I’m not giving up!!! But I think I need to change how I look at this.

INSTAbloggingWhen I do something, I want to do it well.That’s just me. So I don’t want to publish a pile of half-hearted blog posts just to keep my stats up or something. That’s not why I’m here anyway. So I will write and post when I can. And the times when I can’t, I have fallen in love with Instagram. It’s perfect for when I’ve got a few minutes to share snapshots of our live, or create an image or put a quick thought out there. INSTAblogging. Which I didn’t actually know was a real term until I Googled it!

So please do head over to Instagram (abbiesbabble) and join me. And please don’t give up on me here, I”ll find my groove and get some posts rolling and checking yours out too … when I can.

Abbie Signature

When 1 + 1 = 8

Earlier this month we went to one of the most beautiful weddings I think I have ever attended. The setting was gorgeous, outdoors under well established trees in a beautiful garden. We sat on hay bails covered with white taffeta as the sun dimpled through the trees. The groom was handsome, the bride was stunning. So were their children. And I don’t think a single person there could deny that God was in ‘the house’. Oh yes, these two are meant to be together.

As much as the setting was gorgeous, for me, my heart-strings were really pulled on a deeper level. I could so relate with this couple. A widower who tragically lost his wife far too young, leaving him to raise their four children. And a young woman raising her twin boys alone. The joining of this gorgeous couple didn’t just bring together a husband and wife, but a big beautifully blended family.

The best man (the groom’s teenage son) spoke of the order his new stepmother would likely bring to the house…as only a woman can! The father of the groom was overwhelmed with joy when he could talk of his son’s renewed happiness after some really awful times. He also reminded the bride that she was inheriting two sets of in-laws with her new husband’s, late-wife’s family as well.

Oh yes, Richard and I could so relate! I’m just so excited for this new Mr&Mrs. It’s not an ‘everyday’ beginning to a marriage but it’s one I have lived. And continue to live. It’s not an easy beginning to a marriage but are any of the beginnings really easy, if we’re honest? Besides, there are also some really cool aspects that I pray work as well in their life, as they have in ours. The growing bonds between step-siblings, the very extended family, the maturity and experience brought to the marriage from the outset.

These are gifts.

the secret to happy marriage #goodadvice #instablogging #abbiesbabbleSomething I took away from the Pastor’s message was a little nugget of wisdom gleaned from a couple who had been married for 65 years. When asked what their secret to a successful marriage was, they said “we come from a time when, if something broke, we fixed it”. Isn’t that beautiful?! Words to live by I think, I’m getting a bit fed up with this ‘disposable life’ that seems to be so fashionable now. But that’s a whole different blog post…

 

CC Image background It’s All About Love by Candida.Performa via Flickr
abbie123

Bullying still sucks

Regular readers of Abbie’s Babble might be aware of our struggles this year with bullying (my seven-year old daughter has been bullied over the last few months).

Unfortunately, things have hit an all-time low and I felt forced to remove my girl from school for the rest of the year (our school year finishes in 10 days for the summer). The last week of the year is fun, and she is missing out. Her bullies and their families carry on happy and regardless.

My heart is hurting and heavy.

I’m sad for my girl who has gone through so much she didn’t need to go through – it should have been stopped. I’m hurt that the school has obviously decided we’re wrong and chosen to stop acting – actually worse than not acting, Nat is feeling let down even by staff now. The other children have told lies, denying everything, and staff are consistently taking their side.

I have seen this other girl who is causing the most grief at the moment and she can’t even make eye contact with me any more (she used to come to my home). I don’t believe for a second that she has a clear conscience.

Nat has been told she can no longer go to her safe place the school sick bay. Sometimes she goes there at lunchtime as it’s safe, sometimes she genuinely needs time out as she does get a sore tummy from stress. I’ve been so worried about her health I’ve had her at the Dr with full blood screens taken to rule anything else out – looks like good old stress.

I don’t understand why my daughter is a target. I don’t understand why the school isn’t stepping up. I don’t know what to do from here on in. I feel physically ill today.

I just want my confident sparky happy girl back. Yes even the girl who will answer me back, ask incessant questions and push me to the extreme with her need to do things her own way. I miss that girl now.

I AM grateful for friends and family supporting us and providing advice. And I know there will be answers/lessons that will come from this.

Dog walking
This is much better than getting a hard time at school!

In the meantime, this pic shows how we spent out morning. Nat commented to me as we started walking “Oh well, at least I know I won’t get bullied today, Moe is just a dog”.

I wonder what it will take to get over this. I wonder how it will resolve.

************

Update: I wrote the above yesterday, our first day at home. Today I’m feeling a lot calmer, still sad that this has happened but I also feel more confident in doing the right thing for my family. I wrote recently how I was feeling so much stronger these days after a few years of high emotion and grief. I think this is a perfect example. I’m already bouncing into action.

I’ve made an appointment with the school principal for next week, I will go in ready and strong (pray for me to be discerning in my words please!). I will advocate for my daughter and, as I believe the school needs to change their stance on bullying, I might just need to be the change-maker. Well, to get that ball rolling anyway. For the next little boy or girl, so they don’t have to endure any time like Nat has the last few months.

I’ve also been public about this with my friends on Facebook. To start with I thought I shouldn’t, like it would be bad for the school. But I’ve always maintained, as with my blog, I live openly. I don’t have anything to hide. We haven’t actually done anything wrong here! The support from friends and family across the country has opened my eyes to the amazing network I do have around me. Sometimes on my lonely days I do forget that. I’m feeling very blessed in that respect. Good comes from bad. 

I’ll keep you posted…

AbbiesBabble

This is my story #testimony

Last week I wrote about how, for the longest time, I didn’t think I had a testimony to share. I was ordinary. God hadn’t changed my life in big, jaw dropping ways. Or so it seemed. And wasn’t that the point of people who shared their testimony at church – the high impact, spectacular stories, the near death and life altering interventions by God.

Yeah … nah.

We DO all have a story and we should all share it. If we have God in our lives, then our story has started. The way I see it, our testimony is quite simply, how God came into our lives, and the changes he has made since. By telling our story, we can glorify Him and His work in us. It doesn’t have to be attention grabbing, I think it’s more important that it’s real. And it doesn’t have to be full of biblical jargon. Keep it simple, keep it real and make it about God.

We all have a #story #testimony abbiesbabble.wordpress.com

So here’s my story…

I grew up with parents who didn’t want to believe in God. My mum grew up with extremely religious parents and unfortunately, after a life of having religion shoved down her throat, she rejected all things to do with Christianity (as far as I could see) until the last months of her life. I, however, was completely open-minded and quite curious about God. My brother and I spent part of most school holidays with our grandparents who took us to church and ensured we were exposed to the bible – which I loved. It was one school holidays, when I was seven, that I responded to an altar call at their church. I can still remember pulling on my Nan’s arm, looking up at her and saying “Nan, that’s me, I want that, I want to give my heart to Jesus”. And I did.

I didn’t do a lot with that decision growing up. Sure I went to youth group as a teen but that was more of a social thing than anything else. I always believed in God, I always defended never denied that faith, but never did I seek out a relationship with Him. Then came my 20’s, leaving home, going to University, then moving on to a bigger city. Life was busy establishing a career and partying far too hard. On the outside I was living a great big life. I was empty inside and totally dissatisfied, but never did I think to call on God.

God started tapping on my shoulder when I was married in my late 20’s. I pushed Him away saying ‘some day I will listen’. A few years after this (yes, I’m still ignoring the gentle, yet persistent reminders saying ‘Abbie I am here for you’) my first husband left me. Our daughter was six weeks old at the time. My life was thrown into turmoil. This time I responded to God. Over the next few months I talked to Him. I learnt to trust Him. I found a church – ironically my mum, who didn’t want anything to do with religion was instrumental in getting me there. The first time I walked through those doors and the worship started my heart melted. I’d never felt anything quite like that before. I was home. And I haven’t looked back.

Since then (seven years now) I have actively worked on my relationship with my heavenly father. He has changed me from the inside out in ways I didn’t know were possible. He doesn’t stop working on me – I screw up and he’s still there. And that right there is the beauty, the spectacular, the amazing and most definitely the life-altering in my story.

The emptiness I endured in my 20’s has been replaced by peace and confidence in who I am (in Him). The fears and insecurities I faced are melting away as I learn to see myself as God sees me.

He has taught me about forgiveness. I have been able to genuinely forgive people in my past – people I thought I had forgiven but until I had been truly forgiven myself, I didn’t understand what this meant.

I have been able to lean on God through the most stressful periods of my life, and retain a sense of knowing, that in spite of everything else, He will carry me through. Life hurts, but I am never alone and there is always hope.

I was sustained through five years of being single, holding on to the promise that there is a greater plan for my life – that promise is the most amazing thing. Now I am being shown what it is to be a wife within a christian marriage which is truly blessed.

I am grateful for everything I have, which I know comes from God. I also strive daily to actually live a Christian life. It doesn’t always come naturally to me (especially patience!) but as each day passes, I find the things I need coming to me more and more. I know that this is the work of my amazing God. I slip up. Often. And I am forgiven. Always.

My faith and my relationship with God are making me strive to be a better person – to positively impact my world where before, I was all about me. To Him be the glory. I’m just following the steps He places in front of me, and listening to the whispers of His voice.

I still consider myself a ‘baby christian’ and I’m okay with that. But in light of that, and the many and amazing ways my life has been changed, it’s pretty awesome to think of the possibilities as I get to know my heavenly father more and more.

Will you tell me your story?

AbbiesBabble

We all have a story

I used to think that I didn’t have a testimony. I am so ordinary and I didn’t have a big ‘ah-ha’ moment or life changing interaction with God. “I don’t have anything to say” I used to tell myself. How can anything I say make a difference to anyone else? I mean, we’ve all heard those amazing powerful testimonies.

  • The now successful businessman who used to be an alcoholic.
  • The local boutique owner who used to practice witchcraft.
  • The band member who was addicted to drugs.
  • The suicidal teenager, who was planning to end his life.

All now saved by the grace and mercy of God. These are actually testimonies that I have heard – in full, these stories made me weep. They are powerful. So when I hear amazing things like that, I’m even more convinced that my boring, ordinary life and faith is best kept to myself. Right?

Wrong.

We all have a story

I don’t know when, where or how I managed to change my thinking, but I now realise that we ALL have something to share. Something we should be sharing. We all have a testimony – which is, after all, simply our story of how God came into our life, and the changes He has made within us. Our opportunity to glorify the work he has done in us.

Yes, some people have one distinct moment, where they are aware God entered their lives and started to change them. Others, like myself, were more of a slow burn. I gave my heart to Christ as a seven-year old, but I didn’t develop a relationship with Christ until I was 30 years old. Either which way, once we have God in our lives, we ALL have a testimony that we should share.

I’m thinking that most people probably fall into the ‘ordinary’ category like me. Which is of course NOT to put the ‘ordinary’ tag on us, our story, or God! More to say, perhaps we fall into the majority with simple, rather than spectacular stories. So perhaps people need to hear more ‘ordinary’ testimonies to be confident to share their own.

Here’s my testimony.

If you have your story on your blog, please feel free to add the link in the comments below so we can all read of each other’s amazing journey.

AbbiesBabble

When being yourself equals trouble

Over the weekend I had a great chat with my daughter, quite possibly, the best so far. We had a two-hour road trip and we talked. And we talked.

The. whole. time.

I can’t speak for Nat, but for me, that was so good for my soul. I feel like we totally connected and were both able to say a lot of things that we really needed to. And that perhaps, in the heat of other moments, we haven’t been hearing from each other properly.

We have had a challenging year (two), Nat has faced more than I think a seven-year old should have to face. But that’s life isn’t it? On this trip everything was right, she opened up and we had a huge heart to heart. The details of which I won’t reveal because she asked me not to tell anyone. But she did raise a fair point that got me thinking…

What should we teach our children to do, when our right thing to do, will potentially get them in trouble?

This is a matter of personality – being true to who we are, not pretending for the sake of someone else.

photo credit: Lauren Beck cc
photo credit: Lauren Beck cc

I always tell my children to be true to who they are. To not change their actions, thoughts or personalities because of what someone else has said about them, or thinks of them.

What is the right thing to do though, when this makes them stand out and possibly draws negative attention? My gut says just be you, be who you are, you are beautiful from the inside out, fearfully and wonderfully made, you are smart, you are unique. And I know that as she blossoms into a young woman, the things that make Nat, Nat, will take her great places. But the mama part of me that doesn’t want to see her hurt, almost wants to say, just tone it down.

Some of the things that make Natty who she is, can get her into trouble. She’s feisty, outspoken, strong-willed, quick to question and confident to tell anyone (including adults … actually, especially adults) exactly what’s going on/how she feels/what she thinks. (This is why I was so surprised that she was bullied).

I’ve always treated Nat a bit grown up I guess, it was just the two of us for so long. In her formative years she also had my parents so very involved in her care – she has always been more comfortable with adults and developed a huge vocabulary at an early age. I know she considers adults, my friends, among her friends. She doesn’t see a big difference between them and her.

Nat has become a lot more sensitive this year because of, well, everything really, but especially school and the bullying. Because of this she is already worrying about the next year at school because she knows that a new teacher won’t know her and her ways. So she’ll probably be seen as the trouble kid. When really, she’s just very honest and extremely inquisitive. She understands the teacher-student relationship and the respect she is required to show in school. But she’s still Nat.

I don’t want to tell her to tone it down, to not ask questions and to not offer opinions. That is who she is and that is how she learns. I also don’t want her labelled (again) as trouble. I don’t really know what to do with this one. But I do need to think of something as it’s obviously bothering Nat and she’s going to need a strategy to feel good about starting the new school year in February.

My gut says stay true. I know this is right. I teach it over and over, I know it’s wrong to stray from that now. But my mama heart still says don’t get hurt.

What would you say to your child?

AbbiesBabble

 

Where do you get your nourishment?

Imagine if you tried to eat only once a week.

I think for most of us, that would be something of a disaster right? Our body needs nourishment, it needs food daily for us to thrive.

As my pastor pointed out the other week, we also need to nourish our souls daily – we need God’s Word. Yes, we go to church on Sunday for teaching – but that might only sustain us. If we’re to flourish we need to seek the Word throughout the week as well.

It’s such a simple analogy, I can’t believe I’d never heard, or thought of it before!

It got me thinking where and how I have the Word in my life. I’m terrible at sitting down and reading the bible for a set time each day. Which bugs me no end. I could justify it and say that I’m just too busy. But why justify it? It is what it is. But I’m not avoiding God. Nor am I saying I’m right by the way – I’d love to carve that time out, I know I should make my Lord priority. Hmm, that sounds bad, He is priority, I just need to shake things up to make more time to deeply study with Him.

The way I see it, the Bible is our most awesome handbook for how to live our best life. I don’t know about you, but I’m taking this life thing one day at a time. I do not have it sorted. The fact that there is a handbook, a best practice, guidelines, rules even, right there to help us get the most out of it, well that’s pretty awesome in my eyes.

I am better off when I spend more time with the Word and I know it.

In the tough times, there’s advice and comfort.

For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. Romans 51:4

In all times there’s the one thing I know at the core of my being, I need and want the Word to direct my path that I live my best life for God.

“I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart”. Psalm 40:8

As I said, I’m not good at finding a specific time each day to sit down and study, so I’ve got to be creative about how I do this.

At the moment these are the various ways I spend time with God during the day:

  • Prayer – I pray all the time. I have an ongoing conversation with God. If someone pops into my head, I pray for them. My driving time (I do a lot of that!) is also good prayer time for me. I always end my day with prayer too.
  • Life FM – we listen to Christian radio which delivers a lot of fun, especially in the breakfast show, but the messages are great as well. I know it’s prompted some really interesting conversations with the children, and I’ve been deeply touched many times.
  • Music – I have playlist upon playlist of great worship music and christian artists on my Spotify account. My iPod travels with me everywhere and I’m all about filling my head with positive, mainly faith-based messages.
  • The Word For Today – a short daily devotional that I keep beside my toilet. Well um, sometimes that’s the only time you get a couple of minutes to yourself when you have four children!
  • Blogging – I often blog about matters of faith and this writing time in itself becomes a time with God. Not to mention reading, commenting on, and encouraging other blogs/bloggers in their faith journey.
  • My bible – yes, I do actually sit down and read my bible too. Like I said, I don’t set a specific time for this or necessarily do it daily, but I do read it. I still have the NIV Study bible I bought as a 16-year-old but The Bible is one book I prefer to read on the iPad. My favourite app is Tecarta where I’ve purchased a few bible versions and devotional books as well.
  • Devotionals – I have a few of these (books) beside my bed and on my iPad which I use from time to time for a quick dip into the Word.
  • Online Bible Studies – I’m a great one for signing up to online studies, then running out of time to follow through properly. So I label the incoming emails and file them together, then,  when I feel like tackling a particular topic, or know I have a few hours to myself, I’ll take on a few of the emails at a time. Joyce Meyer and Proverbs 31 Ministry are two of my favourite sources for these devotionals and online studies.
  • Conversation – the dinner table is a great one with the kids, or in the car.

What’s your favourite way to spend time with God?

Your word is a lamp to my feet

AbbiesBabble

To my strong-willed, passionate, very loved, almost-8-year-old daughter

Dear Nat

You have had a rough time lately and I want to encourage you. I want to tell you that you are amazing. I want you to know that even though we do most definitely have our challenges, we are going to work it out. I want to tell you (again and forever) just how loved and special you are to me.

Baby girl in your short life you’ve dealt with a lot. I say that carefully, because I know a lot of other kids have dealt with a lot too. Some of their things bigger. But you know what, in your life, you have dealt with a lot of big loss and change among other things, and I don’t want to take away from that. Nor do I want those things to define who you become in a bad way.

Yes your dad left you, pretty much at birth. I know what it is to be abandoned by your father, not so young, but I understand. I know that it makes it hard for you to trust people, especially Richard. It’s like a part of you, even though you don’t want it, is waiting for him to reject you like your father did. And I know that’s why you are so hot and cold with him. But my darling, you can trust him. He is learning to be your dad as much as you are learning to be his daughter. Please know I chose very carefully, he IS a wonderful husband and father and when you are ready, you will see that. He loves you. He makes mistakes, we all do, but he loves you. He is also sent from God. Harris6 is a family that is meant to be together and nothing will separate us. But know that I understand how you feel, it took me many years to accept my step-father too and you know that I now look at Pop-Pop as my only dad. Hang in there and trust. Trust me, trust Richard but most of all trust God’s plan for our family.

You live your life with so much passion – your emotions are so clearly on the very outside, you feel EVERYTHING so intensely. Good and bad. You are also a VERY strong-willed young lady. More than me and more than your Gee. That’s big, because you know that my mum and I are very strong ladies! These are not bad things. They can be good things if you are willing to learn about them. They definitely challenge me as your mum because at the moment, you want to question and defy pretty much everything I say and ask of you. Some days I feel like I’ve spent the day fighting a battle with you and that’s hard. I have always taught you obedience. How many times do you hear me say ‘obey straight away’? But I’m learning. I’m learning that it’s not your nature. That you need to know the reasons why, that you need to know what’s coming up, that I need to roll with it a little more and the less I fight your fighting back, the more we can get done. I’m trying baby. Every single day I’m trying to be the best mum I can – you hear me pray every night for God to guide me as your parent to help you be the best you can be, and I mean that from the bottom of my big toe.

Even on the days where your yelling and screaming and crying pushes me to the edge of crying myself, I never stop loving you. I never will bubba. I will love you to the end of the world and back. Sometimes I think your behaviour is purely to test this. Especially when I tell you I love you and you say ‘but how can you when I’ve been so naughty’. You will always get the same answer from me. “I will always love you. I might not like your behaviour but I will always love you. Nothing you can do will push me away or make me stop loving you. Same as God”. You don’t need to fear rejection from me baby. I will never do that to you.

Your strong will and passion will see you go far in life. I believe you have leadership inside of you. When you were dedicated Pastor Jack saw and prayed amazing things over your life. NEVER forget that. Sometimes, in the moment, when your emotions are running on super drive, remember that God is always working on us, always teaching us. He didn’t plant these amazing things in you to not use you for greatness in some way. And I will be your biggest cheerleader all the way.

Your Gee was also one of your biggest cheerleaders. One of her biggest sadnesses when she got really sick was that she wasn’t going to see you grow up. Wasn’t going to see you finish school, university, have a family of your own. She loved you so much and I know you loved her too. You are so lucky to have had such a special bond with a grandparent. I know you miss her crazy much, I do too. And that’s okay. You never have to stop missing her. Just know that you always carry her in your heart and she’s watching you from heaven cheering you on in everything you choose to do. Pop Pop is still here and he loves you as much as Gee did. I know it’s hard when he lives in a different town but you still get to see him and we’ll make sure you still get your special weekends with him.

You see beautiful girl, you are loved. So very loved.

Keep living a big life my girl. I think you are learning about friendships now and understanding what it is that makes a good friend. I hope for you to be a good friend and to make good choices about the people in your life. Choose people who make you the best version of you – and do that for them too. Don’t change who you are because of what someone else says or does. Don’t try to be anything other than yourself: an amazing kind and caring person who throws their whole heart into life. You don’t have to be the best at anything. You have to live a happy life and be willing to work hard. Let God direct your path, remain teachable.

Every night before I go to bed I come into your room. I switch your lamp off and kiss your cheek. And in that moment Natty, anything bad we said or did that day has disappeared. My heart grows with a wave of love for you. Together, we can work through anything. I love you so much I can’t even explain. You’ll understand one day.

Be strong, be you.

Blessings

Mummy x

Your than you

AbbiesBabble

Thankful Thursday (November 13)

Dr Seuss on Thankful

I don’t think there is a single person who is living a perfect life. I mean, we all have problems, challenges, issues, trials, tribulations. Whatever you want to call them. There are a lot of us walking through this life hiding the bad stuff, I know I do.

So this is probably a good reminder to us all, that while whatever we are facing seems tough, sometimes impossible, like it will never pass, everybody else has something hard that they are facing. And there’s a good chance that somebody else is in a worse place than we are.

So let’s be grateful for what we DO have.

Let’s be grateful for the storms we have already made it through – that they have passed, that they have shaped our character, taught us lessons and made us who we are today.

Let’s also be grateful for our current storms, knowing that this too shall pass, and out the other side, we will be stronger and wiser.

AbbiesBabble

Just put the screen down

Social MediaI’m really starting to annoy myself.

Do you constantly find yourself checking for new activity on your blogs, tweetbooks, facetags, instapins and hashmails? 😉

I do.

I can hardly wander past my phone without checking the notifications some days. If I’m sitting “watching” the kids at sport, you’ll probably find me on my screen a lot.

Over at Pendulum World, Marla posted recently about being present with our kids, not letting our own things get in the way of really connecting with the little people in our lives. Because I’ve already been feeling frustrated with my behaviour, this really struck a chord with me.

Like Marla, I love the world of blogging. I do love to write and have found such freedom in expressing myself this way. I’ve also found joy in the community of bloggers (hey you guys!) and love to communicate on my blog and others. I link some social media with my blog (Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest) but I also love to interact with my real world friends on Facebook.

That said, God has given me the amazing blessing and huge responsibility of raising four children within a wonderful marriage. To put all that ‘social media’ stuff before them is just plain wrong. For me. I do think God is really speaking into my heart at the moment and saying, put the screen down, look at your family, they need your attention. And I know He’s right. So I’m called to act.

I have to admit, I’ve tried to be more focused at sport this week. At volleyball I enjoyed actually following the game and encouraging the team. A few times Tom looked over and I was able to give him a thumbs up or word of praise and his big grin was well worth it. Same with Nat at swimming – as she swims past me and takes that one breath where I’m in her line of sight, I see her smile when I wave stupidly at her.

I will defend myself a little here. I do think I’m a good mum. I love my kids completely and my life is pretty well devoted to making sure everyone in my family has what they need, when they need it. Physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. Lately though, I feel like I’ve dropped the ball a bit and maybe that is because my priorities are slipping just a little too far in the direction of what I want, instead of what I should be doing. This balance will be addressed with the changes we’re making in the new year – I’ll post about this in the next few weeks.

So here’s the deal: I’m really focusing on the time between school pickup and dinner. This is to connect with my children and my husband. When I’m out with the kids, my phone is not out (excluding photos, my phone is my camera). When we’re at hockey or swimming or volleyball or whatever, I’m watching them, not my screen. On the rare afternoon that we’re actually at home, I’m going to make a real effort to stay off screens completely in this time. Eeeek, I know I’m up for a challenge in this.

Anyone with me???

Raising Children

AbbiesBabble

 

Random rant: Parking matters

I got cross yesterday. Like really cross. Like two hours after the incident I was still steaming.

This has always been one of my pet peeves. But now it’s getting personal. Some people are just so ignorant, selfish and rude!

Disabled parking spotWhat am I on about this time? People parking in Disabled parking spots without permits. Ggggrrrrrrrrr.

Yep, it’s always annoyed me to see someone jumping out of their car after cruising into a Disabled spot without displaying the permit. Hello, those spots are there for a reason. There are people who genuinely need to be close to whatever facility your able-bodied self just wandered into.

When my mum was really sick she could have applied for a parking permit, quite legitimately, but kept saying ‘oh no, there are people who need them more than me’. Whatever, she could barely get out of bed without help most days. But that’s just her and I’ll always love the fighting spirit which is a big part of her legacy in me.

Anyway, I digress..

So yesterday, when leaving volleyball with my son and a friend of his, I was surprised to see his mum walking around the corner of the auditorium. She has ALS so naturally has a permit to use the parks right outside the door. But yes you guessed it, of the three clearly marked disabled parks, none were available, only one of the vehicles showed a permit.

My friend and I were both fuming. Seriously, to see her have to walk from the gate, knowing that some days, just brushing her hair is a mission, really p*ssed me off. When one of the drivers returned to the car my friend admitted she was too angry to confront her, fearing she would not keep a calm tongue and say something regrettable.

I now regret that I didn’t say something.

Some people need to pull their heads out of their own world and think about how their actions affect other people. Seriously!

Rant Over

Books books books! (a roundup)

Flying BooksAs a baby, my mum used to put me on the potty to read books. I guess that’s a form of toilet training?! I have always gained a lot of enjoyment out of it (reading, not the potty, just to be clear). Now, as part of my ‘live a life I’m truly happy with‘ I’m making more time to fall into the pages of books. Especially at lunchtime when I get 30mins at home between my paid job and picking up kids. It’s not hard, books a like an addiction for me anyway.

One of my most visited websites has to be Book Depository. I’ve been a regular shopper over there for years – the irony does not escape me that it’s cheaper to buy books and have them shipped half way around the world from the UK for less than half of what I’d pay retail here in NZ! It’s crazy, but I’m all about a bargain so online book buying for me it is. Again and again. I’m old school, I have tried eBooks but it just doesn’t feel right.

I thought I’d share a few books on my read and to-read piles. An eclectic mix of titles to be sure! I do love hearing other people talking about books and often buy  titles based on what I read in blogs. Don’t be looking for official reviews, just my #keepingitreal thoughts…

Lately I’ve Read…

To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

I first read To Kill a Mockingbird for High School English (so a couple of decades ago, sshhhhhhh!). I remember that I enjoyed it but was really keen to read it again from an adult perspective. I’m so glad I did. It definitely has to be on my all-time top 10 because reading as an adult, I understand what a rich novel this truly is. Harper Lee’s language is stunning and her character development just brilliant. I never forgot protagonist and storyteller Scout, but it was a joy to get to know her, and her family again. This is a fairly simple story that tackles serious themes of racism, social separation, prejudice, justice, good vs evil, and acceptance of difference. Atticus Finch, Scout’s father and a key character is a wise teacher: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it”. He was ahead of his time, his lessons are there for us all to learn…

Heaven Is For Real – Todd Burpo

My daughter brought home the children’s version of this book from the school library which prompted me to read the full text – that and I always like to read the book before I see the movie. I found this to be a really well told story of one family’s account with ‘the other side’. For me, it didn’t challenge my beliefs, but it did make me think a little deeper, especially hearing this from a child’s perspective and having recently said farewell a very young family friend from this earth. All in all, an easy and enjoyable read. It’s non-confrontational and I would suggest suitable for anyone who is in any way interested in what happens after this life.

Bridge To Haven – Francine Rivers

I love Francine Rivers and I’m always excited to pick up one of her new novels. This was no exception! The story centers around a girl and the extensive searching she needs to travel (physically, emotionally and spiritually) to find herself in God. True to form, we do wind to a fairly predictable conclusion but the journey there is full of lessons for the characters and ourselves. Another quick enjoyable read.

 

 

 On My bedside Table:

The Hiding Place – Corrie Ten Boom

Looking forward to reading the words of this super-inspiring woman who was a hero, sacrificing her own safety to keep her Jewish friends safe from the Nazi’s, ultimately landing herself in concentration camps.

My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece – Anabel Pitcher

The review I read ended with “In conclusion, I reiterate: Read this book. You will not regret it. (You might cry though.)”. It sounds intriguing. My Sister is about a family learning to deal with loss in the aftermath of Terrorist attacks in London, which I’m sure will bring in tears and some touchy themes. I’m in…

Whatever After Series – Sarah Mlynowski

This is a new series I’ve stumbled on which seems to mix up the well-known fairy tales a bit. The first book in the series is winging its way to me, if it’s any good it will appear in my daughter’s (age 7) Christmas package (my kids ALWAYS get books).

The Imperfectionists – Tom Rachman

This book is set in Rome. I love Rome. But I think it was this line in the overview that tipped me over to buying it: “The Imperfectionists touches on the fall of newspapers and the rise of technology but, above all, it is a wise and moving novel about unusual, endearing characters”.

Shantanaram – Gregory David Roberts

Recommended to me by the lovely Amanda, a fellow blogger, I’m pretty sure she said something like this being one of the best books she’d read in a long time. Starting in Australian (close to home for me) the story moves to India where it seems to introduce a truly rich, international cast. I’m excited by this one.

 

So there you go, a random lot. I’ll keep you posted on the ‘to read’ books in the future. With summer holidays coming up (four weeks of work and counting…) I anticipate a bit more reading time. A good thing that, there are still 28 books on my Book Depository wish list!

I’d love to hear what you think of any of these books, or, if based on these, you can think of any others I might like…

AbbiesBabble

Break my heart for what breaks yours

Break my heart for what breaks yours
background image credit: Neal. via cc

Sometimes the amazing kids are labelled the trouble kids. I come across them a lot in my job, which I’ve written about before.

Recently I had a chat with a young person who absolutely broke my heart. After they left my room the song ‘Hosanna’ from Hillsong came to mind, specifically:

“Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like You have loved me
Break my heart for what breaks yours”

I think that because these kids’ surface behavior is what is most noticeable, the ‘bad’ behaviour, this is what they are known for, and treated accordingly. It’s in the trying to look deeper, to the things unseen, listening to the stories, where we learn that these kids are awesome. And often sad, lonely, hurt, frustrated and completely unaware of the potential they hold.

I want so much to make a difference for these kids but school policy states that I supervise them, I don’t chat with them. Which is so hard when my heart is to minister.

Well this time I broke the rules. You can slap me on the hand but I couldn’t sit back in silence. I had a student in my room without anyone else, and the usually jovial young person, was down with a very ‘I don’t care’ attitude. After witnessing an interaction with a teacher I decided to talk.

I looked at their academic notes and I saw evidence of a kid who is academically capable. So I said so (there was a smile). And I said if they were my child, I’d be proud of those academic results (there was disbelief, and another smile).

I knew I was talking to a keen sportsperson so I asked about that. Then they really started to talk. About sports injuries, training, their coach, family life which is ‘not that good’, about struggles physically getting to school, and so much more.

I encouraged the student to keep up with school and to attain the highest qualifications possible to keep their options in life wide open. I encouraged their natural leadership ability while cautioning on when this might be best used (not so much for mischief in the class!) and told them they had huge potential. We talked about potential career paths and I encouraged the first choice as realistic and achievable. I also said I thought they’d be great.

I am so frustrated that the ‘rules’ don’t allow me to have more conversations with these kids. I’m perfectly placed – I’m not a classroom teacher so the kids don’t have some of the issues with me that they seem to have with teachers. It’s the ‘trouble makers’ who naturally end up with me (in the ‘time-out’ room). I’m not pretending to be a counselor, or to have the answers but as I saw with this student, most of the time they just need someone to listen.

We had a casual, frank 40 minute conversation today. I did much less than a third of the talking.

I do feel like I made a different this time. We had a good chat. And when this student left they looked me in the eye, smiled and said ‘thanks Miss’. I just hope something I said might stick. They are right on the edge of becoming a statistic, I pray they choose to meet their potential and become so much more.

Sorry if this doesn’t read so well, I tried really hard to keep the post gender neutral so as not to give any clues to the identity of my student for obvious reasons.

AbbiesBabble