Monday, December 10, 2018

Trust in the Lord

I am working my way through the 'Pilgrim Psalms' or 'Psalms of Ascent', these are Psalms 120 through to 134. Today I was reading Psalm 121 and as I allowed it to sink into my heart I was convicted of having lived a large portion of my life from a place of fear. Fear of losing those I love to some awful tragedy, fear of terminal illness, fear of being unable to control what life has to throw at you.

I realise that a large part of this fear has come from having lived in a country where horrible things happen. Where horrible things have happened to people I know and care about. My own husband was held at gunpoint and he listened as they discussed whether to shoot him in the head or the back. For me staying there was an invitation for harm to touch us personally at some point. I'm glad we left.

But all this sank deep into my heart and caused me to live from a place of fear. I have read those words from Psalm 121 many times and I struggled with them. Struggled to truly surrender the safety of my loved ones into Gods hands. I knew that I could trust God and that I should unconditionally hand my loved ones over but I just could not. Instead, I kept my focus on all these horrible things just as Peter took his eyes off Jesus whilst walking on the water (Matt 14: 25-30) and instead, looked at how huge the waves were, and began to sink.

Over the years this fear has wound it's choking, venomous grip on many areas in my life. However, over the past months, we have had to deal with a health issue in our family and I realised that whatever the outcome, I had no control anyway, no matter how much I worried or tried to find a solution. Mercifully the health issue has turned out to be something treatable, nothing life-threatening.

Today I read Psalm 121 and pondered on the scriptures. How can I truly surrender my fears and trust that God does indeed watch over us; will not allow our feet to slip; that He does watch over our lives and all our comings and goings?

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths. Proverbs 3: 5-6

The words of this scripture committed to memory many years ago bubbled up. One sentence, but one that can be broken up, pondered on bit by bit, applied and practised.

* Trust in the Lord with all your heart 
    -What does it mean to trust with all my heart?
    - What does that look like in action?
    - What is my attitude toward trusting God? What has it been what should it be?
    - Actively surrender each moment that is driven from a point of fear.
    - Am I actively waiting on the Lord and being patient for an answer in His time not my own?

* Lean not on your own understanding
    - What is the source of my own understanding of the situations and decisions that I face?
    - Is my understanding based on Gods Word or on the customs of the world?
    - Before I act, clarify my understanding of things through Gods Word

* In all your ways acknowledge him
    - Am I seeking God when making decisions or seeking a solution?
    - Am I praying, reading Gods Word, seeking the wise advice of fellow Christians?
    - When I get an answer am I thanking God for His faithfulness?

* And he shall direct your paths
    - This is a promise that I can claim and trust.

I shall leave my thoughts there and look forward to seeing you back here soon with some more Christmas crafty posts.

Blessing to you all today...

Friday, December 07, 2018

Crafting Christmas

Yesterday was wet...very wet. Puddles pooled along the drive and the horses in the field behind our home looked rather miserable so I pulled on my wellies and treated them each to a carrot. When they saw me waving carrots at them from across the field they came trotting over sweet.

The wet weather meant that it was actually perfect weather for a little Christmas crafting. As we were leaving Sunnycroft house on Saturday, feeling all inspired, we found lots of pretty pine cones alongside the drive. Of course, we gathered up a whole heap to hang from our tree this year.

A bit of hessian and ribbon makes for simple but pretty decorations for our simple Sunnycroft 'make-do-and-mend' Christmas this year.

The best thing about crafting a simple Christmas is the time that you spend together. It's not really about having the most stylish tree or home, rather it was the time we spent crafting together which I will be reminded of each time I look at these little cones.

We also made some spiced orange pomander balls for a little coffee table display. Again, I noticed a little bowl of pomander balls at the entrance of Sunnycroft house and was reminded that the last time I made pomanders for Christmas was in 2012

Oh my gosh...the house smelled so Christmassy as we studded the oranges with cloves. So many memories from years past came flooding back, brought on by the aroma. Memories of that Christmas, of a friend in SA who put clove oil on her son's sore tooth which promptly made him sick, of using clove oil years ago in my floor mopping water because of it's strong antibacterial properties. Memories of comfort and joy, of precious friends, of time, spent making memories. 

That's what life is about, isn't it? It's about people, love, friendship. It's about time. Time spent with people is what matters. Sadly, my husband and I both lost our fathers in car accidents about 5 years apart. You never know when time with your loved ones is up. We need to cherish those we love, spend time with them while we can and create precious memories that can pop up years later and bring joy to your heart. That is something I want to be mindful of during this season...and always actually. I want to be more concerned with people than with stuff or experiences.

Lovelies...have a wonderful weekend. Stay warm, be cosy and make lots of precious memories with your loved ones. Blessings to you all...

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Approaching Christmas with Simplicity

Thank you to everyone who left comments on how you handle social media. It was really good to see that I am not the only one who finds it unbearable at times and feels the need to pare down. I am still loving being fairly social media free - I'm getting so much more done in a day which makes me realise how much of a time-waster it was for me.

So my daughter wrote her SAT on Saturday at this beautiful school (pictured below) in Shropshire. She thinks it went really well apart from the maths section but we are planning to sit again in March to improve on whatever score she gets. I believe results come out on the 14th for the multiple-choice section and essay comes out a few days later.  

While she was busy with her SAT (which is a gruelling 5 hours long for those who don't know the American SAT system) the rest of us took advantage of being in a different county and visited a delightful NT property called SunnyCroft.

I was so inspired by this property and that's because the owners from Victorian through to WW2 times observed lived a self-sufficient and thrifty lifestyle. This lifestyle was observed because it was either a normal way of life or as in the case of WW2 of necessity. Whatever the motivation, the simplicity and down-to-earth nature of the lives lived in this home appealed to me. 

This make-do-and-mend history of the house has been reflected by the National Trust in the way they have chosen to decorate the house this Christmas. Plain paper packages, handcrafted decorations, the use of items gathered from the countryside or your own garden...just beautiful.

With simplicity and getting-back-to basics being at the forefront of my mind at the moment I took great inspiration from this house and from the attitudes of its 'yesteryear' occupants. My daughter was likewise inspired and we decided that this year was going to be a 'Sunnycroft' Christmas.

We have always made a conscious effort in our home to keep things simple, to focus on the true meaning of Christmas and to reject the commercialism that the world offers but visiting this house was a really good reminder that simplicity is far more attractive than the gaudiness that is offered in every television advert and every marketing message and ploy that assaults us earlier and earlier each year.

I find that our culture seems to be more and more influenced to have a staged picture-perfect Christmas. My own girls started to slip into this idea of what Christmas should be, it's a subtle message that is fed to us through perfect Pinterest pins, Instagram staged pics and of course those warm, fuzzy Christmas movies. The idea that people see Christmas as that one big event that absolutely has to be perfect and deliver a movie-perfect experience is just ludicrous to my way of thinking. The money that is spent and the debt acquired to achieve this just heartbreaking. 

It is all completely opposite to the very way Jesus arrived in this world, humbly and simply. In fact these days most people leave Jesus out of Christmas altogether. I feel like I have to be purposeful if it the simple things that want to embrace in this life. I need to actively put away from myself the messages that are drip-fed to us every day. After walking through this house my daughter, who is 20, turned to me and said, "I really wish that life was still as simple as it once was, it seemed to have been a more meaningful way to live, to care about each other and about people, to grow your own and embrace the simple things in life.'

My sentiments exactly! Wishing you all a beautiful, meaningful and simple Advent.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Back to Simplicity

Advent starts on Sunday and I don't feel ready for it at all! November has been a whirlwind of a month. We've travelled to Iceland, I went to the Knitting and Stitching show in Harrogate with my daughter and a dear friend, I've had uni tutorials in Liverpool and enjoyed the company of friends visiting. It's been busy but filled with lovely things. November ends in the manner it started with a big event. My youngest is writing her SAT exam on Saturday! If we get the results we are hoping for it means she has pretty much-finished homeschooling!

I think that we are ready to finish up our homeschooling season now. I'm looking forward to seeing what direction she will be taking. She really wants to travel next year so we are looking into various opportunities - it's so exciting watching my daughters find their way and spread their wings.

We have had some rather chilly weather of late but oh my...I just love what the approaching winter is already giving up. Frost freezing each fallen leaf and blade of grass, lots of lovey cosy fires, candles and fairy lights - all these small things are to be cherished. 

For those of you who have been visiting me here over the years, you will know that I am all about appreciating, seeking and delighting in the simple things. I love to live my faith and observe the liturgical year. I love homespun everything, the gentle rhythms of the natural year and country life. 

Lately, I have felt that the simplicity that I have always tried to nurture in my home seems to be eluding me. Simplicity can easily be lost as we slowly add to our lives, a bit like a bringing in more 'stuff' into our homes. It comes in subtly until suddenly you realise that you are in need of a good clear out, a destash and declutter. It's those subtle things that creep in and begin to clutter up life so that the simplicity is lost.

I've been analysing what it is that is cluttering up my life stealing my simplicity peace and have identified one or two things. Instagram was one of those things so...I got rid of it. Instagram is lovely and inspiring and many good things, but it was becoming a habit and time waster for me. I found myself scrolling through my feed numerous times a day, picking up my phone far too many times an hour. I thought back to the time I didn't have it, to the conversation I had with a friend who told me I should really try IG - it was so nice. I can remember that day and that conversation so clearly and for 4 years I've been a slave to it - so it seems to me. I remember feeling a lot less burdened before it and I yearned for that feeling of freedom again. So on Tuesday morning I woke up and just did it. I deleted IG and I instantly felt a burden fall away.

No regrets. No feeling like I'm missing out. I've found that I have so much more time to do things that I love and things that need to be done. I haven't missed it one bit and have no intention to bring any more social media 'clutter' into my life.

The other thing I got rid of this week was a Wordpress site that I bought nearly two years ago. I had planned to transfer this blog over to Wordpress but it just didn't feel right. I like my little spot here, I've grown attached after having blogged here for 8 years. Yet, at the back of my mind that Wordpress site niggled at my peace. Thoughts like, "You should use it you've paid for it" kept nagging. Should I start another blog? What would I blog about? I don't really have an interest in starting a 'professional' blog. I like being real and sharing right here. I don't want to have to churn out posts that tell people how to do things all the time.

Can you guess what I did? Yip - it followed the same fate of IG. I got rid of it. I hit the 'cancel this account' button and that is that. It's gone forever now I don't need to entertain any more nagging thoughts. FREEDOM! 😂

Do you have to declutter your life from time to time to simplify? What sort of things do you find creeping in and stealing your peace? I'd love to hear from you.

Until next time...

Monday, November 19, 2018

Come Fly With Me...

Hello Lovelies! This month my husband and I celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary. We did something we haven't done since we had our daughters, we went away on our own to celebrate. We chose to visit Iceland and I'm so glad we did. Our hotel was wonderful, Reykjavik was wonderful and the Blue Lagoon was definitely the highlight of our trip.

I have a confession to make...two days before we flew out I was wishing that I had never booked the trip! I was overwhelmed with irrational fear that we were going crash. My fear was not about crashing but rather the thought of the emotional stress our girls would experience. I frantically got hold of my wise grandmother and confided my fears in her. Of course, her calm and logical response was what I needed. She is so wise!

Unfortunately, our flight out was rather eventful and did not do much to calm my nerves! A passenger three rows behind us passed out and was unresponsive. After much urgent shaking of the passenger by the air hostess, he came to but went straight into a violent fit. His poor wife was hysterical. I just closed my eyes right then and prayed. Fortunately, there were quite a few medically trained passengers so there was plenty of help around. The pilot wisely decided to turn the plane and land in Belfast rather than proceed to Iceland. Our flight was met on the runway by an ambulance and the passenger and his wife taken off to hospital. All rather disconcerting.

We finally landed in Iceland 4 hours later than scheduled. Thankfully our hotel transfers were not booked for a specific time so we had no problem there.

After checking into our hotel we did a little exploring of Reykjavik. It has some very interesting architecture. The Hallgrimskirkja Church is imposing and was designed to represent the lava flow from a volcano.

I found Iceland's landscape quite fascinating but very bleak. Being a volcanic island the land literally looks like and is cooled lava flow with moss and lichens growing all over the place. The earth is all black and I noticed that there were no trees about, it was only when we got into Reykjavik that we saw trees. Do you know how barren a landscape looks without trees?

The other thing I noticed was that there are hardly any gardens. I wonder what people who do love gardens do in Iceland. Is it because of the harsh weather? The nature of the land? I don't know, but it felt kind of sad.

The Blue Lagoon was amazing! Totally touristy but so worth every penny. I would highly recommend visiting if you ever visit Iceland

The colour of the water is just beautiful. Apparently, it gets its colour from the silica in the water that reflects the sunlight.

We went on a northern lights harbour cruise...twice. The first night we didn't see the northern lights so we got free tickets to come again which we did on Saturday evening. This time we were luckyish. We saw the northern lights but only a thin strand, even then it just looked like a cloud that was slightly tinged with green. Not the sweeping ribbons of green I was expecting. The camera picks up more of the colour than the naked eye does apparently so all slightly disappointing.

Other than that I just wish we had an extra day so that we could have seen some more of the natural beauty. The Golden Circle, or the ice caves perhaps. Iceland is totally geared towards the tourist. It's incredibly well organised.

 One thing I hadn't realised is how expensive everything is in Iceland so if you do go just bear this in mind. Eating out can see the costs quickly mounting up. Other than that it is well worth the visit. I would say that it is definitely a destination for nature lovers with so many interesting geological features. Reykjavik is a very interesting city but like I said, very geared to tourists with touristy shops absolutely everywhere which is not really my thing. I kept finding myself wanting to find out what the locals do, how they live and where they go. It felt like I wasn't always getting a genuine Icelandic culture. Either way, we had a great time and I'm glad that we chose to celebrate our wedding anniversary there.

Isn't this school just lovely? I love the steeply peaked roof and how Nordic it all looks. I bet that Iceland must look simply magical when it snows. Anyhoo lovelies, I'm going to wrap up our Icelandic adventure now. I hope you have enjoyed your armchair travels with me today. Until next time...take care.

Blessings to you all today.