Happiness is not a destination …

After a bit of a turbulent end to last week, I’ve been pondering a lot about happiness over the last few days.

It’s really easy to get focussed on goals and ambitions and future plans, so much so that we slip into this pattern of thinking, “I’ll be happy when …”

And sure, ideally, when you do the stuff you’re aiming for then yes, you will be happy (if not, why are you even bothering to aim for it?!?) but who says we can’t be happy, right now, today?

Since when is our happiness dictated by our proximity to realising our ambitions?

Ambitions are tricky beasts anyway. Maybe yours are neatly typed (and laminated!) but I find myself tweaking and adjusting as I go, if not weekly, then at least every month or so. If my happiness is tied to realising ambitions I might never smile again! ๐Ÿ˜‰

So what’s the alternative?

Life is messy and yes, sometimes it makes us cry, and there are days that we’ll get to the end of that we’ll be soooo glad to see the back of, but despite that, what if you chose to smile every day?

What you smile at is the stuff of a whole other conversation (yes, we’ll be having that one later in the week. Fear not.) but just now, for today, I want to challenge you to actively look for something to smile about.

It might be something silly or tiny or even something you created for yourself (I smile every time I put on a squish of my favourite perfume because it smells so delightful) but what that something is is largely irrelevant.

It’s time to ditch the happiness destination and choose to allow ourselves joy and delight and loveliness in every single day.

You game?

How to survive in a culture that celebrates burnout

I was reading my friend LaVone’s blog post yesterday and she described herself as a watcher.

If you don’t know LaVonne, she’s a sixty something years young adventurer, travelling around the US in her home on wheels, cutely named ‘LaVanne’. She’s an inspiration and you should hear the stories she has to tell.

But that’s not why I’m mentioning her today.

At the end of her post she said, โ€œI like to watch. Is that so wrong?โ€ and, much like one of the commentators, I wanted to rush and tell her, no, of course it’s not wrong. You’re delightful and wonderful, just the way you are.

Thankfully for us though, LaVonne’s totally at peace with being a watcher. It’s all good ๐Ÿ™‚

But as I was pondering on today and what I might share with you (between you and I, I never know from one day to the next!) it did get me to thinking.

As I write this it’s Monday, a brand new week. I love new things. New weeks. New months. New stuff. New ideas. There is this temptation though to feel like we need to go big with the new.

We give lip service to the importance of rest and stillness but all the while living in a culture that celebrates burnout. Don’t believe me? When was the last time you saw anyone receive an award for sitting still and doing nothing?!?

If we do manage to stop for just a little while we feel like we have to provide an explanation as to why it is we feel justified in so doing. We seem incapable of doing nothing.

But what if we didn’t live like this? What if we stopped pushing and striving and contorting ourselves to fit in? What might that look like?

There’s a time for action and a time to be still, a time to reap and a time to sow, a time for tears and a time to celebrate. There is a time for everything.

But that everything has it’s time means, logically, some of the time we have to stop. Be still. Do nothing. Otherwise it’s all just out of balance.

Does the idea of doing nothing freak you out a little bit? Maybe you fear you’ll getting nothing done? Ruin your life? Waste your days?

But what if you could simply trust that those small, consistent daily actions you’re taking, mixed in with periods of still and quiet nothing, were actually the perfect antidote to theย burnout loving culture that we live in?

God did loads of cool stuff, made the world, and then rested. He didn’t first send a memo explaining that he’d worked jolly hard and now was his time to chill out.ย Instead, he set that day of rest as part of the rules for living for Moses and all the people after him.

We live in a post-Jesus world where much of the rules and guidelines of the Old Testament don’t apply any more (you should see the mixed fabrics I’m wearing today, for example) but some things, if we chose to hang on to them, would be great for us.

And that includes resting. Being still.

And so your challenge for today, if you choose to accept it ๐Ÿ˜‰ is to take 5 minutes today to just be, yes, even though it’s Monday!

Are you ready?
Get to it! ๐Ÿ™‚

Read this if you’ve ever had to start over …

Do you remember the challenge we started on Monday? How are you getting on with that? Did you totally forget to do your one small thing yesterday? Or maybe that was just me?!? ๐Ÿ˜‰

So between donating blood and talking to clients and, I dunno, life happening, I totally forgot to write out my goals yesterday. (That was my one small, new thing. If you have noooo idea what I’m talking about, click here, you’ll catch up. I’ll wait.)

And I didn’t even remember that I had forgotten until I was tucked up in bed ready to go to sleep again. Bother!

As I was drifting off to sleep though, I remembered that it was almost Fridayย (did I ever tell you how much I love Fridays??)ย which got me to thinking about how we could turn this ‘missing a day’ thing around.

Because we all do it, maybe it really was just me this time, but I’m pretty sure you’ve experienced this … that thing that happens when you commit to change and it’s all gung-ho and fabulous for a few days, and then you slip up, miss a day, snarl at someone you love when you’d promised yourself you were all about love and sweet thoughts.

What if we didn’t have to start over?

What if this brand new day was already a fresh start, a clean slate, ready for you to doodle on today?

And what if you were given the gift of a new doodle, every single day? Because you know what? You are.

Do you remember that really old song you used to sing in school when you were a kid?

This is the day that the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.

It turns out that that was lifted straight from the bible (Psalm 118, in case you were wondering) and it is the perfect antidote to “starting over” thinking.

Here’s to lots of delightful, imperfect, gloriously messy doodles today. Are you in?

What if it was ok to tweak and adjust as you went?

If you’re a heart surgeon this is terrible advice but for the rest of us mere mortals, there’s something to be said for having a target in mind and then allowing for adjustments along the way.

As an aside, if you are a heart surgeon, send me a tweet and tell me. If you’re also a massive Doctor Who fan, you get double points, ok? ๐Ÿ˜‰

OK, so yes, I am still thinking about that challenge that we started yesterday. If you need to play catch up, click here. By the power of the Internet, I’ll be here waiting for you when you get back.

See? Told you didn’t I. Wasn’t that neat.

So anyway, yesterday was the very first day of a brand new mini-challenge that I’m calling the “one new thing” challenge and you may remember that I told you that my one new thing, for the next 21 days only (because it feels kinda silly and pointless) is to write my 3 major goals down, every morning.

What I didn’t tell you was how. Or where.

Because yesterday I wrote them on my white board in plain view of my desk, or so I thought.

Can you guess how many times I walked past that white board yesterday? Probably, I dunno, maybe fifty times.

Guess how many times I looked at and remembered and reflected on those goals I’d written down. You’ve guessed it …. zero!

So today I’m adjusting and tweaking, just slightly, and I now have a piece of paper stuck on the wall in front of me. Not very pretty or subtle, but that’s kinda the idea ๐Ÿ˜‰

All of which got me to thinking …

Whether it be in relation to the “one new thing” challenge or something else in your day to day life, here’s your challenge for today – if you choose to accept it ๐Ÿ˜‰

Take a look at the things in your life that are “business as usual”. What might today look like if you took one of those things and tweaked it, just slightly? How might it make you smile more? Love more? Have a little more faith?

Think about it, but then, when you’re ready, give it a try.

OK? Excellent! Get to it! ๐Ÿ™‚

Are you ready to try one new thing?

Just one. Maybe something small and seemingly insignificant. But new.

Accordingly to clever old brain box Albert Einstein, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.

And if we’re doing the same thing over and over and over and over again, day after day after week after month, that’s almost certainly true.

But you know what’s also true? You’ve got to give stuff time to stick.

I’m all for trying new stuff, new ways of doing things, hacking daily life to make it more fun, more loving, more productive, more profitable, but the one thing I’ve learned from trying lots and lots (and lots!) of different ways at doing life, is that some things take time.

It’s sooo ridiculously easy to try something for three or four days and then, because we’re not immediately seeing the results we expected, give up and try something new.

That’s not what today is about. If you love the feeling of trying new stuff only to give up and switch to another new thing after a small handful of days, keep moving. I have nothing for you today. You can come back tomorrow ๐Ÿ™‚

For everyone else, I give you the “one new thing challenge”. Are you ready?

Here’s how it’s going to work …

Today, and only today, pick one small thing, one small new thing, that you’re willing to commit to, for today and the next 21 days.

Not sure what to pick? Don’t sweat it! For the purposes of this experiment, pick any one new thing that feels right for you and give that a go.ย The fun thing about this is that it’s only for 21 days and, probably most importantly, it doesn’t need to be something massive.

Are you ready? Get to it! ๐Ÿ™‚

 

If something’s not working, try changing the view.

Creatures of habit that we are, it’s all too easy to slip into the same old same old each day. Days turn to weeks turn to months and before you know it, it’s Christmas, again.

And that’s fine (actually, that’s great. I love Christmas!) but if we’re wanting to build a life that we can look back on and smile about, sometimes we need to fight against the same old, same old.

This morning, after dropping the children off at school, I tried something just a little bit different. Instead of sitting at my desk to write this email, I grabbed a couple of boxes and set up my ad hoc standing desk. A really teeny tiny tweak but you know what? It feels fabulous!

I can feel my feet firmly on the floor, bare toes wiggling.

Every now and then I move a little, roll my shoulders, enjoy the sensation of a good back stretch.

And with each movement I feel a little breeze as my dress dances with me. Summer is back in my corner of the world today and, right here, right now, I feel a little more alive and connected with the planet.

All that from three boxes!

And it got me thinking … routine is great. We all need varying degrees of certainty in our day to day lives and without it, our brains would probably implode (and that would get very messy!)

But, for those times when things are feeling a little bit less than stellar, when things aren’t quite rolling along as we’d like, how might things be different if we changed the view?

One of the things I love digging intoย is the impact upgrading our environment can have on day to day life. And just like my teeny tiny tweak today, sometimes the smallest of changes can make a massive difference.

And so to your challenge for today, if you choose to accept it … ๐Ÿ˜‰

How might you change your view today?

This might be a literal change of perspective (things look a lot different from where I’m standing!) or, for you, we might be talking metaphors and brain gymnastics.

Whatever it means for you, remember, our God is a creator God, and you were made in his image, which makes you naturally creative too. Allow that clever brain of yours to mull over today’s challenge and see what ideas rise to the surface.

And then give those ideas a try, if only for one day. Try stuff out and see what fits ๐Ÿ™‚

And when you’re done, let me know how you got on. I’d love to hear about it ๐Ÿ™‚

Until then, keep smiling ๐Ÿ™‚

Read this if you don’t know what to do next

Sometimes it’s really easy to know where we’re headed. We do the sensible thing and create a plan, mark a route with guide posts along the way. Sure, sometimes creating the plan is a whole lot more fun than having to do the hard work of implementing it, but at least we know what to do.

And then there is everything else.

The times when we know where we want to get to, the end result, but we don’t know how.

Or the times when we don’t even really know what the end looks like, but we’re fairly sure we’ll know it when we see it.

Or even the times when we know we want to get somewhere excellent, but we haven’t yet figured out what ‘excellent’ actually looks like for us and the people we love yet.

Frustrating, is it?!?

And yes, that was putting it lightly. Sometimes it’s a right old pain in the arse with a side-serving of other stuff we’re far too polite to say out loud.

So, what do you do when you don’t know what to do next?

On my way back from the World Domination Summit, whilst waiting to board my last plane before home, I found myself sat next to a man who I didn’t know. Not that surprising, I was at an airport in Amsterdam! Me being me, the man and I got chatting and it turns out that he was from a place not all that far from where I live, although maybe that wasn’t as much of a surprising coincidence as it would have been, had I bumped into him on my flight to Portland but still, it was a nice coincidence to hear a familiar accent.

He asked me about what I do for work and, me being me, I fudged around a bit, mentioned the project management stuff and then got to telling him about Heaven And El.

“I’m on a mission to reclaim Christianity”, I told him.

“How are you going to do that?”, he asked.

He didn’t ask it in an antagonistic kind of a way. He sounded genuinely interested and it was a very good question. A very good question that I didn’t have a very good answer to yet. I still don’t really.

And that’s where I’ve been sat, since July 15th, until today.

The summer holidays arrived and the children finished school for the six week break.

Never mind, I thought. I’ll have plenty of time to figure it out when they get back to school.

September 1st. School starts tomorrow. Do you think I’ve figured it out yet?

You guessed it, nope, I’m still stuck, not knowing what to do next.

So, what do you do when you don’t know what to do next?

I don’t know about you, but I did what any self-respecting writer does when she’s stuck, I wrote about it. I doubt it’ll be winning me awards any time soon, but it did serve one purpose … it got me taking a step forward.

Oh, alright then, a shuffling half-step forward, but the net result was the same (forward motion) so I’m taking that.

I figured that while I don’t know all the answers and I haven’t yet got a clear grasp on the “how are you going to do that?” piece, I could choose one tiny little shuffling half-step action and do that, safe in the knowledge that lots of little half-steps have the uncanny knack of working together to add up to one giant leap, if given enough time and provided the one taking the half-steps doesn’t quit too soon.

And so that’s your challenge for today, if you choose to accept it ๐Ÿ˜‰

If you think you’re stuck and don’t know what to do, ask yourself and God what that one tiny little half-step action is. Listen for the whisper (or even the loud clanging of a whole new idea that you have no idea from whence it came!) and do that.

Are you ready?

Get to it! ๐Ÿ™‚

Ready to make this the last December ever where you feel like you let yourself down?

If you haven’t read part one of this conversation, that subject line might have felt a bit left of field and ‘where did that come from all of a sudden?!?’ Forgive me. And then click here to get caught up on part one. I’ll be here waiting for you when you get back ๐Ÿ™‚

Read it? Done the challenge? Great!

(Not done it? Done it in your head? Hehe, seriously, what are you like?!? Take some time, even if it’s just 15 minutes, do the exercise from yesterday and then come back. I’ll still be here waiting for you.)

OK, so you did it?

Yey! Well done you! ๐Ÿ˜€

Seriously, I know how easy it is to skip over stuff or tell yourself you’ll get to it later, but you did it so well done.

Unless you’re made of stone, that exercise should have left you feeling really pumped up and excited. I know just thinking about you doing it got me going!

I really am determined that this is going to be the last December ever where we look back on the year past and feel a bit sad because, if we’re honest with ourselves, we almost kinda, sorta wasted it a bit.

Starting January 6th we’re going to be working on really solid, concrete ways to make sure we remember and celebrate all the small wins in the year to come. That piece isn’t ready yet but as soon as it is, you’ll be the first to get all the gorgeous details.

In the meantime though, let’s get back to that dream of yours. All the stuff you allowed to pour out, unedited.

That stuff is important.

God made you to be you and those dreams and ambitions and passions, he put those there. Our job is to show up and take daily consistent action toward making those dreams a reality.

God’s big enough and clever enough and wonderful enough to give us a nudge if we’re getting off course but if we’re not showing up and doing the work, we won’t ever get started.

Depending on how long you gave yourself to write, you might have a massive load of different stuff written down.

All of it is important to you but now is the time to think about whether all of it is important to you in the next 12 months.

That’s today’s challenge.

And for this one, you’re going to need a pen and either some sticky notes or lots of little pieces of paper. Don’t let stationary (or lack of it!) hold you back. You don’t have to wait until you can get to the shops. If you don’t have sticky notes, just get whatever paper you have and cut it into small pieces as we go.

It’s not about making it look pretty. Lots of these pieces of paper are going to end up in an envelope in a drawer anyway (I’ll get to that in a moment) so just improvise if you need to.

OK, so now you’ve got your paper and pen, you’re going to go back through the stuff you wrote yesterday and, taking each thing in turn, God helping you, you’re going to decide if it’s something for the next 12 months, something for later, or something for one day maybe.

Trust your instinct.

Try not to second guess yourself.

There are no right or wrong answers and if you change you’re mind later, that’s ok ๐Ÿ™‚

“Father God, thank you for all the dreams and ambition and excitement you give me. Those passions you put on my heart, I really want this next 12 months to be the time I make those happen.

I also know though that it’s really easy to take on too much, get overwhelmed, and end up doing nothing, so please help me now as I go through these things. Help me to know which are for now, which are for later, and which are just maybes.

Help me to hear the whisper into my heart as I go through each item.

Help me to trust and just go with it, even if some of the things for the next 12 months, I don’t know how they could even be possible.

Thank you.”

That’s my prayer for you and me as we do this exercise together. There are no right or wrong answers. We can change our mind. We just need to go with it and trust.

When you’re done, you going to need to find yourself two envelopes and some blue tac or sticky tape.

Write ‘Later’ and ‘One day maybe’ on the front of the envelopes and whichever things you decided belong in those groups, put the pieces of paper in them. Close the envelopes and put them into a drawer.

They are now safe. Those dreams and ambitions can still happen one day. You haven’t lost them, said goodbye to them or let go of them.

They’re out of your brain and in a safe place so that you can focus on those dreams that are ready to happen right now.

And now, everything that’s left, the things that you decided were for the next 12 months, you’re going to stick them up somewhere where you can see them every day.

On your white board. Above your desk. On the fridge. I don’t much care where you put them. You just have to keep them visible, every day.

God talked about doing this in Habakkuk. He had the people write his revelation down nice and big so it could be seen on the run.

You might not literally run every day but I’ll bet you don’t slow down all that much. Life moves fast. The pace is hurried. We want to write down your ‘next 12 months’ dreams and hang them up somewhere obvious, so we don’t miss them.

Ready? Get to it.

And in case you need the same reminder as yesterday …

Yes, you might wonder what the point is. It might feel silly or stupid or like this is a waste of time. You might be tempted to skip it completely. Don’t. Just acknowledge that it feels a bit daft, and do it anyway.

Even if you decide not to play in January, even if you do nothing more with these things you’ve written down other than stick them up, even if you think this is the silliest, most pointless thing you’ve ever done, it doesn’t matter.

Just by getting really clear on what you want and when you want it, you’re already ahead of the game. You should give yourself a pat on the back and smile, because this stuff is going to be super useful and important in making 2014 your best year ever and I am already so, so proud of you for getting this far.

Now, get to it!

What if the tension between your hopes, dreams & aspirations and God’s will is actually fake?

With just 5 weeks left until Christmas, I’ve been thinking a lot about next year and what The Itchy Soul 2.0 is going to look like. I have big dreams for 2014, really big dreams.

But it’s at times like this that I start to doubt myself. Maybe it’s not just me?

Maybe you have all these hopes and dreams and aspirations, stuff that you’d really, really love to do. And they eat at you because you didn’t do them yet, but then you let yourself off the hook a little by wondering if maybe it just isn’t God’s timing.

It happened with Give A Brick and our first project to build a community centre in South Wales. For two years we did nothing – total blackout. Was that God and his perfect timing or was it me, being a little bit less proactive than I probably should have been?

Two years later, Redrow were building houses opposite and their site manager helped us save thousands of pounds. Was that God and his perfect timing or was it God, able to take ‘less proactive than I should have been’ me and turn the situation to good?

There’s no way of knowing the answer but that makes it so easy to get into a pickle.

I’ve been in churches that have felt like they’re using the ‘we need to pray about it’ line as an excuse for procrastination but at the same time, knowing that Jesus didn’t do anything without talking to his dad about it first. See? Pickle-tastic!

I have hopes and dreams and aspirations and I’d love those to line up with God’s best so how do we move forward, (prayerfully) taking action and do so within the remit of the big picture, when all we can see is one tiny little piece?

It’s enough to make a girl want to pick up her ball and go home.

But deciding that you’re not playing any more isn’t really an option.

What if God made you exactly as you are, quirks and foibles and all, and those things you call gifts (or maybe those things you do so easily you take them for granted but other people would call them gifts?) what if he put them there?

What if the stuff that drives you, the passion and excitement you have, the desire to make something happen, what if that was God too?

What if your hopes, dreams and aspirations were whispered into your heart, years before they ever entered your conscious thought, by a loving Dad who loves to see you smile?

What if, instead of wasting energy and heartache worrying about whether what you’re doing is part of God’s big picture, you instead delighted in each new day, said “Good morning dad, what shall we do today?” and then stepped forward, moment by moment, confident that he knows and loves you enough that you don’t need to worry?

What might that look like?

And how might your hopes, dreams and aspirations feel as you look forward to 2014 if you knew that all this and so much more, God has in store for you?

Sounds exciting doesn’t it? ๐Ÿ˜€

Until next time, keep smiling ๐Ÿ™‚

What if what you expected was actually what happened?

A funny thing happened on Friday …

After taking most of Thursday off to help my husband celebrate his birthday, I broke with my usual Friday tradition of lots of fun and very little work and instead, wrote a (fairly optimistic) list of all the things I would get done.

It wasn’t one of those insane lists that you actually have zero intention of ever seeing the bottom of and I didn’t keep adding to it or deviating from it.

But all that said, it was a challenging list.

A challenge that I fully expected I would rise to. I believed it was all easily within my grasp (so long as I didn’t allow myself to get distracted!) and totally doable.

And the funny thing that happened?

I proved myself right!

What I expected had totally come true. Not just a little bit: totally. Down to the letter.

And that’s when this thought popped in my head and I wrote the word ‘expecting’ on my white board as a reminder for this week.

What if every day we expected specific things?

What if every day we didn’t just hope or cross our fingers but actually believed and claimed it as already ours?

The word ‘hope’ is used a lot in the bible. We talk about hope when we actually mean ‘maybe’ or think it comes down to luck or good fortune.

Biblical hope though is different.

Biblical hope is about expectation. Belief. Stepping forward. Claiming it.

What would your today look like if you stepped into it with a sense of expectation?

And do you know what you’d like to be expectant about? That piece is super important because, as the Cheshire Cat said to Alice:

“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”

I don’t know about you but I don’t want to end up just anywhere! So our challenge for today is to decide where we’d like to be headed:

Maybe God has put a burning passion in your heart and that’s the thing you wanted to be moving toward?

Then step forward, one foot in front of the other, expecting that that thing you’re after, God has already written the script.

And as ever, remember, you’re not in this alone.