Escapism and the importance of creativity

Creativity is critical to contentment. It makes sense when you think about it. This world is a thing of beauty, designed by the ultimate Creator. It is inspiring by its very nature.*

The joy of creativity is that it offers us an escape from the rubbish of this world by transporting us temporarily to another reality. Really good creativity returns us to our lives with either renewed resolve or at least a clearer perspective. A good book, film, piece of music or art all have the power to reach a part of us that is untouchable by the rest of the world.

I find my escapism in movies – it’s why I’m so interested in film production and why, when I was younger (and still today), I used to sit in the cinema and wait until all the credits had rolled before leaving; I wanted to see the names of the people who had created this story that had pulled me in and made me ponder life.

My husband’s creative outlet is writing and he’s outrageously good at it. When I read his words, I am transported to Cairo, to France, to a time when life was different; not necessarily better or worse, just different. As well as entering into another world, there are phrases hidden throughout his work that capture elements of life beautifully. Through artistic prose, he explains what usually cannot be articulated.

This realisation of the importance of creativity has been quite ground-breaking for me. As Elspeth Thompson writes in The Wonderful Weekend Book: “We neglect our creativity at our peril.” Whatever our medium, we are all creative – be it in an acknowledged art form or simply in the way we find solutions to problems and use our initiative. If we suffocate this instinct in ourselves, it can have quite grave consequences. I’d go as far as to say that neglecting our creativity can be one of many triggers of illnesses such as depression. When we’re forced to conform to a rhythm of 9-5, sat at a desk in an office, many of us are moulding ourselves into something we were not born to be.

It’s no wonder then, that when my previous jobs have narrowed the scope for me to use my creativity, I have very quickly grown bored, stifled and moved on. When I’m not allowed to use my brain, to find a way to practice my creativity, my inner calm becomes agitated and I look for ways to rediscover that balance.

I’m thankful that my husband realised all of this long ago and has been pursuing ways to use his creativity. He has rejected the contemporary lifestyle of 9-5 in favour of living a life that far closer resembles one that is lived to its fullest. He is embracing his God-given gifts and creative instinct and he has made himself and our marriage more joyous in the process.

*pun completely intended
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Why I love the American lifestyle

…as told through my rose-tinted glasses.

Ask me when I have been at my happiest and I will tell you, when I’ve been in America. Recently I’ve been trying to figure out why that is.

Standard American workplaces get c.10 days of holiday a year. We get around 25.

Until Obamacare kicks off properly, Americans have to pay for their health insurance. We have the NHS.

Americans have a work ethic that is fierce compared with the European work-life balance.

So what is it?

I think, for me, it’s that people and family always trump money. The generosity of spirit across all of the Americans I have met has been overwhelming. Their hospitality is genuine and all-encompassing and ultimately, certainly for the Americans I know, real life and real relationship take precedence over whatever demands this world makes.

I realise that my perspective is warped and that Americans as a nation are pursuing a Western dream and are often completely oblivious to the rest of the world. But even in their naivety they prioritise family and people.

I’m not sure how I, as an introvert, would truly survive state-side but I’d like to think that I’d embrace a work hard, play hard lifestyle, frequently interspersed with alone-time of course!

Aloha 2016

2015 watercolour

It was a project I started unintentionally in January with the aim of using my watercolour set to capture what that first month of 2015 meant to me. Somehow it continued through 12 months of ups and downs – small catchphrases that summed up 4 week interludes; brief snapshots of an unfolding story.

2015 has been better than 2014 – not that that was difficult. If I’m honest, it was a little bland overall. Nothing huge changed, I achieved quite a few of the things I aimed to achieve but I started out at such a low point that I didn’t really have time to make sense of anything or plan.

It’s been a middling year; a season in which the primary aim was for time to pass and wounds to heal. Sometimes, time just has to take its course without my plans or expectations getting in its way. 2015 carved its own course with little steering or focus from me and on reflection, that has set me up well for 2016.

If nothing else, 2015 has taught me how to relinquish some control over the direction of my life. It has taught me to live each day as it comes – not that I have mastered that quite yet(!) – and it has taught me that time brings with it its own challenges and hidden delights. Like a stream that picks up, carries and deposits the pebbles and debris it encounters, time continues to flow no matter what you try to do to stop or divert it, accommodating whatever life moments it stumbles across.

My aim for this month was to Look Up and Anticipate 2016 and I definitely enjoyed this time. I celebrated with friends and family in lots of ways from parties to carol singing to ice skating. I also read and re-read the Christmas story, which means so much more than the revelry, and I’ve given myself time to ponder the coming year so that the joy of anticipation isn’t lost in fairly lights and Lebkuchen.

I’m not expecting huge things from 2016 other than what the passing of time naturally presents – and I think I’m ok with that. I want to bake more, I want to have more time to myself, I want to read more and I want to move more towards that wonderful Hawaiian lifestyle we were privileged to experience in March. Here’s to hoping that the islands who gave birth to my name will pervade in 2016 with hellos, goodbyes, love and hospitality: Aloha 2016.

Grandparents – a legacy

The role of a grandmother brings with it a legacy to pass on to the women who follow.

The grandfather leads by example in life skills, in faith and in strength. The grandmother nurtures, she teaches how to listen, to be gentle, humble and gracious and to be a woman filled with faith. The grandfather takes on responsibility for the wellbeing of his family, for making decisions and for ensuring that he walks alongside his family, not dragging them behind. He invests his very soul into praying for every individual member of the generations who follow and encourages his wife to do the same. The grandmother is wise, she guides through her intuition and leads her husband in a way that does not intrude on who he is. She prays with all her might, inspires and gently encourages all whom she meets.

Both, together, serve one another and take delight in discipling their children and grandchildren. As a team they walk as one and as old age takes hold of them both they continue to put the other’s needs first – enticing a smile or a laugh and making sure the other’s heart is content so that they can be a shining light to others.

In all of these things, my grandparents were the lifeblood of our family. They fulfilled their roles in their very beings because at their core they had faith. Their every breath was an inspiration and now that they are both at home with the Lord, I miss them greatly. I am determined with all of my might to continue the legacy they gave us.

December – Enjoying the Season

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December is always dominated by Christmas and this year was the first in many years where my family have all woken up in the same house on Christmas day. It was nice. Sad because the reason we were together was because we didn’t need to split the family between Germany and England any more but it was nice. It was quiet.

As it should be, this month has been about celebrating and spending time with friends and family. From carol singing and parties to ice skating and eating lots of cheese, December has thankfully been fairly uneventful. It also means that I’ve had a bit of time to take stock and figure a few things out ahead of the New Year.

This Christmas time, I am thankful that Jesus came to this earth so that we could have hope: hope in our earthly lives as well as hope for an eternal life on a perfect, restored earth, with no more tears, death or suffering. What complete joy.

Dreaming at 29

I turn 30 next year and it has suddenly dawned on me why age has mattered so much to me. When I was in my teens I dreaded having a teenager myself, not because I was so unruly as a teen (I hope!) but because I thought I would be jealous of their youth and the life moments they had yet to experience.

But it has only just dawned on me that it has never been their age and experiences in and of themselves that I would be jealous of – I know and am happier with myself now than I ever have been and I don’t particular want to re-live ‘growing up’. It is the naive dreaming and the world lying in front of them and the NEW experiences that I realised I never wanted to lose. The joy in this realisation is that while you can’t stop time from passing, you CAN keep dreaming and having new experiences!

So I’m starting now. Before I even turn 30. Because it’s never too late to start dreaming again.

November reflections / December hopes

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November was a month of sadness, of deep prayer and of reflection on life as we mourned the loss of our wonderful Oma. She is with her Saviour so we are assured that she is experiencing a peace we can only imagine, so through our grief we can learn how to take what she meant to us and continue to live out her legacy.

Above all, that’s what I want to remember this Christmas month. That I have an incredible heritage of faith and love and I want that to remain a strong part of who I am.

>Reflections<

Get on top of work.  I may not have had two plane journeys but I have had time to prepare for what’s next at work. My brain is starting to untangle and that leaves me close to being able to let out the breath I’ve been holding for six months, for which I’m very thankful.

Finish my book. Many long train journeys helped me complete this and I loved the escape. I’ve even downloaded some more books as I remember how much it relaxes me to read!

Bake. I baked once, so technically achieved this. Christmas requires some kitchen adventures though so more of this to come I hope.

>Hopes<

Look up. Christmas is all around us. I want to stop watching my feet and look up, both at the crisp weather, the sparkle and the joy around me, as well as the Saviour whose birth we remember. I want to read and reflect on his birth and take time to grasp why we have the hope that we have.

Anticipate 2016. Anticipation is underrated. There is excitement, possibility, adventure and fulfilment bundled up in this package of looking ahead. It’s not always realised, but I love to plan, to think about where we’re going and walk into the New Year with my husband and my hopes aligned.

That’s it. December is about being in the moment and anticipating the joy of a New Year. I will also be considering a different way of setting myself goals that really capture things I want to change or keep on track of, for my own well-being and the contentment of those I love.

November – Rejoicing through tears

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It’s safe to say that November wasn’t what I’d anticipated. It was sad. Losing a grandparent is such a huge loss, of wisdom, of laughter, of childhood. My Oma was the best grandma I could ever have asked for and her funeral was the greatest celebration of faith and love that anyone could hope for when their earthly breath leaves them. We know she is in the presence of the Lord she served her whole life and this in turn means we can rejoice, even through our tears.

The rest of November blurs in comparison. Our family changed this month. We will miss her.

Winter wanderings

Winter WanderingsWinter is a strange season as it bridges the gap between the year’s polar opposites. While spring, summer and autumn all have a unique flavour that is usually predictable from beginning to end, winter embraces many emotions and characters. It is the only season where the mood and mindset change dramatically in the middle. At the beginning, the warmth, hope and joy of Christmas are all-consuming and they wrap up the year, offering time to reflect on the highs and lows of the past 12 months. But the season’s end welcomes in a New Year which, although cold and often marked by post-Christmas blues, is also ripe with possibility. For me, January often ends up as a strange month without any discernable purpose, so if you’re like me, here are some ways to stay in the moment through the whole of this coming winter.

  • Food & Drink: Toffee nut latte with chocolate hazelnut loaf
  • Bake: Snickerdoodles & Pflaumenkuchen
  • Places to visit: Germany
  • Play in the snow (if we get any!)
  • Do some Christmas crafts – most of mine involve Cinnamon sticks!
  • Watch lots of movies: The Holiday, Miracle on 34th Street, Muppet’s Christmas Carol, It’s a Wonderful Life, Love Actually
  • Experience a Christmas market – Köln Weihnachtsmarkt is just perfect
  • Buy a calendar for the New Year
  • Start on some New Year goals – make plans for the year, book tickets to shows and search out new restaurants
  • Go to a museum – it’s low season in January so much quieter and you can take your time
  • Go to coffee shops and watch the world go by
  • Have a long hot bath with candles and a good book
  • Prepare for spring – get ahead of the game with a pre-spring clearout
  • Make the most of the slower pace of life by sipping wine (or, my preference, G&T) late into the night with friends, dreaming about what the year ahead might bring

Winter may be the odd season out, but it can still bring joy if you live it in the moment!

October reflections / November hopes

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As predicted, October wasn’t forthcoming with time off. But it was productive enough that, once work calms down, the next couple of months may be less frantic. I recognise that I constantly write about being busy and hoping for a little time to pause and recover but my life seems to run in peaks and troughs of busy. I do love the energy and cyclical nature of this type of life. Just like I love the familiarity and capricious character of the seasons. Let’s see if October afforded the meeting of some goals in there somewhere too…

>Reflections<

Go for Autumn walks in new places. We spent some time at our favourite national trust site this month and the wedding was at a beautiful autumnal estate but I didn’t get as many walks as I wanted. There was just so much planned! We’ve learned our lesson and blocked out lots of weekends next October already!

Get the flat painted (except maybe the bedrooms) and clean again! We even managed the bedrooms! It feels so good to have a home that is ‘us’. We hadn’t even realised how much we’d settled for a half way house between owning our own place but accepting wall colours, picture hook positions, kitchen styles and even furniture to some extent as though we were renting. It’s finally ours!

Be in the moment for birthdays. This we did and I was thankful for it. Family and friends are good for the soul.

>Hopes<

Get on top of work.  I’ll have two plane journeys and some evenings to plan. I want to stop feeling like I only have time to react and start stealing back some time to be pro-active. I really want this to be under control by Christmas. The peak will be over so I want to push forward to gain back some work/life balance. To do that, I need to plan.

Finish my book. It’s fairly easy going and should let my brain switch off a bit. It will also hopefully help me feel like I have a little more time to myself.

Bake. Simple goal. Just one thing. I love cake. If I can push through the work demands I should have time for this simple pleasure!

Christmas will soon be here and I want to prepare wisely so that we can enjoy every moment. That means starting now to get rid of the demands and the headaches and free up some space for life.