Serious Fomo

SERIOUS FOMO copy.png

Becoming a mum is one of the greatest and most challenging things I’ve ever done. When you become a parent for the first time you look on in awe at other mums and dads who have been doing it well for a while with a new sense of admiration. They are secret superheroes that wear their underpants on the right side of their trousers – depending on how much sleep they’ve had.

Daily as a parent we’re faced with many choices, sometimes small, sometimes big, but all feel a lot more significant than they used to because someone else is depending on us to try and make the right decisions! Being a mother has taken me on one of the greatest learning curves of my life. There’s the obvious learning that you were slightly (not at all) prepared for in how to take care of a child, growing as a parent and navigating your relationship now it has another in the mix, and then there are the lessons that you didn’t expect or want to be faced with. Magnified by sleep deprivation and new responsibility, Michael Jackson’s song, “Man In The mirror” suddenly hits you between the eyes and you’re forced to face the good the bad and the ugly truth about yourself. Wanting to give your best to your child and spouse, the wider family and friends, church, ministry and work is no easy task. Sacrifice takes on a whole new meaning and convictions are often tested.

One of the things I’ve had to face within myself is some serious FOMO (fear of missing out). I’ve had to take a back seat in physically being present at certain things at Church, work and with friends in order to look after Sienna and this hasn’t been something that has always come easily to me. I know that being the best mum and wife in this season is part of my ministry. Raising the next generation is a huge responsibility and honour, but I put my hands up and admit it’s been difficult at times looking on from a distance at things I would have previously been involved in or been at. I truly believe in the decisions we’ve made as a family and the things I’ve ‘missed out’ on attending have afforded me the pleasure of being present with Sienna and allowed us to build some structure into her life. Whilst I don’t doubt our choices, it doesn’t mean it’s always been easy to walk out the journey.

FOMO is something I think we all deal with in all sorts of different areas of life. It’s probably been brought to the foreground of our attention by social media which gives us 24/7 access to the best highlights of our day. What I’ve realised is that there are no winners in comparison. We will always look at what we don’t have or haven’t done rather than celebrate what we do and what we have done. Comparison diminishes the value of either yourself or your circumstances or the person and theirs that you’re comparing yourself against.

The beauty of humanity is that there are many similarities amongst us that contribute to our sense of connectedness and need for one another, but yet we are all still unique. There can often be many routes to the same destination and rather than compare the journey it’s important to embrace our own route. The important thing is to keep our eyes on our goals as we each try and build the paths we have chosen.

Proverbs 29 v 18 states, “Where there is no vision, the people perish…” Where there is no focus, no intent, no plan or preparation, no long-term perspective, it’s easy to look around at others and think we should be doing exactly what they are in order to be our best selves. If we don’t have a clear sense of purpose within ourselves or a confidence in the decisions that we’ve made we can be prone to some serious FOMO.

So, practically how do we ensure that we are happy with the lives we have chosen and the things we have chosen to pursue? Well, I’m still figuring it out but here are a few things I do to help combat FOMO:

  • Remain Thankful – When we allow FOMO we fail to appreciate where we now, who we are with and where we have come from. There’s so much to learn and enjoy in the moment if we choose to see it.
  • Keep Focus –  Play the long game. Often the cause of our frustration is partly due to our Western culture in which we’ve become accustomed to having and doing everything that we want instantly. We have access to most things at just the click of a button. Keeping a long-term perspective means the short term sacrifices don’t seem so bad. It’s important to firm your convictions and keep them in view.
  • Encourage Others – If I’m not on the field I can still be a cheerleader and it’s just as important. I’m still a part of the things I find important even if my availability to be present is limited for a season. Encouragement shifts the focus from ourselves and builds others up. When we’re forced on the sidelines we still have a part to play. Teamwork means that it doesn’t matter who scores as long as we get the goal!
  • Stay Planted and Connected – When we look on from a distance vision becomes blurred. It’s easy to assume things when we can’t see the detail and filling in the blanks incorrectly can cause unnecessary grief.
  • Plan – Planning allows us to be intentional about the things that are important to us and provides a path to follow. It helps to keep the bigger picture in view and see clear goals for achieving it. Having a plan allows us to be somewhat in control of our lives and means that we don’t have to worry about what is happening elsewhere because the reasons for our decisions have been well thought through.
  • Find My True North – For me this is God. In Him, I find my identity, my purpose and my fulfilment so I do whatever it takes to keep that intact. He is my source, my strength, my peace and my provision and really He guides me and leads me in all of the above.

What are some of the things that you do to guard against FOMO?

365 Days Later

365 days later

Technically upon writing this, it’s only 361 days since the birth of our beautiful daughter Sienna, but it’s her birthday week and I try and post on Mondays, what are a few days between friends?

Coming up to her first birthday has made me reflect on this past year and the highs and lows of becoming a parent.
I thought I’d ask myself and Rich, “If we had to choose three things that we’ve learnt over the past year what would they be?” It’s almost an impossible task to only pick three because it can be a daily stretch into the unknown, navigating continual beginnings, as she progresses from one stage to the next. However, we’re always up for the challenge so here they are:

Anna:

I’m Stronger Than I Think – Perseverance Pays Off

Perseverance takes on a whole new meaning when there is no get-out-clause, you’re sleep deprived and you have no previous experience to draw from. In the early days, weeks and months it often felt like I was climbing a rocky mountain in flip-flops after not sleeping for a month! An uphill battle, with the least amount of energy, whilst feeling totally ill-equipped. Every now and then you stop to take a breathe and are awed by the view, but then it’s head down and back to the grind. However, I made it, each day was followed by night and each night followed by a new day. One step at a time, often one day at a time I put one foot in front of the other and just kept going. Not because it was easy, not because I had the training, not because I was always excited or passionate but because I had to. Now I think back to those early days as welcome distant memories, smiling at the highlights. Today Sienna presents new challenges with her strong will and determination (ha!) but every day she brings joy and life, and to see her grow and learn, smile and flourish make every drop of blood, sweat and tears worth it. There’s no amount of preparation that can make you ready for your individual unique child, it’s a journey that has to be lived, like many things in life.

I Love Sleep – Discipline Reaps Rewards

Thank God for sleep training! Like anything worth doing, it requires consistency and determination but it has huge benefits. From the start, we established the difference between night-time and day-time for Sienna due to some great advice. It hasn’t been easy and this year has meant I’ve hardly left the house on an evening. However, she now has no issues going to sleep pretty much anywhere as she’s in such a good routine, the sacrifice and continuity are really paying off. Parents have different approaches to different things but most likely for most, there’s still some discipline involved somewhere. Discipline requires keeping the long-term goal in view in order to outwork the daily, often mundane tasks to achieve your goals. Discipline can feel restrictive but it actually brings freedom in the end. Freedom to plan, freedom to enjoy its benefits, freedom from issues avoided through lack of discipline.

Just Call Me Bendy Barbie – Flexibility Is Key

One huge lesson for me has been learning to relinquish the need to always be in control. Preparation and schedules are all important and necessary but when the poop hits the nappy at 3 am in the morning in catastrophic proportions, you have to strip your child and chuck them in the bath whether you or they like it or not! I like to be in control of my own life, that’s not an uncommon or unreasonable ask. I’ve learnt to make plans but hold onto them lightly. I take a breath and whatever happens, try and enjoy and embrace the moment I find myself in. There’s nothing as important as this little tiny life that can’t wait another 5 minutes, a day, a week, a month or even a year if necessary.

Rich:

Be Kind To Each Other- Everyone Has Had A Tough Day

Being a parent is not easy. Whether it’s dealing with a cranky child all day, or having no sleep and having to go to work and deliver on projects. It’s tough, you’re shattered and probably just about holding it all together. It can be so easy in this type of stretching environment to play the “woe is me” card and paint a picture of how your day was way worse and far more stressful than that of your spouses… but don’t. Be kind to each other, prefer one another, go out of your way for one another. Try and laugh together, enjoy the absurdity of parenthood. Be kind with your words, they’re the oil that keeps the wheel spinning.

Children Love Easily And Forgive Quickly

It’s true and thank God that’s the case. We all get it wrong, probably way too frequently for our liking, but children are far more forgiving and resilient than we give them credit for. They aren’t insecure, they don’t care about what people think about them. As far as they’re concerned, they are the most awesome human being in existence. They don’t try and hide their emotions to be cool when daddy comes home from work, Sienna’s face lights up. When daddy tells Sienna off for touching the TV, there’s usually lots of frowns and a few tears, but her default position is towards love and closeness. It’s only when we grow up do we, unfortunately, learn how to be insecure.

“Important” Things Aren’t Really That Important

Oscar Wilde once said, “Life is far too important to be taken seriously.” I like that thought. This year has been a discovery of what actually matters. As adults, we get so myopic in our view of success. Having Sienna has stripped away all pretence. The things I used to worry about just aren’t as important as they used to be. Perhaps I’ve got wiser, maybe I’m just more tired. Whatever it is, it feels good to remember that Sienna couldn’t care less whether I’m good at my job or not. She doesn’t care whether I get promoted, get a pay rise or drive a nice car. She just knows me as Dad, and to be honest I think that’s pretty cool.

365 days later sienna

 

The Rose

the rose pink

In the “Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis, a spell is cast in the magical land of Narnia by the Wicked Witch making it always winter, “..but never Christmas..”. A relentless season of cold and frigid weather. Sometimes if we’re honest life can feel a bit like that. Have you ever felt disappointed or discouraged with life, people, yourself or even God? I know I have. Sometimes you feel like you’ve waited long enough for your promise; your spouse, a child, a job, a ministry, a career, a friend, approval.

There’s a beautiful song called “The Rose”, sung by Bette Midler and written by Amanda Mcbroom. It’s a song I was introduced to by my Father, and the lyrics have always resonated with me. At the start, it sounds like a sombre song as it recounts pictures of love that are close to heartbreaking. The final verse continues to seem like a woeful picture of lost potential within us, due to the weathering of life and the bitterness of a winter season. However, it doesn’t end there….

“When the night has been too lonely

And the road has been too long

And you think that love is only

For the lucky and the strong

Just remember in the winter far beneath the bitter snows

Lies the seed

That with the sun’s love

In the spring

Becomes the rose”

Lyrics are taken from “The Rose” written by Amanda Mcbroom © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc and sang by Bette Midler

Whenever I hear this song, my heart smiles at the lyrics of the above verse. I can’t help but imagine my Saviour’s; The Son’s love beaming down on me. If I close my eyes, it’s almost a tangible feeling of warmth as I accept once again His countenance towards me and allow His love to flood over me.

Within each of us, there are thoughts, feelings, desires, hopes, disappointments and aches that are buried at the bottom of our soul, only to be fully known and reached by God. There is no counterfeit for His Presence and Grace. Only His love can bring life to that which feels dead or broken.

Too often I’ve focused on the bitterness of a winter period and not sought the Son’s love which only leaves me feeling empty and frustrated. In my recent prayer time, I have found myself returning over and again to 1 Corinthians 13, which I used to illustrate a point for, “Why Mums Make Great Leaders”. When repeatedly drawn to the same passage of scripture, I know God is wanting to reveal something more of Himself through it. The Message interpretation at the end of verse 7 states, “I’m bankrupt without love.” What a powerful statement of truth. The previous verses speak about love being paramount above all things, we can do a number of great exploits but if we don’t have love, we are nothing.

Bankrupt; spent, empty, lacking, void.

The truth is we all need love. The Beatles were onto something when they sang, “All you need is love.” I am blessed to have a husband, family and friends who love me dearly and wholly, and yet none of their love, as precious as it satisfies the depths of my soul covered by a winter’s snow, like that of the Son’s love. He is able to melt away all that clings onto the essence of who I am, good or bad, to penetrate even the parts of myself that I don’t fully know or understand, and am therefore unable to change. Within all of us lies a thirst that can only be quenched by His love. A love unexplainable, inexplicable, abounding and all-encompassing.

As valentines day creeps up on us, I pray that you will know that there is a love for you that satisfies beyond romance and human affection or adoration. I hope you feel the tangible warmth of His love this Valentine’s week, and always. I encourage you to read again, or for the first time, 1 Corinthians 13. Steal away some time with the ultimate Lover of your soul, and rather than see the scripture as a list of things that we have to do in order to love others, read it as how He loves you. 

“…God is Love.”

1 John 4 v 8

Happy New Year!

 

 

This is going to sound a bit cliché and like I’m quoting a song lyric, but this year has been somewhat of a rollercoaster! I’ve lived through fear and faith, success and failure, joy and despair, growth and stand still, birth and endings, new and old, comfort and loneliness, confidence and doubt, excitement and monotony. Often it’s happened simultaneously or in a pendulum like fashion, swinging from one extreme to another, sometimes in the same hour! 2017 has seen some of the highest points and some of the lowest points I have ever had to deal with. That said, I made it, and not only did I make it but I’m excited to step into 2018. I’ve been stretched and tested in every way, physically, mentally and spiritually….. would I change anything? YES I would… ha! But that’s what a new year is for, a new page, a chance to apply all that I’ve learnt and grown in 2017. I never arrive, but I journey forward and hopefully leave behind what I don’t need, and take up what will nourish me and help me to build in 2018.

I’m grateful for every experience, everything has taught me something, good, bad or ugly and that is valuable! Grace has sustained me, and whilst my faith has been challenged, questioned and strained at times it is still the thread that weaves everything together, and ultimately brings me out on top. It resets my failures, informs my best decisions, gives me another chance and drives my passions. Without it I wouldn’t be me.

2018…. let’s go!

Fruit Is Best Enjoyed In Season

strawberry

We live in an age where most things are available at most times. This can be a great thing. The opportunity to Facetime my husband when he’s away due to 24/7 wifi. The ease of buying and sending gifts to loved ones who don’t reside in the same city or even country as myself. I do wonder, however, if the constant access to things, and the incessant busyness that we so often find ourselves in, has undermined the necessity and pleasure of waiting for things, and truly enjoying them. Like a fine wine that needs to mature, some things in life need time in order to produce the best results.

Now I’m no gardener, both my Dad and husband can attest to that, but I am an accomplished eater (hello), and I do have a rudimentary understanding of the gardening basics. Over the summer I was enjoying some delicious British strawberries, when my mother-in-law stated how much better they tasted in comparison to the imported ones sold during the rest of the year. This got me thinking, “fruit is always best enjoyed in its correct season”. According to Jamieshomecookingskills.com (fount of all knowledge obviously, thanks Google), “Fruit and vegetables naturally grow in cycles, and ripen during a certain season each year. When they are ripe, they are at their best nutritionally and taste-wise …. If you eat ‘seasonally’, you are eating fruit and vegetables during the time of year they are naturally at their best”. Makes sense. To apply this logic as a metaphor for life, I wonder how many times I have tried to rush through a season and wanted something to be “ripe” before its time; a job, career or dream before it was ready, a relationship, position or gift before it was mature.

In the Bible, we see that Moses had a natural desire to see justice for his people, the Hebrews, who had been enslaved in Egypt for over 400 years. This was a good desire, in fact a godly desire. However, out of season, and acted on before the correct time, this inner passion turned into anger, and resulted in him committing a terrible crime and fleeing for his life (see Exodus 2). In the correct season, after growth, pruning and nourishment, and a lot of time, that desire matured and was correctly planted in God where it was “naturally at its best”. This allowed him to finally lead his people to freedom in the most epic way (see Exodus 3-14).

When we desire things to bud straight away in our fast microwave culture, we don’t allow the soil of our lives to settle and replenish the “nutrients” we need in order to harvest the best crop. When we look for a quick fix; import in foreign goods rather than wait, perhaps we lose a sense wonder and excellence that comes from pursuing the real deal. Maybe we miss out on the lesson of the current moment by trying to fast-forward to results not properly earned.

In John 15, Jesus reassures the disciples, and us, that we were created to bear fruit, fruit that will last. For me, this takes the pressure off trying to see results prematurely, as it implies that it’s part of who I am in Him, to produce good things in life. Sometimes I may need a little pruning and nurturing, but this is all benefit as it helps produce ripened mature fruit.

Just like eating fruit before its ready can cause issues, (say hello to the toilet!), trying to push a relationship, gift, ministry, career, desire or goal before its time can be detrimental. I hope I can discern the season, embrace the wait, replenish the soil, trust that I’m designed to bear good fruit, allow for some pruning, and best enjoy fruit in its season.