a full life

20140227-102859.jpg

Living life to the full. What does that mean? Doing a load of fun stuff? Making the most of life? For me it’s about getting to the end of your life and saying, “YES! I’m glad I did that, went there, tried that, dealt with that, found that purpose”.

I guess for everybody it’s going to look different. For us this year it meant getting a puppy. I knew we would regret not making a dog part of our family life and the “if not now, when?” question wouldn’t go away.

Yes life would be easier without a puppy right now and perhaps always during her lifetime. But since when is life about survival? Life is for living. And a full life is about full living. Taking it all in.

I’m not talking about a reckless hedonistic approach to life and of course we always need to consider how our actions impact other people and anything else going on in our lives. But I think too often we let the day to day mundane of life take over the decision making parts of our brains.

What things are there not in your life that would bring you joy? Learning to scuba dive? Hosting a big party just because? Making new friends? Taking your kids to Disneyland. The risky career change? Daring to face up to that issue that defines so much of your life?

Yes some of these things can be scary to try (so many of the best things in life are), and yes it might go wrong. But what if it doesn’t. What if you pulled it off? How much joy would that bring to your life?

“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered” Gilbert Chesterton.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

the end was in sight all along

I was sitting down yesterday, watching the olympics (again!) and it occurred to me that I wasn’t being bugged. I wasn’t being asked to play this game or build that duplo thing. My little boy was playing. On. His. Own. 

I thought to myself, “when did that happen”? How long has he been able and happy to do that for before I noticed? Before I gave him credit for it? For years I’ve struggled and (occasionally!) moaned that I never have a minute to myself, that he always wants me. But actually now that isn’t the case.

And the question came to me. How often do difficult or challenging times end without us noticing? We’re really good at being aware of when they start and telling people about how hard it is, but do we properly acknowledge when they stop and celebrate it? If we don’t do this we have a false negative view of life, we forget the good stuff and only talk about the bad. I think life would be more enjoyable if we made more of the good things.

So. When I think about it, a lot of things I’ve complained about in the last weeks, months and years are actually no longer an issue…

– I have only had to get up to remove the boy from my bed once this week

– None of us have had antibiotics since before Christmas

– I don’t have to prompt for pleases and thankyous every time

– We don’t have a fight every mealtime

– Various things that have hurt my heart in recent times haven’t made me cry in months

Wow. That makes me feel happy and its not even the half of it!

How many things have you talked about struggling with or posted on facebook that are now issues of the past? Take a moment to list them, and I think you’ll be surprised at what good therapy it is.

Then when new difficult phases begin you’ll be more able to reassure yourself that most likely it won’t last forever and you will live to tell the tale!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

North Norfolk Coastal Path Family Cycle

We were heading to Norfolk for a week’s holiday with friends and put the bikes on the bike. Our 4 year old learned to ride on a balance bike and transferred to pedals easily last summer. He absolutely loves riding in the park and to school but this was the first time we had planned a proper family outing.

We started at Wells-Next-The-Sea and set off leaving our picnic in the car as we never imagined we’d get so far! The North Norfolk Coastal path is not only stunningly beautiful but also well kept so made for a very pleasant ride.

From Wells we took the path west, which went immediately into a forest. There are fewer places I love more than forests, and being there with my two favourite people in the world was a recipe for pure happiness!

The wheels crunched the forest floor and we had to dodge the fallen pine cones and the odd sandy patch.

We made it a couple of miles up the road to the stunning expanse of Holkham Beach, where we determined to come back the next day with the dog!

After cycling all the way back to Wells we decided the boy deserved a treat so we had a backwards lunch – starting with our ice creams from the gorgeous beach hut style café. Wells beach is quite different but equally as beautiful and more touristy with its beach huts and white sand.

What started as a cloudy day slowly brightened up and as the sun streamed through the trees the light made for perfect photograph opportunities.

So I’ll leave the words there and let the pictures tell the rest of the story.

Saddle adjusting

Getting the saddle just right before we set off

Image

The boys are ready to go

A heartwarming sight

A blanket of pine cones

“I must collect one as a present for Grandma”, he said

A well deserved drinks break

Family Selfie

This face says it all

The stunning Holkham Beach

The stunning Holkham Beach

Races on the beach

Tired little legs

Fun at Wells

The beach at Wells-Next-The-Sea

Picture-perfect beach huts

Time for Ice cream!

Time for Ice cream!

Yes there were a few falls and yes there were a few “are we nearly there yet”s, but no great family moment avoids these altogether in my experience.

Being on bikes enabled us to enjoy some of this beautiful country we live in and see more of it than we would if we had been on foot. And there is something about that feeling of the wind in your face as you cycle along that gets the happy hormones going. Mix that with quality family time and you’ve got yourself a perfect day.

This is my entry to the Center Parcs and Tots100 June challenge. If I’m chosen, I would like to visit the Sherwood Forest Village.

Aside | Posted on by | Leave a comment

life’s not so big moments

Life’s big moments. You’d expect them to be big right? Grand gestures. Huge decisions. Exciting epiphanies. 

But no. Life’s big moments often hinge around small things.

Like quiet conversations over a cuppa that result in a “did we just make that decision?” ending that from the outside would look like a regular catchup.

Or like posting an innocent looking envelope knowing inside its implications are huge. But it doesn’t look big on the outside. You can pause, do the “in-out” action with the envelope before the big red mouth swallows it up for good, but there’s no fanfare or swelling music like you get in the movies.

Or rather than huge bouquets of expensive flowers or huge declarations of love, its a simple bunch of daffodils or a cup of tea made un-requested; that let you know you are loved, cared for, thought of. 

It’s the small things that make a difference. What small things can I do today? Maybe the harassed lady I pass in the street just needs a warm smile, or a friend I’ve not seen for a while needs a text. 

Don’t underestimate the small things. Either when they happen to you, or when they’re all you can manage to do for other people. In fact seek them out. 

“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop” – Mother Theresa

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

weathering the storm

fallen leavesI’ve been intrigued this week by the trees in the windy weather we’ve had. Some lost all their leaves overnight, some still have some, and some haven’t lost any at all.

All trees are different, and some are designed to lose their leaves when it’s windy, some aren’t.

All pretty simple. That’s just the way it is. So why do we take such a different view of our own species? We’re all different, and we all weather storms differently. Some people seem to be able to put up with things going on all around them, busyness, stress, trauma, etc. without breaking down, when some days it feels like all I need is a little boy with swollen tonsils to tip me over the edge!

Is one tree better than another because it doesn’t lose it’s leaves? In the same way, there’s no use comparing ourselves to others – “why can’t I cope” is a tempting but futile question.

My life has been super busy this week. There’s a lot going on. And I kind of went into panic mode. When my mum is really snowed under, she does more – if disaster strikes, you’ll find my mum baking bread! I tried to do that this week, decided to make a load of soup for lunch I’m having with friends, so had to somehow fit that in too. But Mr Wheeler put a stop to that, because he knows that’s too much for me. I can’t deal with an overloaded schedule the way my mum can.

Why do I try?

We need to be free to be ourselves. If you need to take a breather, take one. Don’t worry if the person next to you doesn’t have to. Let them go ahead. chances are, with a different type of storm they may well struggle and you’ll be the one who keeps things going.

And we need to not put so much pressure on ourselves. Sure we can train to increase capacity, etc. And over the years we’ll probably weather the storms better, with less fallout. But for now, in this storm – just find that shelter and hunker down in there for a while while it passes.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

destiny & marbles

holding hands

Whether or not they believe in God, most people I know believe in fate, in destiny. That there’s a higher power at work in this mad world.

But what does that look like? God in the sky playing with the universe like marbles?

Sometimes it can feel like he’s throwing everything up in the air and watching where it lands, just for fun. Sometimes it can feel like he’s playing with our lives like a kid plays with playmobil figures. Or worse, he started playing then wandered off to do something else, leaving the dog free to come and knock everything sideways.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently. About how life often doesn’t turn out the way you’d expected, the way you’d hoped. But then in my life I can always look back and say “oh yeh, that was for the best” regardless of how awful something seemed at the time.

The bible says that God has planned all the days of my life, that he carefully takes care of my steps, that he knows me and knows what’s best for me. And I believe that. It doesn’t always feel like it. But it’s in those times when its hard to imagine his hand in it all that I absolutely have to believe that. To have that hope that at some point in the future I’ll look back and say once again, “oh yeh, that was for the best. That worked out just perfectly”.

It’s always easy too to look at other people’s lives and think that they have it all. But firstly, do you really know what’s going on? How many people know about the storms that sometimes rage in your head, heart & soul? My guess is-not many.

And secondly, my journey is perfectly mine. So is yours. God wrote my life story a long long time ago and he didn’t write it with the leftovers of anybody else’s. It’s all mine. Yours is all yours. Sure there are a lot of curve balls, and you find yourself whizzing left when you were headed right. But ultimately you always end up looking back saying “oh yeh, that was for the best”.

And anyway God isn’t up there in the sky playing marbles, or with a dolls house, he’s down here with us, with me, with you. It’s less like chess, more like stuck in the mud.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

the optimism of new life

newborn bliss

Some special friends of ours have just had a baby. A totally gorgeous baby girl. (This picture isn’t her by the way – this is my boy on one of his not so happy days as a baby!) Anyway, back to the cute recently newborn…As usually happens when a baby is born everybody (including myself) goes crazy. Everyone wants to know the details, to see pictures, to have a cuddle, buy presents,etc.

It’s made me wonder why is it that we all get so gaga at baby news. What makes a newborn baby so special?

It might be because they’re cute, but then so are puppies and they don’t provoke quite the same reaction! Or perhaps because we’re just so relieved we’re not the ones having to do the sleepless nights! But I can’t help thinking it’s something to do with the hope, promise and future they represent. We look at them and see all the potential. With their whole lives ahead of them there is so much to hope for.

Somewhere along the way, over the next few years or decades this optimism seems to fade away. But I don’t think it needs to. I don’t think it should. Here are 3 lessons I think we can learn from newborns:

1. There are no limits on a baby’s life when they’re just born. The world is their oyster (any ideas what that means?!) As parents we dream big for them; not just in what they can achieve, but who they can become, what relationships they’ll form.

As we get older we start to put up some form of ceiling – over ourselves and our children to some extent. There are various reasons for this but none of them worth listening too. Aim high. If you ever find yourself thinking “if only I could do x” or “if only I was a little more y”, GO FOR IT. Yes, there’s always a chance you might not achieve it. But let me whisper to you – there’s just a chance you might.

2. Babies and children have a lot less fear than we do. Or at least they should, and my heart breaks over those for whom this is not the case. Some worries we have are rational, because of what we know to be real about the world. But there’s a lot we fear that just makes life less fulfilled, and we should do away with. Like fearing what others think. Fearing what might happen tomorrow. Fearing stuff we can’t see. The bible has a lot to say about fear and worry and one of my favourite verses says that God hasn’t given me a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, love and a sound mind (1 Timothy 1:7). I’m slowly learning to choose everyday to live like this.

3. One of the adjectives we use to describe babies is “innocent”. They’ve not made any mistakes yet, and they don’t know all of the evil that exists in this world. As an adult I am constantly getting stuff wrong, messing up and having to say sorry. Being selfish is such an innate human trait that I can already see evidence of it in my 3 year old son. Most of the time when he’s making mistakes he’s just getting carried away or doesn’t yet know the rules. But there are times when it is pure selfishness, and it makes me sad to see it. He wants something his own way, just because.

But just how to a baby every moment is a new moment, so it can be with us. Although no mistakes “should” go unpunished, God has made it so that they can. There are always consequences to my mistakes but the need for punishment is fulfilled – by Jesus. So I can move on as if I’d never done wrong. And do it as many times as it takes for me to stop getting it wrong in the first place!

That, my friend, is good news! I might just go and get myself a nice present to celebrate!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment