A reminder for those days when you’re glad it’s over!

Did you ever have one of those days where you go to bed thankful that the day’s over so at least you can’t say the wrong thing any more?

And not in a feeling sorry for yourself kinda way. You’ve just had one of those days.

Maybe you had an argument with someone you love, largely because you were tired and being grumpy, and you totally tried to turn it round and blame them? Or maybe that’s just me 😉

And in that moment you have a choice …

You can either run with the blaming them routine and enjoy an evening of arguments and crossness.

Or you can do the really uncomfortable thing where you have to face up to what you were doing and say sorry, hoping that they love you enough to forgive you and put the evening back on track.

Yeah, that.

We all have them, it’s just that usually we don’t write about them in an email and send it out into the world.

Steve Furtick said:

“The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”

(Incidentally, I didn’t even know who Steve Furtick was until I just Googled him, despite having versions of that quote rattling around my brain for ages. He’s a Jesus freak too and I’m looking forward to digging into his books.)

What would your today looked like if you stopped believing that everyone else has it so together?

How might you smile more knowing that the person next to you, while they have quirks and foibles different to yours (because you’re you and they’re them) is actually just as messed up as you are?!? 😉

Seriously, stop beating yourself up. You’re brilliant! And sometimes, a mess, and gloriously human.

And made in God’s image.

And he doesn’t need a do over! 😉

Sometimes you’ve just got to go with the easy wins

Sometimes you’ve just got to go with the easy wins

  • Like going to bed at a decent hour because you’re tired, instead of fighting it just a little longer because you still have stuff to do.
  • Like saying, “yes please” and “thank you” when someone kindly offers to help you out with something that you’ve been trying to figure out for ages.
  • Like choosing to write about the first idea that pops in your head, no matter how simple or too basic your brain might tell you it is, instead of hunting around for something smarter or funnier.
  • Like choosing to look for something to smile about (and not just because it’s International Day of Happiness!)
  • Like getting silly giddy pleasure from realising that it’s your brother’s birthday and also International Day of Happiness. OK, so maybe that’s just me. But still, pretty cool eh? 😉
  • Like taking time to have an extra coffee and really enjoying it, just because you can.

This life is all too often full of really tough stuff and it’s very easy to get lost, focussing on the doom and the gloom. But you know what?

If you allow yourself to set the bar just a little lower and accept that there are lots of things to smile about today, even if they’re silly, daft things like pretending you’re conducting the whole orchestra as you drive home from school listening to radio 3, it might just make your whole today a little bit brighter.

Sure, it won’t cure cancer or get your nominated for the next peace prize but that’s ok.

Life is about the little things, the seemingly ordinary day to day things. Bring smiles to those moments and you win.

So go on, give it a try. I dare you 😉

What about when it’s not the answer you were hoping for?

I could tell from the silence that it wasn’t really what she was expecting to hear.

Should I change my tactic? Tell her what she wants to hear? Make something up?

It was Skype so thankfully I was spared having to make eye contact. (My internet connection really doesn’t do well with video!) All the same though, I found myself feeling almost guilty that I didn’t have a better answer.

We were talking about blogging and what she could do with her blog. Topics of interest. Ideas for business. Best next steps. That kind of thing.

All of the ideas are great. You really could go with any of them. You know, there isn’t any one correct answer. Sometimes it’s just about trying something, anything almost, and running with it, seeing what happens.

Silence.

Ok, so not the answer she was hoping for.

What do you do when you’re holding out on an answer and when it finally comes, it’s totally not the answer you were hoping for?

Maybe a “no”, when you were expecting a “yes”. Or a “wait” when you wanted a “go”.

A couple of weeks ago I applied for a job. It sounded amazing and I could see so many ways it could be great, both for me personally and for us as a family. I had what I believed to be an inspired idea.

I talked to God about it. Told him that I was really excited about it but that if it wasn’t right for me and my family, that I didn’t want it. And I genuinely meant that. Really.

Until I got an email to say I’d been rejected before they’d even heard my idea.

I was gutted! It was totally not the answer I was expecting and I have to admit I cried, just a little. And then I pouted. And then I sulked.

And then, eventually, I got over it.

And less than two weeks later, I felt compelled to restart these daily blog posts. I’ve also got an outline for a book that has been a long long time in the making and life feels fun again. Great result all round!

But here’s the thing … sometimes the answer we’re waiting on is a whole lot bigger than some random job. Sometimes it really crucial life or death stuff.

What then?

How do you pull yourself back from the answer you totally didn’t want to hear? Or how about when stuff is falling down around you and you hear nothing but silence?

Is it possible to hold onto a scrap of faith then?

The correct churchy answer is that those are the times when you need your faith most and that you’ll dig in and God will do his thing and carry you. Et cetera, et cetera.

But what does that really look like? And what if all you can do is scream and cry and rail? What then?

You know what? I believe in a God who is big enough to cope with you and me on our very worst day. He has broad enough shoulders to carry the blame, even when he knows it’s not actually his fault.

Sure, shouting and anger might not be his favourite method of communication but it’s got be to preferable to silence.

What if God just wants you to show up, honestly, just as you are?

What if he doesn’t need you to have the correct words or the perfect prayer?

What if just wanted you to show up and be real?

What might that look like?

Links & Resources

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The perfect sacrifice?

It’s not about finding the perfect space to create. There’s no magic bullet that will mean everything is perfectly wonderful, with ease and success a dead cert.

Sometimes it’s not even about looking around and learning from your peers. Only you can be you. If your peers were about to do what you must, they’d probably do it very differently. Or at least, with their own flavour.

Only you can be you. There is no other.

It’s time to stop looking to others and to start trusting that your creator knows what he’s doing.

Listen to the nudges. Try stuff. Pay attention to what lights you up and makes you smile and do more of that stuff.

Doing the easy stuff doesn’t make you selfish. You’re not a hedonist because you like to smile.

You were put on this planet to be you, quirks and foibles and eccentricities and all.

Embracing who you are is an act of worship.

Feeling and expressing thanks to the poet, when it’s God’s poem, that’s worship too.

Worship isn’t about waving your arms around on a Sunday morning or saying a perfectly put together prayer.

Be you. Embrace what God is doing in your life. It’s the best kind of sacrifice you can offer.

I quit!

It wasn’t quite as big or dramatic a decision as that, but on Christmas Day, I published my last daily dose email and podcast episode. I didn’t know what 2014 would look like yet. I expected to just take a little break before coming back.

I’d had big grand plans for The Itchy Soul but suddenly none of it sat right. So I just stopped. I quit.

Maybe that’s happened to you?

Maybe you had things that you felt called to do, things that were bigger than you and, on the days when you were honest with yourself, things that were really quite scary and you kinda wished someone else could do them instead?

What do you do?

Do you quit?

Maybe tell yourself a story about why it was never meant for you in the first place so you can feel better about changing your mind?

What if that thing that’s bigger than you is bigger than you because you were never meant to do it on your own?

Mother Teresa said:

“I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish he didn’t trust me so much.”

Taken literally, that’s just not true. God does and did give us and Mother T more than we can handle, precisely because we’re not meant to handle it on our own.

What if instead it’s about stepping into each new day asking God to help us with each thing that might come into our day?

Because running with the thinking that God only gives us stuff he knows we can handle means agreeing that he plots all the crappy stuff that happens and, I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t fill me with confidence or whisper of unconditional love.

What say you? 🙂

What if?

What do you do when you feel a thing tugging at you, refusing to let go? And you feel so unqualified to really have an answer, let alone the answer.

And so maybe you stumble forward, distracting yourself with other projects, procrastinating, until one day, maybe years and years later, that thing comes back.

It will not let you go.

And you thought that by now you’d feel better qualified to handle it but instead, you’ve just added to the list of reasons why there must surely, please God, be someone else who can do it.

But it will not let you go.

We read so much about legacy and worth and making a difference. The child prodigy and self-made millionaires leave us feeling like we’ve somehow missed our turn. We’re too late. All that’s left for us is more of the same old, same old.

“You’re doing ok. You’re a great mum. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself.”

And yet still it will not let you go.

A yearning. An ache. A thing, deep inside whispering into the very edges of your soul.

What if you were carefully and exactly put together, quirks and foibles and yearnings and all?

What if the whisper into your heart were God’s spirit talking to your spirit?

What if the ‘it’ that will not let you go were actually a ‘him’? Calling you forward. Holding you gently, even when it feels lonely and impossible?

What if God, in his infinite wisdom, doesn’t need anyone better qualified? What if he wants you, just as you are? To love on and whisper sweet nothings to?

What if it’s less about legacy and what you’ll leave behind when you’re gone, and more about being you, fully and wholly and completely you, in the here and now today?

And what if you just started, one foot in front of the other? Letting go of the ‘what ifs’ and the not knowing and just be?

What if?

What if the secret was to start with the easy win?

Loving can be really difficult. I mean, it’s wonderful and so necessary and can light us up, etcetera, etcetera, but sometimes it’s also really tricky.

There’s the balance between loving and being kind, but not being a door mat.

There’s the need to give love and show up for other people, whilst making sure that we put our own gas masks on first.

Loving from the saucer.

And then this morning I washed my car and this thought popped in my head …

You know how sometimes we over-think stuff? Look at love and how we’re showing up from all the different angles? Explore and poke at the possibilities?

What if we didn’t?

My car was absolutely filthy! It’s bright yellow paint could barely be seen through a film of dirt. So as I was driving home from taking the kids to school, I thought about washing it.

Ah, but I need to clean the inside too. Get rid of all the rubbish. Hoover. Dust. Maybe I should do that first and think about washing it after that?

All very dull and boring. The perfect job for a Friday morning – not!

So I grabbed a bucket and sponge, turned the Christmas music on and got to work on the outside.

It was actually quite fun (and didn’t take anything like as long as I feared it might.)

Rinsing it off with a hose was a giggle and then after taking it for a spin to dry it off, I even came back and picked up the rubbish and coats and shoes and random stuff from the back.

And it was about then that I thought about what would have happened if I done the boring cleaning piece first.

I’d have cleaned and hoover the inside, by which time I’d be so bored with it all, I’d have never got to the outside – the one thing that was so dirty it had inspired the whole clean up operation!

What if, instead of picking at and exploring and figuring out all the details, the best way, the most loving way to behave, we just showed up and did the easy stuff first?

Silly stuff so small that it almost feels irrelevant and like it wouldn’t matter.

What if life were actually made up of those silly, small moments?

How much easier might it be to love if we stopped worrying and just did that small stuff first?

Sometimes doing so might inspire even more action (like me picking up the rubbish inside my car after washing the outside) and other times it’ll just make someone else smile and we’ll leave it at that.

But surely showing up and doing the easy stuff has got to be a whole lot better than doing nothing?

And better than that, it might actually add up to make a massive difference. One person at a time.

What do you think? Worth a try eh? 😉

Is there a connection between our capacity to love & the speed at which we’re travelling?

I’m on a bit of a space and productivity quest.

Space for fun and laughter and, well, sometimes just space to breathe, because life feels very busy right now and I’m not sure I’m convinced about how very wonderful that is.

And productivity because, if less really is more, I’d love to find that balance, the sweet spot.

After two days thinking about love (well, a whole weekend of it really but only the last two days showed up here in the daily dose) and realising yesterday that there is a real, solid correlation between our capacity to love and the speed at which we’re travelling, finding that sweet spot feels more important than ever.

I’m done with being the grumpy, stressy one.

I’m done with multi-tasking so I can squeeze more busy into the day.

I’m done with getting by.

I’m ready to really step up and enjoy each new day.

I’m ready to show my children, by example, what it looks like to smile at the sun rise and really thrive.

And if that sounds just a little more poetic than usual, you can totally blame a new writing app I’m playing with. I’m listening to gentle music as I write and it’s setting a beautiful scene 🙂

What might your today look like if you really believed it were possible to thrive, every day?

What would you differently?

What would you allow yourself to make time for?

Today, I dare you to do all that stuff anyway, even if you don’t believe how thriving is actually possible yet.

As Christians we talk a lot about how to follow Christ means to take up your cross. To accept struggles and persecution. To be people who know what it is to hurt.

But Jesus also talked about his yoke being light. He promised rest and refreshment. He told us not to worry.

What might life look like if we took him at his word? Embraced those promises and really stepped into them and owned them?

You won’t know unless you try so go on, I dare you 😉

The truth about what love really looks like

Occasional bouts of grumpiness aside, I like to think that I’m a pretty nice person. I sit here and write to you about love and Jesus and enjoying life moment by moment. All very nice and kind and lovely.

But there is something about running late that lets my narky side out to play and I become, for a short moment, not very nice or loving at all.

I didn’t realise it was running late specifically that did it until literally this morning but, having noticed, I’m starting to think that I might not be the only one.

So, regular scheduling is abandoned for today (I had a whole other email on half for you but we’ll save that for tomorrow) while we dig into this idea of love and what it really looks like when you’re running late or rushing about or feeling stressed.

Because it feels really important.

We (and by ‘we’ I mean ‘I’ but I’m let’s pretend it’s not just me) talk about love and how it’s the most important thing of all.

We have this burning desire to reinvent how this world sees and understands God’s love.

We’re starting to see that for real love to actually have an impact, it has to be actioned, one person at a time.

But then real life happens.

And we sigh because our middle child is crying again, only to find out that she’s only crying because she hurt herself and wants someone to rub her little pinky better.

And then we drive the kids to school and get narky and impatient with a grandmother because she walked out in front of the car and didn’t engage her brain to realise that it’s not just her grandchild who needs to get a move on and get to school if he’s not going to be late.

And then we check ourselves and feel really guilty for being so grumpy and un-loving.

Writing about love is easy. Seriously, writing to you each morning is one of the best parts of my day.

Talking about love is easy. I did it in church on Sunday and saw people nodding along. They agreed. They got it.

But real life, day to day love? So much easier to say and write about than it is to actually do.

Worse still, we can look around at what we see other people saying and writing about and it paints this picture of ease. People like me are guilty of this. We wax lyrical about love and kindness and encourage you to love, one person at a time.

But how often do you get to peep behind the curtain and see the reality of daily love in another person’s life?

Not all that often. Hardly ever.

And it can leave us feeling so inadequate. Like we don’t measure up and probably never will.

Would you like to know the reality?

The reality is that every single person on this planet, no matter how much they like to pretend otherwise, gets it wrong. Has a bad day. Snaps. Is narky and grumpy.

You don’t need to look around you to see how loving you are compared to other people. You only need to look to how much you’re loving, in that moment.

It helps if we can start to recognise our triggers (like me and running late) but ultimately, the only way we can love, day to day, is to just do it the best we can, moment by moment, God helping us.

Paul talks about how we can become more and more like Jesus each day. We don’t do that by trying harder or wishing more. We do that by asking God to help us and him giving us opportunities to practice.

There’s no magic bullet or quick fix. That’s not God’s way.

Instead it’s about showing up, every day, just as we are, putting one foot in front of the other, asking God to help us but accepting that we won’t get it right all the time.

Loving because we were loved first.

But knowing that God doesn’t need us to be kinder or more lovely in order for him to love us. He loves you because he loves you. End of.

So stop comparing yourself to anyone other than you and know that you’re not the only one who gets it wrong an awful lot of the time.

Welcome to the club. Pull up a chair. You’re in good company!

Why Jesus chose to totally ignore the marketing expert’s top advice. Or did he?

It’s been nearly four years since I first landed in the world of marketing, first as I worked on building Give A Brick, and then through various business iterations.

Ask any business owner the one piece of advice they hear the most often and they’ll probably say something about persistence and stickability.

This is good advice of course but it doesn’t have much practical application, beyond showing up each day, doing the work and not giving up.

What would be the most practical advice they were given do you think?

How about: Pick a niche. Be specific. Focus on serving one customer with one specific need before expanding that service to a wider client base.

And the idea I’ve been playing with for nearly a week is that Jesus totally ignored that advice. He’s allowed to of course. I just found it fascinating to think that some messages, like love, could be universal.

You can’t argue with a need for love so maybe that’s why it’s ok that he didn’t pick a niche. That and being the son of God and all. You might call it a bit of an unfair advantage 😉

I was ready to write a whole piece on how love doesn’t need a niche etc. etc.

But what if I’m wrong?

Because as I wrote that sentence above about serving one customer before expanding, it suddenly occurred to me … isn’t that exactly what Jesus did? God too in fact.

From the very beginning of the bible, the story centres on one small part of the world and one very specific people group.

Jesus too spoke to a community who grew up as a part of that specific group. Sure, there are notable exceptions, like the Roman centurion who asked Jesus to perform long-distance healing, but for the most part, Jesus had his niche and he stuck to it.

That’s not to suggest that he didn’t have a wider remit.

Way back in the Old Testament, there’s a conversation about how working with just the Jews wasn’t enough for Jesus. But at the point where it all started, when the plan was put into action, Jesus had a very clear and specific target market.

It was only much later, when Peter had that vision about the different types of animals he could eat, that God’s original plan to love on everyone became clear.

So what does that mean for you and me?

Other than to make us smile to think that God loves us so much, he had it all planned out way back when, the real message here is that it’s OK to just love on the people around you.

You might have this overwhelming burning desire to love on the world, to be a walking, talking, practical example of God’s love, to un-write all the wrongs of the past. And that’s wonderful! And inspiring. And good on you 🙂

But you don’t have to love on the whole world right now, today.

You can start with the very next person you come into contact with – whether that be face to face or on the phone or via email, Facebook or Twitter.

You don’t love on the whole world by loving on the whole world. You love on the whole world, one person at a time.

And sure, it’ll take longer than if you had the whole world on iMessage and could send a group text, but have you ever wondered why there are so many names in the bible? People matter to God.

Individuals, one at a time, are important to God.

And if it’s good enough for him, I reckon it’s good enough for us too 😉

And so our challenge today is to love, one person at a time, even when it’s messy and hard going and tests our patience.

And remember, you don’t have to do it alone.

We love because God loved first so don’t forget to get him in on the act. Ask him to help you, to keep helping you.

Are you ready? Let’s go! 🙂