2 Cor 12v9

Monday, 18 January 2016

Reading List 2015

So here it - my reading list of 2015. I'm sure I'm the only one who gets pleasure out of this and goodness knows I have a thousand other things to do other than write this out, but I'm going to do it anyway. There is something in me that loves marking my progress and my knowledge of the world - even fictional books contain so much information about history, personalities and places I've never been - and I want to stop and acknowledge the learning journey I've been on in the past year. I started doing this two years ago (for 2014 and 2013) and it really spurs me on to be intentional about what I'm picking up and being interactive with.

* = fiction
r = re-read

*One Day by David Nicholls - I've seen the movie and wanted to experience the original. I really enjoyed it. It meanders through the different seasons of the lives of two people in a post-modern era and all the pitfalls and mistakes people can make. If it doesn't sound too arrogant, it made me thankful for my own straightforward relationship and purpose in life.

From Pigpen to Paradise by Pam Young & Peggy Jones - You know how some people need extra motivation and clarity when it comes to dieting or relationships or parenting? Well my thing is home organisation. I need to keep focused and inspired to do it or the whole thing slides. I really liked this book from a couple of decades ago. It's really funny and realistic, about two sisters who developed a system to not let their home life overwhelm them anymore. It's really helped me this year and I would definitely recommend it (along with Time Management for Manic Mums by Allison Mitchell).

How to be a Best Friend Forever by Dr John Townsend - From one of the authors of the fantastic Boundaries series, this applies bible truths with psychology to explore the nature of friendship. I felt like it was something I needed to make sure I wasn't taking for granted, as my friends have carried me through the toughest times of my life. It helped alleviate the questions in my mind at that time and make some healthy relationship decisions.

*Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey - This book was so very very sweet and gentle and powerful all at the same time. From the perspective of an elderly lady struggling with dementia, it mixed past historical events with a confusing modern world but it had a cleverly woven mystery to follow throughout it too. Definitely recommended reading for everyone as it gives insight that can help us empathise with people going through this difficult struggle.

A Grief Observed by C.S.Lewis - Such a raw and honest account of how it felt to lose his wife, he released it anonymously at first. I wouldn't recommend this for any other time than when you're in a pit of grief (which is when I read it), and then it is the most powerful thing you could access. Without reservation he puts into words the hopelessness of loss and the drowning sensation it takes you through. This and Jerry Sittser's A Grace Disguised, are really the only two books that connected with me on this level.

*Persuasion (r) by Jane Austen - I'm sure I read it in my teens but I could only remember tiny snippets of it so it was like reading it for the first time really. Not my favourite Austen, but her writing rhythm is so good to slow down the brain and make you feel at peace, and the gentle humour and observations about human nature make me smile all the way through. 

Blessing or Curse by Derek Prince - This is not something I would normally have chosen but last spring I was in a place of wondering what the next disaster over my life was going to be and I wanted to break free from that. I needed to know if there was anything, imagined or real, that had power over my thoughts and life. I felt dubious about it at first, but although Prince doesn't explain things in the same way I would - I think he overstates some things and presumes others - it's basically a biblical journey on how words and spiritual forces can affect your every day life. I began speed-reading it then went back and studied it in-depth when I saw how much scripture it investigates. It really brought me out of that place and I'm glad I pushed past my reservations to pick it up.

*Seconds Away
*Found by Harlan Coben - A guilty pleasure read. I like Coben's books and keep picking them up as second-hand bargains, and I didn't realise Shelter was actually his foray into teen fiction. Thought I'd check it out anyway (you know, for the kids) then the first one ended on a cliffhanger so I HAD to buy the other two - at full price! Murder and intrigue with some historical mystery thrown in too.

*The Froggit Chain by Katharine Ann Angel - This is written by a friend of mine and is based locally. Took me a little while to grasp the characters and where the story was headed but by a quarter of a way in, you want to keep going and find out how on earth this situation is going to be resolved. The most striking thing about the book is the ordinariness of the characters. She has a fantastic way of sharing their thought process with you so you can empathise with these people who often live life unnoticed on the fringes of society.

The Trellis and the Vine by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne - A book about church structure and helping people find where they fit. The material isn't revolutionary but the crucial element of the book is that in order for the church (the vine) to grow organically, you have to build a structure (the trellis) upon which it can flourish. It's such a clear analogy that it really helps in decision making and establishing why you're doing what you're doing.

The Other Side of the Dales  by Gervais Phinn - Brilliant writing, about the early years in his job as a schools inspector. Like James Herriot, he has a wry insight to country life and it's a great easy read. I went to see him perform at The Dome in Morecambe a few years ago with my in-laws and he was great then too. 

*Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn - Oh my word. I read this before I watched the movie and had no idea where it would go. Absolutely amazing psychological thriller with so many twists and turns that it was impossible to predict where it was going to end up. The kind of book that keeps you thinking about it long after you've finished. The movie is great too (faithful to the book) but please please read the book first. Dark but brilliant.

*Mary and Elizabeth by Emily Purdy - Telling the stories of the Tudors through the eyes of the princesses who became queens. Not a bad read, but I can't read historical fiction now without comparing it to Philippa Gregory, and so it didn't really grab me much.

The Kingdom of God by Martyn Lloyd-Jones - A classic, based on his sermons on this topic. Good, powerful teaching with fantastic turns-of-phrase that makes you wish you could've heard him for real. We did a series on the Kingdom of God at church and this book helped to pull out some key points for us to focus on.

Do It Tomorrow by Mark Forster - Another time management book. Made for people who are working in an office setting really, so hard to apply to the various roles in my life, but some good insights into the psychology of procrastination and organisation. 

*Swallows and Amazons (r) by Arthur Ransome - This book became very important to us halfway through this year (I'll have to share the story another time) and so I downloaded it for me and Isaac to read. Reminded me of summers in the Lake District and reading it when I was younger. I still don't understand all the boat terminology but it does make me want to go and camp out on an island.

Up the Creek....Without a Paddle by Dave and Jenny Gilpin - These guys are brilliant speakers and church leaders who tell their story of moving from Australia to Britain to plant Hope City Church (which has now planted many other churches). This hilarious diary spans a couple of decades and talks about their emotional roller coaster of trial and error, seeing people come and go, projects rise and fall - it was everything I needed to read about this year as I was facing a very introspective season in my own journey of church planting. It alleviated many of my fears and self-doubts and helped me see things from a much more realistic perspective.

Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank B. Gilbreth Jr. & Ernestine Gilbreth Carey - This is the original real life story (also a movie) that inspired the more modern movie that is one of my faves. Two of the siblings share their memories of their influential and eccentric father and their stoic mother and everything that made their household run smoothly (most of the time). A very sweet and funny account of large family life in early 20th century America.

*Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir - She is one of the best history writers I've come across and this is the first novel of hers that I've read. All about the story of Lady Jane Grey, she paints a really clear picture of Tudor life and the precarious social and religious conflicts of the day. Probably my second favourite history writer.

Turning Points by Mark A. Noll - We used this book in our church history course at college and it's broken up into chunks that study key moments in church history, the circumstances leading up to it, and the ongoing impact of it today. Because of this, it's a good book to keep dipping into between reading other stuff, and contemplating the issues and choices that make Christianity what it is today.

Very British Problems by Rob Temple - Not sure it qualifies as proper reading as it's basically a Twitter feed compiled into a book, but I find these insights into social awkwardness hilarious and I identify with way too many of them. What some people call a coffee table book, I think of more as a by-the-loo kind of volume.

*A Time to Kill (r) by John Grisham - I shared last year my disappointment with his newer material, so I thought I'd see if I still felt the same about the original novels that I read as a teenager. This was his first novel, so it was definitely cheesy (as he admits himself) but whether it was nostalgia or not, I really enjoyed it. Think I might be tracking down copies of The Pelican Brief and The Firm for this year to see if they're the same!

*Sycamore Row by John Grisham - So I had to pick up the follow up book that was released last year and had several of the same characters in it, and again, I really enjoyed it. Maybe it was because I was back in the flow, or maybe he was, but his descriptions of the small town South and the clues that keep you guessing definitely had me hooked this time.

The Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters edited by Charlotte Mosley - I was watching a documentary not long ago that mentioned this family in passing and I thought they sounded interesting, so knowing nothing about them, I embarked on this collection of their letters. Wow. Written from the 1920s to the 2000s, between six sisters who grew up to be: a controversial novelist; a quiet gardener; the wife of the leader of the British fascist party; a personal friend of Hitler; a communist; and the Duchess of Devonshire. Politics, love affairs, a suicide attempt, imprisonment, royalty, miscarriage, cancer, celebrities - all these massive topics are experienced and discussed light-heartedly between grown up girls who never realised one day they would be published as a chronicle of 20th century life. Brilliantly edited. Kept me fascinated all summer.

Audrey Hepburn: An Elegant Spirit (r) by Sean Hepburn Ferrer - Every now and then this catches my eye on the bookcase and before I know it I've sat and read through the whole thing. I love this lady and this book is full of pictures and stories from her son. Made me go through all her movies again this summer - Charade is my favourite.

The Plantagenets by Derek Wilson - Of all the historical periods, this has been my favourite for a long time now and I keep coming back to different materials on it. This starts all the way back with Henry II so really it's the bulk of the monarchy up to the War of the Roses. A well-paced, interesting read.

Glorious Ruins by Tullian Tchividjian - The tag line to this one is "How Suffering Sets You Free" and it looks at how the gospel embraces suffering rather than denying it. Brilliant handling of a subject that prevents many people from engaging with faith, if their understanding has been that God's love or existence can only be proved through positive circumstances. 

One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp - I love the content and the message of this book, but not the style (please don't hate me). It's a personal testimony of gratitude and how when we change our perspective, we see the glory of God and a thousand things to be thankful for every day. It is very powerful and has led many people to take up the challenge too. If you feel like you're in a very low place and struggling to see the good in your situation, this is great book for you. It's extremely wordy and poetic and that was my only issue with it - I prefer much more literal writing and I kept misunderstanding the situations she was describing because I'm an impatient reader and I was trying to get through it too fast. So learn that lesson, and take your time ;)

*Sing You Home by Jodi Piccoult - Not for the fainthearted! A very meaty exploration of the psychology of music, sexuality, religion and infertility. Piccoult doing what she does best and placing you in a situation where you really don't know what you would do if you were there. The most interesting element to me was the approach of the characters who were representing religion and what their true motivations really were.

Dangerous Honesty by Karin Cooke - Karin works with lots of people who have been affected by pornography, and through the organisation Porn Scars is intervening in many ways to try and change the understanding and the effects of pornography on modern life. She couldn't find a resource to help the women she kept meeting who struggled with pornography as it's generally perceived to be a male problem - so she wrote one! It's available on Amazon and a great resource for leaders, addicts and anyone working in support roles with people affected by pornography. Get it on your shelves so you're ready when you need it!

*The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie - My only Agatha book this year (and no Enid Blyton at all - I mustn't need the comfort blanket much anymore!). An early one, and a romance novel too, which wasn't her forte, but suitably twee and middle class to make it fun.

Serving Without Sinking by John Hindley - The tagline is "How to serve Christ and keep your joy". A small book, full of wisdom. Halfway through it, I went back to the start so I could study it more in-depth. With non-complicated language, it digs down deep to the root of our motivation when it comes to serving, and how quickly we can become burnt out and weary because we're focusing on the wrong things. I want to buy lots of copies of this and share them out, because I think anyone serving in church should read it.

Life Without Limits by Nick Vujicic - If you haven't heard of this guy, go and look him up on YouTube and get blown away. Born without arms or legs, this guy has had to choose between self-pity and even suicide, or living his life to the fullest degree possible, and he's chosen the latter. I don't think there's a single person in any situation who wouldn't be inspired and challenged by him. He chooses not to focus on what he hasn't got, and to make the most of his abilities instead. It really is a life changing story.

Love Without Limits by Nick Vujicic & Kanae Vujicic - This is the follow up story of how he met his wife and started a family. Very sweet and cheesy, but so heartwarming you can't help loving them both. I just love testimonies of how people couldn't see a way through and then God changed everything for them.

*The Last Sin Eater by Francine Rivers - I had three attempts to get into this book I'd borrowed and I just couldn't engage with it. Then on the last try, I persisted a little longer and it finally grabbed me. Set in American mountains in the 1800s, it's one of those where you have to try and get your head around another culture, but once you're in, it is fascinating. A mystery story with deep spiritual reflections - I am starting to like Francine Rivers more and more.

*The White Princess by Philippa Gregory - Part of the Cousins War series, and tying together the threads from The White Queen, The Red Queen and The Kingmaker's Daughter, this was another brilliant novel, from the perspective of Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV and wife of Henry VII. Gregory's magic is that she keeps the narrative consistent all the way through the series, yet with a different voice and attitude than the other protagonists who narrate each story. Every time I read one of her books, I think "That's my new favourite".

Courageous Leadership (r) by Bill Hybels - We have gone through this book a chapter a week in our Leaders Development Group this year, and it has been brilliant. Since reading it a few years ago, I could see how utilising the principles in this book really have made a difference to our church, and we have had some brilliant discussions about ourselves personally and the future of the church. For anyone anywhere in a position of influence (and I think that's most of us), this book is really valuable. 

I haven't yet finished Live Love Lead so I'll put that in next year's review.

The books of the bible I've studied this year are Isaiah, Joshua and James.

And that is also my Be Present 366 for day eighteen - I am so glad to live in a time where all these resources are so freely available, not just because of the print but because they can be ordered, borrowed or downloaded in minutes thanks to this high tech world we live in. I can't imagine my life without books and I don't know who I'd be without them. I feel like new worlds are opened up to us every day when we open a book and allow it to stretch our minds.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Grace Gifts

Today my biggest boy is fourteen. It's the first time he's ever had to go to school on his birthday as it's usually at the end of the Christmas holidays, but I think he enjoyed it anyway. We started with a McDonalds breakfast, met up in town after school to buy new clothes and have a Costa, ate Chinese food for tea and finished with a head-to-head on his new game, The Rivals for Catan.

I got a much needed kick up the bum a few weeks ago when it came to this boy. In the last year I've been a bit too confident about this parenting teenagers thing and thought I would just take it all in my stride. I've focused very much on behaviour and responsibility and trying to turn them into men. What I haven't been focused on is the emotional change in me while watching them turn from boys to men. It's a weird thing when the boys you once threw around and wrestled can now look you in the eye without stretching their necks. It's weirder when I keep thinking there's a man in my house and realising it's just the voice of my eldest son. It's weird when they unexpectedly do things that seem really mature and grown up, like taking responsibility for making a meal, and then immediately after get into a an argument with their five-year-old sister about nothing just to see her reaction. 

These things don't make sense in my head and I feel like I'm having to jump from one mode to another as one moment I speak to them like adults and the other moment as if they're children. It requires way more flexibility and mental awareness than I want to devote to it most days, and this is why it's an important part of my "being present" challenge for this year. 

When I do it wrong, I look into the past and I just want them to be children again, to be bundled in bed at a certain time, and be unaware of the grown up conversations around me, and not to be wrestling with the opinions of their peers as if they are on a par with their parents'. I tell myself if their dad was here they wouldn't use that tone of voice or giggle when I'm telling them off because I'd have back up all the time. Or I look too far ahead, and I think that because these boys are starting to look and sound and even smell (it's true) like men, that means they can shoulder the responsibility of an adult and do a thorough job of every task I set them, and understand where I'm at emotionally and be leant on when I need them.

And of course, that leads to frustration and disappointment and them not being able to match up to my expectations because I'm not looking at how things are, I'm looking at how I wish they were. 

After a run of clashes (over stuff I don't even remember right now), we had a particularly huge one at the beginning of the Christmas holidays where I totally lost it with this biggest man-child for not reacting how I though he should react in a particular moment, and he got the brunt of my anger. We rushed off to wherever we were going next (because these things always happen when you're in a rush and have lots to think about and are determined to have a day of fun and so you feel like you've failed before you've even begun) and I spent the next few hours trying to fill my head with other things to cool down.

That night we went to a carol service at another church and I was really blessed by the way it was put together and also by the kids' behaviour throughout. Then as the guy got up to speak, it was all about grace and receiving the good things God has for us. Suddenly my son was receiving a gift out of nowhere in the middle of the sermon, to demonstrate God's gifts. It was a voucher to drive a Ferrari - an experience most people wouldn't have in their lifetime. In the middle of watching him receive it, keeping the other kids occupied for the rest of the sermon, and trying to listen to the message myself, I was trying to manage my son's expectations. At first I was whispering "I'm not sure if it's real, we'll have to open it and see," and then it was "Dude, you're not even fourteen yet, I think they've made a mistake, this is probably a voucher for an adult - you might have to give it back at the end," etc. When the service finished we had a proper look, and there it was in the print - a junior experience for an under-16 to drive a Ferrari. It was real, and it was for him.

I really felt God's conviction that night. I felt like I'd been looking for satisfaction in other areas of my life and trying to find crutches. I had at times tried to make my children into those crutches and that's not what they're there for. The word on my heart was grace. God's grace is enough for me, in everything I need. And therefore grace is what I need to be giving out to others, even when I don't feel they are being enough of what I think I need. 

My man-child was given a costly packet of grace that night by someone who doesn't even know him, and I felt God gently prod me and say "That's what you need to be giving him more of too."

Shortly after this I was given a voucher too, by an anonymous person at church, for a massage at a local beauty spa. These two gifts have been some of my favourite from this Christmas season, not just for their extravagance, but for their timing and the smile God seemed to show as they were presented into our lives. I think He wants us both to chill a little more and enjoy this ride. 

Friday, 1 January 2016

Being Present 366

Happy New Year :)

I've been given a challenge for this year and it's beginning here, today. 

I've found myself recently sliding into patterns of ingratitude and impatience and it's not been pretty. I have to face, like many other people do, that everything I do for the rest of my life will feel like it's got big holes in it, and that as great as every experience is, I know deep down it could be better if things had been different. But what I was doing at the end of last year was focusing on those holes. Mainly the people I miss, but also those other holes we all have - the stuff we're not good at, and the things that are not perfect. I think without a partner to balance those things out, they now seem so much bigger and insurmountable to me. So I tell myself constantly that I have more responsibilities than time to look after them and get stressed at the kids for not understanding that. I've been noticing what I don't like about my writing, and therefore have left a dozen unfinished blog posts because they weren't perfect enough. I haven't invited people round because my house wasn't tidy enough. I've focused in on every incomplete task at the end of the day instead of the ones I did accomplish, etc, etc, etc. 

Subconsciously the way I've been dealing with those holes is to either keep looking back and wishing things were different, or taking myself somewhere else in my head where I don't have to look at my life as it is now. Of course, neither of those things are useful, and there is another way - a better way.

The challenge God has given me for this year is to BE PRESENT. To stop looking back (even as small as "if I'd have started my day differently, this wouldn't have happened) and to stop looking elsewhere (daydreaming, escapism, focusing in on minor details that don't make a difference), and to be right here, right now. I know He's been nudging me on it for quite a while now, but I've been pretty good at looking everywhere else for answers instead. So I am ignoring it no longer, and creating a way of being accountable to others for this challenge, by creating 366 days of gratefulness. Every day this year I am going to focus on something right under my nose that I DO have, not on what is missing from my life. I am going to change habits I have fallen into and wake myself up to the many blessings I've been given. This is not revolutionary - many people have done this before me - I just need to put it out there so I don't slip back into old ways.

I'm trying to work out how to do this without being irritating and hogging people's newsfeeds, so I think I'm going to mix it up and do some days on here, and some days on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. After all, it doesn't matter if people follow it - it's an exercise in self-discipline for me. 

So here is my day one of being present:

Today I am really grateful that the whole family has been healthy for all of 2015. This month last year I was in a very dark place, waiting for the next crisis to hit, as it had done for so many Januarys previously. I couldn't shake the expectation of the next medical emergency, and was still in crisis mode in my head. I may as well have kept a packed suitcase in the car like I used to.

It took me till June to shake this, when we'd made it a clear year without new symptoms. Yesterday in the car we were chatting about it, and apart from one quick appointment for me to check something that turned out fine, and one A&E visit to remove the biggest splinter we've ever seen from a kid's foot, there were no other trips to hospital in 2015. This means for my two youngest children, it is the first year of their lives that they have never been to hospital. When I think that in the five years from 2010 to 2014 we spent a third of all our days visiting or staying in hospital, this is a massive deal for our family!

So I am grateful that this shadow has passed and I no longer live in fear of the next medical drama. Whatever happens in the future will happen, but it no longer has to consume me today. 


Day Two (Twitter) - Amazed this morning that after missing 5wks thru storms, was still able to run 3K! Last year's hard work paid off

Day Three (Instagram) - Day three of my #present366 challenge. I totally love board games and would play them so much more if I still didn't have to do all the parenting stuff while doing it - "Stay still, it's your turn, haven't you been paying attention, don't knock the board, I can't hear what your brother's saying over all that noise, if you listened I wouldn't have to say it four times, just because you didn't win doesn't mean they cheated.....blah blah blah." So I'm really grateful that my kids are getting older and I have to do slightly less of the verbal diarrhoea each time we play, and that I live so close to other people who love to play (but who I don't have to parent). With half the church moving into my block, I'm getting more opportunities all the time 😊

And it turns out I am an absolute boss at Rummikub, which my sister got for Christmas 👊


Day five (Twitter): Today I'm grateful for the many positive voices that drown out the negative ones & the wisdom God gives to tell the difference #present366

Day six (Facebook): Today I chatted with a friend who inspires me whenever we get together. She is fighting many battles but is choosing to focus right now on what she has and not what she hasn't. Made me smile that she was summing up the same thing that God has been saying to me through my challenge for 2016 😊
So that's my #present366 point of gratitude for today - when God brings you into new seasons and challenges, He always has other people to bring alongside you at just the right time so you can spur one another on!

Day seven (Twitter): God has placed people in my life now I've been waiting eight long years for. My heart is fit to burst.

Day eight: (Twitter) So glad God sets us in families, biologically & spiritually. We're not called to do any of it alone.

Day nine: (Twitter) God seems to be releasing things now that have been waiting for years. Don't know why it's taken so long but happy to see it.

Day ten: (Instagram) I love my church. I really do. There's so much I don't understand about how the last eight years have panned out, or even some of what's happening right now, but there's nothing else I'd rather give my life to than building the house of God. It's His Plan A for revealing His salvation to the world. That's good enough for me.

Day elevenTonight's prayer meeting was absolutely amazing. Every time we meet & listen, God speaks!

Day twelve: I read today in Courageous Leadership by Bill Hybels about finding safe people you can be totally open with. And it made my heart sing because I have found safe people.

Day thirteenToday I had incredible moments with all three of my boys individually, where they opened up to me and were able to articulate their feelings. The incidences were all independent of each other, unexpected and all came through three different things that went wrong today. So weird that for ages I've felt like I've been talking at them rather than with them, and then suddenly it all happened at once!

Day fourteen: After some great one-on-one time with my boys yesterday, today I got some with my girl. Why do i always enjoy the week more when all the sensible plans go haywire?

Day fifteen: My last two days have been study days. They're my favourite kind :)

Day sixteen: Today my amazing indulgent Saturday plans got scrapped because of more family illness, so I redeemed the day by nailing some jobs I've been putting off for ages instead.

Day seventeenI love that not only do I get to be part of an amazing church in my own community, I also get to be part of a family of churches that love to bless and inspire each other and keep each other accountable. Thank you Valley for lending Michele to us this morning, and thank you everyone at Fulwood FM for your love tonight. 

And that is also my Be Present 366 for day eighteen - I am so glad to live in a time where all these resources are so freely available, not just because of the print but because they can be ordered, borrowed or downloaded in minutes thanks to this high tech world we live in. I can't imagine my life without books and I don't know who I'd be without them. I feel like new worlds are opened up to us every day when we open a book and allow it to stretch our minds.

Day nineteenIf you are a Christian, I cannot emphasise enough how great this course (Freedom in Christ) will be for you. I really feel different on the inside since we went through this in our church and everyone who did it feels the same. Wherever you're at on your journey with faith, there will be something that needs greater understanding or clarification - without realising it, we forget important truths, harbour a grudge, forget our identity in Christ, struggle with some habit we keep reverting to.... This course is like a faith detox. It takes you right back to the beginning and reminds you of who God is, who you are, and all He's given you. And at some point you'll see something you've never seen before and realise what that blockage is. Then it walks you through what the real truth is and how to get hold of that for which Christ has taken hold of you. I don't understand how it can work so well with people from such different walks of life with different issues, but it does! It's not a fancy supplement - it's pure bible truth, just restructured in a way that makes so much sense to our postmodern minds. Thankyou @matthewjameshooper and @alliharvie for encouraging us to take the leap on this - it has helped me to stop looking in the wrong places for what I need and inspired me to be present.

Day twentySeriously easy to find a reason to be grateful today - any day you find these (Krispy Kremes) on your doorstep is a good day! 

😍 ‪#‎myfave‬ ‪#‎originalglazedalltheway‬‪#‎itsashameihavetoshare‬ 

Day twenty oneI find it so interesting that during the day there can be so much squabbling and shouting but at nighttime when my kids are in bed, that's when they have their best conversations with each other (probably because they know they're supposed to be going to sleep, not talking). It's not always this way, but at the moment it is so I'm making sure I log it in my memory. 
Sometimes they're not even talking about the same thing - one will waffle, and in the pause, the other will waffle about something else, then it's the first one's turn for their subject, etc, but the point is - they are talking. They are deconstructing their day, even if it's to say what they wish had happened differently. And they are doing it to someone they obviously feel they can be totally open with (even if it's because they know the other one's not actually listening!).
I know from my own love/hate relationship with my brothers growing up, that it is totally worth the stress of the refereeing all day in order to have moments like this.

Day twenty twoSwimming, bucket of KFC and now introducing the kids to The Three Musketeers (1993). Excellent Friday night.

Day twenty threeGot breakdown cover for the washing machine 18months ago. Had four repairs since! It's like Somebody knew I'd need it...

Day twenty fourHospitality is not my gift at all. But today I managed lunch for twelve at my house after church!

Day twenty five: I love doing life with people who love this community.

Day twenty six: The rest of my house might be a mess but I love how my attention-to-detail kid ALWAYS makes sure the cups and plates are in the right colour order in the drawer when he empties the dishwasher.

Day twenty sevenTired after too long in the car today but so glad my kids have found the best Christian therapy in the north west

Day twenty eightThe last two evenings I've had appointments with my older kids that have lasted longer than expected. Both times my younger kids have been fed, played with and looked after by everyone at connect groups, to make them into fun evenings. This is how I can make life work - thank you so much guys. ‪#‎ilovemychurchfamily‬

Day twenty nineHis 30th was last week but tonight we're celebrating as a family so I'm giving a shout out today to this guy. Dave Harrison is my brother-in-law and my pastor and he is AWESOME. Since Dave joined our family we have gone through more drama and trials than we have ever known. He didn't cause any of them (!) but I think when God knew all that was coming our way, He made sure Dave was going to be around to help us through it all. 

We were both on the leadership team at church and after Richard died we all had to make our own separate decisions about what we were going to do. That first twelve months were the hardest ever, and we almost decided to walk away. But in the same month as I felt God was gearing me up for carrying on, Dave also stepped up to the call to become the senior leader of the church. And what a great pastor he is - a strategic thinker, empathetic to people from all walks of life, passionate enough to raise an army, and a fantastic role model (despite what they may say) to the young men in our church. 

I am proud to serve alongside you Dave, and thank you for being such a fantastic husband to Naomi (and for putting up with our telepathic sense of humour that often gets in the way of pastoral meetings). 

Happy birthday!!!

Day thirty: Today I went to a Paperchase shop. That's a great day.

Day thirty one: Fab day in the house of God - got to preach at one, eat and play Rummikub at home with another, and go visit the vision evening of a third. 

Day thirty two: First evening at home in over a week! Me and my laundry had a lovely time together

Day thirty threeGot to speak to some lovely ladies at St Anne's tonight. I never tire of hearing people's stories & seeing what God is doing.

Day thirty fourThankyou so much Vicki and Graham for making it possible for Levi to start his new weekly challenge - Under 9s rugby! 

Day thirty five: I don't know if it's okay to have a least favourite book of the bible, but if I did, Job would be it! The beginning and the end are amazing, but the middle is baffling - stuff that seems like sound teaching actually gets rebuked by God later on - so I'm hoping this commentary can help me to slow down and get a better handle on it. Hopefully I will feel differently by the end.

Day thirty seven - Today I went to the chest freezer in the cellar and everything in it had defrosted. Turns out the extension cord to it had got knocked, probably a few days ago. But it's still my #present366 reason to be grateful in the here-and-now moment for today because: a) the freezer isn't broken so I don't need to buy a new one (which was the first worry for me), b) about half the stuff in the freezer was stuff that was questionable anyway - I just hadn't found time to defrost it and check if it was still edible, and c) yesterday I was financially blessed more than enough to cover replacing the stuff in there that I need. A great reminder that usually what we need is provided to us even before we know we need it!

Day thirty eight - Right now I am in a season where I can actually choose the pace in my day. For now I am choosing  s l o w  (it's a novelty)

Day thirty nine -  How good are these brick stormproof houses we live in? Can you imagine this winter with anything less? #present366

Day forty - Loved being at Lead today. Wisdom to chew through and catching up with friends. Happy happy. #present366 

Day forty one - I'm doing a lent challenge this year - to avoid box sets till Easter. I've chewed through too many whole series in the last year and a half and it's taken up a lot of head space! Managed to finish The U.S. Office last week (best comedy since Friends) and am now going cold turkey. Anyone else giving up something for Lent?

Day forty two - Writing up our DNA of Rest today. This truth is so important yet we spend so much time ignoring it. Anxiety is taking false responsibility. In reality, He's carrying it all. #present366

Day forty three - Such a good parents evening last night for my 12yo. He's made a lot of progress & the staff seem to know how to get the best out of him #present366 

Day forty four - Having to push hard today. Messy house from a busy week, toing and froing this morning to get everyone where they need to be, and the boiler is broken and I have to get it sorted asap. Fighting the fear and Eva calls me in and shows me what she's been working on: "These are labels to give to people at church tomorrow."
The interpretation:
Love that's how God made you
You have love
Love you
You have a heart
Love Jesus
Never give up

I think I'll take that last one ☺️❤️


Day forty five - Today we spread the love to our neighbours. Loved seeing the surprised faces behind doors as we get to tell them they matter #present366 

Day forty six - My boiler is fixed after 2.5 days.
My house has warmed up.
I can feel my feet again 😊


Day forty seven - Today, even though my heating is back on, I've been cold. I only had to go out for about twenty minutes to the sea front but when I got back I couldn't feel my feet. I couldn't warm up again after that and being cold makes me really grumpy, so my kids got the brunt of that. Later we were going to car to go out and I saw the homeless guy who spends all day on our block. He has a house but doesn't go there because of mental health issues. Today he looked different because as he shuffled the streets talking to himself he had a dirty big duvet thrown over his shoulders. Suddenly I didn't feel so grumpy anymore. 

Day forty eight - Good appt at allergy clinic today. Grateful to live in a time where medicine & clear labelling means my son is hardly affected #present366

Day forty nine - A great day for a scavenger hunt at Heysham nature reserve #present366 

Day fifty - Swimming, fish and chips and movie night. Love Fridays ☺️ #present366

Day fifty one - Whizzed through decluttering the kids rooms (with them) in the last two days with way more cooperation than ever before. Woohoo! #present366

Day fifty two - She's been begging me for weeks to make another dress for Baby. One thorough bedroom de-clutter later and this was her reward. She cut and sewed the "flower" all by herself ☺️ 

Day fifty three - Today I managed to successfully sneak out six bags of old toys, two boxes of papers and a heap of other large broken items to the tip, and when they got home, the kids didn't notice. Can I get some parenting high fives here please 🙌🏼
#icanseebedroomfloors #soreback #secretagent #present366 

Day fifty four - Somebody is very excited about her party on Friday. She has made all these messages for the hallway:
To frends love Eva
We love you
Happy birthday Eva Grac Scolls
I am your frend
You are the goodest frend I ever had
Welcom again if you didn't see the last won 
And I so wish I'd had a smart phone when all the kids were this age because it's frightening how much of this stuff you forget unless you capture the moment. Makes all the madness worth it (even I clog up people's feeds in the meantime) #present366 

Day fifty five -
Speak at school assembly✔️
Birthday shopping✔️
Meet with friend✔️
Kids to therapy✔️
Wrap presents✔️
Make pancake batter✔️

Day fifty six - I will never get tired of this face, her character, the grace in which she carries herself, and her cheeky sense of humour. I can't believe it's only been six years - so much has happened in that time and she has been a blessing every day for all of it. Eva Grace, you are a total superstar. #present366

Day fifty seven - How cute is this mini teapot and set of espresso cups? Perfect for Eva and her five friends at her tea party. Thank you Grannie and Grandad for the present, and to Hannah, Chloe and Ellie who helped keep the girls fed and happy ☺️ #present366

Day fifty eight - Great day with family. Grandad and Nanna had the kids while I went to Leadership Exchange, then we had a family meal in the evening to round off celebrations, with more cake and presents and my first experience of Bananagrams #ilovemyfamily #present366