January – Daring to hope

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So that was January.

January was more of a roller coaster than I was expecting. It began with overwhelming developments in so many different areas of our lives: my job, my husband’s job, developments with our property and plans for a new kitchen. It all came at once. It was almost all positive, but it still came all at once. My Chief Executive was forced to resign, my husband got an interview for a great job and came so close to getting it (I’m so proud of him for getting so far!), a long-suffering compensation claim was finally paid to us and my hubby finally convinced his colleagues to let him go part-time.

We spent a beautifully snowy weekend with one of my dearest friends, celebrating her family and dedicating their first child – a gorgeous little girl. We spent a weekend with my in-laws by the beach and I’m spending this weekend relishing time; time to spend well over an hour on the phone to another of my closest friends whilst drinking coffee and eating cake – it was almost like she was here. Time to sort out plans for how we’re going to lead our life group. Time to write, reflect, read and be creative.

New Year seems a very long time ago. There have been so many highs and lows since then. We dared to hope and we dealt with disappointment. We rejoiced in two years of solicitors and communications with indescribably obnoxious people coming to an end (remind me never to buy a leasehold property again). We were thankful for changes within my job that had to happen and commiserated that those changes didn’t solve everything, even if they were a great start.

These past 31 days have certainly given a kick start to 2015.

I want to continue this year daring to hope. Our freezer may have broken, we may have no working light in the kitchen, we may not have the security in our careers we had anticipated, the coming few months may be unsettling and new. But in time we will have a brand new kitchen, my husband will be able to pursue his passions and skills and we will know more about who we are and where we’re headed. So February will see more plans made, more dreams unpacked, more time simply to be and more steps taken towards wherever it is we’re going.

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Inspiration versus Envy

At what point does something that is intended to inspire, morph to provoke envy?

I really quite like Pinterest. I wouldn’t say I love it and I certainly don’t hate it so I’m somewhere in the middle. I go through phases of spending hours on the site and then won’t look again for months. Partly that’s because I find it difficult to pick out the posts that inspire me and spark my style or creativity; partly that’s because I am very conscious that too much time spent on it and I begin to wish I had more money to carry out some ideas or I start to become envious of those who seem to have limitless time to create beauty.

There is definitely a line when my heart crosses over from excitement to try out new ideas, to descending into an obsession on the material or a sense of disappointment that I don’t have what I see (or the time to create it).

Pinterest can quickly clutter my mind with too many ideas and it fills up the space I would usually use to process those ideas. A few concepts at a time that I can make my own and put into action works much better for me.

I want to be inspired. I don’t want to spark a discontentment with what I have or what I can achieve so I’ll start small. A few little projects at a time and I’ll see where I get to.

Helper

When my husband is having a tough time, it truly breaks my heart. It is as though my own soul is being torn apart. That makes sense really when you consider that he is the person I treasure most on this earth. He is an extension of me and therefore it comes as no surprise that what he feels, I feel. When he’s anxious, I’m a complete fidget, abuzz with his nerves. When he’s happy, I’m giddy with joy. When he’s sad, I cry.

So when there is very little I can do to make things better, I feel powerless.

A wonderful friend who has walked through so many highs and lows of life with me, text me a beautiful encouragement yesterday. She understands that the reason I’m hurting is because I care about him to the core of who I am, but her following words were a little insight into my heart:

“You love him and you desire good for him. But you are his partner, his helper; you are not his saviour.”

What wisdom. I cannot possibly make everything right for him on my own. I am only human. It is easy in marriage to assume the responsibility of being everything to your spouse but that isn’t what we’re supposed to be; everything cannot rest on one flawed human being.

I was made to be by his side, to help him, support him, encourage him and love him with all of my being. But releasing me from the duty of saving him is quite a revelation. Our friends, our family and our God all play huge roles in who we become. We’ll walk this life, through its mountaintops and valleys, together.

Work like the ant

I’ve found that when I have a productive day at work, I enjoy my leisure time immeasurably more. When I have been fruitful in my day’s work, my rest is the more refreshing for it.

Proverbs 6:6

Go to the ant, O sluggard;
    consider her ways, and be wise.
Without having any chief,
    officer, or ruler,
she prepares her bread in summer
    and gathers her food in harvest.

When I’ve had a lethargic day in the office, I am restless in the evenings, slow to settle and quick to fidget. The opposite is true if my day’s labour has been rewarding – I am quick to unwind and enjoy the pleasure of a job well done.

Don’t get me wrong, a frustrating day at work will keep me wound like a coil for a long time after I get home and I am then equally slow to unwind as if I’d had a day that yielded little or nothing. But somehow, it is a different kind of relaxing that is slow to be forthcoming as it is then my mind, not my body, that demands time to relax.

The latter, however, is something I have less control over than the former. I have only myself to blame if I haven’t geared myself up to produce something worthy of the time given to me in my day. Frustrations are inherent in the workplace and come from a combination of sources, most of which I have little or no control or influence over, so those days I simply accept that my mind will take a while to relax. But where possible, I would like to learn from the ant, working hard when I have the energy and motivation to do so and revelling in the rewarding relaxation that ensues.

A series of ‘nows’

Hubby and I had coffee with a colleague of mine on New Year’s Day. Somehow the two boys, both quite philosophical and driven by a sense of justice, balance and opportunity, began talking about culture and lifestyle. Some of their chatter was concocting a liberal utopia, acknowledging that humans were not designed to work 9-5 at a desk – work hard, yes, but not to the confines of a modern regime. This developed into a discussion around mindfulness, meditation and how our minds have been cultivated into viewing the world through our own unique filters. We perceive everything around us in relation to our beliefs, understandings and knowledge – the combination and design of which is different for everyone and therefore how we perceive the world is also unique to the make-up of our minds.

According to my colleague, there is no such thing as the past – it does not exist as a physical reality – nor is there such thing as a future. Rather, life is made up of a series of nows. While many flaws can be found in this simplistic idea, it does change the way we perceive our days. My colleague took this one step further to say that there is, as a result, no such thing as a problem. There is simply a choice to be made and if something arises from the choice, it becomes a situation that you are dealing with in the now. Problems and how we perceive them are, again, a creation of our culture.

Whether or not you adhere to his ideology, there is certainly something to be gained from it. If nothing else, it encourages us to live in the moment and truly experience our every day and I, for one, am all for a little more present-mindedness in this competitive, future-obsessed society.

A new book to be written (2015)

It is no secret that I am a fan of New Year. As someone who is goal oriented, I love the concept of a fresh start – a new book with 365 sparkling white pages waiting to be written. I have many things on my list for 2015. They’re pretty flexible and if I don’t achieve every one I won’t be discouraged, because that’s not what they’re there for. They’re an incentive, an inspiration, a hopeful encouragement to be the best I can be. Not the best compared with everyone else, just the best me.

I saw in the New Year with friends who have become very close in the past year and with whom I am looking forward to sharing life in these coming months. They have been a real Godsend in the most literal sense of the word and I have been so thankful for them and my other close friends who have walked 2014 with me.

Most of all, I am inexpressibly grateful to have a husband by my side who prefers to hope even if that results in disappointment. You can’t avoid disappointment in life, but you can choose to hope and I am hopeful for 2015.

Besides, who wouldn’t be when their husband starts the year with a delicious home-made brunch of Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon (including a hollandaise sauce made from scratch!)

Happy New Year!

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