Tag Archives: Music

What I’m listening to this morning: Winter Survival Guide (34) ~ Christmas and Holiday Playlists. — Life as it happens to be — Life as it happens to be

Lauren Daigle: “Noel”

Listening to this just now:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Vwu-t7QRaE&list=PL5o2Uu3rC4m5ONKvTeJSDlCA8b_JomJ8k&index=3

via What I’m listening to this morning: Winter Survival Guide (34) ~ Christmas and Holiday Playlists. — Life as it happens to be — Life as it happens to be

Winter Survival Guide (34) ~ Christmas and Holiday Playlists.

So, we’ve covered our top 5 films and made an occasion of them, so what about some ‘feel good’ music?

I haven’t ever put together a Christmas holiday playlist, as such. I tend to just buy music and listen to it on my MP3, or if it’s something I might only occasionally listen to I’ll just look up songs on You Tube and listen to them as and when I’m in the mood for that particular song, or I’ll browse and discover new music. I like listening to things just in the moment as well, and I might not know the song or the artist, but it just connects with me emotionally in the moment. It is nice though to have some familiar favourites at hand for those cold winter days especially when we might need some cheering up.

What will be on your playlist, if you make one up? Or even if you don’t have a playlist as such, what music do you hope to listen to?

For me, I’d definitely want some reflective worship music that I can sing along and praise and worship God to, some instrumental music, some carols, and some good old fashioned Christmas ‘tuuuunes’! which will definitely include some hits from the 1980s and 90s.

What about you? What will you be listening to while you bop around the Christmas tree? 😉 x

ukulele beside a floral box and string lights
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close up photo of a woman listening to music
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man and woman wearing santa hats sitting on sofa popping a confetti surrounded by christmas trees
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Winter Survival Guide (15) ~Revisit Your Hobbies and Make Better Use of Your Time.

We all say it from time to time: “If only I had more time, then I could do more of the things I really enjoy.”

black and white photo of clocks
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If we’re honest with ourselves and each other, we probably all have a lot more time than we make proper use of, and especially so during the winter and holiday seasons when we have a ready excuse to stay indoors and relax.

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How many of us who go out to work during the day, come back in the evenings and have something to eat and then spend the rest of the time slumped in front of the TV, or some other electronic device? One click leads to another, and before you know it you’ve whiled away the hours and it’s time for bed again, and that’s another day in which you wished you had ‘more time’.

photo of cup near flat screen television
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Now, what if the solution wasn’t having ‘more time’, but making better use of the time that we do have?

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I have this little game I play that helps me to get things done and avoid feeling overwhelmed. I have these ‘daily challenges’ on my computer in the form of various card games, word games and mind puzzles of different degrees of difficulty. If I’m feeling overwhelmed by the things I need to do around the house, I’ll solve a puzzle and then do a bit of work (and within that I break things down further like I’ll put 5 things away, or do x amount of something, etc.) and then go onto the next puzzle, and go on alternating between doing the things I need to do and relaxing / brain training and for me this ‘system’ really does work and keeps me calm, focused on my tasks a little at a time, and efficient. Doing this frees up time for me to have more spare time as well when the environment and living space I’m in is conducive to relaxation, rest and creativity.

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Sometimes when we think of revisiting hobbies that we’ve maybe laid aside for awhile, we can feel similarly overwhelmed as when we have a lot of housework etc. to do. But we can make this manageable for ourselves too, and make better use of our time.

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Think of your indoor hobbies. What would you ideally do on a cold, cosy winter’s evening? Now think of the amount of time you spend with your devices not being particularly productive. By this I don’t mean blogging, because this is a creative outlet and I think can be a very good use of time in connecting with other like minded creative people, and sharing our encouragement and insights with the world to make the world a kinder, more loving and supportive place online. But instead think of the amount of scrolling you do, comparing your life with someone else’s, looking at the latest celebrity gossip, going from one funny cat or baby video on You Tube to another, or binging for hours on your favourite box sets. I’m guilty of all of the above just like most of us probably are, but the problem is if it becomes a habit that interferes with us living our real and best lives for ourselves. It’s fine to every now and then ‘switch off’ from the world and look at things online, but it really shouldn’t be what we spend most of our free time doing, and I know that I am making changes to make better use of my time as it’s all too easy to get lost and entangled in this inter-web isn’t it?

Winter time is the perfect time to reignite your enjoyment of your indoor hobbies. And you don’t need to spend hours at a time doing them if that isn’t practical. For example, I enjoy playing the violin, particularly using it as an instrument to worship God with. It brings me joy, but it can for a long time sit in its case, untouched in the corner of the room, because I think ‘I’ll get back to it someday.’ But shouldn’t every day of our lives be that someday in some way? What I mean to say is that everyday should be the day to do something meaningful and worthwhile. And so maybe I’ll play my violin for ten minutes one night, but that in itself is a beautiful gift to be able to do.

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I also love adult colouring in, and have taken this up as a hobby which I do not just for enjoyment but also to develop my skills in art and creativity, and there is a whole community out there of people who display their wonderful creations online, on forums, on YouTube videos, and whatever you may think of adult colouring in, believe me, there are some fantastic artists out there (‘colourists’) who create masterpieces of the highest quality, and this is something that I aspire to. And notwithstanding that, it is a beautiful way to relax. Instead of thinking that I need to spend hours pouring into this hobby, maybe I can spend 10 or 15 minutes working at it in the evenings before turning the TV (or in my case, ‘laptop’ as I don’t have a TV) on. Doing a little of what you enjoy everyday, over a life time all adds up, and it can bring joy to others as well as you share your gifts.

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What about crafts? Isn’t this the perfect opportunity to put your talents to use and make some homemade cards or decorations or whatever craft you do, to give as gifts to the people you care about, as well as exploring the possibility of selling your home made items to raise money for charity? A few years ago I had my first ever craft stall at work around Christmas time. I decided to use the money raised to give to a homeless charity in the city. Last year I decided to try out a new hobby, making jewellery particularly beaded bracelets and necklaces with charms, and I spent the wintery nights preparing a good collection of these which I later sold to raise money for the same homeless charity as well as a children’s charity. Now, this wasn’t anything extravagant, or needing a great deal of skill, but it was a fun way to try something new, to use my time (even while watching my favourite programmes – don’t you just love hobbies that allow you to multitask?! 🙂 ) and to encourage other people and do something helpful at the same time.

Some of our hobbies can be just for the sheer joy they bring in and of themselves, of honing our skills, learning new techniques, connecting with other like minded people, or even passing on what we’ve learned to our friends, family and the younger generations.

My God-son and his dad enjoy spending time together doing wood-crafts. Some of them are quite simple, but turn out beautifully like little model rocking chairs crafted out of wooden clothes pegs glued together. Think of the wonderful memories you could make, as well as the wonderful gifts, from spending time connecting with people or even on your own giving yourself time to grow, learn, improve and contemplate.

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What are your favourite indoor hobbies that you’d like to pick up again? Could this wintertime be the chance for you to rediscover them? I’m curious to know what people enjoy doing – painting, music, reading, writing, arts and crafts, model making, jewellery making, pottery, embroidery, quilt-making, baking, making Christmas decorations, knitting, sewing, weaving, photography, scrapbooking, wood-carving…..? I’m sure there are so many more that I have overlooked, and many more that I may never even have heard of.

If you’d like to share, I’d love to hear about what your favourite hobbies are, and I hope you have and create the time, even if just a little time at the moment, to get back into the things that make you feel that enjoyment and creativity! 🙂

 

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person fixing green christmas tree
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Procrastination, or creative thinking?

Have you ever thought about the difference between procrastination and creative thinking in your life? Procrastination is when you know you need to do something but keep coming up with excuses to put it off. I’m sure we’ve all been there! Some of us may even spend most of our time there, which surely can’t be too good in the practical day to day things of life.

However, if you are a creative person, then maybe at some point in your life you’ve been labelled or have labelled yourself as ‘lazy’. But is this actually the case?

Think of a project you’ve been working on for a long time, something that requires thought, focus, commitment, insight. Maybe you’re a painter, a sculptor, a musician / composer, working on a photography project, or like me, a writer. Has there been something that you have had as an on-going creative venture, that is very important to you, but that somehow you keep ‘stop-starting’ and yet with no intention of giving up?

Maybe you are overly critical of yourself about this. In a world that is fast-paced, filled with deadlines, and timelines, it can be difficult to see the positives in letting things rest for a while. Obviously,  if you are working to external deadlines such as writing for a publisher / book deal, preparing for an exhibition with a set date, or working on a commissioned piece of art, then you may in fact be procrastinating if you are putting off what you know needs to be done.

But what if you are solely creating something with no other demands imposed other than it is something you feel you need to do and to express? I have been working on a novel for ten years, and it involves a lot of personal reflection, as well as progressing on my journey of processing and healing past experiences and present realities. I used to think, when I was younger, that I would have written my book by such and such an age. Is it failure that I haven’t? Or is it woven within the fabric of this ‘life’s work’ itself? Isn’t it the case that something coming from the deepest parts of me to find expression and life as I continue to learn and make sense of things needs and in fact deserves time?

When I am not working on my novel, which can be for months on end (I could look at this as because I am busy with other commitments, need longer focused periods of time, etc.) the creative process is still happening. It hasn’t stopped just because there is a pause in the writing, just as your creative process maybe continuing even when for a time you have put down your pen, pencil, paintbrush, composition notebook, camera, sculpting tools, musical instrument, or whatever it may be for you. During the ‘fallow’ periods of ‘not writing’ my novel, I still continue to write in other ways that require less focus and emotional and psychological investment which can actually be a relief from the difficulty and intensity of expressing in art personal pain and growth. My mind continues to process and ‘sift’ through experiences, gaining insight as I continue on my life path, and perhaps subconsciously working out ‘solutions’ to yet to be answered questions in my novel itself. I learn new things from my experiences, from people around me, from reading, and gain insight, inspiration and new ideas even when I am not working specifically on my creative project. And when I come back to it, I realise that I hadn’t actually ‘left’ it. Just as in music, those moments of silence, of pause, of reflection can be profound and imbued with power and meaning and emotion, so too can the times of rest in our creative journey.

Can you relate? Maybe if you are in a similar position and if it is the case that you are giving yourself a hard time over not investing time in something so important to you creatively, you could instead consider all of the many ways that the rest and silence is not in fact laziness or procrastination but a form of growth, insight, of learning, and exploring other people’s creativity, or reflecting upon and sifting through your own inner journey so that when you do once more give yourself to your creative work, things are more focused, have a greater depth, authenticity and sharpness to them.

It’s just a thought that I’ve come to realise gives me greater freedom from self-imposed expectations on my creative journey. What about you? Would love to hear your thoughts and insights into your own creative processes.

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‘Lunch Bites’ (c)

A snippet of inspiration on your lunch break.

Don’t wait for your next time to ‘get away from it all’, especially if you work full time.

Take a walk at lunchtime, listen to the birds, listen to some relaxing music, and go on a ‘mini-break’ even if that’s only for 15 minutes – you’ll feel more refreshed to take on the rest of your day 🙂

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Notes from a Writer on Retreat! 3

It is morning, 8.15 am, and I have been up for around 45 minutes. Last night at around 3.30am I was able to do some more writing, which has brought me a little further along and left me feeling excited as to how things will develop for my characters. I only wrote an additional paragraph, so my word count over the past evening and early morning is a bit over 1,000 words. Thank you for reading my earlier blog posts about preparing for this writing retreat, I am encouraged to share this journey. I have been working on this book on and off for just over ten years, and it is an expression of a deep place within my soul. 

I am blessed to have this time off from work, even ‘just’ three days, to savour the creative process and take my time with things. 

This morning, the sun is shining and there is a cool, gentle and crisp breeze in the air. It often rains here, so a day like this is a gift, and I am thankful. I can hear the chatter of birdsong through my open window, and I can also hear the rush of traffic over the motorway bridge as commuters make their way to work. I am both cocooned from the world, being on the 10th floor and with my windows laced with tulle to ‘keep the world out’ but also to allow me to observe it. My view overlooks the city, but in the distance I can see hills, trees, a few fluffy clouds, and a pastel blue sky. I awoke with thoughts running through my mind of things I wanted to write, which is lovely, to have that creative flow so early on. I am ‘half ready’ if that makes sense, having prepared myself for the day and got changed into some light and comfortable clothing, but I am not ready enough to go outside. After some refreshing water, I didn’t go straight to writing, but I spent the first 40 minutes or so in prayer and worship and committing my time to God.

Music helps me to quieten myself and be still before God and the lyrics help focus my thoughts and intentions and allow God to guide my heart and purpose. 

If you are interested, this has been my morning worship playlist today. The lyrics are beautiful if you take time to listen, and the final song is really a prayer and offering to God and a request for Him to establish the work of our hands, for His glory, for without Him we can do nothing.

I also came across in my ‘reader’ feed a beautiful blog post which inspired me to reflect and I will share a link to that post below. It talks about being humble in our attitudes and what we do, in response to Christ’s humility, and God’s view of those who seem ‘less’ in the eyes of the world. This links to a central theme in my book regarding the transformation of people who have been crushed and downtrodden, to be used mightily as part of a bigger purpose. I will not give too much away, but I was pleased to see this post and the connections that God is leading me to think about. 

I recommend that if you are embarking upon a focused time of creativity to begin in quietness and reflection and inspiration, remembering the purpose of what you are doing and the reason behind it. For me, I remind myself that all I do is because of the Love and Sacrifice of my Creator, so to Him I commit this writing retreat, and trust that He will glorify His Great Name and establish the work of my hands. 

This morning’s worship playlist: 

 

scenic view of mountains during dawn
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January 2018 in Review

Welcome to February. 🙂

What can I say? We made it! I think you deserve a ‘pat on the back’ for making it through the somewhat tricky month of January. I find that January can be laden with so much expectation, being a brand new chapter to a brand new year…and also, at least in my part of the world, quite a cold, dark and wintry month. I smile as I see the days already begin to lighten, with the feeling that spring is not too far away if it is not quite ‘just around the corner’. 

How has the start of the year been for you? I love the start of a brand new month. It is like a mini ‘new beginning’ in and of itself. A couple of years ago, I think, I began ‘theming’ my months. I find that having a theme as well as monthly ‘goals’ and plans helps me to live better rather than merely drifting along. A common theme to all my months, and hopefully each of my days is ‘Faith’, and in particular, my relationship with God.

However, in addition to this core value, running through my entire life, my more ‘down to earth’ themes this January have been cosiness and music. 

Cosiness

Cosiness because I find Christmas such a cosy time of the year, and I feel a certain sadness in so quickly packing up the Christmas tree and getting back into the rush and hurry of work. I’m the kind of person who is a bit of a magpie as it were ~ I love shiny things, I love cosiness, and I have gentle fairy lights up in various parts of my home all year round. I delayed taking down my Christmas decorations until midway through January, and it helped ease me into the transition of the seasons, or our human demarcations of them. 

So I kept in mind the saying on a mug I was gifted with in December, ”Tis the Season to be Cosy’, and I made the most of hot drinks, cosy blankets, fairy lights, comforting food, time inside, making time to ‘breathe’ and relax and slow the pace a little amid the necessity to pick up the pace by getting back to work, commuting, braving the cold weather and getting back into the post holiday routines. 

I found myself learning that I wasn’t the only one with this mind and heart-set, and was intrigued to learn more about the Danish concept of ‘Hygge’ ~ if you haven’t heard of it, you might find it fascinating to look up ~ if you are a person who likes your ‘cosy corners’ in life that is 🙂 

However, cosiness didn’t only involve staying wrapped up indoors. It also involved making the most of the weekend ‘Snow Days’ when I got wrapped up warm, and braved the chill to take photographs and slow down and see the beauty of the wintry season. It is never far from my mind how fortunate I am to have a home when so many are homeless in the cold season in particular, and I kept in mind and in prayer the harsh realities of those for whom the beauty of snow as some see it only exacerbates their misery. It was definitely a time for both creativity and humble reflection and gratitude. 

Making time for reflection and cosiness also came to the fore in establishing more of a ‘morning routine’ ~ as Gretchin Rubin, author of ‘The Happiness Project’ says, some people are born larks and others are born owls, and being an owl I am definitely by nature *not* a morning person, however, I have made progress in this area and have enjoyed having quiet times of prayer, reflection, and time with God, reading His word in the mornings, while drinking a hot cup of tea and cosied up in soft blankets…not something I have always maintained consistently, but the times I have managed it have been quite calming and special before the busy work day begins, and helps set the perspective, heart and tone of the day.11.jpg

Music

In my little part of the world, which just now is Scotland, there is an annual festival held in the City of Glasgow called “Celtic Connections”  (https://www.celticconnections.com/Pages/default.aspx) ~ perhaps you have heard of it? ~ musicians from all over the world show their interest in being involved in this unique and inspiring event. This year Celtic Connections celebrates its 25th Anniversary, and runs (yes, it is ongoing, with two days left!) from 18th January to 4th February, and showcases both ‘new’ and established musicians of high calibre and unique style, in numerous venues from Concert Halls to cosy café / bars and pubs. There are various events throughout the day, from concerts and gigs to workshops, some ticketed and others free such as the well loved ‘Danny Kyle’s Open Stage’ giving new and upcoming artists the chance to share their talent. I have had the pleasure of going to three of the free Open Stage events, for the first time ever (I first dipped my toe in the waters of Celtic Connections only last year!), as well as going along to a ticketed evening event to watch and listen to the likes of Eddi Reader, Phil Cunningham and Siobhan Miller to name but a few ~ if you haven’t heard of them…well, you really should have!! 😉 🙂 

I went to all but one of the events on my own, but even when I went alone I saw and got chatting to one or two people who I knew from different contexts (church and work!), and made new acquaintances for the evening with fellow music lovers. 

Suffice to say, Celtic Connections has helped in many ways to get me through those dreaded ‘January / Winter blues’ ~ and the sense of community, even among strangers, really added to that sense of cosiness and belonging in the way that live music uniquely creates. 

The talent I have seen and heard has been so vastly unique and varied, and deeply sincere. However, as sad as I am to see Celtic Connections come to an end for this year, I am excited to embark upon a new “Theme” for February …..as a ‘sneak preview’ if I can call it a preview with the month having commenced, the focus is shifting towards all things home and lifestyle ~ a good old clear out and purge of the messiness that has built up in my home, establishing new systems of organisation, in a way coming full circle so that eventually it will be organised, well maintained and a beautiful haven wherein I can enjoy the things that make for a happy life like creativity, friendship, cosiness and music! 😉 

More on February’s theme to follow, so keep a look out for that my friends. xx

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