Well dear readers, friends, we’re finally here, and I’d like to wish you all a very happy December.
This is the time of the year when everyone seems to say “Can you believe it? December is here already, hasn’t this year gone by quickly?”. I personally don’t think it has, but it is a natural time of reflection when the seasons change and the calendar year comes to an end. We ask ourselves where the time has gone, and it is a chance to look back in reflection and also to look forwards in hope.
I’ve never done ‘Blogmas’ before, you know, posting a new blog post every day in the lead up to Christmas. I really like this idea and have often enjoyed stopping by different ‘vlogs’ on YouTube for ‘Vlogmas’.
It’s the 5th of December, so I’ve already missed the first few days, but it’s nice also to blog as we approach Christmas, without necessarily doing this every day. Just as I created my Winter Survival Guide series (my 50th and final post for that series will be coming soon!), I’d like to also blog regularly in December. I love the idea of reading your Christmas themed blog posts, and ‘blogmas’ posts, it is a cosy and comforting feeling.
However, as I contemplated using the term ‘blogmas’ in my title, I realised that it wasn’t really what my heart was going for. Which is why you can think of this as a Christmas blog story, as I like to focus on Christ being the centre of Christmas, rather than blogging or any other thing. It’s just a personal feeling I had for my own blog, but like I said I love all of your blogmas posts and will enjoy reading them. So, what instead….?
Who doesn’t love an advent calendar? I have quite a fondness, even though I don’t have one myself, for those hand stitched patchwork style advent creations with hand stitched pockets. I think we all love the countdown to something special and exciting and worth celebrating.
For many of us, Advent signifies the first coming of Jesus Christ into the world, and the waiting and anticipation of those who lived during that time. Now as a Christian, I can approach Christmas reflecting back with gratitude for Christ’s first coming into the world, and looking forward in hope to His second coming for He will return again, and also celebrate the Christmas season knowing and experiencing personally that He Is Emmanuel – God with us – The One True and Living God, here, and now.
Advent is also a time of preparation, and I love this because as a Christian, preparing my heart for Christ is a daily thing, however at this time of the year it is a new and fresh opportunity to do this with other believers and also to know that the world around us is celebrating and anticipating and that this is an opportunity to share the Light, Love and Truth of Jesus Christ with all.
What are you waiting for?
As a Christian, I wait on God, and I live in the experience of His present love, forgiveness, peace, joy and truth. I wait, and yet I am also fulfilled.
What are you waiting for and preparing for at this time of year?
I look forward to sharing my journey, this year’s Christmas (blog) Story with you as I give you a glimpse into my thoughts, friendships, travels, holiday fun, faith, spirituality, home and lifestyle. I hope you will stay with me as we continue on to the next chapter, and as we hopefully approach what will be a “Merry Christmas for one and all”.
I haven’t as yet had the privilege of visiting South Africa or Norway, but from the people I know who have either lived in or visited these countries I have heard that they are beautiful and unique places. I am so fascinated to know what life is like there, so a big ‘hello and welcome’ to all of you from these places, and thank you for stopping by to visit my blog.
A couple of years ago I visited the Czech Republic, notably Prague, and I absolutely loved it. If you want to read some of my posts on my time there visit my ‘Travel’ section (although coming to think about it, I’m not sure if I ever finished writing those travel diaries).
My impressions of Prague were that it was vibrant, full of life, history, culture, and amazing musical and artistic talent from ordinary people busking and displaying their art on the streets. It is a beautiful place, and I would love to go back again some day, so hello to all my blogging friends in the Czech Republic.
You are all most welcome to let me know a bit about your country, in the comments below. 🙂
I’ve decided to start doing a ‘shout out’ to my readers, viewers, friends and followers across the world, from the first ‘top 3’ countries as per my Word Press blog stats.
So today’s hello, welcome and thank you goes to our friends in (drum roll please):
The United States of America, The United Kingdom, and The United Arab Emirates!
Wow, amazing to glimpse where you’re from, thank you for following 🙂
P.S. It’s not stats alphabetically, that’s just coincidental that they are all ‘United’…it’s the top 3 countries from which people have given me the most views.
If you feel like commenting and telling me a little about life in your country, that would be amazing…otherwise, a big heartfelt welcome (including to all of my other readers of course too, I just thought this would be a bit of a fun thing to do) :).
Also, no matter where in the world you are reading from, feel free to share in the comments which country you are in and anything about your country that you’d like the blogging world community to know! 🙂
For me, most years I’ll stay at home during this time of year after I finish up at work for the year. I’ll visit family and friends as many of us do. Sometimes I’ll take a couple of days to go on a ‘mini adventure’ to maybe see some friends in the same country, or perhaps take a mini break to somewhere in mainland Europe. This year I have a six day trip (including all of the travel time) to somewhere in Europe….I’ll leave that as a surprise so that you can enjoy my ‘photo diary’ and travel adventures later on.
I didn’t get a summer holiday this year because certain plans fell through, however it left me with 9 days annual leave to use up before the end of the year, and it wasn’t looking likely that I’d get the chance to go somewhere sunny (maybe next year I’ll get some sunshine – it is in short supply here in Scotland ! 😉 ), so instead I’m off for a wee festive adventure to somewhere equally cold, I presume….I’ll blog about that towards the middle of December after I’ve returned.
Some people, however, like to leave the Christmas postcard scenes behind and jet off to sunnier climes. I know a woman who has family in Australia and she will go and visit them there. My boss and his wife this year are going to Hong Kong and Thailand later in November, to be back in time for Christmas. I can’t quite afford to do that at the moment, but even just going somewhere not too far, whether to visit friends and family in a neighbouring town or city, to take a weekend away in a hotel, to go on a city break or a theatre break, to take a few days abroad but not too far away, or to head off further afield – it can be nice to have a bit of an adventure before settling in for the cosier ‘at home’ days as the year draws to a close.
Or maybe you are a full time traveller? What will you be doing? Do you have any winter adventures planned, and what will they look like?
For those of you who stay closer to home, do you like the idea of a few days off to go on a mini adventure before doing all the ‘homely’ stuff, or does the thought of planning and organising that add to your stress?
Although I didn’t get much of a break this summer, other than going for a couple of long weekend trips to visit friends and family, it is kind of nice to have a Christmas adventure planned, as I just love this season.
I have always wondered whether Christmas in New York would be as lovely as it seems on the movies, and I think I might just add that to my ‘bucket list’ of adventures to go on in the future. What about those of you who live there or who have experienced Christmas in New York as a holiday? Would you recommend it, and if so what would be your highlights? It does make me think of ‘Home Alone’ which is one of those great Christmas holiday films full of nostalgia and fun.
I hope whatever adventures you go on, or whether you stay closer to home, that you get the rest, refreshing and new perspective that you need this year. x
Travelling teaches you the importance of Home. Perhaps this in itself is a challenge to some of us. It is beautiful and inspiring to get away and explore the world. However, there are inevitably challenges and annoyances along the way no matter what we do. Moving from place to place, living out of a suitcase at times, being in unfamiliar territory or out of our comfort zone, or simply not being somewhere that is our ‘own’, of living in a constant state of the temporary, of moving, shifting, changing, can give us a deeper longing for and appreciation of Home. Yet, perhaps some of us, especially those of you who have spent years ‘on the road’ (something I haven’t yet done) find the idea of ‘Home’ a strange and transient concept, and maybe you don’t have a place where you feel ‘rooted’ to.
I awoke naturally at around 5.30am, which is definitely not my usual time of day as I’m a night owl and not a morning person. I spent some time in a sort of ‘sleepy prayer’ state, committing my day to God, and listening to some gentle worship music. At 6.30am I started my early morning writing, and wrote for just under half an hour, and enjoyed a hot cup of tea and some breakfast snacks. I wrote again from around 7.30am to 8.30am, and after that I went back to sleep for a while.
It’s now 10am, and I am writing my update here to avoid procrastination. I am curled up on my sofa, with a cosy blanket, and my laptop propped up on my armrest as I type. Day two has a gentler feel to it than yesterday. Yesterday I wrote quite a lot and I feel that I wrote well. Today, however, I decided not to set myself with a word count to ‘accomplish’ which has given me the freedom to linger and engage and connect more deeply with what I am sharing of myself, creatively, through the written word.
The mind and heart have caverns that take a life time to explore, and healing comes not instantly for the most part, but over time, and with love. And we express much of ourselves through the characters we create, whether intentionally or not. For me, it is intentional, and therefore there is the opportunity for deep and genuine connection through writing this novel as well as it being an opportunity for me to learn more about myself.
I have spent an hour and a half this morning continuing on my journey through writing my novel, and have written 808 words. This may not seem much for the time spent, but there has been a richness in the connection, and quality of experience of slowing down, taking time to consider words, to experience the resonances with my heart, and understand a little better the tapestry of my mind.
The world we live in is so rushed, and hurried. People ‘think faster’, but not necessarily deeper. Words are fired out over ‘Twitter’ ‘Instant messaging’ and text. We are being moulded to expect instant responses and constant information. And with all the interconnection, there lacks the depth of connection with our selves.
So if you have the chance to write, to create, be intentional about it, and yes set yourself goals. However, enjoy the process. The world doesn’t give us time to savour the moments as deeply as our souls need to – we need to seek and find and carve out that time that God so freely gives.
Slow down. Especially on retreat. The world of course will rush you once again, so take this time. Pause. Reflect. Connect. With your creativity, with yourself, with your Creator, and delve a bit deeper.
When you travel to a new place, you may spend a day or two trying to accomplish as much as you can on your sight seeing ‘bucket list’. You want to make the most of your time and cover the most ground you can, especially if it’s unlikely that you will be travelling there again. Once you have seen all the sights, however, on day two or three or four, you will have gained a sense of what is most important and interesting to you, and also what is not as important. And so….you slow down, you linger, you stay a while. You don’t rush from one museum to the next, you don’t have to….you can pause and look….really look….at that one particular painting that catches your eye, stimulates your mind and captures your heart. Previously, you caught a glimpse of a variety of places you could perhaps eat at, but today….today you have chosen one place, and you slow, you enjoy the colour of food on your plate, the taste, the aroma, the textures and flavour. You listen, to the conversations around you in languages you don’t understand, and hear not just unfamiliar sounds but nuances that you hadn’t noticed before and similarities of words and phrases. You feel more connected, with yourself, with the company you are in, and the day you are inhabiting. Having taken a multitude of photos the previous day, you decide to put your camera away for a while, and soak in the experience of being present, being here, now. You know that tomorrow or quite soon you will have to attend to the business of tidying and packing up and leaving for home. So you pause, you linger, you soak it up. And maybe you don’t ‘tick as many boxes’, but that’s alright. You don’t cover as much ground, but the ground you do cover leaves an impression upon your soul, becomes part of you, and enriches your life….in this slow, authentic, savoured and connected moment of your life.
This post is particularly aimed at the singles and those without children among us, as in general society tends to silently marginalise us and there are not enough articles aimed at this group, in comparison to material on married and family life, but really the principals can apply to people of any stage with a bit of adjustment.
As humans, we have a tendency to think of the ‘someday’ in the future when things will all fall into place and we can be content and happy and fulfilled. This mindset may be tacitly agreed upon by society and promoted through advertising. However, is this really a healthy way to live? To think, I’ll be happy ‘when’ ….I meet the love of my life, I’m married, have children, have enough money in the bank to go on that holiday, have free time to do what I love, when I retire…..The list goes on and on.
And yet, we mentally store up time that we don’t even know we have, and deposit our hopes and dreams in an unknown future.
So many people live their lives ‘on hold’ waiting for retirement, waiting to settle down, to find that ‘someone’, to travel, to have that longed for child, to start that business, to fulfil that extraordinary goal. And some people do manage to live lives that just seem on the surface to blossom. But what about those among us waiting for that ‘someday’.
I’d like to encourage you to think of today as that someday. Why not? What about now?
If you love your job, and it is a passion you are pursuing, that is wonderful. Hopefully you are able to find balance to also factor in other things you enjoy and are meaningful to you.
But if you are like many people I have observed, you might at first have started out with starry eyed dreams, but have become jaded, and seem to live for that ‘someday’, or even live each week for the weekend, hurrying along the life that you should be living and enjoying.
Maybe your job isn’t perfect, but is your attitude? Maybe you can’t change your boss, your co-workers or conditions but can you change your outlook to choose to enjoy what is good about your job, look for the growth lessons in what you struggle with, and speak up and make a difference for yourself and others where there may be scope to make a change? Can you *choose* the perhaps radical mindset of not conforming to the culture of grumbling, to instead actually choose to enjoy the job you have, or take steps to pursue other opportunities?
Perhaps your commitments vary. Maybe you have people to look after, elderly relatives, or a variety of responsibilities or maybe you feel relatively ‘care free’ or at a loose end, and managing your day to day and the stresses of your everyday life feel more than you can manage right now.
When it comes to work – life balance, are you committed to playing your part to make it happen? This doesn’t necessarily mean working fewer hours, having work from home days, or taking more time off. It does mean being responsible and accountable for the time you do have, so that you can make the most of your days, right here and right now. Whether you work for someone else, in an office, from your own home, or travel as part of your job, you will have ‘down time’ when you’re at home and need to draw some demarcations and boundaries to have ‘set aside’ time for other things, over and above taking care of yourself physically and mentally.
When you wait for the weekend, once it arrives do you actually savour and use that time well? Or do you just plod on wearily into a new week? Do you spend even 5 minutes each day doing something you enjoy, however simple, whether that be some reading, art, a crossword, enjoying nature, investing in your friendships and relationships with family and taking time to consider how you can live more deeply and fully?
We can’t save up all our dreams for an unknown time in the future. People often say, when I retire, when I have the time to do such and such, then I will……read more books, travel more, spend time with family, be relaxed, write a book, play an instrument, read the newspaper in the sunshine, listen to the birds, give something back….
One day a while back, I had a little ‘brainstorm’ and wrote down a list of the things I’d possibly say to the question ‘What would you like to do when you retire?’ Maybe you have a mental list of what you think you’d like to do. But you will most likely be more energetic now than later, even if you are counting on having more time for such pursuits in this unknown future. I hear these kind of things a lot from older colleagues…they seem to store up their dreams in the future, when they could be doing something about them right now.
That doesn’t mean taking a year or a few years off to travel the world….it could be factoring in your passions into your every day life. After work, maybe you can’t travel far, but you could go for a walk, watch a travel documentary, or plan a weekend trip somewhere.
That book you think you want to write….why not start scribbling down a few ideas today? Or why not establish a more regular blogging routine where you can and will write, and enjoy being a writer now?
All those books you plan on reading. Do you have five minutes in the day to start? The endless time and relaxation you foresee….why not take half an hour to yourself and enjoy the simple rest?
The time you want to pursue your creative side….you can do something creative everyday…even for a little bit of a time….you just need to be aware of the things you enjoy and factor them in. What are they for you? Dancing, photography, sport, reading, leisure, going for long walks, pottering about in the garden, meeting new people, joining a club, speaking to family on the phone, drawing, painting, exploring museums, learning a language, helping others, volunteering, doing something meaningful in your community, writing about your life experiences, trying a new cuisine, mentoring a younger person, taking time to stop and ‘smell the roses’? It doesn’t need to be grand or worthy of announcement in the eyes of the world, it just needs to be meaningful to you and sometimes the most simple things are those that touch us the most.
So when you think about a healthier work life balance, as well as thinking about the bigger more structural changes you might want to make, such as patterns of working, hours, location, the actual job you do, etc, think also of the gradual, daily and consistent things you can bring into your life to do the things you love. You might say ‘but when will I find the time?’ The answer is precisely in the question…you need to *find* it….and in order to find, you must *seek*, look for opportunities, pray for them, carve out time, be aware of the time you have right now, and the power you have to choose to be responsible for it and to take a step back to consider what actually is meaningful and worthwhile to be spending your time on. You don’t have time to read books? What about while waiting for your train or on your lunchbreak? Everyone is so busy, it’s hard to invest in relationships…so are you willing to leave them to chance, or ask someone if you can set aside time just to catch up with them whether face to face or over the phone? You might have time later on, but will you still have that person in your life?
You might be waiting and hoping for certain special things to happen in your life, but you don’t know what will transpire, and you don’t know whether they might themselves bring additional challenges with them. I know of friends who were discontented in their single years only to find that things actually became more difficult when they got married. I know of people who really wanted children and were bitter or sad when their friends had babies, but in the end years later they did too. And some friends who had the happy relationships early on, and are still together and happy and had great experiences having kids and growing their family, later down the track are facing challenges of coping with the stresses of a child with disorders and health problems. Others who wanted to travel, got their chance, and then kept desiring the next thing. Be content now. Choose to be. It’s perfectly natural to hope and dream, and there are certain things that are beyond our control and part of a much bigger, more incredible picture that we will never fully understand. But there are things that are within our sphere of influence, choice, control and decision right now. So yes, hope, dream, plan….but also invest….your time, talents and heart in the things you love and that add something to this world that will bring you joy and maybe even help someone else too. x
Hi friends. Continuing on from my new travel series of what “Travelling teaches you”, I thought it would be nice to introduce you to a few of the experiences I had in Italy, and share pictures of some of the beautiful sights. I hope you enjoy, and would love it if you wanted to share your own travel experiences in the comments below. Ciao, bella! 🙂 ❤ x
To start with, here is a picture I took on approach to Lake Como, August 2018:
Travelling teaches youthat ‘selfies’ aren’t always best 😉 That is to say, travelling teaches you to look out for others, and to discerningly allow others to look out for you.
It might be a little ‘tongue in cheek’ to use the example of breaking away from the ‘selfie’ approach, and asking a kindly stranger or fellow traveller to take a photograph of you, and maybe even to return the favour for them, which will create an end result of a wider panorama and view of your surroundings, and a fuller picture of yourself as an individual. Of course, I am referring to more than just the potential picture that you may come away with, but to the experiences of life themselves. However, I have found on my travels that offering to help others, or accepting help (and obviously being wise and safe in who you approach or allow to approach you), and commonly through taking pictures, opens up doors of interactions and exchanges that enrich your experience. In offering to help others, even in simple ways, you might find yourself in conversation with locals, learning something new about the place or people living there, or about fellow sojourners. Sometimes it is good to go it alone, but we also thrive in these simple exchanges with other people along the way. (c).