Category Archives: Family

What You Say Flows From What Is In Your Heart

Kind words can be short and easy to speak,
but their echoes are truly endless. – Mother Teresa

Have you ever wondered what is going on in someone’s heart? Who they really are and what they really think?

One sure way to work it out is to listen to what they say! What words come out of their mouths? What words do they write down/ type and share day after day.

In the Bible Jesus said…

“What you say flows from what is in your heart.” – Luke 6:45*

He is explaining that our words are connected to what is going on inside us. They are connected to our true hearts.

Yes of course we can pretend or say things we don’t really mean. But if you spend a lot of time with someone long term and listen to what they are saying, you will soon begin to get a picture of what is going on in their heart.

But the same is true for us! Have you ever stood back to consider how your own words paint a picture of what is going on within you?

Is your heart….
Tender or hard,
Loving or hateful,
Understanding or judgmental,
Forgiving or revengeful,
Sweet or bitter,
Cold or warm,
Kind or unkind,
Humble or proud?

heart shaped  in sand

Love is one of the main things that should show through your words.

If you love someone with your whole heart, it should be obvious in the way we speak to and about them.

I personally believe love resides in our hearts like a beautiful song. If our hearts sing with love, our words should sing with that same love. And everyone should be able to hear the song of love in and through our words.

That’s one of my personal goals in life – for my words to sing with an otherworldly love that can only come from knowing the unfathomable unconditional love and grace of God.

If I am truly in love with God, and desire to love others wholeheartedly, you will hear it in the way I speak, write and act.

“When you know how much God is in love with you then you can only live your life radiating that love.” – Mother Teresa

When you fall in love with someone, you can’t stop thinking about them. You constantly want to talk to them. You desire to be with them. You will find yourself wanting to tell others about them.

Love is such a powerful and all consuming force. And yet we can get so comfortable in our love for others, that over the years it can wain in its intensity. That’s when the cracks appear. Our words get a little harsher, a little less patient, more critical, more negative, less understanding, more self focused.

We convince ourselves that this is the other person’s fault. Perhaps if they were more lovable and loving it would be easy. Maybe if they weren’t so infuriating and selfish we would have more positives to say.


“Love resides in our hearts like a beautiful song.”


But what if we turned that on its head a moment and thought…

What if the problem is not mainly ‘the other,’ what if our main problem is our OWN hearts? If our words are becoming overly negative what does that say about what is going on inside us? What does that say about the quality of our love in the first place?

True love is not a fleeting emotion!

“Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” – 1 Corinthians‬ ‭13:7‬ *

Love to me is ALWAYS unconditional. It is selfless – thinking of the other first. It is patient and kind, persistent and persevering. It’s full of grace. It is not easily angered, proud or self seeking. It covers over faults and loves regardless of weaknesses.

The challenge for me is that if that is the love I believe is in my heart. That love should then be revealed and shown through my words and actions.

Do my words sing with the love that I say is in my heart?

What do my words say about what is truly going on in my heart?

That’s a challenge to me. I certainly daily make mistakes. At times my words can be too harsh – especially to my family or when I feel particularly ill or get very tired. But I do want to do better, I can always be more positive, patient & understanding, even when exhausted and in pain.

Maybe we could take some time to consider that this week. Try and listen to what you say. Think about why you speak like you do.

You never know, you might discover that too many of your own words are negative, critical and hurtful. We all have ways we can improve in our communication with others. We can all be more kind and understanding. We can think more about how we can treat others as we would want to be treated.

What do your words reveal about your heart?

“What you say flows from what is in your heart.” – Luke 6:45

“Be generous with your time and your resources and with giving credit and, especially, with your words. It’s so much easier to be a critic than a celebrator. Always remember there is a human being on the other end of every exchange.” – Maria Popova


*Verses from the Bible

The Art of Simplicity: The Big Clear Out

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Leonardo da Vinci

Every year during the summer holidays I embark on a big clear out at home. In fact, I think many people choose the summer school holidays to sort through their ‘stuff’ and get rid of things.

I find it such a satisfying process! Although it is often both exhausting and frustrating when you are in the midst of it.

I got into the habit of regularly simplifying and clearing out, a number of years ago, when my children were small. For a few reasons we ended up moving house about 4 times in 6 years.

Moving house is a chaotic time but it can also demand much discipline. We had to decide what things we should actually move. Most of the moves we did ourselves and when you have to move stuff yourselves you choose to think more carefully about what you really want to keep.

Each time we moved we would have things stored in attics or cupboards that we had not touched in a couple of years of living in a new house. When you find you have not opened a box in that long, you soon realise that you probably don’t need it after all.

Going through this same process four times taught me the discipline of simplifying and decluttering. Which is something I have continued to put into practice, even though we have finally stayed in one house for 6 years.

The Big Clear Out copy

This summer we have been particularly ruthless.

My children are finally learning from ‘clearing out’ with me over the years, that simplicity often makes life easier. They hate tidying their rooms, but are learning the less things you have and the more organised they are, the easier it is to look after them.

We got rid of bags and bags of clutter, rubbish, junk and passed on decent items no longer wanted or outgrown.

Life is easier when you declutter and simplify. It takes time and discipline but it is worth it.

How many times have you lost something amidst the clutter of your home only to rediscover it when you finally get round to clearing out?

Simplicity can provide space for the new. When your life is too full of the old, there is no room left for the new.

We should certainly celebrate the old, hold onto memories and enjoy traditions. But we must find a balance of old and new that creates space in our life.

In the West we love to accumulate ‘things’
… And more things…
….And more things!

In the hope that it will make life better and happier.

And yet ‘things’ can also complicate our lives.

We instead need to discover a balance that works in our life. Reassessing what we actually need and what is just taking up precious space and time.


When your life is too full of the old, there is no room left for the new.


I have learnt that taking the time to consistently organise, sort through and make space, enables us to embrace change more easily and move forward into the future without having to drag too much of the past around with us.

“Resistance to change is universal. It invades all classes and cultures.”- John Maxwell

The Art of Simplicity copy

The practical discipline of ‘clearing out’ and decluttering is metaphorical of a similar process in our wider lives.

I often choose the start of the new year or the end of a school year to clear out and prepare for the new season ahead.

This summer held more significance for my elder daughter because she is moving on from primary school to High School.

Clearing things out and sorting through them can prepare you mentally as you look through old memorabilia, selectively choose which to hold onto and then make space for the new things you will inevitably acquire (especially when you have children around).

We have to choose what things hold real significance and sentimental value and what we perhaps need to ‘let go’ of because it is simply cluttering up our lives.


Taking the time to consistently organise, sort through and make space, enables us to embrace change more easily.


The wider life discipline of simplifying asks the same question:

What is cluttering up my life?
What do I need to cut back on to make room for the new?
How can I prepare myself for the season ahead?

Our physical reality is often symbolic of other things going on in our life. Physical actions can help us prepare for, face and work through mental and emotional change.

Decluttering and re-organising helps us to:
Celebrate yesterday.
Focus on today.
and
Make space for tomorrow.

I found the process of starting to help my Dad clear his house following my Mums death quite a therapeutic exercise. Of course you want to hold onto many memories and items of significance, but there is also something healthy in saying goodbye, letting go and recognising a new season ahead.

It is not always an easy process, and can take time to face, but is one that can be useful in so many different ways and can help us mentally accept and adapt to change whether it is happily welcomed or tragically enforced.

Time invested today to embrace the process of simplifying is not wasted time. It is preparation for the future. So that we can move forward and welcome change without too much baggage tied around our ankles.

There is a freedom that comes through LETTING GO.

“That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.” – Steve Jobs


How could you make more space, room and time in your life?
Is it time for a big clear out?

Life is not meant to be easy!

Life is a gift.
A wonderful privilege.
Full of adventure, love & happiness.
Life brings both wonder and excitement.

But,

Life is not easy.
It is challenging.
It often feels hard.

Hard work.
Hard relationships.
Hard choices.

Of course many of us recognise that some people have had a ‘harder life’ than others. (Which helps us keep a balanced perspective).

However,

We are also very aware of the challenges we ALL face.


Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle – Plato


Do you often feel that life is hard?
Harder than you thought it would or should be?

Perhaps?
Definitely?
Always?
Sometimes?

Why is it that?

white paper blanks on rope

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately and it has caused me to think through a number of questions:

Is life actually meant to be hard or are we getting a raw deal?
Do other people find life as hard as you do?
Do you hope that life will get easier someday?

Sometimes I think we have believed a lie that life is supposed to be EASY.

That it is easy for some.

Easy for them.

In the West, we are sold that lie every day. Adverts, films, books, magazines and social media, all feed the ideal of a better, happier and more comfortable life.

But do things and comfort actually make you happy?

white paper blanks on rope

I often say to my husband that the media often sell us the lie about the ‘perfect family life’.

The good looking Mum and Dad have an awesome, romantic, yet down to earth marriage. They work hard, but also have lots of time to invest in their beautiful children. They have plenty of money, a stunning home, car, clothes and go on amazing holidays.

Life looks easy!

Does that not sound attractive?

But in reality family life is often anything but ideal.

FAMILY – is often hard work!

In many ways I have what might seem an ‘ideal’ family life. Matt and I have a great marriage. We have to work at it, like everyone else, but we managed to set a firm foundation from the start which has provided great stability in our home.

We have two healthy, beautiful, kind, loving and intelligent girls who flourish at school, are creative and full of life.

And yet we, like many others, find that in reality family life is often exhausting.
Parenting is tough.
Directing selfish kids is a challenge.

We can dream of consistent ‘family bliss’ but I am not sure that it really exists.


FAMILY – is often hard work!


Our kids regularly fight, argue, push against boundaries, complain and challenge us until we are tempted to run away and hide under a rock for a while – until things get easier.

Often ‘quality family time’ is far from wonderful. In fact sometimes it feels like something we all have to endure rather than thrive on. (Especially when you have small children)

I actually started writing this post on holiday. The ‘prime’ of quality family time. Supposedly a time of fun, laughter, love and relaxation.

….And although there is truth in that (we have had some wonderful times together)…

In reality even holidays don’t stop the responsibilities of being parents and the kids squabbling & complaining.

So what do we do?
Do we just give up on family life?

No!

We know we have to push through the hard times so that we can then appreciate the wonder and beauty of family.

To keep on keeping on!

No one really lives the fairy tale ideal anyway!

leadership pain

I have just finished reading a fantastic book called ‘Leadership Pain’ by Samuel Chand. It was both refreshing and insightful to read him, and so many others, acknowledging the ‘pain’ that is unique to leaders. Whilst encouraging us to keep on growing, which means constantly raising the threshold of our pain.

Often people can look at leaders around them and assume they must have life all figured out. That they enjoy their ‘power’ and ‘bask’ in the limelight.

This is rarely the truth.

Of course people can pursue and abuse power and hide their true selves.

But true leadership is often more challenging than many of us imagined. In the same way that the responsibility of leading/ parenting our children is.

Leadership, like parenting, is often hard. It is often painful. You have to make many sacrifices. You will get hurt.

You are leading real people. Helping them to grow and develop. You have to have courage to lead the way, even when you haven’t been there before yourself. Even when people don’t get you or your decisions and push against your authority.

Samuel Chand writes,

“There is no growth without change, no change without loss and no loss without pain. If you are not hurting, you are not leading. Your vision for the future has to be big enough to propel you to face the heartaches and struggles you find along the way.”

Leadership and parenting are inherently HARD. So you have to have a vision for the future that keeps you going through the tough times.

You must believe that your current investment, as a parent and leader, is worth while. You need hope for your child’s future, hope that many of the people you lead, will grow, develop and move forward. That is where you ultimately find joy and satisfaction.

It all comes down to perspective. Without the right perspective we can get drowned by the hard times and lost in the pain.

white paper blanks on rope

Life, in its essence is often NOT easy and the sooner we get our heads round that, the sooner we can prepare our minds to face the challenges life brings.

Responsibility
Hard work
Pain
Suffering
Rejection
Perseverance

Are all a fact of life.


Life, in its essence is often NOT easy and the sooner we get our heads round that, the sooner we can prepare our minds to face the challenges life brings.


We all have dreams for the future but they will usually not fall into our laps. Instead, we must face the fact that often WE have to make the right choices and keep on making the right choices for things to work out.

We have to CHOOSE the longer and harder road to experience longer term satisfaction.

We have to invest in our lives early on, making the necessary sacrifices along the way.

People want love without sacrifice.
But that does not exist.
Love and sacrifice are coexistent.
That is why we find family life and relationships hard.

Leadership is the same. Great leaders are not driven by selfish ambition. They are driven by a desire to serve others. To do this, great leaders love their followers.

And if:
LOVE = SACRIFICE.

Great leaders, like great parents, sacrifice for those they lead.

Sacrifice in its essence is hard.
Which means true love is hard.

Life was never meant to be easy. Life is an adventure. Adventures are in their essence challenging. But they are also so exciting.

We cannot experience the joys of life without embracing it’s challenges. It is the hard times which help us appreciate the good times.

It’s all about perspective.


You will never understand pleasure without pain. – T D Jakes


Do you find life hard?
How do you find strength to face it?

A Year Ago Today: A journey through grief and what I have learnt.

A year ago today we sat in an ICU relatives room being told that today was the day that they would turn off my Mum’s life support.

Those few days were a tough and exhausting journey.

In November 2013 we discovered that she had a brain tumour. On January 8th 2014 the doctors operated on it. The operation was complex and took 14 hours. In their eyes it was a success. However, the next 48 hours proved fatal as it emerged that she also had an infection in her pacemaker that caused septicemia, and this combined with the brain surgery overwhelmed her already fragile body.

Those few days opened my eyes.

This was my first experience of ICU. There were critically ill people everywhere. Attached to machines keeping them alive. Many of whom would recover and yet many of whom would not make it or at least only ‘make it’ through to a life dramatically different from their previous one.

Mothers,
Fathers,
Sons,
Daughters,
Sisters,
Brothers,
Friends,
Lovers,
Husbands,
Wives.

And the waiting room was full of people waiting for them. But unlike most waiting, it was often waiting to see whether a loved one would live or die. Waiting to see what that life-changing injury, illness or surgery would do. What it would look like within their family. To say goodbye or to welcome someone back. And even if they came back, their life may be radically changed.

And in that room it was different. A different perspective. An unsaid understanding that people were fighting a battle. That people were riding a storm.

Waiting.
Hoping.
Loving.
Holding on.
Surviving.

When you left that room and went out into the wider hospital or world outside, it was different. Staff at work. People visiting patients. A coming and going of life and normality….for some.

But our experience was far from normal.

There was a part of me thankful to have been there and seen it. To be there and remember & realise that while we go through our ‘normal’ lives, others are facing turmoil, crisis & pain. Sometimes it’s hidden away behind a door titled ICU in the middle of a hospital. Sometimes it’s in a hospice down the road. Sometimes in a house next door. Sometimes it’s hidden in the lives of those you work with, walk past, sit next to on the bus. The shop assistant, the teacher, the security guard, the single mum.
 
People are hurting even though you may not know.

wolken

We lost my Mum a year ago. A year ago I experienced my first real experience of personal grief, along with all the questions and thoughts that go through your mind.

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid.” – C.S. Lewis

For the first few days & even weeks after it happened, I felt an anxiety & what was like a ‘fear’ I hadn’t felt before. The above quote from C.S. Lewis resonated with me. It’s a feeling like anxiety and fear and yet you are not actually afraid. A heaviness. A pain within. A pressure that builds up inside you and you don’t know what to do with it. The thought of going out and seeing people you know can be hard. A ‘fear’ grips you. An anxiety I had not felt before.

And yet…

I chose to push through, to fight, knowing that I couldn’t let those feelings debilitate me. I had to push through, to break through. To discover purpose through pain. To face the questions. To let go of guilt & embrace the way forward. The way out. The way that sees good triumph over evil. The way that does not allow death to destroy.

I have learnt that the best way in life is not denial.
It is to face challenges head on.
Knowing that you will get battered through the journey.
But knowing that taking a battering and coming through stronger is better than allowing yourself to be destroyed inside due to denial.

So that is the journey I have walked. A journey that turns difficult things into challenges that make you stronger and wiser. A journey of self-awareness. A journey that helps you to feel more empathy & compassion for others. And a journey that becomes part of your identity, but that does not define who you become.

Some great words that someone sent me at the time that really helped.

So, one year on, I sit here and I remember the pain. I remember the exhaustion. I remember those days in hospital where my loving God was my only strength & the source of the deep peace I felt throughout. When words from the Bible, music & other inspiration carried me and become an anchor that held me tight.

I remember the relief when my husband, Matt, was able to come to London a day after my Mum died. I remember the drive back to Leicester in the car: utterly spent, physically & emotionally exhausted and yet finally being able to share with my husband the full journey of the last few days.

I remember when I got home. The desperate need to find a photo of my Mum looking healthy, so as to replace the image of someone who hardly looked human lying in that hospital bed. Grotesquely swollen from head to foot. Covered in wires.

I remember the pain, the questions & things to work through in my mind. The tears. The memories. The exhaustion of sleep lost, of pushing through.

But here we are a year on.
Today marks the anniversary of that day.

I have learnt that each person deals with and faces grief differently. There are few rights and wrongs. I have always felt grief was much easier for me than some. Partly, because I lived over 3 hours away from my parents. Our lives were no longer as intermingled as they were as I was growing up. I did not have to look daily at the empty chair. I was not reminded hourly, daily of the person lost. And perhaps because my relationship with her was quite complex anyway and had been for a long time. (Although that brings its own challenges into the grieving process).

And yet I know that what gets me through this, and all the things we face, is an ability to see the positive amidst the negative. A training of the mind to face challenges head on & to learn and grow through them. An inner strength that comes from my deep relationship with God. An innate gratefulness that there are always blessings, hope & joys in life to be found – even amidst the pain of death.

While we were in the ICU waiting room there was a couple waiting for their 20 year old son to wake up. He had been in an accident & was in a coma. They didn’t know if he would wake at all.

They waited,
ate,
slept,
and washed,
in that hospital waiting room.

They had been there about 10 days. They didn’t want to leave in case he woke up and they were not there.

On that Friday afternoon my family sat with my Mum as they turned off her life-support. An agonising time which seems to go on forever as the heart continues to beat for a good few minutes after the breathing has stopped. And the heart rate goes up and down until finally, agonisingly slowly, dropping to zero.

It was horrible.

I tried to put music on my phone and hold it to my ear to drown out the beeps of the heart monitor that lie to you that a person who is gone is still there.

However, as we left the ICU that day for the final time, I saw that couple we hardly knew still waiting for their son to wake. We had shared a connection. We had shared the pain of watching a loved one in the throes of death. And as I looked up at that mother she immediately knew what had happened.

That anxious mother, who did not know if her son would live or die, responded like this:

She held me.

In that significant moment, someone I hardly knew hugged me.
With a touch that I needed.
A touch that understood and felt the pain.

And I whispered to her, with all the strength I could muster “I really do hope things are different for you.” She replied with deep gratitude and briefly shared how touched she was for someone to say that in the midst of their own pain.

I will never know what happened to that family. But I do hope things went well for them.

Never let your pain define you.
Never become so consumed with yourself that you cannot feel another’s pain.
Instead allow your heart to become tender.
Allow yourself to reach out to others amidst your own struggles & vulnerabilities.

Everyone you meet is facing some kind of battle. Some are having to fight harder than others at that moment.

The beauty of humanity is that suffering can, if we let it, unite and draw us together in a way that nothing else can. It strips us of our titles and crafted exteriors and touches the heart. It has the power to break through masks, if we let it, because it touches who we really are.

And we all need that:
Sometimes our hearts need to be exposed.
Our weaknesses need to be seen.

Because it is then we realise that we are ALL just fragile humans. It is then we realise that we are ALL more similar than maybe we thought. It is then we know that we ALL face challenges and we ALL feel pain.

So let’s choose to journey through life with compassion and care. Understanding that we are not dissimilar. We do not need to fight one another. Instead we can support one another and choose to ‘hold’ one another even in the midst of our own pain.


Suffering can, if we let it, unite and draw us together in a way that nothing else can. It strips us of our titles and crafted exteriors and touches the heart.