BHAGs!

As part of my three week down time in December I spent a lot of time reflecting on the past year and where I wanted this year to go. I identified my key word: luminous; and core feelings: creative, well, devoted to the divine and peaceful.

I figured out my intentions for the year, some of which are:

  • Grade 6 flute
  • Grade 1 piano
  • Another music exam, possibly a second in either instrument or grade 6 theory
  • see 12 live performances
  • read 50 new books (last year I read 113 books, but I didn’t track which were new, I suspect that only about 40 were new)
  • To have my photography in a bigger exhibition that is bigger than the tiny one I did this year.
  • To get the kitchen done

But at about 3am on 1 January I realised that I was selling myself short, I wasn’t really stretching myself to what I really wanted to achieve this year. I didn’t have that Big Hairy Audacious Goal – a BHAG, taken from Jim Collin’s Good to Great which I studied on my MA. Hurrah for insomnia and a dreadful cough!

So, my seriously big BHAG is to earn £X through my own creative work, regularly by the end of the year. And yes, I have got the SMART version of that written down so I can clearly tell when/if I achieve that.

I havne’t defined exactly what that will look like at this stage, because I have realised that staying open to opportunities is the best way to achieve intentions. Also life tends to chuck things at us that we can’t possibly expect.

I’ve spent a lot of time since I’ve become a Christian knowing that God wants me to do something, but also being aware that I am in this very fragile and somewhat broken body. I can’t achieve and strive like I used to, I don’t have a lot of energy to rush about doing things.

I have spent a lot of time in prayer and meditation and it is clear to me that he wants me to be working for Him with the written word and communication… I don’t know more than that at the moment, so I am trusting that this is what He wants. And I am holding up my end by acknowledging that and putting it as my BHAG, but being aware that He will make it happen as he wants. I have a feeling that photography comes into play too, but that’s not so strong a leading, so that might still be me and my ego!

So, just to put it out there I write in various forms – blog posts, marketing materials, ghost writer, articles, and anything else! I can use a variety of tones and voices as appropriate.I am especially interested in writing articles and guest blog posts about anything I write about in here or in my work blog.

I’m not sure at the moment how the photography is going to be a saleable offer, I’m certainly not going to be doing wedding coverage. The same with music, I am not going to be out gigging, it is far too exhausting for me! That’s what I mean by being open to what happens, rather than getting the whole year planned out.

Having the minutia planned out would mean that I would likely to be missing out on various opportunities, not to mention having to stick to the plan as written, which would be terribly stressful! Having a BHAG is a kind way of working, as it Big, Hairy and Audacious, so if it doesn’t happen, well it was ridiculous in the first place! But, I have set my intention, and that is where I am heading.

I wrote this first thing, and then during my morning walk (still on the 1st) I realised that there is another BHAG that is so super audacious that it needs a new hyperbole world for it!

It’s to be in a position to apply for an artist’s studio. I can hardly bear mention it to be honest, as it is just so far out there in terms of being achievable and not in line with what I’m doing. I feel so uncomfortable that this bit isn’t appearing on my work blog, only for you here. I have wanted a studio for so long, and I really don’t know why, or what’s driving it, but I spend a lot of time thinking about it, so I’m being open to the idea, maybe it’s another nudge from God? Or maybe it’s ego again. It’s difficult to know.

To be in a position to apply (let alone get on the waiting list) I have to have an artist CV and a portfolio. I also have to be able to financially justify it, so BHAG #1 contributes towards BHAG #2. So I am a long way from this goal, probably much further than goal #1. Still, it was a very clear feeling that I should write it down in my book for this year, so there we go!

Like my word of the year I know what I need to do daily to be working towards it. Coincidentally working towards my BHAGs will help towards my small intentions, as well as my word. I can forget about it day to day, because I will be writing, playing music and doing photography every day, which will help towards the BHAGs and Luminous. At the end of each day I assess how I’m doing with Luminous on a scale of 1-10 and each month I will figure out what I need to do to work towards my smaller goals and BHAGs.

Have you stretched yourself this year, while still being kind to yourself?

#oneword365 2017 – Luminous

Happy new year!

 

In camera movement to capture the industry

Last year I chose the word ‘contentment’ as my focus for the year, and although I think it was a good word for me I didn’t do any analysis on it beyond thinking of it at the start of the year. So, the process was rather a redundant one.

This year it is different. I have core feelings I want to achieve and I know how Luminous will be a way of assessing if I am working towards that. I have key things I want to reach and a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal, taken from Jim Collin’s Good to Great that I studied on my MA), tomorrow I will explain BHAG.

What does luminous mean for me?

Dawn walk

It is a soft gentle, constant light emanating from within; not a blazing light which dazzles and is unsustainable.

I want to feel creative, well, devoted to the divine and peaceful.

When I take actions towards those feelings I live a luminous life. The word itself is also quite soft and forgiving, which is something I need. I will not get fully healthy again (back to the levels of running marathons etc), so measuring myself against feeling ‘healthy’ is a bad idea, but I can be having a really bad pain and fatigue day and still be luminous. How? By accepting how I am that day; doing things which make me feel better; not fighting it; and turning towards God in my brokenness.

Trying to live up to luminous will affect all aspects of my life, but to avoid overly complicating things I am going to rate myself against luminous each day on a scale of 0-10.

Radar tower at dawn

I know what I need to do to be luminous – some of the actions are:

  • food – eating gluten and dairy free, avoiding large amounts of sugar, green smoothie, regular meals at sensible times, avoiding junk food
  • exercise – yoga or swimming & walking every day, otherwise I very quickly lose my muscle tone and have to use my wheelchair a lot more, not to mention suffer more with pain and fatigue
  • walking in nature
  • creating – writing, photography, playing music, drawing/painting
  • listening to music
  • reading
  • being off of my computer
  • regular times of prayer & meditation throughout the day
  • not working too much
  • stress free
  • solitude
  • seeing friends
  • quality time with my husband

Morning flight

But measuring all that on a daily basis would be painful, so I will measure how luminous I feel each day.

I will reflect monthly too as a way of staying on track.

Have you tried having a word of the year before? What about this year?

These photos were taken this morning at Coalhouse Fort, Tilbury in Thurrock. I was awake before dawn and so the light was amazing, but there wasn’t a sunrise which would have been rather symbolic!

Make it easy for me to find you

Happy almost new year!

I made it through Christmas easily enough and then got struck down with the lurgy which has left me on the sofa from the day after Boxing Day through to now. I’m still on the sofa, but at least I can think and not have to just watch endless Miss Marple now. I hope you are well.

I am on the search for a new church, I might actually get around to explaining why at some point, but long story short, I want a community which feels right for me.

It should be easy. I google, look around a few sites and make a decision which ones to try out. Nope. The amount of churches which do not have a web site astounds me. For goodness sake if you are C of E you can just keep your details up to date on their A Church Near Me site. Quite a few near me haven’t. Not even listing the service times – really helpful, makes me want to dash to join you as I feel so welcome. Not.

My understanding is that churches are moaning that they have an ageing congregation. Well here’s a radical idea – have a presence on the internet. As far as I’m concerned if it’s not online it doesn’t exist. Let’s be clear. I’m not a millennial, I am 37 years old and at the tail end of Generation X. If a church doesn’t have a website then I can’t find out about the amazing work you do.

It’s not even hard to make a website. When I ranted this at my husband he explained that I have an assumed knowledge – because I can easily knock up a website I expect other people to do so too. Why doesn’t the Church of England provide training on this? Have a stock image bank ready for local churches to use? Have a service where for a small amount their team will do it for you and teach you how to manage it too?

OK, I admit that I have a background in marketing and PR with Chartered Institute of Marketing qualifications and ten years in business,  I hold a MA in arts administration and cultural policy and worked in the arts and cultural sector (my business site is here BTW) and so I think this is common sense.

But really? Do people need to be told to have a website in this day and age? That they need to communicate with people what they are doing? That they need to make it easy for people to understand who they are and what they do? It’s not rocket science.

In an ideal world here is what I want to know from the church website homepage, each line should then link across to a page with more details.

one line telling me who you are and what you do – what’s your USP? why should I come to you?

your service times – have the information consistent across the site. I’ve come across one church which says they meet at 11am on the home page and 11.15 on the service page. Yeah, you’ve just lost my interest.

Do you have fellowship groups?

Latest news.

That’s it, it’s not complicated, I’m not asking for prettiness. Just basic information and accessible from my phone too – most modern templates for websites have this as standard.

I’d also really like to know your stance on LGBTQA and women having leadership/preaching roles too, without having to try to decode your mission statement. Same with accessibility – can I easily get in if I need to turn up in my wheelchair? Make it obvious if I am welcome in all my states (of course I hope that I am, but sadly not).

OK, rant over.

 

 

Christmas Eve

I don’t like Christmas, I never really have since I was at university, because of long winded reasons. Right now I still don’t like it because of the pressure of expectations, it has to be perfect, it has to be wonderful.

I find it exhausting, I find being with people all day long tiring, I don’t deal well with surprises or the unexpected. I don’t like not being able to escape and have time to myself.

Christmas doesn’t work well for me.

Sarah Bessey, in yesterday’s post ‘A prayer for the Broken-hearted at Christmas’ said

There is something about Christmas that makes the unbearable even more painful, isn’t there?

Oh yes! That’s exactly how I feel. I struggle to fit in at the best of time, my illness means that I have limited energy and I need to be able to rest quite a lot. I get over stimulated by lots of noise and sights and I get quite jumpy with lots going on around me. I don’t like not being in control of my environment. Obviously I exist in the real world, so I have to cope with these things. I have a lot of coping mechanisms and ways of dealing with the real world. And each of those takes an individual toll on me, having to find ways of fitting in, instead of living as I am.

But somehow it all seems worse at this time of year. My illness often is unbearable, I hate having to constantly be strong and do all the right things to have a good quality of life. I do it because, well you have to, the only other option is giving up, sitting on the sofa and eating all the biscuits.

Christmas Day and Boxing Day are going to be two whole days of socialising in very loud, excited places. Once with my family and once with my husband’s. And I should be able to cope with them, I really should. But I just can’t. So I will make it through both days by being very tightly wound so that I don’t melt down in the corner. Both sets of families will find me odd, and while I can normally cope with that, at Christmas time I do feel like I should be able to do the normal Christmas stuff.

This is my first Christmas since I gave myself to God, so I feel even more than I should be doing Christmas better. I am going to go to a carol service tonight at the local Evangelical church, which I did belong to for a while and on Christmas day at my local C of E. The fact that I don’t quite know where to go to celebrate is a whole other issue that I won’t get into right now, but it is something which is taking up a lot of brain space.

I wish that I could do Christmas in a very different way, one of simplicity and worship, but that’s just not possible as these decisions are not up to just me.

So, for all of those who are broken in some way and are dreading the next few days, stay calm, stay well, eat healthy things and I hope you have space to recover afterwards and I will be asking God to be with me every step of the way and clinging onto Him as much as possible.

 

Lying to myself

I’ve not blogged here for ages and there is a reason for that.

I’ve been embarrassed to call myself a Christian, for all the reasons that I’ve discussed here in the past. I’ve been denying it.

To the extent that I set up another blog so I could talk about the issues which are important to me, and talk about spirituality in broad terms, rather than just Christianity. Why? I really couldn’t tell you. But I’ve lost some social media handles where I changed everything over to that new site. I was over writing this site and its existence.

I guess I was ashamed to call myself a Christian. Ashamed of Christ. Yes, I know.

However, it’s becoming clear to me, oh so clear to me, that I am happiest when I am spending my life focused on God. That Jesus is fundamental to my life. I read an average of 12 books a month and half of them are books on Christianity. Who am I kidding?

The thing is I still inwardly wince when I hear people talk of Jesus out loud. I still find it embarrassing.

I’ve been ignoring God again and finding my identity in other things. Which is especially silly for me as I struggle deeply with depression and am greatly affected by who I am. I NEED to take my identity in Christ. I have a chronic illness which means I can’t take my identity from my career, from my success, all the things I achieve. I need to take it from something bigger, longer lasting. You know, God. Not me.

This is a rough post, because I want to get this site up and running again. I have changed back all the social media stuff that I can. Please do join me on Instagram I’m not that fussed about Twitter or Facebook at the moment as it is full of pain and shouty people, but I do enjoy Instagram.

I will be back blogging again regularly. That’s the plan anyway. Please do join me as I focus my life back on Christ. Is there anything you would like to hear from me?

 

Cramming everything in!

IMG_5982

I recently was waiting in the car park of IKEA.

We’ve all done the ikea juggle, we head up there for just a couple of bits and end up not being able to fit everything in the car. Maybe even contemplating leaving a family member behind to fit everything in, yes you would have to make the trip back again to pick them up, but at least it is sorted for the time being!

This is such a problem that IKEA now rents vans by the hour.

Is your life like this? That suddenly you look around and everything is being crammed in? You only intended to do a couple of things, but actually it is all too much? And you are constantly looking at your diary and wondering what you can leave behind, before deciding that you really can’t, so you cram it all in and your husband is left squished against the window like a cartoon?

Simplicity is the power to reclaim our lives, but it sure is difficult. Not only do you have to really think about what is important to you, but also your family too.

What makes a big difference to all of you?

My main focus is my creativity, that takes different forms in different seasons, but is focused at the moment on writing and music. At one point I was also learning to paint and draw, sewing, knitting and trying to make many things. I realised this was silly as I don’t even enjoy the last two. I finished up my husband’s Star Wars, man sized quilt for his Christmas present and that’s it, no more sewing. I have decided that and I have given away the majority of my fabric stash, although I am still trying to figure out what to do with my Nan’s cast iron (that maybe an exaggeration) sewing machine. All my knitting stuff is going to head off to a local knit and natter group.

I quite like knitting, but I realised that I don’t have the precision required for it, and also I was knitting when I sat down to watch TV- it was a way of staying busy. I don’t need to do that. I don’t watch a lot of of TV, so it is nice to focus on in when I do so. And also, I can’t do everything – I have to make a decision and this is where I have decided.

I need to stay fit and healthy, otherwise my illness creeps up on me, so I have focused on walking, tai chi and swimming, mainly as these are low risk of injury, but also because I have a dog, walking allows me to think and be in nature, which always feeds my soul, and I have always been good at swimming and it is nice to do something that makes me feel strong. Tai chi makes me very happy, it’s a moving meditation. None of these have very little in the way of equipment and are easy just to get on and do, it doesn’t need a huge amount of set up.

At all of these stages I have had to decide what I want to focus on, I just can’t cram everything in.

There is a part of me that believes that getting closer to God means stripping back on things, getting to a simpler life. I have started so far away from that it is going to take me quite a while to get there, although I am quite minimalist in terms of physical stuff in the house, clothing etc. But all the things I am interested in? Wow, oh so many. My someday maybe file is huge.

But for now I am focused on writing, photography and music and developing a closer relationship to God.

Fear and trust in God

Squirrel!

Squirrel!

Once again its been a while since I posted. And there is a very good reason for this. It’s fear.

I even have a stack of posts ready and waiting to go, and yet I still don’t actually post them. Fear again you see.

So, what can we do to counteract this? Well, I guess as this is Christian blog, the answer is of course to trust God. To trust that he has given me the words, and that I need to share them.

Of course that is also much easier to think, then to actually do.

As someone who lives with: a) chronic illness and b) depression it can sometimes be quite hard to keep my face turned towards God.

When I do, life is oh so much better. Trusting that God has my back, that this is the right thing to do. That’s what I need to do. I’m not so good at doing that.

I started this blog, because I wanted to share my journey as a new Christian, to provide a sort of path I guess to other newbie Christians, or to those who are thinking about becoming a Christian. But of course it makes it even harder to write and share, because I’m just a newbie to all of this, who am I to talk about God and His plans?

I really believe that I am a communicator. That’s my gift in this world. And that primarily takes the form of writing, photography and music. And yet every day, I struggle to put my focus on those creative gifts, I know that God wants me to be doing these things, because I’m fairly okay at them. I guess letting the fear win is saying to God that I don’t trust him. That the fear is stronger than my belief in him. My worries that people are going to point and laugh at me, or ignore me, or silently mock me are stronger than serving God. Doing His will and doing what He created me for.

I hadn’t really thought of that until now.

Every day, that I do not work on my gifts, I am insulting God, telling Him I don’t trust him, and that other people’s opinion of me and my work is more important than Him.

Wow. I really hadn’t thought of that until now.

I’m not sure that blogging is the right outlet for my writing. But it’s one that doesn’t require a gatekeeper aside from me. I will make an effort to blog more here, and on my other blog to. Trusting that God wants me to be doing this work.

Dare I make a public commitment? I will work on my writing, music and photography every day. I will serve God by practising my gifts.

What about you? What are your gifts? Do you let fear stop you from working on them, from practising them even keeping going when it gets really hard? Or do you keep your face towards God and know that you are serving him by working with the skills he has given you?

Jesus feeding social media?

When Jesus feeds the five thousand he does it in a calm, measured way, he took the bread from the discilpes, looked up to heaven and gave it back to the disciples to distribute (Matthew 14:19). To us today, in our hyped-up world this seems rather like he is underselling himself, surely he should be making a big deal out of this, he should be proclaiming from the rooftops that he had just fed 5000 men (plus women and children) from five loaves of bread and two fish.

There should be Instagram shots, and lots of Twitter noise and a hashtag where everyone can share their experince collectively.

Or at least that is what we would expect today.

I love how Jesus does this, he doesn’t exclaim or push his sleeves up to show that there are no tricks, he just quietly gets on with it.

For years I had been wanting a clear ‘divine revelation’ that my life is on the right tracks, that I am doing the right thing. For a lighting bolt or voice from the clouds, something BIG and DEFINING.

I am slowly becoming to realise that isn’t the way it is. Following Jesus is more like tuning into that small still voice and letting it speak through you. Looking for the tiny daily miracles and the small things that are happening around us.

Living with Jesus is not a big showy thing to be flashed around, but a gentle and quiet Way to be walked alongside Him. With Him guiding us along the Way, if we can show others the path too by the way that we live then so much the better.

Buying less

One of the good outcomes of wanting less stuff in my life is that I am not wasting my money on things that I don’t really need. As much as I would like to say that I totally have this sorted out and never make a bad purchase, that just isn’t true.

However, I am getting better. It means I am assessing everything that I spend my money on, and when I do override my decisions I realise quite quickly that it was a mistake. And so, after overruling my gut I now have to make another trip back to the shops to return something. Frustrating.

The almost unconscious spending has stopped. What this means is I have money to spend on the things that I really want to do, like have music lessons, or go to see live performance. I am slowing getting stronger again and this means I am now able to go out in the evenings and I am very much looking forward to going to the theatre next week.

Quite often these things do not cost as much as we think they do, when we are justifying spending our money on silly things I used to say, oh yes, but I could never afford that. Actually I managed to get tickets for the ballet at £15 each. My music lessons are £15 for half an hour. Yes, this is a spending, but both of them are spending on something which makes me deeply happy, music lessons contribute to my happiness on a daily level as I practice, and even more when I perform or practice with my band. Going to see live performances inspires me. I can’t say the same for another t-shirt or item of clothing or useless ornament in the house.

I really believe that as Christians we should be living a simple life, that in order to get as close to God as possible we need as few distractions as possible, that includes clutter and stuff, as well as the time we spend thinking about stuff.

This is a big positive point of buying less things for me, I am able to spend out on experiences. Have you found the same? Is this something that works for you too? Are there things you are able to afford now that you never used to be able to, because you have cut back?

Following God’s will – music

Following God's will...to music?

It’s funny, I spent so long resisting Christianity and when I finally accepted it all these things fell into place.

I remember when I was thinking about becoming a teacher I thought I had to do another degree, so I could teach music. My sister in law asked me what my degree was in, I said Theatre Studies and she said I could teach that. So I did my PGCE and became and theatre and English teacher.

But I wanted to teach music! Even though at the time (this is eight years ago now) my highest grade was four in the drum kit. But that didn’t prompt me to go back to having music lessons and learning music.

I was in denial.

Over three years ago I read Sir Ken Robinson’s book Finding your Element* (I love Ken Robinson, and I lecture on his thinking) and I distinctly remember writing about how I wanted to make music and play music and write music. Did I do anything about that?

No.

I have always loved music, as soon as I started earning my own money I spent a lot of it on books and music.

It took getting sick, to then focus on music as a way of building my health up again, so that I had a bigger identity than just being sick. I joined a concert band and in just over a year have done two grades on my flute – and bear in mind that the first six months of so of playing I was still really sick and could only really play fifteen minutes of day.

When I gave myself to God, immediately I started having tunes and songs come into my mind and other things started to happen too…

I’m working towards my music theory grade five at the moment, and teaching myself to play the ukulele, go to the occasional djembe drumming session, and I am going to be getting a piano very soon and having lessons on that too.

I have just won a contract that means I will be working at a very prestigious music organisation focusing on research and writing a report for Arts Council England. I am so excited, I will be in a room with high level music students for a week, I am going to learn so much! I will write more about that project when it gets over way on my other site. I would never have won that work without my experience of playing in a concert band.

And, I have something coming up tomorrow (Friday) that could be very very exciting in terms of music and work. I can’t even bring myself to write it as it is early days yet and nothing may come of it.

Once I had stopped resisting Christianity and resisting God this torrent of music has been unleashed in me and now there are new opportunities opening up for me too. I am hoping and praying that this is part of God’s plan for me, I get the impression from my prayer time that it is, along with writing about my travels on the Christian way.

If you could hold me and music in your prayers, to find out if it is God’s will for me and for me to get out of His way (something I really am not very good at I would be very grateful.

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