Daybook Entry – New Year’s Eve 2016


021114_2314_DaybookEntr1.jpgFor Today… the last day of 2016

Outside my window… I can hear some isolated bursts of fireworks going off locally. The weather is mild to cold but not frosty yet.

I am thinking… about some changes I need to make in myself, my outlook, my worldview and my expectations.

I am thankful… for so, so much! Where to start? Well, first and foremost I am thankful for the ever present grace and love of God in my life. My faith in him (and his in me) has got me through so much this year and I am thankful to have reached this point still in one piece.

I am praying for… Charlotte and Kieran who are dealing with the most heartbreaking loss anyone can imagine; my brother who is going to be having an operation in a couple of weeks and is facing a long recovery time afterwards; Roy, Margaret, Iain and Megan who will be taking a big step next week; Emma who is starting a new job on Tuesday; Ethan who has got a high-pressure time ahead this term.

I am wearing… a happy smile this evening as I look back at what has happened this year.

I am creating… a new way of thinking. I have come to realise that my thought patterns and behaviour patterns need an overhaul if I am to ever make progress with my life. For example, I am desperate to write a full length novel but fear of failure is holding me back. I know I have the skills (talent is as yet still untested), but I keep talking myself out of doing anything about it because I think my story is not good enough, or that people won’t want to read it and so on. I am trying to create a new way of thinking about myself where I concentrate on the positives of what I’m doing rather than worrying about the (unknown) negatives.

I am going… to put my new thinking into action over the coming weeks and let’s see where we are by half term.

I am wondering… whether I ought to do something about my physical health as well as my mental health this year…

I am reading… “Speaking in Bones” by Kathy Reichs. I was fortunate enough to receive an Amazon gift card for Christmas which I have already bitten into and bought this latest one in the Temperance Brennan series. I have had my eye on it for a little while and I was really chuffed to be able to buy it on Boxing Day. I’m nearly at the end of it and to be honest, I can’t wait for bedtime tonight so I can go and finish it!

I am hoping… that our financial difficulties will be eased this year, if not resolved somehow. I have faith that we will be ok.

I am learning… to ease up on myself, to lower my expectations, and to celebrate the small things.

In my garden… we have a gazebo erected over our deck area at the back of the house. We put it up there for Christmas Day so we had somewhere dry to put the settee out while we had the long tables set up for dinner. We haven’t got round to putting it down yet but I rather like it and might persuade Kevin to keep it for a while.

In my kitchen… we have some snacks and treats waiting to eat while we watch the final Harry Potter film later on tonight.

A favourite quote for today…

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A peek into one of my days… I’m going to cheat here and show you a few photos from December as there’s too many to choose from!

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A bonus little video for you: filmed outside our house on Christmas morning as we played for our neighbours before church. Hope you enjoy it!

One of my favourite things… is planning and researching things for writing about. One of my least favourite things is spotting when “research” becomes “procrastinating” and getting a move on and to get writing.

Post Script: This year has been a year of spectacular highs and devastating lows, and this is my chance to acknowledge those difficulties and joys and to say a public thank you to everyone who has got me through it all.

Those of you who have followed my blog over the months and years will know that from time to time my mental health takes a hit, and that my family’s financial situation is not particularly secure or hopeful. This year has been the worst we have endured and we have come close a few times to crossing the line. However, we have been blessed on so many occasions by the kindness and support of family and friends who have seen us through. With gifts of food and other necessities, and on more than one occasion the gift of money, our family and friends have literally saved the day. Ethan would not have been able to go on the trip of a lifetime with the music centre had it not been for an anonymous gift of a substantial amount of money which was put through our front door the day before the deadline for payment. More recently, we were facing a very lean Christmas with no spare cash to be able to buy any presents for anyone but again, from anonymous gifts, we not only were able to get some gifts for our children but we have enough now for both Kevin and I to be able to replace our glasses in a couple of weeks. We are both desperate for an eye test and new glasses but until this money came in, we were getting very anxious about how we were going to pay for them. As I said, we have been extremely blessed and we are so grateful for everyone who has helped us in 2016. The grace of God has been in abundance in our family this year!

Some high spots have punctuated the seemingly endless struggle to “get by”, such as our family camping holiday in Wales this summer (again, paid for as a gift to us – and boy are we glad for that gift!). We were joined by my brother and his family for a few days, which was a great experience, and I got to enjoy some spiritual time in a very special part of the world. I finally finished my studies and I got my degree this summer which is an achievement I never in a million years thought I would ever do. Kevin and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary this year too, which, as with my degree, is an achievement and milestone I never thought I would ever see. But we did and I am proud to have made it with my best friend and partner in life.

The Joys of…


…Banding

After the highs of Christmas comes the lows of clearing out the pads.

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Not the best job in the banding calendar but gotta be done or else we won’t have Christmas music next August.

After the big clearout a few months ago where Gill my friend and Librarian nearly had heart failure, I didn’t want to put her through it all again so soon so I enlisted the help of Kevin my husband.

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Thanks Kevin (and sorry Gill! Hope this makes up for the last one xx)

Roll on the spring repertoire 😉

Epiphany


Today is Epiphany, or Twelfth Night if you are of European extraction. But what is that exactly?

Well, Epiphany was when the wise men (or the Magi if you like) visited the nativity of Jesus Christ. They were a little bit after the big event with the shepherds and the angels and all that hoo-hah, and they had arrived after doing a little detour to Herod’s palace on the way. I thought they were supposed to be “wise” men, but surely, tipping off the King that there was a new king born in his land probably wasn’t the best thing to do. After all, it meant Joseph and Mary had to do a run for Egypt soon after Jesus was born or else he would have been slaughtered in the widespread massacre Herod ordered after their news.

Now I don’t now for sure that the wise men arrived twelve days after Jesus’ birth, or if that is something that is a convenient number for us to remember, (if you do know, please leave me a comment below) but it’s where we get the “12 Days of Christmas” idea from. Not the 12 days before Christmas, but the 12 days afterwards. We all know the song don’t we? “On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me…” and so on. There are twelve verses to the song and each one denotes a different gift given on each consecutive day. There are parallels between the gifts in the song and Biblical references, such as the partridge in the pear tree is supposed to represent Christ himself, the four calling birds are the four gospels, the 12 lords a-leaping are the disciples and so on. You get the idea.

So what is it about Christmas and gifts? Obviously, the gift of light and life we receive in Jesus Christ, but how do we arrive at the gift-giving to each other? The song is one example, and throughout the world different cultures have different customs in gift-giving at Christmas time. In the UK we give gifts on Christmas Day (25th December), but in many parts of Europe gifts are exchanged on the 24th December which is Christmas Eve. The Russian Orthodox people celebrate Christmas on 7th January and have several gift-giving exchanges throughout winter.

The first gifts to be exchanged at Christmas surely had to be by the wise men. Between them they brought gold, frankincense and myrrh. Each of these gifts was highly symbolic and foreshadowed Christ’s life and death: gold is a precious metal, suitable gift for a king; myrrh is an anointing oil and frankincense is a perfume, again suitable for a king. They were pretty standard gifts for ordinary kings, but Jesus, as we know, wasn’t an ordinary anything let alone an ordinary king.

So, epiphany. It has come to mean an insight, or a sudden illumination into a problematic situation or issue and as far as I can see, the first epiphany was just that too. Jesus was sent as the light in the darkness and the wise me followed a bright star to find him. They might have been a little late to the party, but we shouldn’t be too hard on them because that party is still going on more than 2000 years later.

Just a moment of levity for you. I saw this cartoon on my Facebook feed this morning and had to share it with you. Hope it makes you smile as much as I did.

frankincense

Let The Light In


ernest hemingway

Contrary to popular (ie, non-Christian) belief, we are still celebrating Christmas. Most people think that Christmas is something that is done and finished with by 25th December, but that’s not true. For western Christians, Christmas carries on until Epiphany, which is when we remember the arrival of the magi at the nativity.

Christmas is a time of light. Here in the northern hemisphere are in the depths of midwinter, and Christmas falls just after the solstice, where we see the longest hours of darkness. It’s no coincidence that we celebrate the birth of the Christ who is the Light of the world at this time – the days are getting longer and lighter, we look towards to coming new birth of spring, and Christ was born to bring light to the darkness. Have you ever wondered about the phrase “having an epiphany”? It’s usually where we experience sudden clarity or insight into something we have perhaps been struggling with. Another way to look at it is that light is thrown onto a difficult issue or situation. The magi, or wise men, found the same when they arrived in Bethlehem after Jesus’ birth.

Just after Christmas comes January where the pressure is on to make resolutions, usually ones about self-improvement in terms of health, fitness, attitude or behaviour. But what about us people who are content with our failures and our shortcomings? How about us who know full well we are broken, with bits missing and bits of us glued together with gaps showing?

I draw comfort from knowing that God makes use of people like me who are cracked and broken. If we were whole and have no gaps, how can we let our light shine out and God’s love pour in? Just as the same way that a watering can is no use if it doesn’t have holes in, my life isn’t very useful if it is the paragon of wholeness. I quite like having the gaps where God can shine through.

Cracked pot? Certainly. Crackpot? I’ll leave that to you to decide.

 

Did you know: The name January comes from the Roman god Janus, who is usually portrayed as having two faces – one facing forwards and one facing backwards representing the change from the old year to the new. 

ChristmasCam


It’s beginning to look a bit like Christmas in the Smith household at last!

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My fireplace. No candles lit yet but we're getting there!
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Our tree. Nice and cheerful.
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The Carol Service last night - I'm on the left of the picture. Action shot!
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My family - Kevin on the left, Ethan in the middle and Emma on the right. You'll notice Emma is standing on a step in high heels and is still the same height as her brother!

Carol Service PamCam


A bit of a blurry one today, but this is a photo of my BANDIES (not baddies as I put yesterday – oops!) at the carol service at my church tonight.

carol service selfie

 

It’s at times like tonight where I am reminded of the privilege I have of being able to exercise my gift for music-making, and to do that with my family and friends for my church family and friends has been a joy and a pleasure tonight.

Doing something I love, with people I love, in a place I love for people I love is just the best feeling in the world. And even better than that is to be able to say “thank you God” for bringing music out of me in the first place.

 

 

Daybook Entry 15th December


8598a-simple-woman-daybook-largeFor Today… 15th December 2015

Outside my window… it’s a rather mild night out there tonight. A bit damp, but not at all wintry.

I am thinking… about Tim Peake and how he has managed to rocket up from Earth to space today. I am not usually interested in things like that, but for some reason this time, I have found it fascinating stuff. Perhaps the Big Bang Theory has got something to do with it!

I am thankful… I have a wide circle of musician friends who can step into the breach at short notice with everything from music to stands to their time to their instruments to their expertise in insolvency.

I am praying for…  a friend whose mum died this evening; for those I know where Christmas is a painful and unhappy time.

I am wearing…bonjela on a fiendish mouth ulcer right inside my bottom lip which is so sore now it is even making my chin ache.

I am creating… a pair of fingerless mittens for my friend Gill.

I am going… to be singing carols in three residential care homes in Blackley tomorrow afternoon.

I am wondering… why my hands are bruising so easily at the minute. Honestly, they’re like over-ripe peaches and every time I give a little knock I’m coming up in a bruise. And they’re sore too.

I am reading… the most infuriating book ever written. Well, perhaps not THE most infuriating book ever written but one that’s definitely on the list of top 10. It’s called “A Journal of Sin” by Darryl Donoghue and is about the murder of the local priest during a storm which conveniently has cut off the local village by floods. The investigation is undertaken by a visitor, who just happens to be a rookie police officer who has no jurisdiction, very little experience and no communication facilities. The priest has kept a series of notebooks over the years in which he has written notes on various confessions from his parishioners, and we are led to believe that he was murdered for something in one of these notebooks. The premise is good and the characters are just about plausible, but what is irritating me is the narrative itself – it is laborious at best, and overly simplified at worst. It is very much of the Agatha Raisin or Hamish MacBeth ilk, almost comic and very stereotypical. It reminds me of Hot Fuzz in some ways too, such as the over blown ways the characters are drawn. You could ask me why I have kept on reading it, which is a good question. My answer is that I want to know who killed him and why (the author has successfully hooked me in) and having invested the past two nights in reading it so far, I am closer to the finishing line than the starting block. Hey ho.

I am hoping… that this book has a decent ending!

I am learning… that I need to be more organised sooner, especially when it comes to having to lead other people

In my garden… the shrubs have all had their winter trim now and a lot of my greenery has gone (sob). I am looking forward to it all regrowing in the spring (yay).

In my kitchen… are the ingredients for red onion chutney which I will be making tomorrow or Thursday.

A favourite quote for today…

hope2

“Hope sees the invisible, feels the intangible and achieves the impossible”

A peek into one of my days…

Poor Santa

We had a visit from Santa at our end of term party yesterday at Stay and Play. Poor Santa, he’ll be out of hospital sometime next week thankfully!

One of my favourite things… is a nice cup of tea.

From the board room… favoured procrastination method today:

Post Script:

Silly season is about halfway through now and so far so good. Only the one issue healthwise (the ulcer) and only a few tears (not Christmas related). This time next week it will be family and fun times and I am really looking forward to it all. Bring it on!

Daybook Entry – 29th November, Advent Sunday


8598a-simple-woman-daybook-largeFor Today… 29th November, Advent Sunday

Outside my window… we are in the middle of the wildest storm so far this year. It has a name, apparently. World, meet Clodagh. She’s one wet and wild beast and she has blown a tree and shrubbery down, roof tiles off and fence panels down this afternoon. And that’s just in our garden.

I am thinking… about my daughter who has got a life-changing couple of days tomorrow and the day after. The hardest thing for a parent is to want what your child wants because it will make them happy but knowing all the while that it means they will be taken away from you.

I am thankful… that I have a roof over my head and a warm bed to sleep in tonight.

I am praying for… those without a bed tonight; for my daughter; my mum; for strength to get through the next few days.

I am wearing… comfy tracksuit bottoms, a t-shirt and hoodie.

I am creating… a pair of mittens for myself.

I am going… to get a 2000 word assignment done on “the representation of adult-child relationships in Little Women and Treasure Island” before Thursday. Honest.

I am wondering… when this storm will abate.

I am reading… just rediscovered V C Andrews and have started the first of the Casteel series, “Heaven”. Not very far into it to be honest so no opinion on it just yet.

I am hoping… that I hear from a potential PPI refund soon. Christmas is looking lean (again) at the minute but if I get some PPI refunded then we might be able to relax a little.

I am learning… a new technique to cast on my crochet. Not very enthralling to those who are not into handicrafts, but it is a useful technique and one I can use on lots of things.

In my garden… nature has had a great time giving it a makeover.

In my kitchen… not very hungry today so homemade nachos for tea.

A favourite quote for today…

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Found at TheDailyQuotes.com

 

A peek into one of my days…

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One of my favourite things… is binge-watching TV while doing the ironing.

From the board room…

Post Script:

We are just on the brink of “silly season”. The lead up to Christmas in our household has always been mad, with logistics and planning skills worthy of the SAS, and this year it is looking like it isn’t going to be any different. We have got church commitments and engagements, band concerts and carolling experiences, schools work, Ethan’s music centre band concerts and college bands/orchestra/ choir (yes, CHOIR!) to fit in with family stuff and studying. With this in mind I have decided to commit to a daily meditation and mini-study session through Advent. I need to make space for things that matter, such as spiritual and prayer time, and when things are so busy it is most important to find the discipline to do it. I’ll let you know how it works out.

 

Christmas


It has been a hectic roller coaster ride this Advent and I can honestly say that I have arrived at Christmas Eve feeling exhilarated, excited and thoroughly blessed. I have had the privilege to be involved with and serve with the most amazing people in my community and even though things have been tough for us in the family, the love and support of my church family and my friends has meant that I have arrived at this point feeling positive and uplifted. I was touched to receive a beautiful Christmas card from across the pond from my blog-friend in Pennsylvania (thank you!!) and I’m very ashamed that despite my best efforts to be organised and “with it” this year, I have failed to write a single greetings card. (I promise I will try to send you a “blessings for new year card” instead my friend)

Today has been no exception and I have enjoyed a great visit from my best friend this morning, and then my daughter arrived with her partner. I led the Crib Service at my church for the children, which was LOVELY and tonight I will be helping lead worship at the midnight communion service later on. In between, we have had some great food, and some great conversation which is what Christmas with the family is all about for me.

Before Emma left she hung her stocking on the fireplace and put out a mince pie and a glass of brandy for Father Christmas. Just because she’s a) 21 and b) not living here any more doesn’t mean that she doesn’t want him to leave her some presents in a stocking!

wpid-img-20141224-wa0000.jpgShe took these photos just before she left and then sent them to me so I had a reminder too. Isn’t she lovely?!

This is our fireplace tonight, with both stockings up (yes, my 16yr old son also has his up too) and as you can see, Father Christmas hasn’t been yet because his drink and snack are still there. Although, he must be close because we have just dived outside to see his “sleigh” pass overhead. Some people, some clever people, said it wasn’t him at all and it was the ISS, but we know better…!

Christmas 2014 - even though the kids are 21 and 16 their childhood stockings are still up, and there is still a glass of brandy and a mince pie out for Father Christmas. It's nice to know some traditions still live on even though they are all grown up now!
Christmas 2014 – even though the kids are 21 and 16 their childhood stockings are still up, and there is still a glass of brandy and a mince pie out for Father Christmas. It’s nice to know some traditions still live on even though they are all grown up now!

 

Wishing all my readers and followers and friends and supporters here a very Merry Christmas, and a peaceful and blessed holiday.

christmas header

Daybook Entry – 21st December: Winter Solstice


012614_1641_DaybookEntr1.jpgFOR TODAY

Outside my window… it’s very mild out there tonight. The clouds over Manchester are a funny colour and it looks like they are reflecting sunshine bouncing off Mars or something. It doesn’t feel like the Midwinter Solstice!

I am thinking… that this time a month ago I was in a transient state of anxiety about the amount of commitments I was responsible for in December, both in terms of OU work, service to my ministry, work for band etc.

I am thankful… that I made it. With the help of many friends and family, with many prayers and desperate, tearful appeals to God for help and with some utterly joyous people on the receiving end of my service, December has turned out to be worth all that anxiety and worry at the start.

In the kitchen… is not very much. I haven’t been here to do anything about that for the past couple of days!

I am wearing… black t-shirt, blue shorts. Yup, it’s very mild tonight!

I am creating… I made a few scented decorations on Friday afternoon – studded some oranges and clementines with cloves and then wrapped them with ribbon, and I tied up a couple of bundles of cinnamon sticks too. They are resting in several places round the house, which is now smelling lovely. I made the most of an hour where I had no pressing obligations to attend to!

I am going… to have another busy day tomorrow, but I’m excited for it so not stressing about it at all. I am going to be with a team of colleagues serving Christmas lunch to some families who are involved with Homestart and from our church. Shopping first though – I’m responsible for getting the dessert from Costco as soon as they open in the morning!

I have been… BUSY!!! Nearly there though. There has been so much I can’t even begin to tell you but suffice it to say that I have had a ball so far, but I can’t wait til Christmas Day when I can switch off and relax.

I am wondering… how my Mum and Dad are doing. They both went down with a sickness bug this afternoon and the last I heard they had painted a black cross on their front door…

I am reading… I don’t have a book on the go at the minute (shock horror!) but I have got a Ruth Rendell lined up to start tonight when I get to bed.

I am hoping… none of us in my house get the sickness bug too. My Gran had it yesterday and it has obviously jumped to my Mum and Dad because they were looking after her. She’s better today so it looks like it is just a 24 hour thing, but it is worrying nonetheless.

I am looking forward to… having Emma back home on Christmas Eve. It has been lovely to have her home since Tuesday and I got upset today when she went back to her other home.

I am learning… that I am stronger in my ministry now more than at any other time in my life previously. God is calling me.

Around the house… I would love to tell you that there is a Christmas tree up, a candle-tree on the windowsill, garlands hung round the stairs and the chimney breast and strings of cards hung on the walls. I would love to tell you that there is a freezer full of Christmas goodies, and the cupboards are groaning with treats for later in the week. I would LOVE to tell you that all presents have been bought and wrapped, and I would love to be able to tell you that there is a nativity scene set out ready for Christmas. I’d love all that, but I’d be lying if I told you all that was in place. Sigh….

I am pondering… shower before bed, or first thing in the morning?

A favourite quote for today… “In the beginning was the word, and the word became flesh”. I have been involved with leading/organising two carol services in Blackley this evening and this is one of the many lines that have been said or sung that have stuck with me.

One of my favourite things… is hearing a church organ in full throttle playing Hark The Herald Angels Sing.

A few plans for the rest of the week: serving a charity meal tomorrow, shopping if poss in the afternoon (if my feet will take it!), dentist on Tuesday and some shopping (desperately needed), Crib Service on Christmas Eve afternoon and midnight communion Christmas Eve night, carolling in the neighbourhood on Christmas morning and then after that I am going to SWITCH OFF.

A peek into my weekend…

This is a group shot of the children at Messy Christmas yesterday. We have been running a lost sheep trail in Blackley during Advent and as you can see we have got a safely gathered flock in church now. And we managed to round up the sheep too!
This is a group shot of the children at Messy Christmas yesterday. We have been running a lost sheep trail in Blackley during Advent and as you can see we have got a safely gathered flock in church now. And we managed to round up the sheep too!

 

I made the following video to use in our carol services today. It is made from a separate video (credit to follow when I’ve tracked down the original), a music track and some photos I collated myself to make this whole presentation. I hope you like it.