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Did God Speak to Moses through a burning bush…and did He speak to me through this watch?

Do you think God has anything to say to us in this day and age? Or is it all nonsense?

Well, let me tell you a little story about a watch.

Disclaimer – this blog post *definitely discusses Christian matters.*

It’s quite a journey, but worth it, I think! Also I’ve been itching to tell you this amazing story about what I believe is God’s goodness, especially Christ Church family, who have been faithfully praying for us for many years.

It all begins about five years ago, when my husband Mike was thinking about whether he should train to become a priest. We made a new friend at the time, who didn’t know anything about us. He said he’d had a vision (which was very unusual for him) of Mike teaching a group of men in a bible study in Portsmouth.

 

This was enough, alongside some other confirmations for Mike to decide to train. He enrolled at St. Mellitus for three years study. About this time last year, we were still waiting for a curacy position to be confirmed (his first job after being ordained.) Lots of his peers had found out where they were going and we had no idea and were pretty concerned about this.

Mike was doing a placement at Harbour Church in Portsmouth, as a way of exploring this calling to Portsmouth. We were still unsure what the future held. I asked for prayer and a young member of Christ Church had, what he believed was a picture from God of an anchor and wave…a bit like this…

This made me chuckle knowingly, as the Harbour Church is very similar to this. I thought this was a sign that we were meant to go there. But, it didn’t work out. And there were other opportunities in Portsmouth that didn’t happen, either. So we felt dejected again. At about the same time, I found this watch below in Mind Charity Shop where I volunteer…

 

Looks a bit familiar? So I bought it, to see if God would speak to me through it perhaps. I wore it, and over the next few days I found that it would stop and run slow and I’d wind it up and it would work again. Eventually it stopped all together. Mmm, I thought, that’s odd. I wonder what God could be saying. So I drew something in my journal, just taking a line for a walk (like Pollock used to say) with God. I drew this…

Showing the watch with the hands falling off and also the battery falling out of the back. I felt God was saying there was no rush, no deadline, we weren’t going to miss something. I also drew this, and I felt it was about us being anchored while we wait, for the wind to blow again. One friend said the sea looked a bit like England and the anchor was pointing to Portsmouth…

Anyhoo. A few weeks passed and in that time Mike was sent a job advert for a curacy in a church called St. John’s, in the parish of…Portsmouth. He didn’t take it very seriously, until his tutor and his wife mentioned the vicar there was their close friend. So Mike decided to go for an interview.

At the same time, I’d asked Mike to wear the non-working watch, to see if God would speak to him and encourage him, as he was feeling pretty downcast by this point. He said no at first, thinking it was silly then said he would. The day before the interview, he came rushing home and told me that he’d been wearing the watch and it was itchy, so he put it in his pocket. Then, it fell out of his pocket, fell to the ground, the battery was jolted and guess what? The watch started again!

We laughed joyfully to ourselves, suspecting God was saying the interview the next day was the one. On the day I was praying for Mike in the car, and I got the word ‘laurel’ in my head. I shared it with him and suggested he meditated on it, to see if it became relevent.

As Bruce Collins would say…we are coming in to land.

So a couple of weeks later, we were in St. John’s undercover, checking it out. I was wandering around, looking for something to do with laurel, and guess what I found…

With an anchor too! That’s pretty amazing, right? But I’m not *quite* finished. A few weeks later, we were at St. John’s again, having lunch with Gavin and Hazel, the leaders. Gavin said we should go for it, that Mike would take the curacy. At that point, I shared this story to this point with him, to encourage him and the members of St. Johns.

But then! He said…

“Katie, you do know that the road you’re living on is called…”

 

And then when we went to visit our house, what is growing in the front garden? A laurel tree.

 

So, make of that what you will.

I have an invitation for you.

I am renewing my Baptism vows on the 9th June, 21 years after I became a Christian (athiest came to Christ Church thinking it was a date…another long story.)

This entails me confirming my Baptism vows, sharing my faith story and being submerged in water (cunning pool under the church stage). It’s quite a spectacle, at the very least. And I’d really like a chance to share my faith with you, especially those reading who aren’t Christians. I promise I will try my hardest on my part to remove the jargon and make it a positive, welcoming experience.

Mike will be preaching too. It’s our chance to say a heartfelt goodbye and thanks to all our family at Christ Church and Harrow and also to share my story with you. You might have known me a while, (even our whole lives!) but I’m really hoping you might encounter Jesus (eek, I said that word!) in a new way.

So, please click the graphic below for all the details and I really hope you will join me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How to Keep Habits | The Parenting Diaries

I’ve been wondering recently, can I think of a new way to help me to keep my habits? I’ve decided to start by making it public, putting it out there and allowing you, readers, to ask me how I’m doing!

I realised that habits were helpful things and also a bit of a lifeline when I was ill with depression (I have a hormone condition which gives me episodes). When my brain was dead and fuzzy and I struggled to look human, wear earrings, work, talk or eat, I was still able to a) have a shower and b) go to my church.

This was because they were ingrained habits, that ran themselves. For instance, I’ve been going to Church every Sunday, for twenty years, so even when I felt like crap, I found myself trundling up the hill, which ultimately helped me with my mood and lifted the fog for a short while.

So I looked further into habits. I am a great fan of Gretchen Rubin, and she’s written a book on habit keeping and understanding your personality type and how best to keep habits going.

Better than Before – Gretchen Rubin

If you can lock in a habit for 21 days then you won’t need any self-control or discipline to keep it going. I wanted a range of daily, weekly, monthly and annual habits, that would help me work with my hormone condition and remain well. To have things I do, without work, that are good for my well-being and run themselves.

Steve Jobs and Barack Obama had a habit of wearing the same thing everyday as it was one less decision to make, and gave him headspace for more important things.

I’ve worked hard to identify the motivation behind my resolution to keep habits. This is covered in my post about my ‘Who I’m becoming’ life aims, which you can read here, if you’re interested to learn more.

My habit type, identified in Gretchen Rubin’s book is that I need external accountability to keep a habit. So I’m putting on here what my habits are, what ones I want to adopt and which ones I find impossible to keep (which are in pink)

Disclaimer – mum/women-type issues discussed below!

Daily Habits:

  • Glass of water when I wake up
  • No mobile for one hour
  • Make breakfast for Mike and Isaac (husband and son)
  • Half an hour of prayer and worship
  • Ok here goes the honesty…pelvic floor exercises on app (the one I find impossible to keep, even though they take, like, one minute!)
  • Habit I’d like to add to my day and struggle to do – short physical exercises for me and Isaac for PC muscles
  • Get up and dressed
  • Brush teeth (wish I could get discipline for brushing Isaac’s at this moment…)
  • Tidy kitchen, water plants, tidy lounge
  • Check my inboxes
  • Lunch with Isaac
  • Do some work/ have some me-time (might involve watching Hollyoaks) while Isaac naps
  • Go for a walk and see a human being in the afternoon
  • Dinner with Mike and Isaac
  • Clear up dinner (if it’s my week not cooking) straight after dinner. (Sometimes do this, sometimes not, always regret it the next morning when I haven’t done it…)
  • Clear up toys with Isaac (with the most wonderful ‘Tidy Up’ song (sometimes we manage this and sometimes we don’t…)
  • Put Isaac to bed and brush his teeth
  • Collapse. No not really. Well, a little bit.
  • Do something friend/ date night/ TV (doh) based. (Although I wish I could spend this time doing more enriching things like editing my photos, baking, painting my nails – how, how to do this when you’re knackered by this point? And when I do manage it, I feel so much better for it.)
  • Do mindfulness and Examen in living room (so as not to fall asleep so easily…)
  • No phone in the bedroom. I have an alarm clock. 5 – 10 minutes reading
  • I wish I could nail the habit to brush my teeth at this point – I confess I don’t always manage this…
  • Glass of water

Weekly Habits

  • Plan my week on Sunday night (sometimes manage this, always better when I do!)
  • Phone my mum
  • Phone my closest friends
  • Do housework and a wash (who am I kidding, this is most days…)
  • Water the plants
  • Change Isaac’s sheets
  • Do work on a Friday
  • Volunteer for Mind Charity Shop
  • I wish I could go to a weekly core group to share my faith with other Christians. Hopefully sometime soon.
  • Have date night with my hubby
  • Go through my budget
  • Go through my photos on my phone
  • Do Lifemin. Hit and miss.
  • Go to Church
  • Have some time for me.

Monthly Habits

  • See my Spiritual Director
  • See my best friend
  • Have a family day with Mike and Isaac

Quarterly Habits

  • Have a work retreat day. I sometimes manage this and sometimes don’t. My business and cash flow always benefits when I do!
  • Have my hormone injection
  • Have a mini-break with Mike and Isaac
  • Go to a Theme Park to scream my head off
  • Enjoy being outside in the Seasons – i.e. bluebells, the seaside, fireworks and winter illuminations
  • Go to a gig?
  • Take part or host an art exhibition to show and sell my art
  • Go to my hormone clinic
  • Go to training events to grow my knowledge

Yearly Habits

  • Go on a hot holiday just before the busy Christmas season
  • Celebrate mine, Mike and Isaac’s birthday
  • Go and see my Dad and my step mum in France
  • Go to Spring Harvest
  • Go to the Mind and Soul Conference
  • Have my ‘Thanks’ party in grey January

Here’s the point of this blog post…

The reason I’m writing this blog post in the first place is that try as I might, I can’t ingrain the habit of doing my daily pelvic floor exercises. I don’t know why, because they only take a short while.

My motivations for wanting to nail this habit are:

  • Jumping on bouncy castles
  • Jumping on trampolines
  • Going nuts in a ball pool
  • Dancing like no-one is watching
  • Not having a ‘problem’ when I get scared or surprised or fall down a step (or trip up, let’s be honest)
  • Not having a ‘big problem’ when I have a stinking cold and am coughing all the time

Here is me doing some of my favourite things that are a lot less carefree and more difficult these days…

Bouncy Castle Habit Motivation!
Bouncy Castle Habit Motivation!
Ball Pool Habit Motivation!

So, I’ve put it out there. Said what every mum and or woman is thinking, probably. I’d love encouragement, ideas, stories etc on how I can really nail this one elusive habit!

I hope you might find something useful in this post, too.

 

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My Framework for Growth – ‘Who I’m Becoming’.

I’ve been reading a book by Bill Hybels, called, ‘Simplify’. One chapter is about your schedule (or diary). There is a quote which I have really taken to heart:

'Who I'm Becoming' Quote from Bill Hybels.
‘Who I’m Becoming’ Quote from Bill Hybels.

This means that we put in our diary not what is coming at us, but the appointments, meetings and events that will help us become who we want to be in the future.

With that in mind, I have created twelve ‘Becoming Tiles’, which are in order of importance, to help guide me in my decisions and what I allow in my diary:

 

1) Be Happy and Healthy.

This means, put my physical and mental health before anything else. If I go down with mental or physical illness, then the whole family goes down, my work and ministry is affected and I can’t care for anyone.

These things need to go in my diary:

  • Doing mindfulness every day
  • Taking time out for myself
  • Having boundaries with friends, family and work
  • Making time for God and Church
  • Making time to be with friends and family
  • Doing exercise
  • Eating well
  • Having days off and holidays
  • Dealing with issues promptly and directly.

 

2) Always put Mike and Isaac first.

This means putting my husband, Mike and my son, Isaac, above all the other items on my list and in my diary.

These things will go in my diary:

  • Spending family time together
  • Supporting Mike in his ministry
  • Taking Isaac places and showing him things that will help him grow
  • Championing my family
  • Spending enough time at home
  • Date Night.

 

3) Prioritising Mine and Isaac’s Character.

This means considering my character in my decisions, and also helping Isaac to grow in character. When he’s an adult I want him to be a catch, a good employee, friend and a polite chap.

Things like these will go in the diary:

  • Regular time with wise friends and family
  • Imput into my discipleship, such as Spring Harvest, training days and workshops
  • Attending the ‘Mind and Soul’ conference
  • Reading books and attending talks on parenting
  • Seeing my Spiritual Director

 

4) Being Fully Me.

I don’t want to be anyone else. I don’t want to water myself down for anyone. I want to be fully me.

This means putting things in my diary like:

  • Being inspired by art, design and style
  • Taking photos
  • Being silly and joyful
  • Going to Theme Parks
  • Seeing plays
  • Going to gigs
  • Enjoying the seasons outside
  • Going to water parks
  • Singing Karaoke
  • Trying new things
  • Spending time on my hobbies, like gardening, calligraphy and nail art.

 

5) Be a Leader and Mentor.

I might be a vicar one day…it might happen. I’ve lead what was really a church in Harrow, Get Together, with forty guests a week and enough laughs and problems to start a sitcom…I have several adult Godchildren, who asked me to be that guide in their life. I am a mentor in my work and also in my Church. I run my own business!

To keep going in this direction, these things need to go in my diary:

  • Attending events at the City Hall to consult around diversity in the workplace
  • Being a mentor professionally
  • Offering my services as a voluntary Mentor
  • Having connections with young people
  • Helping out Mental Health charities
  • Going to Theology talks and Leadership events.

 

6) A Loyal Friend and Relative.

I want to put my friends and family before my work. I want to invest in particular in those that I support, and also support me. I want to be there for important milestones and celebrations. I want to rejoice and commiserate with those I love.

I want these sorts of things to go in my diary:

  • Regular time with my most closest friends
  • Regular quality time with my parents and in-laws
  • Celebrations
  • Time to meet new friends
  • Planning time for special events and celebrations.

 

7) A Kind Advocate and Activist.

I am passionate about standing up for justice and I’m not afraid to speak up. However, I am also a communicator and educator, so it’s important I do this kindly, in particular with those who need education around certain issues. I want to have increasing impact and really make a difference where I am.

These sorts of things will go in my diary:

  • Putting on Kickass Women events (my women’s networking group)
  • Investing in equipping women with the Kickass Women Facebook group
  • Attending events around equality, diversity and women’s issues, such as Leap, Stylist, Red events and Mind events
  • Speaking with my coach to learn how to communicate more effectively and hone my skills.

 

8) Always Curious.

I love learning and I want to keep putting aside time to learn new skills for my business and clients and also just widening my mind and inspiring me.

I want to put in my diary things like:

  • Going to workshops to learn new things
  • Going to art exhibitions
  • Attending Red, Stylist, Figaro Digital and Council events to keep my learning up-to-date.
  • Reading relevant books and articles
  • Going on retreat each season to think how to develop Joy Factory.

 

9) A Lifelong Adventurer

I love going to new places and having adventures. Going on holiday is very important to me, for my soul, my art and deepening relationships with my family and friends.

I want to make time for:

  • A hot holiday in the winter months to raise my family’s spirits
  • Half-term breaks to refresh us
  • A yearly weekend break with my husband
  • A week in France with my Dad and Bean
  • Weekends with my mum
  • Trips with ECC (my rollercoaster club)
  • Crossing places off my travel list, like New York, Helsinki and Sicily.

 

10) Doing Meaningful Work.

It is important to me to do my work with Joy Factory. I want to be a witness to Isaac, my son, to show a woman can carry on the work she loves and is good at, rather than waiting till nursery. I enjoy my work and it’s good for my wellbeing. And I work to be able to pay for holidays for my family to support my husbands’ small income.

That said, any work I do I have to want to do, as I’m away from my son. And also, work I enjoy with people I like is usually more profitable anyway. I go away each season to review the work I’m doing, partnerships and where I’m going.

I want to keep putting in my diary:

  • Seasonal Retreats
  • Priority time with key partners
  • Time in the Harrow Work Hub
  • Meeting with new clients and customers
  • Time to review feedback from clients.

 

11) An Active Artist.

I want to find more time in my diary to make new art. I’ve realised that when I do any art, it’s on my phone, doing digital paintings. I’m usually rushing as I’m with my family! I miss time spent playing with new media and experimenting. I also want to do new exhibitions, so I can sell my work to encourage me to make new work.

I’d like these sorts of things to go in my diary:

  • Sketching days
  • Studio days
  • Putting on or taking part in exhibitions
  • Thinking about other revenue streams, like Etsy and creating prints, etc.

 

12) Hospitable

I love opening my home to people and I love parties. People who come to our gatherings always meet new people., laugh, eat, sing, share and feel at home.

I want to keep these sorts of things in my diary:

  • Celebrating birthdays
  • Having a ‘Thanks’ party in dreary, grey January
  • Marking Advent with Christmas prep then celebrating all twelve days of Christmas
  • Having dinner parties and playdates
  • Playing board games
  • Having movie nights
  • Having a big do at my mum’s once a year, to give people a mini holiday and a chance to dress up!

So there we have it. My ‘Becoming’ tiles and my hopes and dreams for them. I hope this might have inspired folks reading to maybe do their own. Feel free to ask me how I’m doing!

I plan on posting on Social Media about my ‘Becoming’ list as a focus for what I use Facebook, Instagram for etc and also to create a conversation. I also have Pinterest boards I’m working on, which you’re welcome to look at – just search for ‘joyfactoryuk’ on Pinterest.

 

Parenting Diaries: the Quest for ‘Deep Work’…

I just don’t *do* busy.

So, I am a mother of Isaac, a delightful seven-month old noisy mini-me with lots of energy, I have my own business, Joy Factory, doing marketing consultation, design and selling my art, I do mental health advocacy, I’m a business mentor, I volunteer at my church…people often ask me how do I manage to do it all. I’m not sure, but I think it might be because I’m not ‘busy‘, but ‘focused’.

Gratuitous cute picture of my son, Isaac (and my lovely hub, Mike)
Gratuitous cute picture of my son, Isaac (and my lovely hub, Mike)

I don’t do that word. I’m not being pedantic – I just believe the power our own words can have over your life. So, to me…’busy‘ is not a good state. It could mean a badge of honour, a way to feel important or successful but in my eyes it means I’d be stressed, over-worked, people pleasing and had a bout of not saying no.

What is ‘deep work‘?

So what is ‘deep work‘, then? Instead of ‘busy‘, I use the words ‘purposeful‘, or ‘focused‘ but the other day I read an article that just summed up what I’m aiming for. ‘Deep work‘ is that time where you get your head down and manage to work on projects, activities etc that align and work towards your values and mission. Not getting caught in the trap of nervously watching emails come in or social media notifications (that make your heart flutter), or going off on tangents or answering the door or phone.

Just say
Just say “no” – get more done!

Just say “no”

So how do you manage to get some deep work done? By saying “no”. All the things we say “yes” to, we are saying “no” to something we were going to do.

And we can also say “no” to ourselves. As a creative and organised person, I can easily be drawn off on tangents and do a whole host of things where I was just trying to do one, as my mind makes galloping leaps. (e.g. some thoughts from this morning… “Right, I’m just going to take these cups to the kitchen so I can finish this blog post. Oh yes, I must hoover the hall. Ah yes, those seeds on the kitchen counter there, must plant those. Ooh, only got two eggs, need some more to cook that cake…right let’s go to Waitrose…”)

If I think about my aims for that day, hour, week or even year, it focuses my thoughts and actions. It’s so easy though, to get whirled along by life, people, marketing etc etc and not manage to carve out the time to consider what actually matters. It’s so easy to just shelve that time you put aside to evaluate a work project, back up the laptop (hello, that’s me) or just have a day retreat.

But, as it says in ‘Seven Habits of Effective People‘, the most important tasks to complete are those that are ‘Important, and not urgent‘. Not…”oh the photocopier is broken, the delivery’s not come, we need more post-its” etc…those fire-fighting ones that take up the whole day somehow.

'Deep Work' - free from distraction.
‘Deep Work’ – free from distraction.

Stocking a ‘Deep work’ toolkit

So, how do I do this already? How could I do this better? Here are some thoughts and ideas:

Get things done with Evernote - free up at least an hour a day.
Get things done with Evernote – free up at least an hour a day.

Getting Things Done

My life is so much easier (and less stressful) now I use Evernote, with a ‘Getting Things Done‘ mentality. If this is new to you, then I promise implementing this system will open up at least an hour a day, and you’ll be less stressed and have more amazing ideas.

Mindfulness

It’s so important for me to take a moment or an extended amount of time out during the day, at the end of the day and periodically throughout the year to take stock, be grateful, critically review, play and make big plans. Otherwise stuff just happens to me I didn’t plan or want. I try to do just one thing at a time, and be fully present.

The power of habits, according to Gretchen Rubin.
The power of habits, according to Gretchen Rubin.

Build habits

Habit-building is something I’m doing more intentionally these days. I read the fab book, ‘Better than Before‘, by Gretchen Rubin. If you spend just twenty-one days working hard on a new habit, it will then run itself and you need no will power or self-control. I now have a strict routine each day, which includes a walk, mindfulness and even doing my Pelvic Floor exercises.

My hope is that if I got mentally ill again (heaven forbid) that these habits would continue. I realised that on even the very worst day of my life when I was depressed and anxious I still cleaned the shower screen because it’s an ingrained habit.

I hate to say it, but work ‘SMART’

I’m sure we all know this one; are our projects specific, measured, achievable, realistic and time-based? I have now made myself a checklist for my habits and also set myself some targets for the things I want to achieve, both personally, as a mother and in work.

I discovered through ‘Better than Before‘ that our success in keeping habits is determined by our personality type. I’m an ‘obliger‘, which means I can do things very easily for others, but not so much for myself. If I am accountable to someone, i.e. I say “please ask me about my pelvic floor practice, or have I been on the exercise bike, or have I had enough ‘me-time'”, I am far more likely to do these things.

Know yourself enough to say “no”

One amazing blessing that’s come from being depressed and anxious several times over the last few years has been the sharpening effect. When you’ve been through some of the worst days of your life and you come out of them, I’ve found that nothing really scares me anymore. I don’t have time to waste on toxic people, work I don’t want to do or things I don’t want to do. Life is short!

I think saying “no”, is hard because of the fear of upsetting someone or letting someone down and therefore how we will be seen by them. When you know yourself, and what you really want to do in life and what you care about, you can say “no”, politely though, with confidence. If the person is offended then a) that is their choice, their decision and their prerogative, and b) maybe I don’t need that person in my life.

Don’t chase people

So let’s say you make an invitation or offer (e.g. someone asks for a business card, you arrange to meet up with someone you don’t know very well, or you’re meeting up with someone who you are patching things up with). Then *don’t* chase it. Have some respect for yourself. Take a leaf out of ‘The Rules’. If your invitation or offer matters to the other person, they will get back to you. Then you don’t waste your time.

And lastly some random things (in no particular order of importance) I find helpful:

  • Post-its, my beloved label maker and my in-tray
  • Days off doing something I really enjoy, like Stealth!
  • Letting God into the problem
  • The Konmarie method: only keep in your life things that spark ‘joy’.
  • Google products
  • Just keeping on doing it, no matter who shows up or cares, if you believe in it then it’s worth doing
  • The Wisdom of Crowds and online forums
  • Just start, then ask for feedback, then do again (Agile project planning)

My last thought comes from my Bible study today. Time is the great leveler, we all have the same amount, we just spend it differently. I want to spend mine on the things that matter. Here’s the original article on ‘deep work’. Would love people’s thoughts and tips, please do comment.

Pregnancy and Parenting Diaries…puke, panic, perseverance and prayer.

Here is my story of my pregancy and first six months of parenting. It’s been a rollercoaster. I share this as a record for myself, to be honest about mental health illness and to shine the light on some awesome services.

So, I’ve been meaning to write this post for a very long time. Perhaps it will be like cheese or wine, it will have matured and improved with age?

Where to begin. Perhaps just under a year ago, in April 2016. I was entering my second trimester of a much prayed for and wanted pregnancy after four years of depressive and anxious episodes (due to a hormone imbalance condition) and I had weathered a dear friend disowning me, a stalker, difficult neighbours and lastly someone smashing into our car on our drive.

Oh and I might mention, Mike, my husband, being made redundant and searching and finding a new job, and moving church after 15 years…and being sick every single day. (puke)

So yeah, April 2016. Sadly I became low and anxious again. I was then ill on and off until two weeks before my son, Isaac was born, in August. I have to say, the mix of having come off all my hormone treatment and crazy pregnancy hormones, I experienced possibly the worst episode I have ever had and some of the very worst, most scary days of my life. However, over the years I have built up resilience and was able to cope to a certain level – still saw friends, still went to church, got up and dressed every day and made all my appointments. (panic)

Panic monster is coming to get you
Panic monster is coming to get you

Some things that happened in that third trimester and after the birth that weren’t particularly helpful or good:

I was referred to the mental health team and was diagnosed but could not access any therapy (which I desperately needed). I was stuck going around and around some MC Escher endless staircase where I was lead from psychiatrists to mental health services to doctors and back again.

Going round and round the mental health system...
Going round and round the mental health system…

I had appalling administration for my prenatal care (although the midwives themselves were awesome) like not being shown through my yellow folder, not followed through with the Jade team (mental health), sent to wrong hospitals, sent wrong dates, kept waiting for hours…I have forgotten a lot of it as it was so awful (although I suspect Mike remembers only too well.)

I got wrongly diagnosed with gestational diabetes (because I was highly anxious during the test) and had to prick my fingers and monitor my levels every day…not a great combo with obsessive anxiety and panic attacks. And Mike lost hundreds of pounds of consultancy pay having to come to loads of unnecessary appointments.

After being well for two weeks before Isaac’s birth (with the most bonkers nesting thing) and a brilliant hypnobirthing birth (genuinely no pain), sadly I got Postpartum Psychosis and ended up in a mother and baby unit called Coombewood for three months, on and off.

But it wasn’t all bad.

Me and Mike are out the other side of a very difficult, challenging time having grown stronger as individuals and as a couple. We are forming a Christian ministry around mental health that would never have materialised if it wasn’t for our experiences.

I have built resilience through some very testing times. I grew reliant on watching my negative talk, daily prayer, mindful activities like jigsaws, walks, seeing friends, making things and doing things I enjoy. And actually, the most mindful thing in the world is Isaac. Even at my worst, when I was at Coombewood, the love for him shone through the black fog of mental illness and I was able to care for him, even though every action was like wading through tar. (perseverance)

Gotta hang on...
Gotta hang on…

We had the most awesome, overwhelming, love-conquering support from family and friends. I am certain there were tens of dozens of folk praying and thinking of us every day. We were given home-cooked meals after Isaac was born. Friends came over with food, took Mike out to support him, phoned, texted, visited, sent thoughtful gifts. Great queues of people came to visit me at Coombewood.

I had some amazing times of prayer and grew in my faith, having to rely on God like never before. Even Isaac’s name is a blessing and promise. ‘Isaac Caleb’ means laughter warrior, and if you’ve met Isaac, I think you would agree he’s a little bit of a joyful and happy chappie! (prayer)

My laughter warrior, Isaac
My laughter warrior, Isaac

I am loving being a mum to Isaac. He is a total delight. He sleeps so well and is such a happy, smiley, chatty little boy. I have made some wonderful new friends, learnt to be even more mindful through adapting to Isaac’s time, not squeezing him into mine. I love reading to him, staring at him, chatting to him, showing him off and going on adventures together.

And lastly, but not least – the amazing Coombewood Mother and Baby unit. Mike and I simply don’t know what we would have done without the blessing of this place and the amazing staff there. Mike would have had to defer our course to care for me and Isaac. The nurses there taught us how to look after our little boy, while they looked after me. It always felt a safe and homely place to be, full of encouragement and hope.

The wonderful staff at Coombewood Mother and Baby Unit
The wonderful staff at Coombewood Mother and Baby Unit

I am aiming to crowdfund £500 (an amazing £220 raised so far) to help Coombewood to fit out their breastfeeding room. Well, it was the milk room and is now the place where mums breastfeed, but it has odd chairs, bleak walls and isn’t exactly made for relaxing breastfeeding at the moment. I want to give them money to kit out the room.

So…if you’ve been moved, or can identify with this story, or are grateful for the care Coombewood gave Isaac and me, then please do donate anything you can to help hit the target. After all, mental health illness affects one in four people (one in three women) so it’s likely you or someone you know has, is or will be affected.

If you want to, then go here. Thank you.

 

 

 

A Christian walked into ‘The Book of Mormon’. Was challenged, not offended…

Oh yay, the missionaries have landed in the Book of Mormon.
A Christian walked into the ‘Book of Mormon.’ Was challenged, not offended.

What did I, a Christian of 15 years, think about ‘The Book of Mormon‘? Should I have been there in the first place? Am I going to burn in hell? *wink*

Not offended, but challenged.

A few years ago a colleague at the marketing organisation I worked at *helpfully* warned me to never go and see ‘The Book of Mormon‘. He thought I would be way too offended as a “religious person”. For one, I hate the term “religious” (mmm, maybe for another post?) And two, I don’t like people presuming things about me based on an assumption. I swore one day I would go and see it and decide for myself.

Yesterday, thanks to some theatre ticket funds from my lovely ma-in-law, I got to go.

I’ve seen and love ‘Team America‘ so I was ready to laugh a lot (a friend even said go to the loo first!)…but I was not expecting to be choked to tears.

Disclaimer…A few show spoilers follow and some working musings in how I can be a better real-er Christian, read on or not…your choice.

Too good to be true?

In the show, Mormon Elders Kevin and Arnold get sent on mission to Uganda. They have been set targets to baptise souls but they find a community disillusioned with God because of Aids and poverty; they even sing them a *lovely* song about it. Their village is terrorised by a war lord who is threatening to circumcise the women. They don’t see what God can do for them.

Kevin and Arnold greenly tell the villagers the story of their Mormon faith and the promised land of Saltlake City (in the form of song…of course.)

As they finish, the War Lord turns up and shoots someone dead as a warning. I jumped out of my seat. I was not expecting that. Next, the scene that got me. A lady from the village sits alone and sings about Saltlake City, a place she hopes the villagers could go to to escape their living hell.  She swears to listen to the Mormons to find out how she could go to this place.

Unexpected tears.

Why? Well, she’d bought into a promise that the Mormons themselves weren’t even sure about. She heard a promise of a real place where they could escape. What hit me between the eyes is what good is sharing my faith unless it is backed up by action? These young Mormons are not paying for a plane ticket for the whole community to America, are they?

What good is my story of my belief in Jesus unless it makes a difference? I am here, as a Christian, to be God’s hands and feet, to do what Jesus did – champion underdogs, fight for justice, heal people in His name, overturn the corruption of the rich and heartless and be servant-hearted. Not, be like Kevin, proudly singing of “doing something incredible”,  marking up baptisms on a chart and receiving medals!

Bad Sales

The villagers go on to be baptised, believing this is their ticket out of Uganda and to a better life. They’ve been sold a pack of lies, made up by Elder Arnold. The Mormons sing triumphantly that the villagers may be African, but they are Africa. Just like a creepy sales person who gets overly hyped up over a sale and then their aftercare is atrocious.

Can bad and pushy evangelism be like bad sales?
Can bad and pushy evangelism be like bad sales?

Then when everything unravels and the truth comes out, the villagers realise there is no ticket to Saltlake City. The senior Mormons order all the missionaries to leave and declare the mission a failure, despite the requests of Kevin and Arnold to stay and help the villagers rebuild their lives. What the hell does that say to the villagers about God? How often can Christians treat people they meet as projects until it gets real and real work and sacrifice is required? I’m not going to try to answer the huge “Why does God allow suffering” question as I don’t want to give some trite answer here but I will say Christians are meant to be here to put right what is wrong in the world and certainly in this story context to help those in dire need caused by war or climate change.

The challenge…why should anyone believe me?

The show ends drawing the conclusion that religion is insincere, full of convenient lies, hypocritical and irrelevant. In my work, I tell my clients to try and think of their target market’s objections and barriers. Here are some right here to faith. How do I live out my faith and show God’s love without people dismissing me the same way? It has to be about what I do. It doesn’t matter what people say but their actions.

Live out faith with acts, not words.
Live out faith with acts, not words.

In the Bible, James, Jesus’ brother, says and I paraphrase, “When people ask you why you’re joyful, tell them why”. To put it another way, in the context of this story,  “When you come to Uganda and build new schools, and people ask you why, tell them”. Not swan in like superstars, say some stuff, then leave.

I guess what I’m saying is that I can only share my faith with people I’ve lived alongside, heard their needs and tried to help. My business mission statement is, “Carry on being a game changer…changing people’s minds one person at a time.” People have their free choice and all I can do is *be* a witness, the best I can, where I am.

Well, that’s where I’ve got on this. Hope I haven’t offended anyone; these are purely my musings about what I can do. Please do comment below etc.

What happens when you become a business mentor? Good things.

Houses of Lords Reception with Mentoring Harrow friends.
Houses of Lords Reception with Mentoring Harrow friends.

Why did I, and maybe could you, think about becoming a business mentor? What good things could happen? Well, let me tell you about my story so far with Mentoring Harrow.

Last year I attended the launch of the Mentoring Harrow scheme, part of the London Business Partnership, which has been funded by the Mayor of London (thanks to the fundraising of ever clever, helpful and inventive Mark Billington from Harrow Council)

Shout out to Harrow Business Development genie, Mark Billington.
Shout out to Harrow Business Development genie, Mark Billington.

But before I even signed up that evening, the afore-mentioned Mark Billington, who I’d been chatting to a few moments earlier, signalled me to stand up during his presentation and said, “We have great people in the room, including this lady…'”*points at a startled me* “Who could mentor you on branding.” I was surrounded by people at the end of the talk, interested in my business, including the Gayton Hotel.

I signed up and attended a fantastic networking evening for Harrow mentors and mentees at the end of 2015, where I made more helpful connections and met my new client, Amina Sadiq, a fellow mentor and life coach. Also there was interest in me running some WordPress training for members.

I was also introduced to the ‘Start Here’ project through this network, which is a business incubation project with two pop-up shop spaces and a work space in Rayners Lane and Wealdstone, where I met another great connection, Natasha Hayles, who hopes to work with me in launching her services and website.

A few weeks ago I had a *milestone moment* of meeting my own mentee, Charlene Grandison, who designs and makes stunning quality leather handbags with an ethnic theme. She chose me (me!) as a mentor to help her come up with a Kickass marketing campaign to launch her handbag range. I really was moved to meet her and see her enthusiasm to work with me and it gave me a moment to reflect on how far I’ve come.

I’m really looking forward to inspiring and empowering this creative, sparky woman and getting her beautiful bags selling.

Here’s Charlene when she was working with the Princes Trust:

Charlene Grandison, my lovely mentee.
Charlene Grandison, my lovely mentee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here’s one of her bags from the upcoming collection:

Charlene's bags
Grandison Handbag.

And lastly…Mentoring Harrow were given a wonderful invitation to attend a West London business event at the Houses of Parliament a few weeks ago, which they kindly extended to the mentors. This was truly a wonderful evening where we were given a guide around the House of Commons and the House of Lords by an MP, heard an inspiring talk by Lord Bilimoria (who created Cobra beer) and I made some great new business connections, including a website company in Harrow, who I might be able to work for.

Here are some piccies from the eve.

Houses of Lords Reception with Mentoring Harrow friends.
Houses of Lords Reception with Mentoring Harrow friends.
Me having made it past security at the Houses of Parliament.
Me having made it past security at the Houses of Parliament.
Entering Westminster Hall.
Entering Westminster Hall.
Lord Bilimoria speaks at the reception.
Lord Bilimoria speaks at the reception.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So…believe it or not, I am not being paid by them, but I really encourage you to get in touch if you’re interested in being a mentor or a mentee. You can find out more here.

I look forward to many more unexpected and wonderful business adventures ahead being a mentor!

Two awesome friends’ perspective on ‘invisible illness’.

Gaaaah...invisible illness.
Gaaaah…invisible illness.

I was very moved by the blog posts of two dear friends recently. They both blogged on the subject of ‘invisible illnesses’.

The first comes from my friend Shoba Chacksfield, who I volunteer with at Mind Charity Shop in Harrow. She is amazing at opening up her walk (and battle) with Anorexia (her invisible illness) and bravely blogs extremely truthfully about her condition.

The lovely Shoba and me at the Mind Christmas Party. The lovely Shoba and me at the Mind Christmas Party.

In this post she writes about the constant inner-monologue of Anorexia. The voice in her head and her own voice – the positive and negative sides.

I found this so helpful in being a better friend to this brave young woman I admire when I so often forget she might be struggling as she seems to be so together and pro-active. But every time I might give her a harmless compliment or someone offers her food, she has the exhaustion of battling with the voices in her head.

Read her post here.

The second comes from my friend, Natalia Lester-Bush and she writes about the invisible illness of chronic pain. Natalia is very open about her daily walk with her excruciating back condition, but I so often forget, as she is so up-beat (and completely detests pity! 😉 )

The lovely Natalia. The lovely Natalia.

Here she writes about a day last week where she couldn’t complete her work study in Gender Studies because of an unpredictable day of such pain, just putting her socks on was too much. Yet she writes about how the reminder of pain on such days serves as a reminder of how much she has to be thankful for. I love the fact she gives witness of the Joy she has in Christ in spite of the pain she feels daily and she pokes fun at her illness in a way that frees you up to talk about it.

You can read about socks and chronic pain here.

As some readers of my blog will know, I have come out of three years of clinical depression and anxiety on and off (also invisible) caused by a hormone imbalance. If not, you can scroll back through my blog and read ‘The worst day of my life’ and others. I think I was pretty vocal about my struggles and difficulties, but this is quite possibly because naturally I am an extroavert. These two blogs remind me that friends may appear to be doing well on any given day, but like all of us, there is much going on below the surface. It serves me well to reflect on this before I see people and certainly within conversation (and silences).

Thank you Shoba and Natalia for being so honest and educating the networks in your lives of what it is like for you to live with an invisible illness.

Please do feel free to share your own thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

 

 

Lovely ‘Paintings from my Suitcase’ write up from Harrow Times

Many thanks to Vickiie Oliphant and Pete Beal from Harrow Times who came round to the ‘Joy Factory’ (well, mine and Mike’s home and where I work) to see me at work and ask me about my show, ‘Paintings from my Suitcase’, next week on the 21st and 22nd November.

I don’t know what I can say about a story about me, but if you’re interested have a look (and the eagle-eyed will see some finished pieces!) and please do come and see my work next weekend, where you can buy originals, prints, calendars and cards.

Here’s the link:

http://www.harrowtimes.co.uk/news/14027898._If_I_can_make_it_stick_to_the_art_I___ll_use_it____Artist_prepares_her_home_for_big_exhibition_on_her_travels/

And a lovely picture:

Katie preparing for 'Paintings from my Suitcase' Art Show. Credit: Peter Beal
Katie preparing for ‘Paintings from my Suitcase’ Art Show. Credit: Peter Beal

Watch the ‘Paintings from my Suitcase, Art by Katie Moritz’ Trailer

I’ve been working hard (and having fun!) on creating new artwork for my next exhibition, ‘Paintings from my Suitcase‘ later this month. My husband Mike, has made a little trailer of my preparations, inspiration for paintings and a few sneak peaks of finished works. Have a look:

Come and see the paintings yourself on the 21st and 22nd November, from 12 to 5pm, at 44a Dudley Court, Lower Road, Harrow, HA2 ODG. The warm holiday colours will remind you of summer and you can buy cards, calendars, limited prints as well as art work (could make a great Christmas gift for that special person)

I am wading through and creating with cardboard, paintbrushes, flotsam and jetsum and whatever I can stick on a flat surface to create some joyful artwork for you to see! If you’d like an invite to the private view, please leave me a comment.

Katie-Signature