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Black and white image of woman holding arms in the air, her hands in the shape of a heart. The words, "experiencing God" are overlaid.

Experiencing God – How I learned to let God in

How do you experience God? Do you ever feel a physical experience of the Divine surrounding you? Or is it more of a faith-based experience of trusting that God is there, even if you never feel His presence?

For me it has been mostly the latter, although I have had times in my life when the former happened too. And I’ve been desperately hoping for that overwhelming physical experience of being surrounded by love and support for quite some time. But I just couldn’t find it.

pushing God away

If you’ve been following my journey, either here on the blog or over on instagram, you’ll know that life has been unbelievably hard for us over the past few years. It all started in 2011, when the pregnancy I had dreamed of for as long as I could remember, turned into the hellish torture that 9 months of Hyperemesis Gravidarum and additional complications bring with them. During that year my entire experience of who I am and who I thought I was meant to be came crashing down.

The following year, as my baby began to grow up faster than I thought possible (how could the months fly by when a year earlier they had dragged into a seeming eternity?) I remember being so angry with God. Why had He made me so deeply maternal that all I had ever dreamed of was becoming a mother, if doing so was going to destroy my body and my soul? I had to choose not to have another baby, and it broke me.

Which led me to starting to write a book and working closely with a charity supporting women suffering from severe pregnancy sickness. I thought that maybe this was the reason for my suffering, so that I could use my writing and organisational skills to help others. And in my desperation to find a new purpose (and avoid the deep grief I was feeling), I ignored all the warning signs that this wasn’t where I was meant to be.

reaching breaking point

Which leads me to 2014, which I have described in the past as my “breaking point”. It was a year in which I should have been happier than ever, but in reality I was falling apart. I was ill-equipped for the role I ended up in, and by the time I learnt the importance of boundaries I was already broken. I remember walking to pick my son up from nursery and I would just sob the entire way there. And I remember lying awake at night, running conversations around in my head and feeling sick with anxiety over it all.

In reality, my time working to support others was more traumatic to my mental health than my pregnancy had been. And the impact of running on that much adrenaline for so long began to have an effect on my physical health too. By the end of 2014 I had been signed off work sick, and I was miserable.

Then, one evening I decided to watch a replay of one of the Thrive Moms retreats, and at the end there was the option to pray and ask Jesus into your life. I had always resisted this, given that I wasn’t sure I really fit into the Christian community. But that evening I really felt the pull to join in. So I did. And I felt an overwhelming sense of security fall over me.

I remember ending the retreat and continuing my prayer, saying to God, “okay, I have absolutely no idea what I’m supposed to be doing, I don’t know how to get out of this situation, please, show me the way.” Immediately I thought of the word, “Surrender“. I just knew, in that moment, that I had to surrender everything to God, and so I did. A week later I found out I was being made redundant from my role, and I thought, “well there’s an answer to a prayer for guidance on next steps!”

learning to surrender

I remember, at the time, it all felt so simple. Nothing seemed to sway me, as I was riding high on the experience of having felt God with me so clearly. I had experienced moments of being connected to the Divine in the past, during meditation or whilst out in nature, but I’d never received such clarity in the moment. It was like a whole new experience for me, and I was on top of the world.

It felt like nothing could bring me down. I was turned down after 3 job interviews, each time because the employer felt like I was over-experienced (I was a graduate coming from a managerial position, applying for part-time admin work). I could see their point, but I also knew that I needed to take a step back in my career. I had a 3 year old son, and I wanted to spend more time with him whilst he was still young. So I kept applying, trusting that the right job would present itself.

A few months later it did, and I began working in a charity shop. I enjoyed the work, and it gave me 4 days a week to just potter around the house and enjoy being with my family. It felt perfect and I honestly thought, “this is it”. And then I got sick.

My health began to decline rapidly until I was signed off work sick in the Summer of 2016 and never returned. I would work 3 days and feel like I had the flu the rest of the week. I would get migraines lasting for days. I would wake up and feel like I would vomit every time I moved. My hips and pelvis became so unstable I could no longer use the stairs in our home properly. I became pretty much bed-ridden, and life was hard.

Whilst this was happening my husband’s health also declined, and we both ended up out of work and reliant on a cruel benefit system. Our son was also diagnosed with Autism. And within a couple of years my extended family experienced so much grief and pain (my Nan, my Great Aunt, and my Aunt died, and two of my uncles were diagnosed with cancer). It felt like blow after blow, and I felt incredibly worthless when my own health kept me from being able to support my family in any useful way.

faith in the darkness

However, throughout all of this my faith began to blossom. At a time when I realised I could no longer rely on myself, I had to learn to rely on something greater than myself. I began reading more about Christianity, and thanks to books like Setting Jesus Free, Jesus Through Pagan Eyes, Convictions, and The Case for God, I began to realise that my own relationship with God and Jesus was not only beautiful, it was also okay.

I had long believed that I would never fit in, and my fear of being “found out” for my more liberal (and “out there”) beliefs kept me from joining fully into a faith community. And yet I desperately sought it. I remember clearly feeling God impress upon me that it was time for me to take the next step, as I sang a hymn one Sunday in church. I realised it was time for me to choose to affirm my faith, and that day I spoke to the minister about being baptised.

Since then I have grown deeper and deeper in my faith, both through being in community with others who support me and through my own desire for answers and support during my suffering. One of my favourite parts in the Bible has come to be 2 Corinthians, in which Paul writes about his own suffering:

Man sitting by a wall, head bowed, with text from 2 Corinthians 'Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.'

I cannot even begin to comprehend Paul’s experience of being content with his weakness, of which he experienced far more than I ever will. And yet, this speaks to me so powerfully of the idea that when we are weak we are made strong, at least where our faith is concerned. It is within having everything stripped away, all the things I thought that mattered most in giving me value, that I realised the true value of my worth as a human. It doesn’t lie in what I do or what I achieve, rather it is in my ability to live a good life, wherever I happen to find myself.

learning to let god in

And yet, despite all of these developments in my faith, I continued to feel distanced from God. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t have faith, for I have always had that in abundance – in my darkest moments I have raged at God, and it’s hard to be angry at something you don’t believe in! Rather, it was that I felt like I was learning to understand God on an intellectual level whilst holding Him at arms’ length.

That’s not to say that the intellectual stuff isn’t important, because it is. Exploring the wider context of any spiritual teaching to discover how it might be relevant to your life is crucial. I’m a huge advocate of Biblical Literacy, as well as Interfaith Dialogue. I find it all fascinating, and something which deepens my faith. But there’s only so much you can read and think about faith before you need to experience it too!

So over the past few weeks I’ve been purposefully asking God to help me take that step towards him, opening my heart to the experience of Him, so that I could know Him in a deeper way. I’d become so caught up in trying to understand the nature of God that I’d lost sight of that experience I knew and recognised as the Divine. And over the course of a couple of weeks I felt myself being guided to make little changes, all of which left the gates open for God to sneak in.

so *that’s* what god is

This all led to a wonderful experience the other night, when I was laying in bed thanking God for having helped me to see changes I needed to make in my life. I knew that the clarity I was receiving could only be coming from a closer connection to God, and I was feeling gratitude for that. As I thanked Him, I felt this sudden rush of love sweeping towards me at great speed from all directions. And in that moment I knew – this was God.

“So, that’s who you are!” I said, smiling to myself. “How could I have forgotten?” I couldn’t describe the indescribable, and yet I found the words to express the experience. “You’re love, pure and simple. You’re everything. You both male and female, whilst also being neither of those things. You just are.” It all made sense, and though I felt the feeling ebbing away as I got caught up in my attempts to verbally describe the experience, I knew that a fleeting moment was all that I needed. When something is so powerful, you only need a momentary glimpse to keep you going.

I know now that I’ve been worrying too much about whether I experience God or not. The experience was beautiful, and I wish I could bottle it up and share it with everyone I know. But that’s not how it works. It isn’t necessary to “bottle it up”, because it is there for anyone to experience, at any time. God doesn’t stay away from us, it’s we who keep him at what we think is a safe distance, when we are too caught up in thinking we have it all figured out.

embracing my weakness

I also know, without a doubt, that I’m going to repeatedly do that throughout my life. I’m only human, after all, and I will often believe that I know what is best for me. Life experience has taught me very clearly that I often don’t, but I’ll still fall into the trap of believing I’m doing okay on my own. This is especially true when life is going well, but also true when things start to go wrong and I feel like I need to fix it.

So whilst I am a very long way from what Paul describes as being glad in his weakness, I can now see the depth of the truth within his message. For it is when I am brought to my knees, whether through pain or awe at the beauty of this world, that I truly open up to the experience of God.

Black and white image of woman with arms above her head, her hands making a heart shape. The words, "Experiencing God, how I learned to let God in" are overlaid.

Image of a tree reflected into a still lake, with the word, "Peace, my word for the year 2019"

Peace – My Word of The Year for 2019

It’s that time again, when Christmas is over and the last few days of December seem to be filled with both confusion (what day is it, again?), and reflection on another year passing by.

I find that this almost limbo stage of the year is the one where I either find a renewed sense of hope or I am filled with a sense of despair. There doesn’t seem to be an inbetween state for me, and more often than not my despair leads to overly optimistic plans as I determine to have a better year to come.

This is certainly true of where I found myself last year. I chose the word “Create” as my focus for 2018, and came up with 18 ways in which I could create more health, happiness, and success in my work. I was determined to avoid accepting how ill I was and how much I needed to give up in order to survive. I truly believed I could make things better, if only I tried harder. How wrong I was!

Looking Back at 2018

2018 has been plagued with so much stress and fear and guilt and pain. I barely left the house for the first half of it, and although things got a bit easier as the Autumn came along, it’s still been a long, hard slog. And it isn’t over yet. We still have massive financial insecurity. We still have two tribunal hearings to face at some, as yet, unknown point in 2019. And I’m still sick.

That’s not to say 2018 was all bad. We moved to a lovely bungalow in May, and I have been reflecting over the Christmas period on just how grateful I am to be here and not in our old home. Tim chose to be baptised, and we’ve both become more involved with the church through Bible Study and a few events. And Little Man has been coming on in leaps and bounds at school, thanks to better support and a greater understanding of his needs.

2018 has been a good year in many ways, but I cannot help but look back and realise that my hopes and dreams for this year do not reflect that. This time last year I felt desperate to fix things. I didn’t want to be sick (who does?) I didn’t want to be reliant on the state financially (who does?) And I certainly didn’t want to give up all the things that I felt gave me worth (who does?) Looking back at my post from this point last year, I could say 2018 was the biggest failure ever. But, I’m choosing to see it a different way…

Finding a New Perspective

Instead of seeing all I didn’t achieve as a failure, I’m trying to see it as a necessary step on my journey of self-discovery. I’m trying to see all the times I felt like I was knocked back as a swipe at the unnecessary burdens I placed upon myself to fix something that was out of my control. And I’m trying to see my brokenness as part of my healing, because only in my brokenness do I stop trying to rely on myself and turn to something greater than who I am on my own.

Essentially, I’m hoping to find peace. The word came to me as I tried to calm my mind before bed the other week. I had started to wonder what word I could choose to focus on in 2019, and it simply came to me. Peace. I tried variations on the theme, things like rest, reflection, and acceptance, but essentially it all came back down to peace. Pure and simple.

But what do I mean by peace? Do I mean an end to suffering? Well, no, not really. Suffering is, unfortunately, a part of life. So I don’t want to find a peace which is reliant on good times in my life, nor do I want to find a peace that exists despite hard times. No, what I really want to find is a peace that encompasses both, one which reminds me that it is okay to celebrate my joy and express my despair. I want to feel peace wherever I find myself, even when it’s uncomfortable.

The Difference Between Peace and Acquiescence

I want to stop trying to fix everything, and be okay with not being okay. That’s not to say that I will suddenly stop feeling passion for change where I see injustice (I’m never going to have peace with a government which cruelly inflicts pain on the most vulnerable in society, whilst protecting those with the most, for instance). But I hope to stop feeling such intense levels of fear, anger, and guilt on a personal level. I want to stop angrily watching the news unfold, with adrenaline coursing through my body, and instead learn how to channel that energy in other ways (what they may be, I do not know, but I hope to find out).

And therein lies the crux of this whole thing – I want to find peace, even when I don’t know how that will come. This isn’t an active thing, something I can force into being. I’ve tried that, and it doesn’t work. If anything, the more I strive the less peace I feel. The more I try to fix things, to find control in the uncontrollable, the more frantic and anxious and out of control I feel.

And as my body has a tendency to overreact with adrenaline (thanks EDS), this constant cycle of trying to control the uncontrollable has led to an almost permanent heightened state of awareness. The smallest things set off a rush of adrenaline these days, and it’s exhausting!

But whereas I have tried so hard to counteract that with affirmations, meditation, yogic breathing etc over the past few years, I now want to find a place of peace where it’s okay to feel out of control for a while, to ride the waves and trust that there is peace to be found within the madness. Because that’s where I’m at right now, and I can no longer pretend it is only fleeting and I’ll suddenly find a way to snap out of it.

Exploring The Power of Peace

When I was thinking about putting this post together, I was trying to find a quotation which might sum up how I feel. And this verse from Lamentations really struck me:

“I have forgotten what health and peace and happiness are” (Lamentations 3:17 Good News Bible translation).

If there was one verse in the Bible which summed up how I feel, this is it! Okay, maybe not the happiness part, I still have that in abundance. But health and peace? Those two I’ve truly forgotten the feel of. I get glimpses of them from time to time, but they are always fleeting. And I believe they are both intrinsically linked for me, too.

Without peace I cannot truly recover my health. For a long time I thought it was the other way around and that a return to health would bring peace. And it would, of course, in some ways. Better health would mean a return to work, a reduction in financial stress, and an even greater reduction in the guilt felt by the pressure put upon my family by my illness.

But recently I’ve begun to realise I’ve been looking at it the wrong way around. Any peace which comes from better circumstances isn’t truly peace at all, but rather ease at the situation. It may seem like I’m just splitting hairs here, but peace and ease are two very different things. Peace, to me at least, means knowing that at some level things are okay, even when on the surface they are far from it.

Finding The Peace Which Surpasses All Understanding

Which brings me around to faith. I’ll be honest with you and say that whilst my faith has become stronger than ever before over the past couple of years, I still struggle with many aspects of it. It’s almost like the harder life gets, the more I turn to God. But the more I turn to God, the more questions I have.

Not about God’s existence, that has never been an issue for me (in my darkest hours I’ve been the most angry with God – it’s hard to be angry with something you don’t believe in!) No, my questions are more about the nature of God and how I experience that in my everyday life.

I feel like God is just out of touch, supporting me and loving me but in a far less intimate way than I would like. I feel like I’ve been holding God at arms length, not quite willing to open up my heart fully. I’ve been stuck in an intellectual desire to understand God, rather than an emotional desire to know God. And there is a big difference between the two.

So with all of this in mind, I have decided to keep my plans for the year minimal. Instead of setting goals such as reading the Bible and doing yoga every day, I want to wake up each morning and tune in to how I’m feeling and what I need that day to find peace.

I want to open up my heart to the possibility of peace, and see what happens. And I want to do so in the knowledge that whatever happens is okay, even if I feel like I fail. Because the peace I hope to find is the, “peace which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).

Redefining Self-Worth - How I Found Freedom by Letting Go of Achievements and Valuing Who I Am

Redefining Self-Worth

I wanted to take a few moments today to reflect on the changes that have been happening in my life over the past few years. I don’t mean the external changes, although there have been plenty of those! I mean the internal changes that have helped me to look at my life from a whole new perspective, leading me to redefine my own sense of self-worth.

It feels almost impossible to know where to begin with this, because the way I view my life has changed in so many ways over the past few years. But I think the most logical place to start is in my teen years, when I first began to develop a warped sense of self-worth

Self-Worth from a High-Achiever’s Perspective

I’ve spent the vast majority of my life believing that my value came from the things I did, rather than simply who I am. As a naturally high-achiever at school, it seemed almost inevitable that this would happen. I got consistently good grades (often the highest in the class), and then I went on to study at one of the UK’s top universities. By the time I graduated, aged 22, my entire life had been about academic achievement. And yet, despite this, I never felt “good enough”.

Graduation Day University of Nottingham

It doesn’t make much sense, does it? I achieved so much as a teenager and in my early twenties, academically at least. You’d think that this would provide a solid foundation for confidence in my skills and abilities, but in reality the exact opposite was my experience.

I actually really struggled with self-worth a lot whilst at university, and when my dad asked me if I was finally proud of myself on my graduation day I honestly said that I wasn’t. I felt like I had completely bluffed my way through, and was a fraud.

And the thought of moving into employment terrified me, because I couldn’t ever see myself feeling confident enough to cope in the workplace. You see, for me, my self-worth had become so intrinsically linked with my achievements, I felt huge amounts of anxiety and fear over maintaining that high level of accomplishment. Anything less than “the best” felt like failure to me.

the ongoing impact of low self-worth

As a result, I did everything to avoid going into roles that might really challenge me. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my time working in childcare, retail, and student support. I’m a sociable person, and working in roles that involved meeting lots of people was lovely. But I never stayed anywhere long enough to advance up the career ladder. It didn’t matter that my employers could see my potential, giving me greater responsibility than my role actually required, I couldn’t see my worth.

And for most of my 20s I felt like I was just biding my time until I got married and had kids. The one thing I had always been sure about in my life was that I adored children and couldn’t wait to be a mother. I convinced myself that I wasn’t career driven or ambitious, I was just holding down a job until my real role in life would begin. So I was overjoyed when I fell pregnant in 2011, just a few months after our wedding. But my joy was short-lived.

Photo of pregnant mum and dad, back to back, with dad's belly sticking out like mum's bump

 

when life throws you a curveball, it’s easy to doubt yourself

As you may know, I suffered from Hyperemesis Gravidarum during my pregnancy. It was, quite honestly, sheer hell. I knew, without a doubt, that I couldn’t possibly face another pregnancy, because my first one almost broke me. But so did the decision never to have another child. I have never been so angry with God than I was during that time.

I remember crying through angry tears, asking why I had been made so maternally driven if I were only ever to be allowed one child. The one thing I had always felt so sure about, that I would devote years of my life to raising a young family, was suddenly snatched from me. And it broke my heart. I absolutely adored being a mother, it was everything I had ever dreamed of. But in my grief and confusion, my lack of self-worth started to seep into this area of my life too.

Any parent will tell you that having a baby is exhausting beyond belief. It feels relentless and scary, to be solely responsible for the welfare of this tiny being. And that’s before you even begin to look at other things that can make it even harder. We all have things we struggle with when we become parents. For me it was the combination of trying to recover from the trauma of my pregnancy whilst: caring for a baby who never slept; trying to deal with terrible issues with oversupply (which felt like my body was letting me down yet again); and supporting a husband who was beginning to suffer from depression. So, it’s not all that surprising that my thought process turned to beating myself up.

Mum and Baby cuddling

the destructive power of doubting yourself

I knew and trusted myself enough to know that I needed help to avoid spiralling out of control into a pit of despair, so I asked my doctor at my 6 week post-natal check for a referral for mental health support. I ended up having 7 months of CBT, and honestly I credit that with keeping my head above the water. But even with that, I still lacked the self-worth to follow my instincts and allow myself time to heal and process what had happened.

My inner chatter began to say things like, “why would you even believe you deserve to have more children when you’re already struggling with one?” and “what gives you the right to stay home and enjoy being with your child, when your husband is struggling so much at work?” I began to question everything, and whilst I look back on that first year with happy memories of sitting for hours just cherishing being home with my boy, I can see how I ended up taking the next steps that I did. Because I didn’t believe I deserved to enjoy being a stay-at-home-mum, nor did I feel like I was doing enough in my life. I felt like I needed to do more.

In a series of what I can now see were misguided, if well-intentioned, choices, I found myself pushed beyond my limit and close to a complete breakdown by the end of 2014. I returned to work when my son was just 15 months old, far sooner than I ever thought I would, and whilst I enjoyed the work immensely I also missed being with him more than I can say. At one point I ended up working two separate part-time jobs, and when one offered full-time hours I took it as it seemed easier than balancing two roles. But it was a role in which I felt incredibly isolated and which, due to the nature of the work tapping into my own personal trauma, almost broke me.

Screenshot of Amanda on Good Morning Britain

To any outside observer, 2014 should have been a high point in my career. My book was published and hit the top 10 for books in its genre on Amazon. I was interviewed live on national television. And I was working in a role that enabled me to support women all around the country. But I was falling apart inside in ways I had never, ever experienced before. And it was all because I hadn’t trusted myself enough to follow my instincts when they had repeatedly said, “this isn’t what you’re meant to be doing”.

sometimes the best lessons in life are the hardest to learn (because we resist them so much)

Near the end of 2014 I wrote a post called Warrior, because I felt like fighting was what I needed to do. But a few weeks later, in a moment of sheer desperation, I prayed to God in a way I’d never done before. I said, “I’ve tried everything, and I don’t know what I need to do any more. Please, you have to show me the way. It’s your turn now!” And I truly meant it.

I had spent so much time trying to figure out what I was supposed to do with my life, to give my life meaning, if I wasn’t meant to spend this part of my life raising babies. And I had found a purpose, no doubt about that. I had thrown myself wholeheartedly into campaigning for better awareness and care of Hyperemesis Gravidarum, so that one day no woman would have to make the same heart-wrenching choice never to have another baby as I had. But that wasn’t my purpose. That wasn’t what I was here for, and I was finally beginning to accept that.

But I was still very much caught up in the movement in a way that was deeply damaging for me, as well as for those I worked with. And I couldn’t see a way out. But, do you know what? Within moments of passing control over to God, I received the most overwhelming feeling of peace. It just washed right over me, and I heard the word, “Surrender“. And I knew that was what I was being asked to do. I wasn’t being asked to fight for (or against) anything, I simply had to surrender into it. And boy, did I surrender!

answered prayers often take us to places we could never have imagined

Within weeks of my prayer, I had been made redundant; been turned down at three separate interviews for being “over qualified”; and battled with a letting agency after our house move fell through unexpectedly. And yet, I felt nothing but quiet assurance that all would be well. I even began to think about trying to go it alone, finally finding the courage to look at my blog as a business opportunity, a chance to do what I was best at (communicate), rather than simply a hobby.

But in the end, I still didn’t trust myself enough to do that. I still felt as if that was something other people got to do, and it was silly of me to even contemplate the idea. Which is crazy, because it was around this time that one of my blog posts was chosen as one of the Blogger Keynotes at a blogging conference, and I got to read it in front of a room full of bloggers in June 2015. But still, I felt as if I wasn’t “good enough”.

Amanda with the founders of Britmums at Britmums Live 2015

So I eventually ended up in a part-time role, which I loved, but which was physically exhausting. My body had never really recovered from my pregnancy, all the symptoms connected to my EDS had increased, and my fatigue was at an all time high. I began to spend 3 days a week working, and the other 4 feeling like I had the flu. I could barely move, and began to get sick regularly on top. At the time I was gutted. I had thought I had finally said goodbye to the stress that had taken such a toll on my body.

But it was like my body was doing everything it could to make it impossible for me to continue ignoring the fact that I still wasn’t listening to my intuition. Every time I tried to find a purpose, things seemed to get immeasurably harder. I spent most of 2016 seeing multiple specialists to try and figure out what was wrong with me, and in the end I was given a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia.

life will keep sending you the same lesson until you get it

Even with this diagnosis, I still refused to stop and look at what I really needed to learn – self-worth. I left employment after 6 months on sick leave, but set myself up as a freelance VA and web support. I wouldn’t have dared dream of doing that until my sister-in-law asked me to do some work for her and suggested my skill-set was actually really valuable to other businesses. But with enough encouragement from her, along with two coaches I was lucky enough to work with (Pippa from Story of Mum, and Michelle Reeves), I took the plunge and set up Shortman Media.

My aim for the business was to build it up enough so that I could train Tim in the work I did, so that he could start working from home too. We knew his days in regular employment were numbered, and really wanted to avoid the UK Benefits System, which we knew was notoriously bad for supporting people like us. And for a while, it seemed as if this would work. During 2017 I managed to work with 6 different clients, and gained two amazing testimonials that boosted my confidence a bit.

But it wasn’t to last. By the end of 2017 I was working the absolute minimum hours (less than 10 per month), and even then I was struggling. And yet, despite knowing my health was in a rapid decline, I still had the most ridiculously ambitious plans for 2018.

when you “get it”, you really get it

I was still trying to “fix” my life, to find some purpose within the madness, so I didn’t have to face the fact that I needed help. So my body continued to send me messages I could not possibly ignore. I began suffering with migraines that lasted for 2 weeks every single month. I caught every virus going. I became practically housebound, barely leaving my house for the first quarter of 2018. I was literally reliant on others for pretty much everything.

And it was hard. Oh, boy, was it hard. I fought with feelings of guilt, and failure, as it just seemed to be one battle after another. The last 6 months of my life have felt like the darkest pit. And yet, once again, as I began to hit rock bottom I found my faith growing. I clung on to the hope that we would, one day, find our way out of this mess. And I began to realise that the only thing I could really do was focus on looking after myself.

Photo of Little Man smiling lovingly at me, as I rest in bed

I realised I couldn’t change what was happening to us externally, but I could change how I felt about it internally. I began trying to do things that eased my soul, and chose to trust that the Universe had my back. But it was hard. For instance, there were 3 weeks in which we were unable to bid on any council properties. This was then followed by several weeks when the only option were flats, which I knew without a doubt would be a terrible move for us.

There was one week when I really began to doubt myself and wonder if we should bid on a flat, just to get out of the house that had become almost prison-like to me. But I held faith, and lo and behold the very next week our dream bungalow became available. And even though it felt too risky to even dream we might get it, I just knew it was ours and felt like I was simply waiting for confirmation of what I already knew. And a week later, it really was ours!

letting go of the ego to find a true sense of self-worth

Of course, moving when you’re as ill as we are is far from easy. I had to swallow my pride over and over again, asking publicly for help with everything from decorating to doing tip runs. But do you know what I learned from this? I learned that people were more than happy to help, because they valued me for who I am, rather than what I could do. And it was a real revelation!

The more I asked, the more I received, and I began to see how truly blessed I am. In the moments when I felt like the biggest failure, I reached out for help instead of trying to hide my shame, and received so much support it was incredible. And it reminded me that, all along, I’ve been supported, I just didn’t want to believe it. Because I didn’t feel worthy. I felt like I hadn’t earned it.

But all that was changing. When I felt like I truly had nothing left to lose, I realised I had gained so much more than I could ever have imagined. And slowly, but surely, I began to redefine self-worth. I began to truly understand what it meant to honour yourself as worthy, just as you are. To “stop playing small” and fully embrace the beauty of who you are. I began to accept what I had written a few years ago, about us all being made to shine. And I began to trust myself again (or maybe, even, for the first time ever!)

when you trust yourself, you begin to find your way

This all brings me to the past few weeks, in which a huge amount of inner healing work has taken place. It all started with Rebecca Campbell’s new Work Your Light Oracle Deck, which I kept seeing on instagram.

I have several oracle decks already, and used to use them quite a lot. But in recent years I just haven’t felt connected to them at all. So it surprised me to be so attracted to this new deck, especially as the artwork was so different to what I would usually be drawn towards. After seeing it multiple times, and feeling a gut reaction to it every single time, I decided to trust my instinct and order it. And, wow, was that the best decision I have made in a very long time!

Work Your Light Oracle Cosmic Cross Spread

The deck itself is so incredibly beautiful, and the emphasis on the idea that You Are The Oracle really spoke to me. You can read about my first experience with the deck here, which in and of itself is incredible. I’d never shared anything quite so “New Age-y” so publicly before, and it felt really scary to open up that part of my life and express how much it means to me, especially as someone who also describes herself as a Progressive Christian.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve touched on this in the past, but I’ve never authentically shared how it fits into my own personal life, nor how important it is to me. And that felt like a terrifying thing to do. But it also felt so right. As I wrote in my instagram post, “I’m finding the courage to share all the aspects of my faith and spirituality. Because I do connect with both “New Age Spirituality” and Progressive Christianity. I truly believe they complement each other and do not have to be an “either, or” option when it comes to faith. This is my path, and I don’t want to hide it any more.”

finding the worth in your own, unique story

Thankfully, several people liked and commented on my post, giving me the added reassurance that it was safe to share my story in this way. And it opened up so many doors for me. Because, for the first time ever, I began to see the worth in my story and the power in sharing it openly.

I’ve been blogging since 2006, and right from the beginning I wanted to write about faith and spirituality and how beautiful it can be when it is truly inclusive. But as a 22 year old, I felt like I had no right to be writing about such things – what did I know about life?

So I began writing about things that seemed “blog-worthy”, based on the types of topics other bloggers were writing about. Things like homemaking, crafts, and parenting. But the truth is, that wasn’t what I needed to write about. I needed to write about faith. And I needed to write about it in the context of life itself.

By that, I mean, I didn’t need to have it all figured out, I simply needed to write authentically as life happened. Because there is power in being open and raw and vulnerable, especially in a world that is so hell-bent on aiming for perfection. My beauty lies in the unfiltered parts of my life. And my worth is based on who I am, not who the world wants me to be.

changing “only” to “Amazing”

And so, I began to simply write what was on my mind, rather than worrying about whether it was share-worthy. And I began to trust that it would find those who needed to read it. Because a few weeks ago, in what I can only describe as an inspired moment of clarity, I suddenly realised I had been looking at my blogging journey all wrong.

For many years, I’ve felt like a failure for blogging for so many years and still only having a fraction of the reach that other bloggers have. I felt bad that I get “only” 2,000 visits to my blog per month, that “only” 147 people follow me on Facebook, and that “only” 660 people follow me on instagram. But in that moment of clarity, I changed my “only” to “amazing”.

I realised that it is truly amazing that my blog is viewed 2,000 times per month, despite me doing pretty much no social media promotion whatsoever. And it is beyond amazing that people not only follow me on Facebook and instagram, but they also encourage and connect with me whenever I post, despite my posts being irregular and likely to be lost in such a fast-paced environment.

just share your story, that’s all that matters

I couldn’t possibly reach as many as I do people without my blog or social media. So it is a true blessing to be able to share my story in this way. And I’m beginning to see the true value in sharing it, no matter how many people read it.

Funnily enough, the Universe was determined to help me remember this, as I suddenly came across a video series by Gabby Bernstein, in which she encourages you to simply get out there and share your story. In her first video she even mentions someone who arranged a public talk and only one person turned up. And yet, after her talk that one person thanked her for such an incredible experience. If we simply share our story, the rest falls into place.

And so that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to share my story. I’m not going to worry about how long this post is, or whether it’s “of value” to anyone else. It’s of huge value to me, and reminds me that I’ve been sharing my story all along. It’s just, now I’m doing so with intention. Now I’m sharing it because I understand that it has value simply because it is true and authentic. And because of that, it is also healing.

This Is My Story. What is yours?

Picture of a woman smiling at the sky, with her arms stretched out behind her. The words Redefining Self-Worth - How I Found Freedom by Letting Go of Achievements and Valuing Who I Am are above her.

Lent Reading Challenge 2018 join me as I attempt to read Acts and Paul's Letters in 40 Days

Lent Reading Challenge – Acts and Paul’s Letter in 40 Days

Disclaimer: the two links to books in this post are affiliate links. If you click on the link and then purchase them from Amazon, I will receive a small incentive for this, as per my disclosure policy

Can you believe that Lent is already upon us? I feel as if the year has only just begun and suddenly we’re preparing for Easter. Admittedly this is probably because I’ve spent most of this year housebound due to a massive flare up of health issues – I haven’t managed to make a church service since New Year’s Eve! Which is probably why I decided that instead of giving something up for Lent this year, I’d focus on digging deep into my faith with some daily bible study. And, after some careful consideration, I’ve decided on my Lent Reading Challenge – Acts and Paul’s Letters in 40 Days.

Lent Reading Challenge 2018 join me as I attempt to read Acts and Paul's Letters in 40 Days

Why Acts and Paul’s Letters?

I’m pretty new to Bible Study, having only really dipped in and out of the Bible until quite recently. There are whole books that I haven’t read, especially in the Old Testament. But one thing I have noticed is that whilst I haven’t read all of Paul’s letters, the verses that I often turn to for encouragement and support come from one of them. And so I want to read them in full.

I want to learn more about the Early Church, and where better to do that than in Paul’s Letters, which are some of the earliest parts of the New Testament to be written. So often we begin with the Four Gospels, don’t we? And yet most of Paul’s Letters predate them. I want to explore the letters that Paul wrote to the various fledgling congregations, bringing the Good News of Christ to non-Jews, whilst remaining rooted in his own Jewish background. In fact, the more I learn about Paul himself, the more intrigued I become…

Paul, the jewish theologian

Last year I bought a book called, “Paul, The Jewish Theologian: A Pharisee among Christians, Jews, and Gentiles“. You know how sometimes you see a book and just know that you need to read it? This was one of those books for me. I have only just picked it up and started reading it, but already I am loving it.

As the author so clearly explains in the introduction, Paul is a fascinating character because he continued to consider himself to be a Pharisee throughout his life, despite being, “rejected by the synagogue and misunderstood by the church”.

The author continues to say that, “sometimes, as Christians, we have accepted Paul’s teachings about Jesus while rejecting his love of the Hebrew Bible, as well as his Judaic heritage.” And this is something I am keen to avoid, by reading the book as I work my way through Acts and Paul’s Letters.

reading the bible in its historical and cultural context

One of the things that I have been learning about over the past couple of years is the importance of Religious Literacy, that is reading Sacred Texts through a historical and cultural lens. The books of the Bible were all written in very specific historical and cultural contexts, and whilst they contain eternal truths, we must always remember that the way in which these truths are expressed and explained are connected to the time of their writing.

For me, this understanding was entirely influential in my decision to explore Christianity further and eventually decide to be baptised last year. Being able to explore how and why the texts came to be, deepened my connection to them. I began to understand what they were saying far easier than when I had little to no context for them. And in turn I started to grasp how they could be as relevant for me today as they were to the original readers.

Paul – a theologian in a changing world

This is why I think I feel so drawn to Paul’s Letters. His entire story fascinates me, from his dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus through to his letters of encouragement and explanation to those who were also trying to accept a whole new way of living.

He understood perfectly what it was like to have a whole change of heart that was so powerful it changed everything. He knew what it was like to feel inspired to change the way you lived, when doing so was downright scary. Let’s remember, he lived in a time of severe persecution – indeed, he had once been the persecutor, so he knew the risks!

A message as powerful today as it was back then

How much does that sound like life today, in many ways? How many people throughout the world live in fear because of their faith? How many people, even in places where freedom of religion exists, still face discrimination or ridicule for their beliefs? How is it, that 2,000 years have gone by and we’re still facing the same challenges?

We see churches trying to connect with new generations of people in an increasingly secular society. We see people abandoning religion, because it has felt too rigid, and turning instead to New Age Spirituality (which is, as it says on the tin, a new way of exploring faith). And we see more and more interfaith dialogue beginning to take place. For all the times in which we are told, “God is dead” or “Churches are dying”, I see just as many examples of people doing exactly what Paul did – trying to figure out how to live their faith in a new way.

interfaith dialogue – as old as the hills

And that’s something that excites me, as I find myself balancing my faith in the eternal Christ alongside other lesser known expressions of faith. And the more I do that, the more I find other people doing it too. No longer do I feel as if my exploration of Christianity needs to be at odds with my exploration of the Divine Feminine or Pagan Sabbats. None of these have to be exclusive of the others, Paul taught us that in so many ways:

“After all, Paul is a Pharisee living among the Christians, Jews, and pagan Gentiles. He is a bridge builder. He confronts hostilities from many factions in the church as well as from the Greco-Roman world in which he ministers. As a Jewish theologian, he labors diligently to win acceptance for non-Jews among all Christian believers.” – Brad H. Young (Paul, The Jewish Theologian).

i want to be a bridge builder

Isn’t that a wonderful way of describing Paul? He’s a bridge builder. And we need more of those in our world, don’t we? There is so much strife all around us, and sometimes it feels like everyone is out for an argument. But as much as I love a good debate (and I do), I do not want to argue. I want to help build bridges, and how better to begin than by reading the words of one of the greatest bridge builders?

Do you want to be a bridge builder too? Why not join me in my Lent Reading Challenge and work through Acts (starting with Paul’s conversion) and Paul’s Letters in their chronological order? I’ve devised a 40 Day Reading Plan, using my Daily Bible, and I’d love to hear how you get on with it if you decide to try it too.

lent reading challenge – Acts and Paul’s Letters in 40 days

 

DayReading
1Acts 8:1-3 & 9:1-31
2Acts 13:1 – 15:21
3Acts 15:22 – 17:34
4Acts 18:1 – 20:38
5Acts 21:1 – 23:35
6Acts 24:1 – 26:32
7Acts 27:1 – 28:31
81 Thessalonians 1:1 – 3:13
91 Thessalonians 4:1 – 5:28
102 Thessalonians 1:1 – 3:18
11Galatians 1:1 – 2:21
12Galatians 3:1 – 4:31
13Galatians 5:1 – 6:18
141 Corinthians 1:1 – 3:23
151 Corinthians 4:1 – 6:20
161 Corinthians 7:1 – 9:27
171 Corinthians 10:1 – 12:31
181 Corinthians 13:1 – 16:24
192 Corinthians 1:1 – 3:18
202 Corinthians 4:1 – 7:16
212 Corinthians 8:1 – 10:18
222 Corinthians 11:1 – 13:13
23Romans 1:1 – 3:20
24Romans 3:21 – 5:21
25Romans 6:1 – 8:17
26Romans 8:18 – 10:21
27Romans 11:1 – 13:14
28Romans 14:1 – 16:27
29Philippians 1:1 – 2:30
30Philippians 3:1 – 4:23
31Colossians 1:1 – 2:23
32Colossians 3:1 – 4:18
33Philemon 1 – 25
34Ephesians 1:1 – 2:22
35Ephesians 3:1 – 4:32
36Ephesians 5:1 – 6:24
371 Timothy 1:1 – 3:16
381 Timothy 4:1 – 6:21
39Titus 1:1 – 3:15
402 Timothy 1:1 – 4:22

If you do decide to join in with this reading challenge, please do let me know! I’ll be sharing my thoughts over on instagram and Facebook as I work through it. And if you’re on Pinterest, why not pin the image below so you can come back to the reading plan any time you like…

Lent Reading Challenge Acts and Paul's Letters in 40 Days

Share The Joy – The Joy of Receiving

Welcome back to Share The Joy! Each month I shall be helping Christina to host this linky, and we’re both looking forward to reading all your joy-filled and positive posts. This month, I am focusing on the joy of receiving, which is something I have long struggled with…

Like many of you, I am a giver by nature. I love to give to others, whether that is time, money, or attention. But whilst that means that I naturally expect others to be okay with receiving my gifts to them, I have a hard time receiving things myself.

I don’t just mean I struggle to receive gifts (although this is a major challenge for me!) I actually really struggle to receive love and care, especially when I need it the most. Over the past few years I have become increasingly dependent on the support of others, as my health has plummeted dramatically. But the guilt and shame I feel over being unable to care for myself and those I love has caused me to feel unworthy of receiving. Do you ever feel like that?

a skewed perception of worth

I know that this comes from a skewed perception of my worth, and I’ve been working on this recently (as you can see in my previous post). I have this crazy idea that in order to receive something, I have to first give something of equal or greater value. And it’s crazy because I don’t expect that same kind of give and take when I give to others. So why do I feel it when someone wants to give to me?

I know, it makes no sense. But how often do our personal hang-ups make sense? Of course, none of this is made any easier by the fact that I have become so ill lately that I am reliant upon receiving help in most areas of my life. Whether it’s support from a listening ear, help keeping Little Man occupied on my worst days, or financial support to help make ends meet, I am learning how to receive with grace in abundance right now. And, wow, it is so hard!

re-framing the idea of receiving

We are taught, from a very young age, that we should be self-reliant, aren’t we? We’re told that if we only put our mind and energy into something, we can achieve it. We hear this very message from everyone: at school we’re told to “reach for the stars”; adverts urge us to aspire to “living a better life”; and social media is awash with people telling us how they got success and we can too!

And yet all of these messages forget to mention the one thing that always makes a difference – support from others. We might think we’re completely self-reliant and we can create whatever life we wish for, but the truth is that we all need something to help us get there. For some, like me, it might be help meeting very basic needs. But for others, it might be the support of a mentor, the meals cooked by a partner whilst they work late into the night on a new project, or even the word-of-mouth advertising from previous customers.

We all receive things from others every day. It might be as simple as a kind word, a piece of advice, or a pat on the back, but it’s all part of that act of receiving. And re-framing it within that context is really helping me to feel okay with receiving, even when it is something I feel totally unworthy of. After all, I might not be giving a lot back, but what I am giving (in my love for my family and friends, for instance) is all part of the give and take nature of life itself.

the joy of receiving with love and gratitude

Which is why, this month, I am focusing on receiving with both love and gratitude. I am incredibly blessed in my life, truly I am. I might struggle on a daily basis with my health and very basic things, but I have never felt unloved. In fact the exact opposite is what I feel – loved beyond measure. And instead of trying to justify why I get to be so loved when others aren’t so lucky, I am trying to be more grateful for what I receive.

And this includes the most beautiful gifts that keep coming my way from an anonymous sender. You may remember that last year I wrote about my Gifts from the Goddess (as I called them). Ever since January 2015, I have been receiving regular gifts without any kind of note as to who they are from.

It has to be someone who knows me, as they have been sent to two different addresses (we relocated in 2015) and are always very spiritual in nature. I’ve received 3 Earth Pathways Diaries; a magazine subscription to She Who Knows; a Tiana colouring book; a novel; an angel bowl; a CD; a DVD; an eco mug and herbal teas; another mug and a blessed sign; and most recently a stunning painting…

The Joy of Receiving - Goddess Painting Tiana Art 2018

I feel like this photo simply doesn’t do the painting justice. It is so beautiful in person, with the colours and highlights changing depending on the light source and your position in relation to it. But as you can see even in the photo, the painting is simply gorgeous.

the healing power in receiving

This painting, which stands at around 3ft in height, arrived just like all my other gifts. It was completely unexpected and had no message within it to tell me who it was from. It also arrived at the most perfect moment, as I was sitting in bed sobbing at how ill and weak I am right now. And in an instant my whole energy changed…

As we peeled back the protective packaging, my breath was taken away by the beauty within. I have seen prints of paintings by Tiana on our trips to Glastonbury, and even admired the large pieces of artwork within the Goddess Temple and Goddess House. But never could I have dreamed of having a piece of my own to hang in my home and gaze at every single day.

This past month I have been trying to sit and meditate with healing mantras every day. My experience has been that even if I cannot physically do more, simply sitting and focusing my energy on the breathwork, mudra (hand positions) and mantra is powerful. I feel the energy building up and can visualise it healing both myself and those around me. And this has only become even more powerful since being able to do so whilst sitting in the presence of this beautiful painting.

the gift of inspiration

Green is a healing colour, and when I shared the photo of the painting with friends online, everyone saw something slightly different. Some saw an Angel (Archangel Raphael in particular) – this is what Little Man sees in it too. Others saw a Goddess, Green Tara, Mother Mary, and even Eve.

This experience has shown me, more than anything else, just how powerful creative works can be in speaking to different people in different ways. It reminded me that one of my greatest gifts is my ability to create experiences and evoke emotions by weaving words in my own way.

By accepting the gift of another artist, I am inspired to go out and create my own works – they say it is in giving that we receive, but sometimes it is in receiving that we can finally give…

So this month I am celebrating the joy of receiving. And I’d love to hear from you about what gifts you have received and the impact they have had on your life. Do share your experiences in the comments below, I receive them all with love!


join in with share the joy

If you want to join in, it couldn’t be easier. Just follow the simple steps below:

1) Link up a creation that has brought you JOY – all genres are welcome, new or old favourites and as many links as you like!

2) Include the Share the Joy badge (below) or a text link back to this page in your own post.

3) Please comment on one of your hosts’ posts and a few others. Let’s Share the JOY through commenting as well as through our posts!

The linky will remain open for the entire month of February, and Christina and I will read and comment on them all. Don’t forget to tweet me @thefamilypatch with the URL to your post using the hashtag #sharethejoylinky so I can retweet it. You can also tag Christina at @LadybugHome1.

Feel free to invite your friends to join in – JOY is always better when it’s shared!

You can also subscribe to our mailing list here, to receive an email notification every time a new linky is published.

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Share The Joy Linky @ The Family Patch

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What Makes a Christian? A Progressive Christian’s View

What makes a Christian? This is a question that on the surface sounds really simple, but in reality is quite complex. Whilst most Christians have their own idea about what makes them a Christian, an idea which often coincides with the beliefs of their Church, the very fact that there are so many different denominations shows that the answer to this question is really anything but simple.

Read more

Little Man's Baptism

Choosing to be Baptised as an Adult

This past weekend, Little Man and I were both baptised, and I was confirmed and welcomed as a member of the Methodist Church. Choosing to be baptised as an adult, and choosing to baptise my son at the age of 5, wasn’t a decision I made lightly. I thought about it for a very long time, because I wasn’t sure whether it was the right thing for us to do. But eventually it just felt right and that was when I decided to do it.

Little Man being Baptised

A large part of my hesitation came from the fact that I know I sometimes sit on the edge, looking in, wondering whether I truly belong. I’ve described my faith in the past as “fluid”, something which changes as I grow, and which takes inspiration from a wide variety of sources, not just Christianity. For instance, my husband, TJ, has been on Shamanic Courses; as a family we celebrate the Pagan Wheel of the Year; and our home is filled with books, music, and artwork from traditions as varied as Hinduism, Buddhism, and The New Age. So you’d be forgiven for thinking that I didn’t really relate to any single path.

Indeed, this is something that I myself thought about my faith for a very long time too. But the reality is that I do  relate to a single path, and that path is Christianity. Everything I believe comes back to the central core of the Christian message – that we are inherently flawed, but that God loves us anyway. So great is God’s love for us, that he sent Jesus to show us the way to live in that knowledge, and the Holy Spirit to guide us day by day as we try to do so. When I read or experience something from another tradition, it is always through that same lens of unconditional love, and whilst I do not think that Christianity has a monopoly on that truth, it is the path which draws me closest to it.

Being Baptised as an Adult

And it was this realisation that led me to making the decision to step deeper into my walk along the Christian path. I realised that I had been holding myself back from experiencing it fully, because I felt I was somehow intrinsically incompatible with Christianity. I erroneously believed that because I had doubts and questions and interpreted things differently at times from the traditional sense, and because I chose to include aspects from other faiths into my journey as well, that I couldn’t honestly call myself a Christian. And yet, when I look at that central belief I mentioned above, that “we are inherently flawed, but God loves us anyway”, I realised how crazy this thinking was. Why would God want me to miss out on the love and caring of my Church Family, just because I felt a little bit different? The answer, of course, is He wouldn’t!

I clearly remember the moment I was reading a book about Christianity and religion and realised that my thinking was all wrong. And I decided to explore the idea further. Then, that following Sunday, as we sang the opening hymns in church, I felt my heart opening and just knew God was gently encouraging me to just take that step, to stop overthinking it and just do it. So I spoke to the Minister at the end, and told him about my reservations but also how I felt it might be the right time to take the next step, and I’ll never forget what our Minister said to me. He said, “I believe God is big enough for everyone”. Basically, he was encouraging me to just follow my heart and step forward in faith.

Confirmation

There was a little more to it, as our Minister reminded me that I was already pretty active in the church, attending Bible Study and going to the Church Council Meeting, so why shouldn’t I be a part of the Church Family? And at that point I knew, without a doubt, that it was just right for me.

And for Little Man? Well, he goes to church with my every Sunday, and tells me about Angels and Heaven and how he just loves everybody, and quite simply has the faith of a child. So why shouldn’t he also be welcomed as a part of the Church Family… he will still have the opportunity when he is older to decide whether he wants to step further on that path and be Confirmed or not, but right now he understands enough to know he wants to be a part of it, and so he is.

Baptism Candle & Certificate

We were thoroughly supported in our decision, and had an absolutely wonderful day on Sunday. The sun was shining, the church was more full than usual, my parents came to watch their Grandson be baptised, my own Grandma was there,  and we had his two Godmothers (my sister and my friend from church) celebrating it all with us too. (Incidentally, he also has a “Fairy Godmother”, in the guise of a friend who comes from my New Age background, who shared a celebration for his birth with us way back in 2012 – isn’t he a lucky boy!) 

Little Man was rather overexcited, pulling faces at the congregation and trying to sneak his fingers into the font during the service, but our Minister is wonderful and just took it all in his stride! We then had Communion, which in our church is open to all, so Little Man has had it before, but it felt doubly special on Sunday. And I think Little Man picked up on this too, as he pulled me into a hug and kissed me as we waited for the wine!

Communion following being Baptised

We were also blessed with some wonderful gifts from family and friends, to help us in our Christian journey, and I shall share some more thoughts on these with you in a later post. For now, though, I just wanted to write down my thoughts about our Baptism and my Confirmation whilst it was still all very clear in my mind.

Tell me, have you been baptised? How did you make that decision? And what does it mean to you? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences…


Joining in with Share The Joy Linky this week, as this post has obviously brought me a lot of joy! Find out more details about the linky by clicking on the image below…

Share the Joy linky at LizzieSomerset.com

40 Items Clothing Lent Give Away

(Late) Reflections on Lent, Easter, & My Christian Journey

I had planned on writing this update last weekend, to coincide with the Easter celebrations, but unfortunately I was rather poorly.  I was overcome with “brain fog” alongside absolute exhaustion, and so putting together a blog post was beyond my capabilities. But, as the saying goes, better late than never, hey?

Lent Reflections

So, first things first I wanted to update you on how I got on with my plan to give away 40 items of clothing during Lent. You may recall that I decided to do this, as I didn’t feel there was anything I could give up which would have a significant effect on my life. And giving something away reminded me that no matter how weak and poorly I feel, no matter how little I may possess, there is always something I can do to help another. Giving away 40 items of clothing, which was just under half of my entire wardrobe, allowed me to help a charity whilst also focusing on how these are just items, and losing some of them isn’t the end of the world!

That being said, I really didn’t anticipate just how difficult I would find it. First, I struggled with the daily aspect of it. Because I am very sick at the moment and have some days where simply getting out of bed, feeding myself and my family, and doing the absolute bare minimum to keep things ticking over, adding in a new activity can be challenging. It may sound easy enough, standing in front of your wardrobe and choosing an item to give away, but actually when you get caught up in just getting through the day, you tend to forget. There are several times throughout Lent when I missed a day or two and had to play catch up, choosing more than one item to ensure I didn’t fall behind. Those were the days when it really hit me just how many items I had promised to give away!

And then there was the fact that I wanted to be sure that what I gave away would be useful to another. I didn’t want to just give away clothes I rarely wore – I wanted them to be clothes that other people would find useful. I also wanted to be sure that I left myself a working wardrobe, one which I could turn to and know that I have an outfit for every occasion. In fact, that thinking helped me to create a sort of “must keep” pile, that then freed me up to choose any of the other items to give away. My “must keep” items included jeans, leggings, a couple of pairs of smart trousers, a few summer skirts, and a couple of dresses, plus a couple of tops to suit each of the bottom halves I had chosen. Oh, and most of my jumpers and cardigans – I get cold very easily.

All in all, it was a challenging experience, but one I am really glad I did. I now have the tidiest wardrobe I’ve ever had and actually find it easier to decide what to wear now than I did when I had twice as many clothes to choose from. And I have a big bag full of clothes to take to charity.

40 Items Clothing Lent Give Away

There are:

5 Dresses
3 Skirts
2 Pairs of Jeans
1 Pair of Jogging Bottoms
2 Zip-Up Tops
2 Jumpers
4 Cardigans
1 Long Sleeved Top
3 Long Tops (which go well with leggings)
6 T-Shirts
5 Vest Tops
2 Blouses
2 Smart Tops
1 Shirt
1 Vest (that you can wear over a long sleeved top)

Fitting them all on my bed to take a photo of them was rather challenging, so apologies for the blurry photo!

Easter Reflections

Of course, all of this was leading up to the highlight of the Christian year – Easter! This is something I have always struggled with, because until now I have been far more inspired by Jesus’ life and ministry than what happened during that first Easter. I also really struggled with the idea of a ransom for our sins. But this year I have really started to find some kind of deeper peace and understanding around it all.

I’ve realised that, for me, there is a much greater power in the message that Christ continues to live amongst us, touching us in ways that transcend the physical, than in the idea of a bodily resurrection. When I read the Gospel accounts of the resurrection, I have come to interpret them as symbolic rather than something to be taken literally. I know that for many, many people this is key to the Christian message, and for many years that was  one of the main reasons why I felt I couldn’t call myself a Christian at all. And yet, now I realise that it’s okay to interpret it this way. To me, the bodily resurrection of Jesus is not crucial to my belief that Christ overcame death and continues to live among us. After all, if it was, why did he only remain in his bodily form for a short time afterwards? No, for me, it’s more about how he continues to inspire generations of people around the world, 2,000 years after his death.

And so that is what I celebrated last Sunday – the fact that I feel God’s presence in my life, that I know that Jesus is calling me to follow him, and that countless other people have experienced this too. Nothing else really matters…

My Christian Journey – Choosing to be Baptised

Of course, a lot of this newfound confidence in my faith has come from the support of those around me. I am part of a wonderful church community, and also have a very dear friend who listens to me ramble on about both my thoughts and my doubts, and empowers me to explore things at my own pace. We spent a wonderful day together at the Cathedral during Lent, and have planned to make it a regular occurrence, as it was so good for us both to spend time together and quietly sit in the Cathedral doing our own reflection.

Prayer Candles

A large part of my reflection has come from reading books like Setting Jesus Free by John Churcher and The Case for God by Karen Armstrong. It was the latter book, in fact, which first made me realise that I was overcomplicating things and holding myself back from fully integrating into the church community. I realised that I was hoping to understand it all and feel at peace with everything before taking a more dedicated step such as Baptism, and yet the reality is I may never feel that and actually it is more important to simply dedicate yourself to the journey than to have all the answers.

I found myself singing along at the beginning of a service one Sunday and I just knew that now was the time to do it. I can’t explain it, I just felt my heart opening and it just felt right. So I talked to our Minister after the service, about both my thoughts and my reservations, and he was wonderfully supportive. He pointed out that I am already involved in the church, as I attend Bible Study and went to the Church Council meeting, so there was no reason not to feel a part of the Church Family. And he reminded me that “God is big enough for everyone”.

And so, I find myself now counting down the days until my own Baptism and Confirmation into the Methodist Church (and the Baptism of Little Man) on 30th April. We had planned to do it on Easter Sunday, but my Grandma was away and I really want her there. It works out quite nicely though, as it is 2 days after my birthday and part of the Bank Holiday weekend too, so we can really enjoy some quality family time together around it.

I must admit I’m a little bit nervous about it, not because I’m not ready for it, just because it is such a big thing. The thought of standing in front of everyone, knowing that they will all be welcoming us into their Church Family, just makes me squirm a little – it’s too much like being in a spotlight for my liking!! I felt nervous enough when we got married and had to say our vows in front of everyone, and this feels very much the same to me – I’m looking forward to it, but I shall be happy once the standing in front of everyone is over.

Phew, that was quite a lot to fit into a single post, wasn’t it? It’s amazing just how much has happened over Lent and Easter in my life this year. How was your Easter?

 

 

Prayer Candles

Embracing Uncertainty, Grief, and Vulnerability

I was unsure what to call this post, because there are so many things that are heavy on my heart right now. But I think the title I’ve chosen sums it up rather well. For such a long time I have been desperately fighting the uncertainty over my future, the grief I feel over things beyond my grasp, and the vulnerability that comes with accepting that I am sick and that I can no longer give until I first learn to receive. Resisting all of that has taken its toll, and it’s time I learned to embrace it instead.

I hasten to add that this isn’t a new concept to me – I’ve known I’ve needed to do this for years, but knowing something and actually accepting it are two very different things. Even as my health has deteriorated over the past few years, I have refused to acknowledge just how ill I have become, because doing so felt like giving up. Even up until the very beginning of this year, I was determined to make it all work somehow – I’d go freelance and work from home, I’d schedule in time each day to focus on my well-being, I’d cook healthy meals from scratch, and I’d find a way to do all of this and continue to run two blogs, be active in social media groups, and get more involved in my local community too.

How hard could it really be? I thought. After all, I wasn’t quite as sick as I had been when first signed off work last summer. Several months of trying to rest as much as possible had made a difference, but I needed to get going again to help make ends meet financially, and I didn’t want to be held back by my illness anyway. Unfortunately, with all the determination in the world, there are some things you just cannot change. For me, this is my health. I’m not talking about small changes like eating healthier and getting exercise – of course those make a difference. What I mean is that, if you are chronically ill, sometimes you just have to accept your limitations and find a way to work within them. But that it something I am terrible at!

The past 3 months have practically broken me: I’ve been working with several clients on some pretty big projects; I’ve seen my family struggle with my Nan’s final weeks on this earth; I’ve had multiple conversations with Little Man’s teachers as he has been struggling to settle into the school environment; and I have tried to keep my home running as smoothly as possible throughout all this change, all whilst suffering from multiple viruses on top of my general ill health. And yet despite all of that happening, I still continued to try and do more…

When I look at it like this, I realise how unbalanced my thinking really is. And I understand why I live with this constant knot of anxiety at the pit of my stomach, never knowing when a full-blown panic attack may occur.  Because I haven’t given myself time to breathe, time to sit in the uncertainty of my life and grieve for all that I had once wished for but which can no longer be. And I certainly haven’t allowed myself to be vulnerable, because that fills me with absolute dread – what happens if I do that and it all falls apart?

So, of course, life enabled me to experience that which I feared the most, didn’t it? This week I was faced with “saying no and letting go” to so many things, things that I not only felt I ought to do but which I really wanted to do too. I had filled my week with fun activities – a trip to the Cathedral with a friend, and singing in the choir for the Church Panto. But a stomach bug stopped me in my tracks and made me realise I simply cannot do it anymore, I cannot continue to pretend I am coping when really I’m so close to breaking.

Prayer Candles

I toddled off to the Cathedral with my friend, feeling worse for wear but determined to make it through the week, and ended up spending half of the time in the toilets! I then sat quietly in a little chapel, knowing that I had to cancel my plans but so terrified of letting people down. Thankfully my friend was a wonderful comfort that day, encouraging me to allow myself to be vulnerable for once and not worry so much about other people, and I cancelled attending Bible Study that afternoon and Panto Rehearsal/Performances for the rest of the week. I cried so much when doing it, partly because I hated to let others down, but mostly because of what this signified. In cancelling these plans I was truly beginning to acknowledge how ill I truly am right now.

Which led me to thinking about all the areas in my life that drain the energy I simply do not have to spare. Many of them are things I love and am so passionate about, and it breaks my heart completely to have to put them aside right now. But the alternative is continuing until I break, and having been there just a year ago (and again a couple of years before that) I am desperate not to return to that place any more. This time I want to truly embrace the uncertainty of it all, to grieve for all the things I wish were different, and to allow myself to be vulnerable in this space. No more “putting on a brave face” and pretending all is well when it’s not. Wow, that is hard for me to write… and even harder to live!

Which brings me to the point of this blog post, really. I’ve had a good, long (and extremely hard) look at all the things that I have going on in my life and decided that I have to cut back on so much in order to give myself the time, space, and energy to truly begin this healing work. And here’s what I’ve decided:

1. I shall make time every single day to seek out the love of God which I know is helping me through all of this. This will take various forms – sometimes it may be reading a book, sometimes it may be walking in the park, and sometimes it may be sitting in silence.  Whatever form it takes, I want it to become a prominent part of my day, helping me to truly embrace the uncertainty of it all, trusting that I don’t have to have it all figured out!

2. Leading on from this, I shall use The Family Patch as my place to simply write what feels important to me, rather than trying to produce “useful” content. And right now that is likely to be a lot about faith. I know that this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, so please do feel free to unsubscribe or mute updates from me if you don’t want to read this kind of content. But for those of you who are interested, please do share with me your own thoughts and experiences in the comments, as I’d love to hear from you.

3. Even though it is faith-based, I am taking a break from Spirit Kid Network. I simply cannot devote the time needed right now to build up the kind of content it deserves. There is still content to be found over there from last year, plus my free chakra guide for kids, so I’m not shutting it down completely. I simply need to release the pressure of producing new content on a regular basis on both of my blogs.

4. I am also going to limit my use of social media, particularly Facebook Groups. To be fair I haven’t been using Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest that much lately anyway. But a large chunk of my time gets caught up in Facebook Groups. Most of these are relevant to the work I do at Shortman Media, so it feels a bit risky to step back from some of them, but I really do need to limit my time spent helping others – every short answer I give soon adds up over the length of a week.

The Faith Space

5. That being said, I do want to spend a bit more time in The Faith Space, which is a Facebook Group I set up for those of us who wanted to discuss faith in an open and religiously diverse way. I’m not promising anything in terms of how much I’ll actually do on there, but if you’d like to join us please do request to join the group over on Facebook.

All of this means that the limited time and energy I have outside of what I have to do (freelance work, housework, family life etc) is less likely to be eaten up by multiple different things and more likely to contribute to my overall well-being, by focusing on what is most important to me right now. I am a giver by nature – I want to be there for everyone, encouraging and supporting them, no matter what. But that takes a lot of time and effort, which I simply do not have right now.

So, that’s where I am right now – embracing uncertainty (and trusting in God’s plan for me), grief for all the things I have to let go of right now (including all those big, exciting plans I have), and vulnerability (so that others can offer love and support where I cannot). It’s an emotional place to be, and I have cried more over the past few days than I have in months, maybe even years. But that’s all part of the journey, isn’t it?

Christian Bloggers UK Easter Tag

Christian Bloggers UK – Easter Tag

Today is Shrove Tuesday (or Pancake Day), meaning that Lent is almost upon us. For many years this didn’t really mean anything to me – my family were not religious, we didn’t even bother having pancakes most years, and Lent was just something that bypassed me completely.

But in recent years I’ve tried to be a bit more focused on the opportunity this time of year gives us to reflect upon the way we’re living our lives (what do we need to give up?) as well as the historical, cultural, and spiritual meanings behind our Easter celebrations.

Which is why I was delighted to be tagged by Rachel from Mum on a Mission, who I recently discovered thanks to the Christian Bloggers UK Facebook Group. The premise is really easy – just 10 questions to answer – but it gives you the opportunity to reflect on what Lent and Easter means to you. If you’d like to join in, please feel free to copy and paste the list of questions at the end of this post!

Christian Bloggers UK Easter Tag

1. How are you celebrating Lent this year?

This year I am planning to choose one item of clothing every single day and put it aside ready to donate to charity at the end of Lent. I saw the idea on a Facebook post from a Salvation Army Corps and thought it was brilliant, because it not only gets you to focus on “giving up” material goods that may be surplus to your needs, it also helps you give to others.

For me this is quite a big thing, because I rarely buy myself clothes. Most of my wardrobe consists of hand-me-down clothes, or items I’ve had for years (a prime example being that one of the dresses I wore for a blogging conference was over 10 years old!) Don’t get me wrong, I like clothes, I just cannot bring myself to justify buying new clothes when I have perfectly suitable ones in my wardrobe.

So, for me, giving away clothes is a massive deal, not just because I won’t be replacing them, but because I usually cling onto them until they are falling apart! But over the past couple of years I’ve been given quite a few items of clothing for Christmas presents and the odd hand-me-down, so my wardrobe is in need of a good clear out anyway. But instead of going through and trying to simply clear space, I am hoping that a daily requirement to purposefully choose one item to donate (and which will make a difference to someone else) will help me focus on how blessed I am and also how blessed it is to give.

Edited to add: I was honoured to be interviewed on Inspirational Breakfast about this on Tuesday 7th March – you can listen to the interview below.

 

2. What does Lent mean for you?

To be honest with you, I’m still trying to figure this one out. You’ll have noticed that I recently wrote about how I’m only just starting to even feel able to consider myself a Christian and my views certainly make it challenging. For instance, the idea of a ransom for our sins just doesn’t sit well with me, and yet that’s pretty crucial to the modern understanding of the message of Easter, right?

That’s not to say that it doesn’t mean anything to me. Last year I wrote a post on my other blog about called, “How and Why I’m Sharing the Easter Story with My Child“, which focused on my rather liberal interpretation of it all. So just because I haven’t figured it out yet, doesn’t mean I’m not working on it. In fact I am currently reading the book, “The Case for God: What Religion Really Means” by Karen Armstrong, which has reminded me how we don’t need to have it all figured out to seek a relationship with God.

As Karen writes, “[…] we think that the concept of God should be easy and that religion ought to be readily accessible to anybody. ‘That book was really hard!’ readers have told me reproachfully, shaking their heads in faint reproof. ‘Of course it was!’ I want to reply. ‘It was about God.'” Those were the second and third sentences in the book’s introduction, and I knew straight away I was going to love it! It is hard going, it isn’t something you can just pick up and read anywhere – it makes you question and think and sometimes I have to read a sentence 2 or 3 times before it really sinks in. But I love it all the same, because of the very fact it reminds me that God is so unimaginably huge, it’s okay that I haven’t got an answers to these questions.

3. What things have you given up for Lent in the past, and did you succeed or fail?

I haven’t given much up in the past to be honest, because I’m usually totally disorganised and realise part way through that it’s Lent and I’ve already missed the beginning of it! However I did partially give up social media a few years ago. I say partially because it was quite a last minute thing and I knew that there were the odd things coming up which people would contact me about via social media rather than via email. So I logged in occasionally to check nobody had sent me a direct message or tagged me, but I didn’t log in daily, I didn’t scroll down the timeline, and I didn’t respond to anything other than direct messages which required a response.

I really enjoyed the break from social media actually, and ended up having a social media hiatus (especially from Facebook and Twitter) for several months at the beginning of last year. Stepping away really helped me to understand how much of an impact it had on my life (my anxiety levels improved dramatically!) and I was really quite hesitant to go back to it, especially Facebook which had become quite toxic to me. When I did return, I limited my profile and timeline and friends list significantly, making sure I only saw certain updates, and began using groups more effectively rather than simply scrolling my timeline. That all made a real difference to my experience of it, and it was all thanks to taking a break.

I think that’s where Lent is really powerful – by giving something up for 40 days you begin to see the impact that thing had on you. If it’s really challenging for you to give something up, then that thing has more control over you than it probably should have. “Everything in moderation” is a great phrase, but sometimes we have to step completely away from something to realise what we thought was moderation was in fact excessively impacting on our lives. We can then go back with a better mindset and create a better relationship with whatever it was, be it social media, certain foods, or bad habits.

4. Have you ever taken part in an Easter bonnet competition? ( If so post the picture for us all!)

No, I can’t say I have. I remember my mum making Easter Bonnets for the kids when she was a childminder, but I don’t think we ever made any. I’m not even 100% sure what it entails, to be quite honest with you. I’m off to Google Easter Bonnets now…

5. What is your favourite pancake topping?

Hmmm, the few times we had them growing up it was simply lemon and sugar. Then when I went to Russia at the end of my first year of uni and then again during my third year, I discovered a whole new appreciation for pancakes.

There were little kiosks at the end of many roads, where they made a HUGE pancake on a massive griddle pan (using what looked like a squeegee window cleaning thing to get an even coverage) and then they dolloped your topping in the middle and deftly folded it over itself several times until you got a lovely little square package. My favourite topping was always chocolate spread for those!

We also went round to tea at someone’s house once (we’d met her at a school event we’d been asked to speak at) and she brought out a massive stack of pancakes and various toppings for us to enjoy whilst we listened to music and she practised her English with us. Another time we went to a school event with younger kids, and the mums had brought various snacks, including pancakes, for us to enjoy. Seriously, pancakes work for any occasion!

Tonight I’ll be making a big stack of pancakes and TJ and I will enjoy some of them as savoury ones (with cheese, ham, salami etc) and some as sweet desserts (with fruit, jam, and lemon and sugar). I have always preferred savoury over sweet whereas TJ has a sweet tooth, so making a mix works really well for us. Little Man does not like pancakes, so he’ll be having fishfingers and chips haha

I’d like to point out that my husband managed to convince himself that last Tuesday was pancake day, even waking me up with the pancake song! And in my half-awake state I agreed to making pancakes that evening. So we’ve already had a trial run, because I didn’t work out until afterwards that he’d got the wrong week haha

6. How do you celebrate Easter Day?

Honestly, we don’t have a specific way of doing this. As a child it really wasn’t a big deal for us. Even though we were off school for the holidays, all I really remember is that it was usually my Grandma’s birthday and that mine was coming up too. We didn’t even have Easter eggs – my mum preferred to buy us a bar of chocolate and give us a few squares each day through the holiday.

Last year was the first time I went to church on Easter Sunday for a long time (perhaps even only the second time ever, I can’t quite remember). It was a really lovely service, we were all given a daffodil to take to the front and add to the display around a cross, and the Minister made it really accessible to even the youngest people there. So we shall be going to church again this Easter Sunday too.

We’ll probably also do some kind of roast dinner, because we don’t eat meat very often and it’s nice to make it a real treat. Then we may take a walk in the local park to get out and celebrate Spring too – new life!

7. What is your favourite Easter food?

I don’t really have any foods I associate with Easter. My dad played football every Sunday until he turned 40, and so he didn’t really want a big roast dinner at the weekend. We used to have our roast dinner in the middle of the week, so it was rare we’d have anything special on Easter Sunday. I think we might have gone to my Grandma’s once or twice, but I think that was when Easter fell on her birthday more than just an Easter celebration.

I can’t even say chocolate is my favourite Easter food, because I’ve always had to limit my intake of it. During my teens I didn’t touch chocolate for several years, as we weren’t sure whether it was contributing to my migraines. And even though I eat it now, it still affects me if I eat more than a small bar a day (sometimes even that affects me). I think maybe I need to create a new food tradition for our family…

8. What would you encourage others to think about during Easter time?

I think, for me, it is all about hope – even after the darkest days of our lives there can still be the most beautiful and transforming light that shines upon us. Whether you understand that in the Christian story of the Resurrection, or in a more secular view of Spring coming after the harsh Winter months, I think that message of hope is something we all need, now more than ever.

9. What activities do you take part in during Holy Week?

Um… none.

Actually, I once went with my friend (whose parents are Salvation Army Officers) on the Good Friday Walk of Witness, where various churches come together and walk down the High Street to the Cenotaph together. We randomly bumped into my Grandma there and so she and two of her church friends took me and my friend for dinner at the local hotel, which sticks in my mind as a really beautiful day of “togetherness”.

But other than that I really haven’t done anything during Holy Week. Maybe Little Man and I will take part in the Good Friday Walk of Witness this year…

10. Who else would you like to nominate to take part in the Easter Tag?

Okay, so I’m going to tag my friend Rachel, from Life Story, who is the only other mum with a young child at our church. We have some really fascinating chats about Christianity and faith, however I know that this may not fit on her website. So you’re not obliged to take part, Rachel!!

I’d also like to tag Lizzie Somerset, who I’ve come to know better this past year through a couple of Facebook Groups and the Share The Joy linky. It will be good to read your answers to these, Lizzie!

Finally, I’m going to tag Peter from Inspired By Faith, who to be honest would probably have taken part without the tag as I know he writes regularly about his faith. However Peter had a wonderful conversation with me when I first joined the Christian Bloggers UK Facebook Group and I’d love to read his answers to these questions!

And if I haven’t tagged you but you still want to take part, please do feel free to simply do so! All you have to do is copy and paste the questions below into your own blog post, and then share it with others. Have fun!

1. How are you celebrating Lent this year?
2. What does Lent mean for you?
3. What things have you given up for Lent in the past, and did you succeed or fail?
4. Have you ever taken part in an Easter bonnet competition? ( If so post the picture for us all!)
5. What is your favourite pancake topping?
6. How do you celebrate Easter Day?
7. What is your favourite Easter food?
8. What would you encourage others to think about during Easter time?
9. What activities do you take part in during Holy Week?
10. Who else would you like to nominate to take part in the Easter Tag?


Please note: there is an affiliate link in this post – if you click on the link to Amazon and purchase Karen Armstrong’s book, I will receive money for this.

Finding Your Place in the Church as a Progressive Christian (1)

Finding Your Place in the Church as a Progressive Christian

I hadn’t planned a post for today, but having just returned from a truly thought-provoking church service, I felt the need to sit down and share what is in my heart right now. You see, the visiting Minister who took the service today talked a lot about how difficult we often find it to share our faith with others. And for me this remains one of the biggest challenges I face in my own journey of faith.

For many, many years I didn’t even think I could fit into a church community. Ever since I first discovered the basic tenets held by most Christian churches, I realised that I simply could not accept some of them. I certainly couldn’t affirm a belief in the general understanding of the Trinity or the explanation for Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. In fact, you’d be forgiven for thinking that rejecting these basic principles meant that I couldn’t define myself as a Christian in any way. I believed that for a long time too.

But no matter how much I rallied against these ideas, I still felt drawn towards Christianity in ways I can only describe as God drawing me back to it time and again. I explored other faith traditions, and doing so helped to form the idea in my mind that there really is more than connects us than divides us in life. Yet no matter how many other paths I explored, I always came back to this desire to be part of the church community.

Finding Your Place in the Church as a Progressive Christian

When I first discovered the writings of Progressive Christian scholars such as Marcus Borg, I was thrilled to realise that questioning the general principles affirmed within the church didn’t automatically exclude me from being a Christian. I began to realise that even though I might not interpret the Bible in the same way as others, I could still turn to it for inspiration and guidance. And whilst I may not always agree with certain ideas, Christianity is far bigger than any one single person, church, or denomination.

Which is how I found myself regularly attending our local Methodist Church, because I finally felt like I could fit in. That’s not to say it is always easy. Despite the fact that I go to church most Sundays, I still feel more like a visitor than an active part of the church family. This has nothing to do with the congregation, who are wonderfully welcoming, it’s just that when you’re still trying to figure out how you fit in to the church, it can be very difficult to know how to do so.

For instance, Little Man has watched several children be baptised in the church and has expressed an interest in being baptised himself. Now, part of me knows he just wants to have a special day, and hasn’t thought that much about what it signifies (he is only 5, after all). But the reason I hesitate is not because of his lack of understanding, but rather my uncertainty over whether it is right for us to do so.

I have never been baptised and so if I choose to baptise him, I’d like to be baptised myself at the same time. But should we really do this when I know that I still haven’t figured out quite how I feel about and understand that part of Christianity. I wrote about how and why I was teaching Little Man about the Easter Story from a Progressive Christian point of view last year, and for the most part I am comfortable in the way we are exploring the Christian faith together. But there seems, to me at least, a big difference between our personal exploration of Christianity and a more public affirmation of our faith, such as baptism.

You may be wondering why this is such a big deal to me. We go to church, and our church is very welcoming and allows us to take part in communion whenever it is held, even though neither of us has been baptised. So in essence, it doesn’t stop us from being part of the church family. And yet, there is a part of me that feels like we still sit on the edges, looking in rather than being an active part of the church. And that bothers me.

there is a part of me that feels like we still sit on the edges, looking in rather than being an active part of the church

I know that most of this is my own hesitancy rather than anything the church is or isn’t doing to help me feel more welcome. But it does make me wonder why this is so hard, and just how many more people feel the same way that I do. The Minister today asked a similar question – how many people come so close and yet do not take that first step to enter into our community, because it feels unapproachable to them? Are we doing enough to share our faith with others and show them how welcome they would be to join us?

One of the things I love most about the church I attend is that I can see signs of this happening. There is a notice on the inside of the church which says something along the lines of, “it’s not our role to bring people to church, it’s our role to bring people to Jesus”. This speaks to me so strongly, because it reflects the ideas within Progressive Christianity that focus on building communities where there are many ways to experience and understand the Divine, and that it’s important that we, “accept all who wish to share companionship without insisting on conformity”.

And yet even with these signs in my own church, I still feel so hesitant to speak up, share my heart with others, and become a truly active member of the church. I still fear what will happen if I do. But I promised myself that 2017 would be a year of courage, and so it’s time for me to dig deep and find the strength to do so. Our Minister this morning called us to do just that – she phrased it as “God has thrown down the gauntlet”, and I love the image that evokes.

She reminded us that God challenges us sometimes, and though we may try to resist, it’s what we have been called to do. For me the message is loud and strong – I’ve been gifted with the ability to communicate and connect with others in such a way that my entire life has focused on these key skills. And yet in this one area I resist it so strongly, for fear of what it might entail. “Who am I to do or say these things when I don’t even know quite where I fit in yet?” I ask myself. Well, actually, who am I not to?

The truth is, I probably have far more in common with those who are hesitant about attending church than many other church-goers. I know what it’s like to come in as an outsider, someone new to the faith, with questions and doubts that I think may exclude me from the community. I also know what it’s like to walk a path between multiple faiths, drawing inspiration from other religious traditions as well as Christianity. And if that wasn’t enough, I also have such a passion for exploring faith and making it more accessible for others.

Which is why I felt I had to write a post today, after the message at church was so strong this morning. I needed to express what it’s like to attend church when you feel like you don’t quite belong, because it’s often a confusing place to be. And I wanted to challenge myself to step out of my comfort zone this year and truly try to find my place within the church as a Progressive Christian. Because finally I feel able to say that – I am a Christian, even though I reject some of the more common understandings of what this means.


I’d love to hear your thoughts on this – do you define the “type” of Christian you are, or just that you are Christian? How do you define what it means to be a Christian? Is it even possible to define it, or is it too complicated for words?

Don’t forget I am always happy to provide a space on this blog for you to share your own thoughts and experiences. I feel a major part of my blogging journey is to help express the diverse unity that exists within our faith communities, as well as society as a whole. So please, feel free to share your thoughts with me on this (even if you disagree with everything I say!!) 

Gifts from the Goddess FB (1)

Gifts from the Goddess

I wasn’t sure what to call this post, because it’s quite a tough one to sum up in just a few words. For the past couple of years I’ve been regularly receiving gifts through the post with absolutely no idea who is sending them, nor whether they are all coming from the same person. So my husband and I have decided to call these Gifts from the Goddess.

 Gifts from the Goddess

Why from the Goddess? Well, because the vast majority of the gifts I have received have centred around earth-based spirituality, connecting with the Goddess, and honouring the feminine power within. The latter, in particular, is something I have needed for such a long time. Being a woman has not been easy for me – I’ve struggled so much with my hormones and health, that I have struggled to accept the wisdom, wonder, and power that is unique to the Sacred Feminine. So being reminded to open my heart to this has been quite incredible.

But even more than that, receiving these gifts has taught me a major lesson in allowing myself to receive freely and graciously, without the need to reciprocate immediately. Like many people, I find it far easier to give than to receive, and when I do receive I feel that I must express my gratitude clearly through both words (thank you) and action (paying it forward). Not being able to thank my anonymous gifter has been quite a challenge for me, as I have worried I might appear to be ungrateful.

But gradually a shift in consciousness is happening, one that is teaching me that gratitude comes in all kinds of ways. Whoever is sending these gifts wants me to accept them freely, without the need to attribute them to an individual sender. There is true magic in not knowing where a gift has come from, and being able to thank the Goddess herself (or God, or the Universe, or the Angels, or whoever or whatever you choose to attribute such gifts to). The greatest gratitude I could show is by embracing these gifts, accepting the blessing, and letting go of the negative or ego-based mindset that whispers, “you’re not worthy of this”.

So that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to embrace these gifts from the Goddess fully and completely, and use them on my journey of courage throughout 2017 and beyond. I am going to accept her gifts and reach deep within to find and celebrate the Sacred Feminine. And I’m going to share what I find along the way with you all, starting today with this very post. Let me share with you all the gifts I have received…

gift from the Goddess January 2015

In January 2015 I received the first of many packages that would fill my heart with so much joy. It included a fascinating novel called The Serpent’s Tale, a Goddess colouring book by Tiana, and the Earth Pathways Diary for that year. This first package completely threw me, and for a few moments I truly wondered whether I had mistakenly received a gift meant for someone else. But a quick read of the message in the card showed me that it was definitely sent for me…

You see, I had previously written a post about my goals for 2015, which included things like praying more, being more mindful, worrying less, and reading more! I had also written about how awful 2014 had been, how I felt broken, and how I had chosen to simply Surrender in 2015. Whoever had sent this parcel knew me and knew what was going on in both my life and my heart.

What they couldn’t have known, though, was that this package would arrive on the very same day I received news that I was facing redundancy. On a day that essentially decided the path I would take in 2015 I also received a beautiful gift of support for the days ahead. If I’d ever doubted the beauty and synchronicity in life, this package showed me it in very real ways. My heart was flying with love and joy and gratitude that day, and I felt like the luckiest girl in the world. I mean, how often do you receive an anonymous gift like this?

She Who Knows Magazine

Then in 2016 I started receiving copies of this absolutely gorgeous magazine, and I couldn’t believe that I was being blessed once again in this way. For a moment I really did wonder whether I had subscribed and forgotten about it, because I had seen the magazine during our trip to Glastonbury in October 2015 and it had really caught my eye – had I signed up and not realised?

Of course, a quick check of our bank account confirmed I hadn’t, and so here was yet another gift from my anonymous friend. Who could it be? They knew me so well, and they knew that we had relocated and lived at a new address. And once again these gifts began arriving at a truly perfect time for me. I had been becoming increasingly unwell and had been trying to nurture myself through one-to-one sessions and a focus on self-care. What better way to remind me to look within to the Power of the Sacred Feminine and remember that all was well, even if it felt like things were beginning to fall apart?

 

Earth Pathways Diary 2017

And then came this gift – a second copy of the Earth Pathways Diary, this time for 2017. I received this one in September 2016, 3 months into my sick leave from work as I faced more and more referrals to different specialists in the hope of figuring out what was wrong with me. It was a beautiful and timely reminder that even when we feel unable to plan for the future because it is so unknown to us, we can still have dreams and look forward to what is to come. This package arrived a couple of weeks following this post, focusing on allowing yourself to not be okay for a while, and felt like yet another nod from the Goddess, saying, “yes, that’s it!”

Receiving so many gifts in quick succession was such an amazing comfort for me in a time when I was feeling so utterly useless in so many ways. I had become so ill I could no longer do even the simplest of things, and I had begun to question everything. These gifts helped me to dig deep within my faith, to find the lessons within, and they supported me in a deep spiritual transformation in which I found my way back to God/Goddess, and realised that this journey I am on is so incredibly sacred, even within the most mundane of moments.

Which brings me to today. and yet another timely gift from the Goddess…

Goddess Temple Gifts

This beautifully wrapped package from Goddess Temple Gifts in Glastonbury arrived yesterday, at the end of a deeply challenging week. I had entered 2017 with so much hope and passion for delving deep within, to nurture myself on every level (spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical). I had been making time every day for meditation, kundalini yoga, affirmations, reading… you name it, I’d been making space for it. I even shared how passionate I was in a rather impromptu and amusing Facebook Live on Thursday. And I really felt like I was getting somewhere at last…

But then Friday morning I woke up feeling incredibly sick, and wanted to just lay in bed all day and refuse to move. Unfortunately that wasn’t an option, as I had a hospital appointment with the Endocrinologist. Thanks to confusion over the clinic number I was supposed to attend, and then being sent for a multitude of blood tests which meant waiting in a busy clinic for 2 hours, I ended up the day feeling completely wiped out. What followed was a whole week of feeling absolutely beaten to my core, along with another trip to the hospital for more specific testing due to low cortisol levels.

I felt all my intentions falling away, all my hopes slipping out of my grasp, as I struggled simply to drag myself out of bed and look after myself and my son during a nasty virus that knocked me to my core. I have honestly never been so scared as I was on Tuesday, when I struggled to even sit in bed beside Little Man. I just could not get out of that place of fear and it broke my heart. So to receive this gift on Friday, as I awaited the results of these extra tests, reminded me that there is always hope, always a way forward, and always someone watching over you.

The Goddess is with us in every single moment. She is there in the dark as well as in the light. She is there when we fall to the lowest lows, and soars with us to the highest of highs. She embraces us when we feel lost and alone, she is the eternal mother nurturing our souls, and the wise woman who has been here so many times, in so many ways. And she is the maiden, excited at all that lays before us. She is someone I wish to know more, and so I am truly grateful for this latest set of gifts that focus so clearly on who she is and what she has to give. For she has been walking alongside me all these years, just waiting for me to hear her call.

Here’s to the Goddess and the gifts that she brings. And here’s to those special souls who walk this path with us, sending us gifts in so many ways, whether they are physical items, whispered prayers, or gentle hugs when we meet. We are so blessed.


Disclaimer: please note, there is an Amazon affiliate link included in this post. This means that if you click on that link and buy the item from Amazon, we will be credited a % of that sale. We include links like this from time to time, to help us cover the costs of running this blog. 

Courage, Dear Heart Word of the Year 2017

Courage – My Word of the Year for 2017

Today I want to share with you what I have chosen to be my focus keyword for the year ahead. Choosing a word for the year can be a lovely alternative (or accompaniment) to the more traditional New Year’s Resolution, and it’s something I have personally done for several years now. And as I look back I can see how the word I have chosen each year has helped me to focus on what is most important to me at each stage of my life.

But more than this, it has also provided me with a lens through which to understand and reflect upon the things that have happened in my life. It helps me put things into a new context, rather than simply thinking, “why me?” or “will this never end?” when things get tough. And it also helps me to set goals and focus on developing new skills and habits which help me reach those goals too. I no longer aimlessly wander through life, because my focus keyword gives me a purpose.

Which is why I am so thrilled that this year’s Word of the Year is a big one, that will challenge me to step out of my comfort zone (which isn’t always that comfortable, I might add!) and make real, lasting change in my life. Are you ready for it? Here it comes…

Courage, Dear Heart Word of the Year 2017

That’s right, COURAGE is my word for 2017. As has been the pattern over the past couple of years, this word actually just popped into my head (and my heart) rather than being something I consciously thought about whilst trying to choose a word. Which is why I love the above quote so much, because just as Lucy felt sure the voice whispering to her was Aslan’s, I also feel sure that these words are being whispered to me from the Divine.

It all started at the end of 2014, when I was in a truly awful place and I felt like I had been broken beyond measure. In a moment of prayer I heard the word “Surrender” and that became my word for 2015. It was a very apt word indeed, as I faced redundancy, relocation, and the beginning of a deterioration in my health. The latter led me to choosing the word “Healing” for 2016 and, as I wrote in my previous post, I have done so much healing in ways I could never have imagined this year, despite being very sick for most of it.

Which leads me to where I am right now, looking towards the future with hope that the uncertainty and challenges I have faced over the previous few years will finally begin to settle somewhat. Had I tried to choose a word for myself, I’d have most likely opted for something like “peace”, “stability”, or “security”. But those are only a part of the equation, I cannot even begin to get there without the courage to walk forward, one step at a time. Which is why I know this word is a message for me, guiding me into the unknown with hope and certainty that if I do so with courage, things will start to happen.

But what does this actually mean? What does walking forward with courage look like? I cannot help but hear the Cowardly Lion’s speech in the Wizard of Oz, when he lists all the different ways he sees courage in the world:

Lion:      What makes a King out of a slave? Courage.
              What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage.
              What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist or the dusky dusk?
              What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage.
              What makes the Sphinx the 7th Wonder? Courage.
              What makes the dawn come up like THUNDER?! Courage.
              What makes the Hottentot so hot?
              What puts the “ape” in apricot?
              Whatta they got that I ain’t got?
Others: Courage

When I remember his speech I am always reminded that courage isn’t as simple as “being brave”. Courage is what makes us who we are, and it’s what drives us to do what feels right to us, no matter how hard that may be. It’s what keeps us going when things get tough, and it’s what allows us to admit defeat when we need to. There isn’t a one sized fits all approach to courage, and often the most courageous things we’ll ever do are those which make us feel the most scared and small.

But though we may feel afraid, it is the act of following our heart and doing what feels right that brings us the courage to change our entire life. And for me this is the aspect of courage I want to focus on this year. In 2015 I began to learn how to surrender to God and his plan for me. In 2016 I began to learn what it means to heal at the deepest, darkest level of my soul. And in 2017 I hope to learn how to step forward with courage, to embrace the unknown, trusting that I will find the path I am meant to tread, and doing things which I have fought out of fear for so very long.

17 Ways to be Courageous in 2017

For me this means following all of the above. It means saying “yes” to new opportunities that terrify me, because to do so I have to believe in myself and my abilities. It also means saying “no” to things, even things I would love to do, because I cannot do it all. And that, my friends, takes a lot of courage for someone who has long defined herself by what she can do and achieve!

It’s about making myself a priority, so that I not only carve out time for myself every single day but I actually make it a sacred promise to myself to do so, no matter how crazily busy my day may seem. And it means allowing myself to have big dreams, even when they feel a million miles away. Because by finding my tribe, asking for help, and forgiving myself, I will pave the way towards those dreams in ways I could never do alone with only my fearful inner voice pulling me down.

Yes, courage feels like the perfect word for me this year, and I know I have already placed the foundation stones on which to build my future. I’ve been blessed by some truly wonderful friendships this past year, which have helped me delve into my heart to find the courage hidden so deep inside. My tribe has helped me dream big, plan for the future, and surround myself with resources to make this my best year yet. And I wish for nothing more than the same support and encouragement to find you too.

So, here’s my invitation to you – follow me on instagram or Facebook as these both offer me the opportunity to connect with others on a much more regular basis than I can here on the blog. Let’s build a community to support each other through the coming year, one in which there is more emphasis on being kind to ourselves and following our own paths than trying to keep up with the rest of the crowd.

And, if you want some help choosing a word for your year, do check out my friend and mentor, Michelle Reeves, who has created a special coaching package specifically for making 2017 your best year yet!


I’m linking up with Share The Joy, hosted by Lizzie Somerset (on behalf of Michelle Reeves) because this post has filled me with such joy and enthusiasm for 2017!
Share the Joy linky at LizzieSomerset.com

Nothing ever lasts forever... Brighter days are always ahead

Life is like a Spiral Dance: Reflections on the Solstice

Today is the Midwinter Solstice, the shortest day of the year and the turning point at which we start the slow journey back towards the long days of summer. And as has become my custom over the past few years, I am taking some time out today to reflect on all that has happened over the past 12 months and what I hope to achieve in the coming year.

I find the Midwinter Solstice really symbolic in helping me remember that nothing ever lasts forever, and brighter days are always ahead. The past few years have felt like a never-ending battle, with ever more challenging situations developing despite my determination to keep going, and keep growing. Over time I have found my strength and resilience waning, both physically and emotionally, to the point where it feels like things will never change. And yet I only have to look at nature to realise that this isn’t so. Right now the trees are bare and the skies are grey, and yet I trust that Spring will come again, it always does.

When I apply this same reasoning to my own life I begin to see that even the most traumatic times in my life have come to an end at some point – my dark nights of the soul never last forever, even when I fear they might. So, when I look back on my Solstice Reflections from the past two years, I could easily conclude that yet another year has gone by and I’m still sick, still poor, still suffering. But the reality is not quite that simple.

My 2014 Solstice Reflections came during a truly traumatic time for me, when I really couldn’t see any way out of the situation I had found myself in. And yet I did, and the next year started off really well. Unfortunately by the time I reached December my Solstice Musings for 2015 seemed to find me back at square one, with another Christmas spent struggling physically.

However I was in a better place emotionally and spiritually than I had been just 12 months before, and so I was able to see that instead of going in a circle I was actually following a spiral dance, coming around to a similar spot but always just a little bit further on. The same can be said for this year too, and I am so very grateful to this blog for giving me a very tangible record of where I’ve been so that I can reflect just on how far I have come.

You see, my focus word for 2016 was “Healing”. I was determined to make sure I did everything I could to help my body heal after several unbelievably stressful years that had taken a real toll on my physical health. I started with healthier eating, regular yoga sessions, and a desire to look after my emotional health by limiting the pressures I put upon myself (which included over 3 months away from Facebook and 5 months away from this blog!) But despite all my best efforts, I ended up more physically sick than I have ever been in my life, which felt like the furthest thing away from healing as possible!

And yet, despite being so physically ill that I couldn’t even get out of bed or think straight at times, I began to realise that I have still been doing a huge amount of healing work. No longer could I ignore my body’s cries for help, I had no choice but to stop and listen. Even more importantly, I could no longer try to pretend that all was well and I could fix things by doing the same old stuff I’d always done. I had to learn to trust in something greater than myself, and accept that there was no quick fix to all of this.

Healing takes time, especially when you’ve put everyone and everything before yourself at the expense of your own well-being for far too long. You have to learn to live in an entirely different way, to accept a slower pace of life, and trust that your world will not fall apart just because you say no to things (even things you’d love to do).

When I look back on all the progress I’ve made this year in terms of self-care and self-love, I realise that I have done far more healing than I ever expected. I learnt that it’s okay to not be okay sometimes, that affirmations set us up with the perfect mindset from which to heal, and that self-love is something I struggle with a lot.

I’ve started to change the way I care for myself, by connecting with other chronically-ill people who understand the realities of spoonie life. And I’ve been learning to honour my limits (even when that meant missing out on something I truly love), and investing instead in things that will truly help me where I am right now. This year I’ve been blessed to have one-to-one sessions with both Pippa from Story of Mum and Michelle Reeves, who have each taught me so much about myself and my ability to heal and grow.

Which brings me to where I am today, on the longest night of the year. Once again I am struck by the deeply symbolic nature of the Midwinter Solstice and its celebration of the return of the light through the darkness. This year has been a dark one in many ways for me, and I am ending 2016 without a firm diagnosis for why I have been so ill, despite countless appointments with numerous specialists throughout the year. But within that darkness there has been so much light for me to find, and I truly do feel as if I am firmly on a healing path, making progress step by step on this glorious spiral dance we call life.

I’ll be back again before the end of the year to share with you the word I have chosen for 2017, I’m so excited about this one! But for now I want to simply wish you all a very Merry Solstice and a Happy Christmas too.


Linking up with #ShareYourYear hosted by Belle du Brighton, as this post sums up the past year for me very nicely. Pop over to the linky to find out what other bloggers have been up to this year – it’s a great way to get a snapshot of bloggers’ highlights (and find new blogs to follow!)

Share your 2016 - Belle du Brighton

The Family Patch Midwinter Solstice Activities

Celebrating the Midwinter Solstice with Kids

21st December marks the Midwinter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. This is the shortest day of the year, and falls right in the crazy run up to other major holidays such as Christmas and Hannukah. As such, it is understandable that it gets overlooked and forgotten about!

But if we can take a moment to mark this point in the Wheel of the Year, we will be reminded that life continues in cycles as the seasons pass and that nothing lasts forever. During the cold and dreary months of Winter, it can be truly uplifting to realise that the hardest point (the longest night) has now passed and we are on our way to brighter, warmer days once more.

So whilst I know you’re probably super busy right now (I know I am!) I do hope that you’ll find some time to stop and reflect on the Midwinter Solstice this year.

5 Easy ways to celebrate the Midwinter Solstice with Kids

The absolutely wonderful thing about the Midwinter Solstice is that a lot of the things we traditionally do at this time of year to celebrate Christmas work just as well for Solstice Celebrations too. So you really don’t have to go out of your way to mark this occasion, nor do you need to worry about it interfering in any way with the “reason for the season”, whatever that may be for you.

Each one of the suggestions below would easily fit in with your festive plans, so I do hope you try at least one of them!

1. decorate the house

Okay, so you’ve probably already done this anyway, right? But how many of your decorations were bought in a shop and how many have you foraged for or made yourself? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with store bought decorations, they add so much colour and joy to our homes during this otherwise very dark month. But there is something very special about bringing a little bit of the outdoors inside, or using fruit and grains to make orange slices and gingerbread cookies that fill your house with such festive fragrances.

If you go for a walk, see if you can spot some holly or other greenery to bring indoors (remembering to ask permission if you need to cut it). Bringing nature indoors is such a time-honoured tradition, that connects us to nature at a time when we are usually so busy huddled up inside our houses that we rarely stop to just focus on the world around us.

And if you fancy baking cookies, why not see if you can source some locally ground flour or use a traditional recipe from your local area (ask your neighbours, church groups, schools, bakeries, and local library if they have any recipes to share). Using local ingredients or recipes passed down through the generations will help ground what you do, connecting you to the memories of all of those who have gone before you, as well as the promise of those who will come after you. You really do become a link in the chain that connects us to one another in all directions.

2. light a candle

This is an obvious one, I’m sure, but I often find the obvious things are the ones we tend to overlook, so it’s worth mentioning this activity here.

Lighting a candle is perhaps the single most symbolic way you can celebrate the light in the darkness, which is so important to us all. It is why we light candles in the Advent wreath, and it is why we string fairy lights on our tree and around our homes at this time of year.

We all like to be reminded of just how much of a difference that comforting glow makes to an otherwise dreary and miserable month, when the skies are grey and the nights so long. But why not make it extra special but choosing a specific candle (think about the colour and fragrance especially) to represent the hope and joy you wish to connect with on the Solstice. You could even say a wish or prayer, and imagine the candle flame burning brightly with the intent to make your wish come true!

3. make a manifestation collage

This is an excellent way of celebrating the hope and joy that the Winter Solstice brings with it. We have come through the increasingly darker days of Autumn and are now heading into the bitter Winter months feeling frazzled and worn. But we know we can make it, because from this point onwards the days will grow longer as the sun shines both warmer and\ brighter upon us. And that’s the perfect time to let go of the past and embrace the future.

I love making manifestation collages at this time of year, and enjoy cutting up images and words from various magazines to then stick on a large piece of card. I’ll then place it somewhere prominent so I can reflect on it throughout the coming year. It reminds me of all my hopes and dreams, and keeps me going when the going gets tough (as it inevitably does from time to time).

This is a great exercise for you to do yourself, but it’s also super easy and fun for your kids to do too (who doesn’t like cutting and sticking pictures of what they want in life?!) It also offers you a great chance to get to know what is on your children’s hearts right now, what they are hoping for in the coming year, and how you could help support them in that.

4. give food/shelter to others

We all love to celebrate with a bit of abundance at this time of year, right? But there’s no denying that it’s often a real struggle to make ends meet for so many of us, and for others it is impossible to even provide the essentials needed to survive these cold, Winter months.

As much as we’d like to think that we are no longer at the whim of the elements as our ancestors were, when a good harvest could make the difference between life and death for many, we still struggle with poverty and homelessness. The use of Food Banks is constantly on the rise, and the number of families living below the poverty line is shocking. Add to that the increasing number of people recently described as “JAMS” (just about managing), who are just one paycheck away from losing their home or having no food on the table, and we begin to see just how stark the reality is.

So, at a time when we are all splashing out on good food and drink and celebrations of friendship and family, it only takes a little bit extra to make a real difference to someone else. Donate to a Food Bank or shelter, send toys to the local children’s ward, of buy that homeless guy you pass every day a hot drink and some lunch, to help him get through another day. It’s so easy for our kids to be completely oblivious to the struggle that so many face, and yet my experience is that kids can be the most generous and loving of us all. So let them make a difference too – it is the season for giving, after all.

5. go for a moonlit walk

What better way to focus on the darkest night of the year than to go for a moonlit walk. Even if it’s cloudy and you can’t see the moon or stars, take your kids for a walk in the dark anyway. There’s something really magical about doing that as a child, as it’s something you rarely get to do when you’re young. It feels much later in the day than it is, they get to see the Christmas lights along the streets, and then you get to come home for a nice hot drink before bed. Ahhh, bliss!

want to know more about the winter solstice?

I haven’t written a huge deal about the history and traditions surrounding the Midwinter Solstice, or the modern Pagan celebration of Yule. This is because I know December is such a busy month for many of us and I wanted to keep this post super simple. However if you’d like to find out more, you may find the following sites helpful:

The White Goddess has a wonderful page explaining the origins of Yule. It also includes a recipe for Yule Wassail, and a ritual for celebrating this Sabbat.

The Goddess and the Green Man also have a great page dedicated to Yule. There is so much information on this page that it is hard to provide an overview – just check it out!

Exploring the Nativity Story with your Kids

Most of us know the Nativity Story, right? Even if you’ve not been raised in a Christian family, chances are you know the basic storyline, thanks to Nativity plays at school, Christmas carols on the radio, and cultural references to it in both literature and on tv. The same will be true for our children; even if we don’t actively seek to introduce them to the Nativity Story at home, they will come across it in other ways.

Which is why I think it’s a really lovely idea to actually sit down once in a while and explore it all in more detail. Doing so often helps us to gain new insight and a whole new perspective on things, and can be really beneficial in helping us figure out what it is we actually believe and how that impacts on our lives. Obviously how we do this will depend on our individual age and background, but I hope the following will help you begin your own journey of exploration of the Nativity Story.

Explore The Nativity Story with Kids The Family Patch

Understanding the nativity story

What would you say if someone asked you to tell them the Nativity Story? I’m guessing it would be something similar to this…

Mary and Joseph travelled to Bethlehem and, because there was no room in the inn, Jesus was born in a stable. Angels appeared on the hill-tops and proclaimed the birth to the Shepherds. And three Wise Men travelled from afar, following a bright new shining star. 

It’s no surprise that our retelling of the Nativity follows this same pattern of events, as that is what we hear about every single Christmas. But did you know that no single Gospel account of the birth of Christ includes all of the above aspects?

The vast majority of it comes from Luke, whose account of Jesus’ birth is by far the longest and most detailed. His account includes the census, the stable, and the shepherds and the angels. However it has no mention of Wise Men, who only appear in Matthew’s Gospel. However Matthew’s version of events is much shorter and less detailed, appearing to race through the birth in comparison. There is also a marked difference in who the Angel appears to during the pregnancy – in Luke’s version the Angel appears to Mary, but in Matthew’s the Angel appears to Joseph, encouraging him to support Mary.

Then, of course, there are the two other Gospel accounts of Mark and John. Neither of these even mention the Nativity! Mark’s Gospel begins with John the Baptist proclaiming the coming of Christ, and John’s is entirely different, with far more spiritual leanings as he writes about “The Word made flesh”.

So what does this all mean in terms of how we understand the Nativity Story and the truth we find within it? Does it mean that the typical story we hear year after year, bringing the two accounts of Luke and Matthew together as if they are one single narrative, is false? No, I don’t think it means that at all!

We must remember that each of the Gospel writers were telling their version of events in a very specific time and culture, which means they were also writing it for a very specific audience. Just because they adapted it to express a deep truth in a way that those who read it would understand, doesn’t make it wrong. Just think about how often we ourselves adapt what we say depending on who we are talking to – you wouldn’t expect a young child to understand with the same level of experience as that of an adult, would you?

I am reminded here of the Bible Study I went to this week in which we discussed this very thing, and I wish to share two quotations from it with you…

“This is always the task of Christians and the Christian church: to find ways to speak into our particular situations. We are not called to proclaim the gospel again, but to proclaim it afresh – wherever we find ourselves.”

— Living in the Light (York Courses)

“As has been said:

’Many will never read the gospel according to Matthews, Mark, Luke, or John, but they will read the gospel according to you!’”

— found in Living in the Light (York Courses)

I found these quotations so refreshing, as they reminded me that it’s not only okay to reinterpret the Bible in a way that means something to you, you are actually encouraged to do so. And how you do that will depend entirely on your individual and family culture.

activity ideas

Obviously, such deep theological ideas are not the easiest of topics for young children to grasp (hey, I struggle with them myself!!) Which is why it is probably far more useful for you and your family to explore the Nativity Story in some other way. Here are some ideas that you could adapt to suit you and your family:

Re-enact scenes from the Nativity

Role playing is a great way to step into someone else’s shoes. Why not ask your kids how they think the various people felt, or why they think some events happened as they did. Questions could include:

  • Do you think Mary felt happy or scared?
  • What do you think Joseph thought about it all?
  • Would you like to meet an Angel?
  • Why do you think the inn-keeper offered room in the stable?
  • What gifts would you have brought if you were one of the Wise Men?

Make your own Nativity Scene

Get creative and find ways to make your very own Nativity Scene, so that it reflects your own ideas about it. How you do this will depend on whether you have a particular interest in a certain craft, and the age of your kids. Younger kids may enjoy simply drawing it on some paper, or colouring in cut-out figures. Older kids may enjoy learning a new skill such as knitting or embroidery. Make it your own and then treasure it for years to come.

Write your own Nativity Story

Older kids may enjoy looking at the various different versions there are available and then thinking about how they would retell the story to someone who didn’t know it. Would they write it like a fairytale, starting with “Once Upon a Time”, or would they want to embed it in history like those Gospel accounts that start with the ancestral lineage of Jesus? And what style would they use – prose, poetry, music? Have fun with this one and have a go yourself, it may be fun to compare stories with each other!

Resources

There are so many resources available to help you explore the Nativity Story, in whichever way you wish. A quick Google will get you started, although it may also be a bit overwhelming too! With this in mind I have collected a few of my favourite resources together over on Pinterest. You can find it at bit.ly/SKNNativity

I hope you have enjoyed this blog post. Please do let us know by leaving a comment, we’d love to hear from you!

The Spiritual Side of Santa

Finding the Spiritual Side of Santa

I thought long and hard about what I should call this post, because ultimately there are so many different views on Santa and whether we should teach our kids about him or not. I’ve read various blog posts from parents who believe it is wrong to “deceive” their kids, or that Santa personifies attributes that belong to God alone, and take away from the Spiritual Nature of Christmas itself. Equally, I’ve read blog posts from parents who believe it is a bit of harmless fun, and who enjoy the magic that believing in Santa brings to the family, regardless of what he stands for.

And there’s one thing that all these posts have taught me, despite their many differences – it’s important to know what he means to you personally, as that has a huge impact on how you discuss the idea with your kids. So I wanted to share with you my personal take on Santa and how we’re approaching the idea with WB. I do this not because I think you should agree with what I say, but that by reading the thoughts of others you can sometimes develop your own ideas further.

Santa and Reindeer

What Santa Means To Me

Santa was a major part of my childhood and made Christmas a truly magical time of year. I fondly remember writing letters and making small thank you gifts for Santa and his crew, and desperately wishing I could meet Santa and help him with his special and incredibly important work every Christmas Eve.

I looked forward to Christmas for months, because that magic was so very real for me. In fact in my later childhood I’d listen to Christmas music all year round (driving my family crazy, no doubt!) and refused to stop believing in Santa until I was 10, even though deep down I knew the game was up. There was a part of me that just knew I didn’t want to lose that belief, and to be honest Christmas has never been quite the same since.

That’s not to say that giving up the belief of Santa has ruined Christmas for me, far from it. It’s just that there is something truly special about bringing magic to life in the way we do for kids when it comes to Santa. Take, for instance, the many books and films about him, or the fact that parents encourage their kids to leave out a treat for Santa on Christmas Eve. When those around you act like Santa is real, it’s hard not to believe in him. And whilst I know that it is what we do as adults that keeps that belief alive for children, I cannot help but reflect on the fact that we do this because there is an intrinsic nature within us to want to do so.

But why? Why do so many of us want to encourage our children to believe in something that ultimately they will one day discover is not real (at least in the sense of Santa being an actual person)? And why are some of us so terrified that doing so will ruin our children’s relationship with God in some way?

I can’t actually answer those questions for you. But for me the answer is that there is an inherent need within us to seek out that which we cannot touch with our bare hands. We spend so much of our lives seeking an understanding of and relationship with the Divine, and I believe that our childhood willingness to believe in Santa and our adult desire to enable that belief in our children comes back to this inherent need. We trust that there is more to life than what we can see, and Santa is a part of this.

And so I am hugely excited to see WB’s belief in Santa blossom and grow year on year.  I know there is only so much time in his life when he will have this ability to simply accept something without question. As we grow older we begin to complicate things with logic and reason, losing the magic in our efforts to “prove” something as true. And I think Santa also has a lot to teach us, as adults, about the nature of belief. That’s what I call the “Spiritual Side of Santa”.

The Family Patch The Spiritual Side of Santa

The spiritual side of santa

1. Santa teaches us what it is like to believe

A belief in Santa is a fantastic way of introducing kids to what it means to believe in something that you cannot prove exists, but which you know in your heart to be true. The same can be said about a belief in The Divine, whatever form that may take for you. Nobody has concrete proof for the existence of a God, and yet billions of people around the world believe in one, because in their hearts they know it to be true for them.

I am reminded here of the ending of the film, The Polar Express. Have you seen it? The main character spends the entire movie questioning the existence of Santa, because he has started to analyse facts and data which suggest it is impossible for Santa to exist and travel around the world in one night. Even as the boy travels on this magical train, meets a ghost, and sees Santa at the North Pole itself, he still finds he doesn’t quite believe.

We do this so much in our own lives, don’t we? When something happens that makes us question our faith, we look for quantifiable facts to cling to. But when, inevitably, things happen that we cannot explain with our science and logic (such as answers to prayers, gut feelings we cannot ignore, and synchronicities that seem impossible to have predicted) we continue to cling to facts and data, because choosing to believe feels like such a huge risk. We don’t want to be fooled, and we certainly don’t want to put our faith in something that might let us down. So we ignore even the clearest of signs of the Divine in our lives. Sometimes seeing isn’t really believing…

But just like the Hero Boy in The Polar Express, there comes a time where we have to make a decision as to whether we want to continue in life ignoring those signs or whether a leap of faith is worth the reward it offers.  At the end of the film, Hero Boy makes a decision to believe in Santa, and in the very moment that he makes that choice it all becomes real for him. He finally hears the ringing of the sleigh bells, and the film ends with the following words:

“At one time most of my friends could hear the bell, but as the years passed it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah found one Christmas that she could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I’ve grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe.”

— Hero Boy – The Polar Express

This is a great example of how our belief shapes what we experience, and draws on the use of myth, metaphor, and symbolism to express deep truths that are otherwise inaccessible to us. Our analytical minds get in the way so often, that we find ourselves needing to explain and justify everything. I always find it interesting when I come across an argument that states, “this can’t be real because there is no proof for it,” – we’re so happy to accept a lack of proof as proof enough, that sometimes we forget the sheer beauty in believing because something feels right to us.

“Seeing is believing, but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can’t see.”

— The Conductor – The Polar Express

2. Santa is all about the giving.

What is the one thing that all children know about Santa? It’s that he brings us presents. And whilst you may feel that this puts too much emphasis on the material side of giving, why not think about the fact that it is not so much the gift itself but the fact that a gift has been given?

Christmas falls right at the beginning of Winter, when the weather is becoming bitterly cold (at least in the Northern Hemisphere), and life can be quite tough. But at a time when bills are higher and life is harder, we still find the ability to gift each other with love.

The presents we give don’t have to be huge – in fact, one of my favourite memories of Christmas as a child was spending my pocket money on small gifts at the local church bazaar, so I could wrap them up and give them to my family. My dad still carries around a lime green comb which cost me maybe 10p over 20 years ago!!

This is a tradition we’re passing on to WB, who spent his own pocket money at the church’s Christmas Fair this year buying gifts for family members. He was so proud to use the money he had saved up, counting it carefully before we went and choosing to take half of what he had saved for presents. Being able to buy little gifts with his own money gave him such a sense of joy, and the stall holders were so lovely, knocking prices down here and there to help his pennies go that little bit further so he could buy as many gifts as possible.

Talk to your kids about how special is it to give as well as to receive. Help them choose little gifts for family. Or let them help with wrapping presents, before putting them somewhere safe for Santa to find and deliver to family who live far away (then post them and leave a bit of glitter where the gifts once lay, spread that magic while it lasts!)

Or get your kids to donate outgrown clothes and toys, or buy food for your local food bank or night shelter, and tell them how what they’re doing is just like Santa does on Christmas Eve -spreading love and joy through giving to others. How excited they will feel to be just like Santa!

After all, isn’t the whole message of Christmas about receiving a gift of light and hope in the darkness? The Nativity Stories themselves talk about a gift from God; the Wise Men travel from afar to gift the baby Jesus; and the Shepherd Boy brings a lamb.  The message is not about what we give (or receive), but that it is blessed to both give and receive. Two of our classic Christmas songs even relate to this very thing:

“What can I give him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part; Yet what I can I give him: give my heart. ”

— In The Bleak Midwinter

“Baby Jesus, pa rum pum pum pum; I am a poor boy too, pa rum pum pum pum; I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum; That’s fit to give the King, pa rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum; Shall I play for you, pa rum pum pum pum, On my drum? ”

— Little Drummer Boy

Whilst you may argue that this focus on giving can be expressed without a belief in Santa (and you are right!), my reply here is that Santa embodies the very nature of giving itself. The mythology we have built around this figure (which originates from the 4th century Greek bishop, St. Nicholas) brings together the very best things we wish to remember about the joy of giving.

Santa gives because he loves children, and their joy is enough thanks for him. He comes quietly in the night, because he needs no recognition for his work. And he brings each child a gift that is truly something they want or need, because it is more important for the receiver to be blessed than it is for Santa to give the easiest gift he could find. How often can we say that our own gift giving is as thoughtful and selfless as that? But it’s what we all aim for, isn’t it? And so we have built those ideals into the very nature of Santa himself.

3. Believing in Santa is an act of trust (and an experience of Unconditional Love)

Coming back to my first point slightly, not only does Santa teach us about belief, he also teaches us about trust! We trust that Santa will make it around the world in one single night to deliver all the presents to children everywhere. But more than that, we trust that he will know each and every one of us by name, and know what our hearts most desire. Isn’t that exactly what we hope for in a loving God too?

“Now wait just a minute!” I hear some of you say, “you’re attributing God’s qualities to Santa!” Well yes, yes I am. But there is a reason for this, and I do not think it is blasphemous in any way. We do not worship Santa, we haven’t made a “false God” out of him. What we have done is recognised that within the mythology of Santa there is a portrayal of the qualities we hope to find in the Divine. That is not the same as making Santa like God, rather we are looking at the ways in which Santa may reflect or embody a quality of God.

I know some of you will not agree with me on this one at all, and that’s okay. I’m not asking you to accept all that I say as true, only that you consider what is true for you. For me this side of Santa is really important, because it teaches me what it is like to trust that I am known, I am loved, and that all will be okay. That lesson can come in many ways, from my interactions with the people around me, from learning about the Divine, and from believing in Santa.

In fact, Santa was probably my first real understanding of this concept, even if I didn’t know that’s what it was at the time when I still believed in him. Just as my faith and trust in my parents to keep me safe was seemingly unbreakable as a child, so too was my trust that Santa would come and that he did so because he loved me, not because I had done anything special to deserve it. Now tell me, what does that remind you of?

I must add here (thanks to a friend’s input when I was explaining the idea for this post) that the part in bold only works if you let go of the “naughty or nice” aspect of Santa and focus purely on the inevitability of his bringing gifts no matter what. And I thoroughly accept that for many people this isn’t the case – our traditional idea of Santa is that he has a naughty and nice list!

But where does that come from, I wonder? A part of me cannot help but make the connection between the traditional idea we have about God and the nature of Heaven and Hell, and that only when you do the “right things” and live in the “right way” can you truly know God and experience Heaven. I don’t believe that truly reflects an unconditionally loving God, just as I don’t believe the naughty and nice list reflects this aspect of Santa. But I do know that it is a very hard pattern to release, as it has been within our combined cultural psyche and traditions for such a very long time. Which is why I think this aspect of Santa can truly help us in our own relationship with God.

I’m not saying we can’t learn this lesson without a belief in Santa, of course we can! But I do think Santa offers a very tangible opportunity for children to begin to grasp the concept of unconditional love, which is something we struggle with so much throughout our lives. It is almost impossible to imagine someone loving us without conditions, because even our closest and most treasured relationships hinge on some kind of conditions.

So trying to get our heads around the idea of unconditional love can be pretty hard, because it is such an alien concept to us. No matter how much we may believe that this is what God offers, how much do we really understand what that means? And if we can’t quite understand it as adults, how can we explain it to our children in ways that they can understand? Santa, for me, is one way to do this, and a fun way at that!

So there you have it – the Spiritual Side of Santa. I’m sure I have missed so much, and I have no doubt at all that every single one of you has your own experiences and ideas about Santa and how he fits into your individual and family lives. So I’d love to hear from you – please do leave me a comment below and share your story.

Share Your Personal Faith Story Book

Diverse Unity – Finding You Belong In Faith

For a very long time now, I have felt like I didn’t really belong to any faith group, and that bothered me. It seemed like there were things I believed (or didn’t believe, as the case may be) that kept me from fitting in fully with Christianity (both the more mainstream communities and more liberal ones, such as Unitarians and Quakers) as well as other religions such as Paganism and Buddhism. It felt like I was floating somewhere between many different paths and as much as I believe there is truth within each individual path, and that there is more than connects us all than separates us, I still wanted to feel like I belonged somewhere.

I wanted to be able to explore my faith openly and with others, without fearing becoming an outcast by putting my foot in it somewhere along the line! I had found myself turned away from Christianity in my first year at University by the Christian Union (which gave me the impression that to be a Christian you had to fit into a very small definition), and later found myself kicked out of an online forum for saying the wrong thing and expressing a doubt! Looking back, these were two very small experiences that were totally balanced out by the welcoming and supportive communities I experienced in the local church at Uni and my time volunteering with Die Heilsarmee in Germany. But my fear of not “fitting in” was so great that I never allowed myself to fully open up in those groups and felt like I was always hiding something.

But faith is a funny thing, isn’t it? It grabs hold of you and refuses to let you go, even when you’re so angry and closed-minded about it. Over the past decade I have come back to this idea over and over again, and each time my heart has softened a little bit. I now go to church most Sundays and Little Man and I are enjoying exploring the Bible together through the Bible App for Kids every evening before bed. But even now there is still a part of me that hesitates to define myself as a Christian, and whilst I have considered baptism for myself and Little Man I have yet to arrange it because I feel like it would be making a declaration of faith that isn’t completely honest. Because there are still things that I believe (and don’t believe) which I feel are not necessarily the generally accepted ideas within Christianity.

Which is why it has been a complete surprise to me these past few weeks to discover that there are people who have absolutely no issue with calling themselves a Christian whilst having similar beliefs to me. I have discovered over recent months that there was a growing “liberal” or “progressive” movement within Christianity, having read books by Marcus Borg and John Churcher. And then even more recently a friend of mine, who I have always considered quite a “New Age Hippy” (like me), shared with me that her church (Episcopal) would never have dreamed of expecting her to give up her belief in Angels, Reiki, and the other “woo woo” stuff that I had been so scared of sharing with others.

My conversation with this friend included her suggestion that what I had long considered the “mainstream Christian” view might actually be more the exception than the norm – what an interesting thought! Yet I know there are others, like me, who have felt they have had to keep certain aspects of their lives hidden from their church family, because they fear its reception. And that still bothers me, because I have this issue with honesty… I feel like I am being dishonest not to disclose where my beliefs may differ, yet it’s such a tough discussion to have that I hide it anyway.

But time and time again I feel the nudge to take that leap of faith and open my heart to the endless possibilities that will come with doing so. I hear the message that I am a writer, a communicator, a facilitator, and I am meant to use these gifts to help both myself and others. Which is why I have recently started two new projects – one is a Facebook group (The Faith Space), where members can come together and discuss all things faith related in an open and non-dogmatic way; and the other is a new book, bringing together the personal faith stories of a wide variety of people.

I’m loving the conversations that are starting within the Facebook group, and am extremely excited about the book. It is my hope that this book will become an informative resource for new believers and those who, like me, are unsure of whether they “fit in” or not. By providing a space for a variety of people to share their own individual story of faith, I hope to show that there is so much diversity even within a single faith tradition, and that this diversity actually opens up Christianity as a warm and welcoming faith to those of us who may have felt we couldn’t belong for one reason or another.

More than anything, I want to show that there is not one “right way” to be a Christian, rather that we are all welcomed to follow in the footsteps of a man who was so radical in his own faith that he risked everything to show us the way to know God and love one another. Because, after all, didn’t Jesus himself ignore the religious teachings of his time when doing so allowed him to show love and compassion?

So here’s my invitation (or rather request) to you – if you would like to contribute your own personal faith story for the book, please do get in touch at admin@shortmanmedia.com and let me know! I’ll then send you out more details about the book and answer any questions you may have about it. I’d love to hear from you.

Share Your Personal Faith Story Book

 

The Family Patch autumn Equinox Activities for Kids

Celebrating The Autumn Equinox With Kids

22nd September marks the Autumn Equinox here in the Northern Hemisphere, a moment in time when day and night are of equal length, and it is a great moment to reflect on all that has been achieved throughout the long summer months. Soon the shorter days and longer nights of Winter will draw in upon us, and it will seem as if the Earth herself has fallen asleep, but before then she will shower us with beautiful gifts as the world around us shines in golden hues and we reap the rewards of the fruit harvest.

It is a time of joy and, thanks to our modern school calendar, a time of new beginnings for many of us as our children return to school and focus on a new year of learning. This ties in quite beautifully with the forthcoming Samhain, known as the Pagan New Year, at the end of October and reminds us of the cycle of life that brings new beginnings even when we think everything is ending. But it’s often hard to keep that in mind as the days grow shorter, the trees more bare, and the temperature cools. Which is why celebrating each turn of The Wheel of The Year can be so glorious, as it keeps our minds and hearts focused on the continuing cycle.

celebrating the autumn equinox with kids

What is The Autumn Equinox?

The Autumn Equinox is one of the 8 Sabbats celebrated in the modern Pagan calendar, known at The Wheel of the Year. Within this calendar, the year is split into 8 equal parts, to help mark the passage of time through the seasons. Traditionally it begins at Samhain (or Halloween), which marks the third and final harvest at a point when we begin to draw within in order to survive the darkness of Winter. This means that the Autumn Equinox is the 7th Sabbat in the Wheel, close to the end point in the year.

However the world is far from bleak right now. We are reaping huge rewards from the seeds we planted so many months ago, in the form of fruits and vegetables. It is no coincidence that Harvest Festivals are celebrated at this time of year in the Christian calendar too – we really are filled with abundance right now. And it is a time to be thankful to the Earth for that bounty.

However, there must always be caution, a balancing of the splendour with that of preparing for the coming months, for if we do not save enough now we may not survive the Winter. This balancing act is so beautifully expressed within the Autumn Equinox itself, as it marks the moment when the day and night are of equal length – perfect balance! If we can live out that same balance in our lives, everything will be so much easier.

So in giving thanks to the Earth for her bounty, we can also remember that it is by working together that we have received these gifts. It takes a whole community to put food on our table – from the farmers who plant the seeds and nurture the crops, through the drivers who take the food from farm to shop, and even the work we do in society in order to earn the money to pay for the food we eat. And it is important to remember that if any single part of that community falls, we will all suffer.

5 Easy Ways to Celebrate The Autumn Equinox With Your Kids

1. Buy seasonal produce from a farmer’s market or local farm shop (and make something special).

Right now there is an abundance of fruit and veg that is in season – not only will it be more cost effective to buy seasonal produce grown locally, it will also be much tastier. Why not make the most of all the fruit and make a delicious apple pie, plum cake, or if you prefer savoury to sweet, get out the slow cooker and make a delicious root vegetable stew!

2. Go for a walk in the woods and collect conkers and fallen leaves.

Once you’re home, you can display them on your altar or nature table, or use them to make an Autumn collage, leaf mobile, or even suncatchers.

3. Make a gratitude collage (or share what you’re thankful for with each other)

If you fancy getting crafty, why not get a great big piece of card and write, draw, or glue pictures of all the things you feel thankful for right now. If you’re not feeling quite so crafty, you could take time out to sit together with your kids and take it in turns to share what you’re grateful for.

4. Donate to a Food Bank (or the collection at your local church or school).

With Harvest Festival coming up, many schools and churches will be collecting food items to pass on to their local Food Bank or Community Larder. Share your blessings and abundance with others who are less fortunate, by finding out what they need and then donating what you can. This teaches our kids to be thankful for what they have and that giving can be just as wonderful (if not more wonderful) than receiving.

5. Create your own Autumn Equinox Ceremony

There is nothing more special at each of the 8 Sabbats than creating a ceremony that reflects who you are and what you believe. Ceremony draws the family closer together, brings out the best in us in terms of creativity and giving thanks, and gives us all a reason to celebrate.

Ceremony doesn’t have to be grand and ornate, it doesn’t have to follow any specific creed or structure, and it certainly doesn’t have to be created by someone “in the know”. These are all things I used to think about ceremony, and I was so wrong! Ceremony can be as simple as sitting down together with the intention to honour the earth. You could light a candle, write some words, say a prayer, or sing a song. It doesn’t matter… all that matters is that it means something to you.

That being said, if you’re struggling for ideas why not consider some of the following to get you started:

  • Buy a large pillar candle that you can light every day throughout the long nights ahead (you could specify you’ll do this until the Spring Equinox when the sun begins to dominate the sky once again) and say a little prayer or blessing over it to set the intention that it will remind you that even in the darkest night a light can be found.
  • Put together a gift box for someone in need (warm clothes, food supplies, etc) and together, as a family, imagine all your love flowing through your hands and into the box so that the recipient may feel that love and share in your abundance
  • Change your bedding, putting away the summer duvet and getting out the winter blankets, preparing your home for the cold months ahead. As you do so, you could light some incense or play some music, to help recognise the shift in energy.

There really is no limit to what you can turn into a ceremony, so please have fun with this.

Want to know more about The Autumn Equinox?

There are some fantastic guides available online for those interested in learning more about the Pagan Wheel of the Year, and here are some of our favourites:

The Goddess and the Green Man have written a fantastic page all about The Autumn Equinox (and it’s more modern name of Mabon)

The Paganism/Wicca Expert on About.com has created a page explaining the 8 Sabbats in the Wheel of the Year, including The Autumn Equinox.

Dream Big Bold Dreams

Breaking Through Fear to Embrace Your Purpose In Life

Something amazing has happened over the past few days that has been truly transformational and I am so excited to share it with you. I finally broke through the fear that has been holding me back for so very long and embraced my purpose in life. And boy, does it feel good!

It all started with a simple message, a few words that just popped into my head one night when I was wondering what to post on my instagram feed as an update. If you’ve been following me for a while now, you’ll know that I have been suffering from some really challenging physical symptoms that have left me unable to get out of bed some days, let alone go out to work or enjoy the summer holidays with Little Man. As someone who thrives on being busy and putting everyone else first, this has been far from easy. It has left me feeling lost and confused about my purpose in life, with no idea how I’m ever supposed to make any major changes in my life to get there (wherever there is), when I’m feeling so utterly beaten. So imagine my surprise when this was the message I received…

You May Not Be Exactly Where You Want To Be, But You Are Exactly Where You're Meant To Be

Amazing, right? I mean, it just blew me away. Here I was, worrying about getting better so that I could hurry up and get on with figuring out this purpose of life business, when really what I needed to be doing was accepting that where I am right now is exactly where I am meant to be. The message isn’t anything new, I’ve been talking about blessings within our challenges, and finding strength within weakness for years now, but it hadn’t quite made it through the fear and into my heart and soul in a way that enabled me to break free of that fear and truly embrace what is happening in my life right now.

Because it’s huge, life-changing stuff, and my fear of that was keeping me trapped in a limbo state of knowing I needed to make change but not knowing what that change needed to be. Over the past few months I have been blessed to have support from both Pippa at Story of Mum as well as Michelle from The Joy Chaser, and through our one-to-one sessions I have begun to dig deep within my heart to find the things that drive my passion and break through the fear that’s holding me back. But as much progress as I made, something continued to stand in my way – and that, my friends, was fear.

You name it, I felt it: fear of failure; fear of success; fear of being ill; fear of being healed; fear of change; fear of no change; and on and on the fears went, contradictions within themselves, because fear rarely makes sense! After years and years of one challenge after another, I found myself living in a state of permanent anxiety, my defenses up ready for the next thing to fall apart within my life, and I was exhausted. I didn’t know which way to turn, I didn’t know up from down, right from wrong, all I knew was fear and confusion. And that is no way to live.

But that’s where I was. And you know what? As hard as it is to accept, that was exactly where I was meant to be, because if I hadn’t fallen so very low I may never have set my sights so very high. Within that moment, when the message arrived and I truly understood just how much I had been resisting the idea (“why is this happening to me?” “why won’t life give me a break?” “what is the point of it all?”) acceptance suddenly became so easy. I can’t explain it in any other way than I just let go. And as soon as I did, life began to send me even more messages that I had done the right thing.

Over the following days I saw, read, heard, and watched things that reaffirmed exactly what I knew in my heart. I listened to Marianne Williamson’s weekly talk in which she mentioned we’re always waiting to be rich/healthy/wise so we can help others, but really what we need to do is wake up and say, “Dear God, this is who I am, this is what I’ve got, these are my strengths and these my weaknesses, I give them all to you, now use me, show me my part to play in all of this.” And I knew, in that moment, that I had been waiting to somehow be ready for my life’s purpose, rather than accepting and embracing it even though I may not feel ready. Because if it’s my life’s purpose, then it will happen and I will be given the support I need to do it, if only I ask. Suddenly I understood the depth of meaning behind Matthew 7.7-8…

Matthew 7:7-8 Ask and You Will Receive

This same message was repeated to me as I watched Tony Robbins in I’m Not Your Guru on Netflix this weekend. Vicky from Single Mother Ahoy had mentioned it to me, and I finally got around to watching it last night. I wasn’t sure what to make of it at first, but by the end I had cried my heart out at the depth of suffering and then the power of love to truly transform people’s lives. As I listened to Tony talk about what drives him and how much his work means to him, I recognised the same kind of desire within my own heart. We all have our demons, and we all struggle with a lack of love and too much fear in our lives. But love can change everything, if only we let it.

Sometimes we need a little nudge to help us on our way and I want to be that nudge. Because what is life if not a lesson in learning how to see the love all around us and shine that into the world for others to see? My greatest gift in this life, after my ability to love and be loved, is my ability to write and communicate in a way that reaches a person’s heart and soul. When I allow it to, the message I need to share flows through me in such a powerful way. Words pour out of my mouth or onto the page, and teach me all I need to know as it happens. I have known this for years, but I have resisted it so much. I have been on a journey of denying my gifts and even turning from the faith and spirituality that grounds the work that I do. But no more. I can feel the words filling my heart once again and I can do nothing more than let it out.

Which is why I have started writing a new book, one that is based on the principles of some “power cards” I made myself last week. It is a book about a journey, from fear and resistance to love and acceptance. It is about healing and life. And it is a pure joy to be writing. I haven’t felt this excited about writing in years, and I just know that this book as a great gift to me, because it is helping me embrace my life’s purpose, without fear. And I truly hope it will be a great gift to you too.

It is a big dream, and part of a larger picture of what I feel called to do in my life as I move forward from this space. I have a strong and loving voice, and I want to use it both here and at Spirit Kid Network, to help encourage and inspire you to find your own big dreams. Because within our biggest dreams lie our life’s purpose, which is ours to take at any time. So what are you waiting for? Break through your fear, find your life’s purpose, and allow yourself to dream!

Dream Big Bold Dreams

The Family Patch Lammas Activities for Families

Celebrating Lammas with Kids

1st August marks Lammas in the Northern Hemisphere, which is a time of celebrating the bounty of the first harvest and beginning preparations for the coming months. It is a lovely time to stop and reflect on how much we are blessed by the earth, and focus on what we can do in return. But it can also be challenging to know how to share this with your children, can’t it?

I know I have found it difficult knowing how to celebrate the Wheel of the Year with my own child, having grown up in a family and society that barely mentions this beautiful tradition. Which is why I’ve created this post with information and activity ideas for celebrating Lammas with Kids. I hope you find it useful, and if you’d like to share your own experiences and ideas with us, please do so in the comments at the end of the post. Happy Lammas!

Celebrating Lammas with Kids

What is Lammas?

Lammas is one of the 8 Sabbats celebrated in the modern Pagan calendar, called the Wheel of the Year. This Wheel of the Year marks the turning of time, and celebrates the cycle of life from birth, through growth, to death, and right on back to rebirth.

It is symbolic of the life-long journeys we are all on, and is played out within our lives each and every year through the seasonal changes we see all around us. The Wheel of the Year traditionally begins at Samhain (or Halloween), when the crops have all been harvested, the leaves are falling from the trees, and the earth is returning to a state of slumber for the dark Winter days ahead.

As the Wheel turns we move through the depths of Winter into the hope of Spring, when the seeds that were planted and lay dormant over the previous months begin to burst into life. We continue on our journey as the Summer months bring abundance of life, and Lammas marks the first of the harvests.

There are generally 3 harvests celebrated within the Pagan Wheel of the Year – Lammas, or the grain harvest, Mabon (Autumn Equinox) as the fruit harvest, and Samhain as the final harvest of nuts and berries. As such, Lammas is a time of gathering sustenance from the earth, thanking her for her (hopefully) bountiful harvest, and beginning preparations for the year ahead. It is not just about reaping the rewards, we must also help the cycle continue by ensuring we leave enough seeds and nutrients in the earth for the next year’s harvest to grow.

This is what I love so much about the Wheel of the Year, the focus on the continuity of life and the dual focus on celebrating the moment whilst also remembering that what we do now will affect our future (and that of our children and grandchildren), just as what we are experiencing now has been affected by the actions of those who have gone before us. And that is the focus of our family celebrations throughout the year.

5 Easy Lammas Activities to Enjoy with Your Kids

1. Bake some bread

Lammas is traditionally a time when the first of the wheat harvest was brought in, so making bread with this wheat is a fantastic way of honouring the way that the earth sustains us throughout our lives.

If you have a local mill where you can take your kids to learn about how flour is made, even better! I remember doing this as a child and it is a great way to introduce kids to the many stages of food growth and production.

2. Go for a Walk in Nature

What better way to be present in this moment of abundance and beauty than to get out in nature and see all that the earth is providing. Here in the UK we have had quite a miserable Summer this year, with many cold, wet days and not much sun at all. So we need more reminders than ever that the Wheel is still turning and that life is still continuing.

You don’t have to go far, your nearest park will do, but for maximum joy why not find a local walk which takes you by some fields? There’s nothing more beautiful than walking beside a field of gold when the sun shines upon the grains gently waving in the wind.

Kids adore getting out and about and it is a fantastic way to let them burn off all that excess energy they seem to have over these Summer months (I suspect not being at school means they are less exhausted!) But instead of simply going for a walk, make it an intentional choice of where you go and what you do – it’s all in the intention!

3. Make a Nature Table or Altar

While you’re out and about, why not grab a few bits to take home with you to remind you of this stage of life on a daily basis? Pick flowers or herbs from the garden, collect loose stones from the ground (symbolic of the stones needed to ground grains into flour), and take photos of the crops you see growing in a field. Place these in the home, in your own Sacred Space, and remember to say thanks to the earth for all she provides.

You might also like to create a nature collage for your kids’ rooms, or let them try out other nature crafts such as making dye out of herbs and flowers, trying your hand at making corn dollies, or even making bird feeders ready for the cold, Winter months ahead.

4. Collect Seeds (and make them into Gifts) or Plant New Seeds

If you have flowers in your garden that have gone to seed, why not collect them and keep them safe ready to give as gifts to family and friends at one of the other Sabbats or Christmas? Homemade gifts are always a real treat to receive, but how much more wonderful would it be if your seeds turned into flowers in someone else’s garden? What a beautiful symbol of the continuation of life!

If you don’t have any seeds you can harvest, why not buy some that are ready to be sown in August and plant those instead? That way you are still playing a crucial part in the cycle of life, and can look back on this moment when the seeds begin to grow and bloom further down the line.

Kids absolutely love getting their hands dirty, and gardening is such a great tactile experience for them which helps them to ground themselves and connect with Mother Earth. Talk to them about how we need to tend and nurture the earth so that she can continue to provide us with such beautiful gifts. Remind them that we give, just as we receive.

5. Create your own Lammas Ceremony

This last idea is one that I really love, because you can really make it your own! For a very long time I was really hesitant about creating ceremony, because I felt like a fraud. But once I started creating my own ceremonies, reflecting on the things that were most important to me and my family, I started to truly fall in love with it.

Ceremony doesn’t have to be grand and ornate, it doesn’t have to follow any specific creed or structure, and it certainly doesn’t have to be created by someone “in the know”. These are all things I used to think about ceremony, and I was so wrong! Ceremony can be as simple as sitting down together with the intention to honour the earth. You could light a candle, write some words, say a prayer, or sing a song. It doesn’t matter… all that matters is that it means something to you.

That being said, if you’re struggling for ideas why not consider some of the following to get you started:

  • Break some bread and eat it as a family, sharing your thoughts on how lucky you are to have this food on your table
  • Light a candle and say thanks to the earth for her sustenance
  • Write down a list of things that you will do over the coming year to honour the earth and support her (make these easy things for kids, such as litter picking in the park, establishing a “wild flower” section in your garden, feeding the birds etc)
  • Create a gift of food for someone in need (or donate to your local food bank), saying a prayer over it to wish the recipient love, health, and abundance in the coming year

There really is no limit to what you can turn into a ceremony, so please have fun with this.

Want to know more about Lammas?

There are some fantastic guides available online for those interested in learning more about the Pagan Wheel of the Year, and here are some of our favourites:

The Goddess and the Green Man have written a fantastic page all about Lammas and Lughnassadh (a celebration of the Sun God, Lugh).

The Paganism/Wicca Expert on About.com has created a page explaining the 8 Sabbats in the Wheel of the Year, including Lammas.

Ozark Pagan Mama wrote a brilliant post about celebrating Lammas with Kids.

 

The Family Patch Kid Friendly Summer Solstice Activities

Kid Friendly Summer Solstice Activities

I can hardly believe that the Summer Solstice is almost upon us. The summer sun has been such a long time in finding us this year, and even today the sky is grey and gloomy as showers pass overhead. It feels like the Summer will have been and gone before we know it, and what a hard Winter that will make for us, without enough time to fully soak in the power and glory of the sun.

Which is why it is more important than ever that we do embrace the Summer whilst it is here, remembering the power that lies within the sun’s rays to warm our hearts and nourish the land on which we live. The Solstice itself is such a fleeting moment, a snapshot in time when for a tiny moment the sun prevails and provides us with more warmth in a single 24 hours than it will for another 365 days! If that’s not a message to cherish the moment and trust that life ebbs and flows but always comes around again, I don’t know what is!

But how do we celebrate that with our children? How do we make it clear to them how important it is to celebrate the sun and rejoice in all that it provides us with, both now and in the future (after all, our Winter stores all come from the Harvest that is currently growing thanks to the Summer sun!) It is quite a challenge to explore all of this with young children, although older children will most likely find it interesting to look more closely at life cycles and why we celebrate what we do.

The answer, I have found, is that it doesn’t matter so much how we celebrate, only that we do. What feels right for me and my family may not feel right to you and yours, and vice versa. So with that in mind I have turned to Pinterest to collate a range of kid friendly Solstice activities that the whole family can enjoy. I’ve chosen some of my favourites to list here, but you can find more over on Pinterest.

Kid Friendly Summer Solstice Activities

Make Dandelion Crowns

I absolutely love the idea of making floral crowns and there are many different ideas and tutorials for this over on Pinterest. But my favourite has to be this fantastic illustrated guide to making a dandelion garland by Oscar Ate My Muffin. There are dandelions everywhere at this time of year, so why not take a walk to your local park for a picnic lunch, and collect dandelions to braid into a garland or crown as your dinner goes down? If you want to take this further, you could talk about how different people may celebrate different religious holidays by wearing certain costumes, and think about who might like to wear a flower garland and what it might symbolise.

Make Dandelion Bread

Talking of picnics, how about packing some of this delicious looking Dandelion Bread by Saving 4 Six. Baking bread using items you have managed to forage yourself from your garden or local area is a fantastic way of exploring how the food we eat is made and why it is so important for us to cherish our earth and try to avoid waste. It could open up an opportunity to discuss how food may seem to be in abundance right now, and that we can rejoice in this, but that it may not always be as abundant – a great message for celebrating the Summer Solstice and all it shares with us.

Get Messy with Feet Painting

There are so many craft activities out there for kids, and I’m sure you have your own favourites, but I have to say that this idea for Painting with the Feet by Home Grown Friends is hands-down (haha) one of my favourite finds yet. What better way to celebrate the warmth of the summer sun than getting outside and doing something barefoot? How many months of the year do we hide our feet away in socks and shoes – let’s free them for just a little while, hey? Feet Painting looks and sounds like so much fun, and you could make it as creative as you like. I also love the idea of using the end result as wrapping paper! For the past couple of years we have made our own Christmas wrapping paper and I’m sure that pulling out brightly coloured paper with fun memories of a hot, Summer day might just cheer up those dark, gloomy Winter nights as we race toward the Winter Solstice.

Make Beaded Bubble Wands

Every kid likes bubbles, right? And chasing bubbles on a sunny day has to be one of those wonderful memories we all enjoy, so it seems like such a lovely idea to celebrate the Summer Solstice by having a bubble party, don’t you think? Why not make it even more exciting by creating your own beaded bubble wands like The Artful Parent? I love how pretty they are, they could be personalised to each child’s individual favourite colours or colours that you all associate with the Summer. Then, as you blow the bubbles, you could imagine blowing all your worries into each bubble and watching them float away on the breeze before popping and releasing it all out to the Universe. Or you could imagine blowing love and light into each one and watch as that spreads into the world around you. Kids are so good at visualisation so the sky’s the limit with this one!

Create a Sunshine Spinner

If you’re looking for a super easy craft activity that you and your kids can enjoy, then I may have found just the thing for you. Kimbo from A Girl and a Glue Gun shared this fantastic tutorial for a DIY Paper Spinner over on Makes and Takes. Paper spinners are quick and easy to make and can be packed up and taken with you anywhere, so why not make a few and then take them out into the woods or your local park for a little Solstice Ceremony? You could focus on how the earth turns on a daily basis, creating night and day, and that it also rotates around the sun, creating the seasons. Ask your kids to spin their spinners at different speeds, holding it high and then low, and maybe spinning around themselves (have you ever noticed just how much kids love to spin until they are so dizzy they almost fall over?)

I could carry on all day, sharing my favourite Pinterest finds with you, but there really are far too many to share in a single blog post. So please do pop on over to my Pinterest Board to see more fantastic ideas for summer-based fun that you could incorporate into your Summer Solstice Celebrations. And if you have any other ideas, please do let me know in the comments – I’d love to hear from you!

The Family Patch Easy Ways to Celebrate Spring

5 Easy Ways to Celebrate Spring

Does anyone else find it hard to believe we’re in March already? It feels like only yesterday that we were saying goodbye to the old year and ringing in the new! But, regardless of my disbelief at the speed in which this year is passing us by, we are indeed in March and that means that Spring is well and truly on its way.

Today is the Spring Equinox (20th March) and next Sunday we’ll be celebrating Easter (27th March). It’s a wonderful time of year full of great joy and promise, as new life begins to “spring” up all around us, so I love the fact that these two celebrations are so close together. I have a post lined up for you at the end of this week regarding my thoughts onintroducing the Easter Story to WB in a way that reflects our more liberal interpretation of it, but for now I want to focus on celebrating Spring itself.

Recognising and reflecting the changing seasons and passing of time is one of the main reasons I feel drawn towards the Pagan Wheel of the Year. For me, the intention of marking certain points in the year as special and sacred in their own unique ways is just beautiful. However Tim and I are not so good at preparing to mark these occasions and often find they speed past us without us even noticing (I bring you back to my very first sentence of this post as a case in point!)

When I set up Spirit Kid Network I didn’t really know what I was going to write or how I was going to present my thoughts. I’m still figuring that out even now and will probably continue to do so for a very long time. But one thing I did know for sure was that I wanted it to be real, and I wanted it to be accessible. There’s no point me dreaming up grand plans for amazing experiences when they just aren’t possible for the vast majority of families.

So the basis for everything I do here is this – can we do this as a family… and do even we want to?

Suddenly, *wham* there go all those crazy ideas for craft activities, family gatherings, meaningful ceremonies, and anything else my wonderfully creative but entirely over-ambitious mind comes up with! It’s not that that aren’t good ideas, many of them are great ideas (if I may say so myself), but they are as far from doable as I could get right now. I’ll file them in the “maybe, one day” section of my brain and get right back to finding simple, easy ways of enjoying this moment in time.

Because, you see, if there’s one thing that becoming a parent has taught me it’s this – sometimes the most simple things bring the most pleasure. And with that in mind, here are my 5 easy ways to celebrate Spring which I hope you’ll enjoy too.

5 Easy Ways to Celebrate Spring as a Family

Learn about “life cycles”

You only have to look at the selection of Easter cards in the shops to realise that baby animals are a major hit at this time of year, so why not embrace the excitement and use it as an opportunity to learn about life cycles? How you do this will, of course, depend on the age of your children and whether you want to visit a local farm or learn about it from books and videos, but whatever you do be sure to have fun.

A couple of weeks ago Little Man came home from school with information about the chicken eggs that had arrived at school. There was a link to the live webcam that we placed on my laptop and left running throughout the evening and following day and we all got to see some of the chicks hatching. We talked about how the chicks come out a bit wet and when they dry off they get all fluffy and then we thought about how some animal babies grow in eggs and others grow in their mummy’s tummy. We ended the day by reading a Topsy and Tim book about puppies, which led to even more talk about where babies come from.

Spring Learn About Life Cycles Chicks Hatching

Little Man is 4 and it seemed like a great age to start thinking about how babies are born and then how we all grow at different rates. It has made us determined to plan a trip for Open Farm Sunday this year so WB can see more animals at different stages in their lives. But until then we’ll be making the most of the good old internet for videos like this one.

Plant some seeds

So this follows on from the last point quite nicely, don’t you think? Animals are not the only ones who bring new life into the world at this time of year. Looking out my window this morning I was welcomed by the cheery sight of some purple crocuses opening up. And then there are the lovely, bright yellow daffodils on my table, bringing cheer to the room and reminding me that many more flowers will be coming soon. Life is quite simply Springing from the ground right now and it is beautiful.

But those first joyous blooms would never have appeared had their bulbs not been planted at the right time for them to grow. And this is a great opportunity to discuss not only celebrating the life that we see before us but also preparing for the life which is to come. Many flowers and vegetables that we will hope to see over the Summer and Autumn months need to be sown over the coming weeks. What better way to encourage your children to understand the sheer magic of life than by including them in the process right from the start?

Growing Herbs in Pots

This is such a simple activity that anyone can do it, you don’t have to be green-fingered or have vast amounts of space to enjoy growing things from seed. Even if you have the smallest garden (or no garden at all) you can still enjoy growing herbs and salad leaves that can sit in pots on your windowsill!

Go on a scavenger hunt

Nothing could be easier than popping on your shoes and coat and going for a walk somewhere in nature. It doesn’t matter where you go or what you do, simply getting out and about will get you noticing the signs of Spring all around you.

Spring Scavenger Hunt Bee Hawthorn

But if you want to make your outings more adventurous, why not try a scavenger hunt? Go online and find some images of Spring flowers, the shapes of certain leaves, birds you think will be in your area, even insects and bugs you want to try and find, and then print out your selection and stick them on a sheet or in a notebook. Then when you’re out and about see if you can find them all. Make it a game, who can find them all first and what else can you find along the way?

Do some cloud spotting

Nothing speaks of the hope of better days to come than the appearance of a bright blue sky and fluffy white clouds after months and months of grey skies without end. I swear, I never realise how much the lack of light during Winter affects me until one of these days comes by and I suddenly feel so much happier and brighter and like all those things I have worried so much about no longer matter! I feel like I can breathe again and it makes me so happy.

Spring Cloud Spotting

So, obviously, I spend a fair amount of time looking up at the sky on days like those and cloud spotting becomes a wonderful way to pass the time whilst sitting on a cold bench because I just don’t want to go home yet or standing at the school gates waiting to pick up WB. Cloud spotting can be as simple as looking at the clouds and acknowledging their presence or as detailed as seeing shapes within them and imagining whole worlds that live there.

Bring some colour indoors

Again, just like I said above, the lack of colour through the Winter months really gets to me and so I love the colours that begin to emerge at this time of year. They seem so vibrant and bright, even though I know that once the Summer sun arrives they will look somewhat muted in comparison to the kaleidoscope of colour that graces us during those hotter days.

Pick Daffodils to Bring Spring Colours into Your Home

So, naturally, I want to bring those colours indoors with me (as it is often still too cold to spend too much time outdoors!) Sometimes I do this with flowers, but you could just as easily do this by painting pictures, creating a collage with pictures from magazines, changing your bedding or even choosing clothes in bright, Springtime colours. If you do decide to get creative and make Springtime pictures, why not make it an opportunity to talk about which colours are your favourites and how they make you feel?

So there you have it, 5 easy ways of celebrating Spring this year. As I’ve said before, simple and achievable is everything to me right now in my parenting journey and so I hope that these are all things you can try out yourself and enjoy too.

Pink Rose

Celebrating 5 Years and Looking Ahead

This time last week, TJ and I were in Glastonbury, celebrating 5 years of marriage. We hadn’t had a holiday since the last time we visited in 2012, and we never had a honeymoon, so this felt like a really special moment…

New Wedding Rings

We decided to create a little ceremony to mark the occasion and give each other new rings, as I had lost mine during my pregnancy (I had to take it off as I started reacting to the metal and it just disappeared). We originally planned on getting wooden rings, to celebrate our 5th year of marriage, but then we found these hematite rings a few months back and decided they were a good alternative.

It was such a wonderful opportunity, to get back to Glastonbury (one of my favourite places on earth), meet up with a dear old friend (who I managed to forget to take a photo of!) and hold a sweet little ceremony in the Chalice Well Gardens, the exact same place we held Little Man’s blessing ceremony 3 years ago. This time, however, he was very much an active participant in the ceremony…

Family Ceremony

I wrote the ceremony for us the morning of our anniversary, and purposefully included Little Man into it. We recognised how much has changed in the past five years, celebrated the growth of our love and how Little Man arrived into our lives, and shared our dreams for the coming 5 years. I used to feel so self-conscious and uncomfortable with ritual, but I am beginning to really love marking moments in our lives in this way.

Lighting Little Man’s candle with the flames from both of ours and then inviting him to join us in lighting a “unity” or “family” candle was so beautiful and really helped him feel involved with the entire thing, as he chose the colours for each of our candles that morning. It gave us a way to include him in what we were doing and express his own ideas into it, which we all loved.

Candle Lighting Ceremony

Which brings me to how we’re looking ahead to the next five years…

When I knew we were actually able to get to Glastonbury this year, I knew how important it would be for me symbolically to use the break as a chance to return to my roots, let go of the pain , sadness and anger of the past few years, and begin to really focus on moving forward in my life. This past year has been a crazy one, to say the least, and I have learnt a whole lot about myself and the changes I still need to make. One of these changes has been taking more time for myself and not filling it with needless activity but rather being present in the moment.

One such moment brought an idea into my head that has not let go since. More than an idea, in fact, it was a calling from my soul to fully embrace a part of myself that I have hidden from the world for many years, only letting glimpses of it show, in the hope of preserving something that can feel very fragile and intimate. I’m talking about my faith, or rather my interest in spirituality…

I have sometimes spoken about it here at The Patch, but it has always been in a guarded way. I had thought this was simply because it didn’t fit (and that is a part of it) but the reality is that I have closed my whole mind and heart off from the thing that brings me the most comfort and joy. Through fear of being seen as a multitude of negative words such as “deluded”, “dogmatic” or “naive”, I have actually prevented myself from enjoying all the positives such as “inspiration”, “peace”, and “exploration”. This is not only affecting me, but also affecting my ability to raise Little Man to know his own mind, follow his own heart, and carve his own path in life.

Pink Rose

More than anything, I want Little Man to grow up to know his own mind (and heart) and choose a path that reflects what he feels inside. I want him to be confident in this, secure enough to live in his own way whilst respecting the ways of others. And I am beginning to realise that I cannot do this without first living this way myself.

So it is beyond exciting to me that I am suddenly inspired to start something new, something that reflects the things I love most with the skills I have to create something that I hope will begin a lifelong journey of learning, friendship and community.

Spirit Kid Network

Spirit Kid Network is a brand new blog and community for people like us, looking to raise “spiritual kids” who are confident and excited about exploring life and finding their own paths. TJ and I are working, whenever we can, to get everything ready for going live, but you can get a sneak peek at the new site by visiting www.spiritkidnetwork.com

You can also pre-register your blog or business with the site, or join us on Facebook and Twitter. We’d love to see some of you there. And if you like what you see and fancy getting involved (by providing blog content, helping out on social media, or working with us in other ways) do get in touch. We want this to be far more than just us – we want it to be open to all.

And don’t worry if spirituality isn’t your thing… I’ll still be posting about our day-to-day lives here at The Patch, this isn’t a replacement for my online home here, rather an addition to it. And as Christmas is fast approaching, you can be sure there will be some posts coming up about how we’re preparing to celebrate on a budget!

 

Crochet Pumpkin for Autumn Equinox

New Beginnings at The Autumn Equinox

Today is Mabon, or the Autumn Equinox, a time in the year when the day and night are of equal length. The long summer days are behind us now and we’re heading into the dark of winter. It’s a time for celebrating your successes (it falls in the middle of the harvest) and bringing things to a close. If there’s one lesson that I think this day brings, it’s that all things must end, but life still brings beauty with it – after all, Autumn may mark the end of Summer but its rich colours are a new kind of beauty to enjoy!

Crochet Pumpkin for Autumn Equinox

It’s a slower time of year, a time when we begin to draw within ourselves a bit more and snuggle up close to the ones we love. But just because things slow down, it doesn’t mean that they stop altogether. For me, September has always been a time of new beginnings. I imagine this is partly because the new school year always starts this month. But it isn’t only that, I think Autumn brings a sense of inner reflection, a time for seeing where you have been, where you are now, and where you want to be and it is the perfect time to start laying down roots for the coming year.

Which is why it feels perfectly timed that this Autumn I am heading into a whole new project which has been gradually growing in my heart for many, many years and has finally reached the point of realisation. I am starting a new blog…

Now, before I go any further I want to say that this new blog is not a replacement for The Family Patch. I love this little space of mine and I will continue to use it for personal updates and sharing all my craft and home based posts. However there is an aspect of my life that has never really fitted well here, an area that is far too expansive to be just a part of this blog. And that’s what the new blog is for.

I don’t want to share too much with you right now, as I am still putting it all together. But today seems like the perfect time to share this new beginning with you. I’d also like to invite you to join me in this new venture, because this new blog is going to be different. It’s not going to be so personal, but rather a gathering of ideas and (I hope) a community of people interested in “raising spiritual kids in a modern world”. It is far bigger than anything I have done before, and I sometimes wonder whether I am getting in over my head, but I just know that I need to try this.

It all began when a name popped into my head during one of my morning Kundalini Yoga sessions. I don’t know where the name came from, but it just felt right. I’ve enjoyed letting the idea blossom and despite often questioning the name and how it will work, nothing else seems to fit. So, I’m trusting in it and going with it and will see where it leads.

It is an absolute joy to be working on and it fills me with so much excitement for the future. But I need your help. I’ve reached a point where no amount of self-reflection or research is going to complete the plans. This new blog is about community, and for that to work I need to know what others want and how they may like to be involved. So, if you have an interest in spirituality, particularly if you have children (of any age), and are happy to help me with this next stage of development please do fill in the form below so that I can get in touch with you.