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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

Reflections from Ffald y Brenin, 2015.

Something New
Something New

Much like a good wine or cheese I’ve been ‘letting my thoughts mature’ before posting about my wonderful retreat at Ffald y Brenin in Wales last week.

(N.B. Disclosure…there’s ‘God chat’ in this post as it’s kinda my diary/ milestone recording too, please feel free not to read if this would upset you 🙂 )

The main message I feel I received was about liberty and freedom. I expected the time away to be quite intense and tearful, but in fact it was anything but.

I found myself led by people I met (and was meant to meet), the landscape, passionate and inspiring chats with Mike over lamb shanks and picking up flotsam and jetsam on a sandy beach with whirls of changing, golden sand.

Footsteps in the Sand
Footsteps in the Sand

We’d spent a day at the prayer retreat in the chapel and heard a fantastic message on freedom and how some people can try to trap us with burdens but in fact we are not beholden to any human. I found myself studying Isaiah 43, which talks about leaving the past behind and looking towards the future. (Sounds rather a lot like mindfulness to me!)

Roy, the pastor, told a story of a gate at Ffald y Brenin, which was between the path from the house to the cross on the hill. It had fallen down and Roy felt that it meant the path is open. There’s no gate! No barrier.

The Gate is Open
The Gate is Open

So, after a great day, rather than staying, and feeling like I needed to pull a ‘holy face’ and stay there all day, I wanted to walk along the beach and talk to ‘him upstairs’ there. I really enjoyed padding over the sand and picking up rope and wood for some future art piece. I didn’t have to stay in the chapel and read fifty Psalms!

Here’s some pictures of the chapel at Ffald y Brenin and the beautiful countryside around it:

Snowy road to Ffald y Brenin
Snowy road to Ffald y Brenin
Ffald y Brenin Chapel
Ffald y Brenin Chapel
Stunning Newport Estuarty
Stunning Newport Estuary
Walking along Newport Beach
Walking along Newport Beach

The next day, I wasn’t sure what to expect, going to Ffald y Brenin with no agenda. I needn’t have worried. After starting the day with a delicious fry up in our B&B I settled down in the common room and started a jigsaw.

Breakfast
Breakfast
Jigsaw and a View
Jigsaw and a View

I met just the people I was meant to meet. A lady who was going through similar things to me around wanting kids (and she worked in media!) and a lovely, lovely lady called Rebecca, who we shared our lunch with and we chatted about mindfulness (after folk gave us their lunch yesterday.)

Mike met someone he was meant to meet, too.

After lunch, I wondered if I *should* go for a walk. I thought it through and decided I *did* want to go. As I wandered up to the fields I passed this pond, which I noticed was half-frozen.

Half Frozen Pond
Half Frozen Pond

I walked on past a wooden fort, that looked like a prison to me. (Sorry, no photo). Then up the hill, through the mud, into a stunning, open field, that looked out over the valley and to the cross on the hill. I felt like this was a metaphor: the half-thawed pond was like me, a work in progress, but having been freed from things here. The fort represented the things and people that had trapped me. The field represented a ‘huge, open space’, which I was now free to run around, explore and enjoy.

An Open Space
An Open Space

I left feeling, well, kind of like, ‘I’m not quite sure what’s happened, but *something* has!’, if that makes any sense? I feel empowered, free to keep on working with the causes I’m passionate about and fighting for justice, even if there’s a cost.

I brought home with me the daily prayer book, which has a morning, midday and evening prayer. I plan to carry this on, s-l-o-w-l-y, at home.

Ffald y Brenin Daily Prayer Book
Ffald y Brenin Daily Prayer Book

I want to come back here every year.