New season, new blog

Hi there!

 

You may have noticed I haven’t blogged for a little while … Thank you to all of you who’ve supported me in this blogging season, and for those of you who’ve subscribed to my blog – blogging is always scary, no matter how long you’ve been doing it for, and I have greatly appreciated your support.

After much prayer, thought and deliberation, I’ve decided it’s time to stop blogging on this site and start a new one: a new site for a new season. The new site is smallthingswithgreatlove.org ¬†– come over and have a peek – I’d love to see you there.

with love and blessings,

Anna

 

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

sunlight

seven ‘takes’ to spark your creativity

Creativity is a funny old thing.  Some days we feel completely inspired, and the ideas just seem to flow out of us. And yet at other times we find ourselves in an ideas drought, or a creative rut.

Often we require creativity for a job or a project, and we can’t just wait until we happen to be in a ‘creative mood’. We need to look for ways to help the creative ideas to flow.

sunlight
Below are 7 ‘takes’ that I find helpful to increase and tap into creativity.

1) Take a shower

There is scientific evidence to prove that taking a shower activates and triggers creativity. I won’t go into that now. But that has¬†certainly been my experience. I try to quickly record all the ideas that have flowed in those few minutes in the shower.

2) Take a run

Up until about two years ago it would have been unforeseeable for me to even be suggesting this. I started running at a particularly challenging time in our life, initially as a valve to let out frustration. However, once I got past the I’m-so-unfit-I-can-literally-only-focus-on breathing-right-now phase I started to notice that ideas and thoughts would spring into my mind as I was running along. I would either quickly record ideas on my phone voice recorder, or if I was too out of breath I would write them down the second I got home.

3) Take a risk

Creativity often stems out of a break from the norm. Take a risk. Try something new. Do something that scares you. Do a skydive, join a club of some sort, give a talk on something. The new/scary experience will teach you something about yourself or something about others which will bring food for thought and release creativity.

4) Take a power nap

Taking a power nap boosts brain performance. It’s a scientific fact. Apparently. When possible, a 15 minute power nap does wonders for me. Any longer than that and I start to feel groggy, and it affects my nighttime sleep. But a short nap helps me to think more clearly, more positively, and more creatively.

5) Take a book

Reading gives us ideas. I like to read a mix of fiction and non-ficton. I like non-fiction for learning¬†new concepts and theories about a variety of things, and I like fiction because it transports me into a whole other world. I instantly feel more creative after reading. Reading is a non-negotiable fo those of us who express their creativity through writing, If you’re a writer, you have to be a reader. You can’t be the former without being the latter.

6) Take a social media break

Step away from social media periodically. Allow yourself to get bored… remember those days when you were sitting in an airport, or a train station¬†and you didn’t have a phone to amuse yourself? I have a distant recollection of those days, and I vaguely recall that in those times my boredom would invariably result in people-watching; I would imagine what conversations people were having with each other as I examined¬†their facial expressions. I would observe all that was going on around me, taking in the sights, smells and sounds of my surroundings. Observation is a great tool for creativity. Social media far too easily keeps boredom at bay. When our heads are in our phones we often don’t break through the boredom threshold and come out the other side. ¬†I like to have times in the week when I put aside social media and see where the ‘boredom’ takes me.

7) Take a notepad

You may have noticed in the above points how frequently I’ve referred to writing stuff¬†down, or recording ideas. Sometimes creative ideas pop out of nowhere and we need to be ready to record them. I’ve had countless times where I’ve thought of a great idea for a blog post, and at the time it seemed so great that I reasoned I couldn’t possibly forget it. Experience¬†tells me, however, that ideas do get forgotten if they’re not recorded. Write them down. Straight away. As soon as you get them. In a notepad, on an email, on whatever. Just make a note of them.

What would you add to the list? What sparks your creativity?

still waters

5 top tips for introvert mums

My name is Anna. I’m a follower of Jesus, a wife to Rich,¬†a mum of three kids. And an introvert.

And I love being all of those things.

Recently a fellow-introvert asked me for any advice on how to function well as an introvert mum to small children. Now that I’m out of the haze of pre-school kids¬†I can look back with a little more clarity on some of the ways I tried to help myself to both thrive as an introvert and as a mum. I wanted to be able to give myself as fully as possible to the kids, whilst also recognising that as an introvert I am primarily energised by having time alone.¬†Being a mum brings challenges for whatever type of personality you are, so I make no assumption that introverts have any greater challenge than extroverts. But in this post I’m addressing¬†some of the ways I sought to bring balance in being both an introvert and a mum.

So¬†here¬†are my five top tips…

  • Optimising naptimes

Oh, those precious naptimes. They were my lifeline, literally. In the early weeks of a newborn, naptimes were as much a naptime for me as they were for the baby. But as night-time sleep improved for the baby, his daytime naps could be used for all number of things. The biggest temptation was to use those times to get all the housework done, and there were days when that was a necessity. But I also tried to regularly use those times for restoration Рdoing things that really invigorated me, whether that was reading a book, doing something creative, writing, or just simply enjoying headspace to think things over. Sometimes I would take a sleeping-baby-in-buggy to a coffee shop, just so that I took myself away from the immediacy of household jobs.

  • Encouraging independent play

I had this false belief when my eldest was¬†a newborn that I needed to be giving him all of my attention all the time. However, I gradually came to the conclusion that not only was this impossible, it wasn’t healthy for either me or the child. As I moved from one to two to three babies this would have proved particularly challenging. My eldest had just turned four when my third child was born – so I would have needed three of me in order to give them all 100% of my attention all the time. So, I started to encourage independent play from quite a young age. At times in the day when I knew my baby was usually happy I would leave him under the play-gym alone for a few minutes, and as they got older I would encourage them to have time in a safe environment, playing alone. They were always happy to do this, so it never felt like a forced issue for me. This meant that jobs, and everyday life could carry on whilst my baby was awake, rather than needing to do everything whilst they were asleep. It also bought me some headspace, resulting in both my batteries being recharged, as well as meaning that at other points I could really be “present” with him.

swing

 

  • Having realistic expectations of what it looks like to connect with God

If you’re an introvert and a Christian, chances are that pre-baby you would make¬†a good amount of time to pray, to read, and to journal. And so the biggest question after having a baby is often ‘How do I relate to God now?’ For me, this took a while to iron out. I’m not a very good multi-tasker. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say I’m not a very good multi-thinker.¬†I literally can’t talk, and do anything else at the same time. For example, if Rich and I ever want to have a conversation in the car, he always has to drive. Otherwise I will still be in second gear whilst I’m driving at 70mph down the motorway. It’s not good for me, the car, or our relationship!

So, having a little person with me all the time meant that I often found it hard to pray, or to connect with God, or even to be able to acknowledge that God¬†was with me. So, I learnt firstly that I needed to be kind to myself, in the same way that God was kind to me. He hadn’t forgotten me, even, and probably especially, in some of those foggy days where I wasn’t sure which way was up. And secondly, I learnt to connect with God through my children, rather than apart from them. The bible makes it abundantly clear that children are a blessing from God (e.g Psalm 127:3). ¬†And so I tried to look for ways that they could bless me in my relationship with God. I looked for what they could teach me about being a child of God and having a heavenly Father who loved me unconditionally. I looked at them to teach me afresh what it meant to trust another implicitly. I gained from them a renewed sense of wonder, fascination, and joy at the world. I wrote more extensively on this particular breakthrough in a previous post entitled¬†“What if we allowed our kids to be a channel rather than an obstacle.”, which you can read by clicking here. (It’s one of my favourite-ever-postsūüôā )

  • Moving past the mum-guilt

Even the most secure mum can suffer from mum-guilt at one point or another. We worry that somehow we haven’t been, or done, enough for our kids. And sometimes making time for ourselves gets pushed to the bottom of the priority pile. It can feel almost self-indulgent¬†to want this time when there is so much else that needs to be done. But mums are still people in their own right, and so allowing time for ourselves is really important. Having someone look after the kids whilst I grabbed an hour or two just to have some solitude¬†was so¬†life-giving for me, but it also had a positive impact for the rest of the family. It’s a bit like the¬†safety demo on an aeroplane; I’m always struck by the advice to put on your own oxygen mask before assisting anyone else. You can’t help a child access their oxygen if you’re floundering for oxygen¬†yourself. If you’re not careful you both end up dying. It’s the same in parenting. If we don’t somehow get the ‘oxygen’ that we need (and that ‘oxygen’ looks different for each one of us) then eventually we can’t function so well with our kids. One thing I have repeatedly observed is that if I haven’t had enough headspace, I literally can’t hear the kids talking to me, because I’m too busy with conversations in my own head. That introvert internal voice can get pretty loud sometimes. Having space away from them to process stuff means that I’m actually more attentive to them.

writing at the beach

 

  • Engaging with sacrifice

…Having said all that… parenting – whether you are introvert or extrovert – ¬†is full of joy but also a constant lesson in learning to lay your life down. As Christians, we try to do this as we follow Jesus. But when small people enter our life their physical, emotional and spiritual needs bring an immediacy in¬†putting them before ourselves. There is no easy way round that,¬†no short-cut. That is the simple reality if we are to parent well. There are days when we will not have a single moment to ourselves. We will be stretched way beyond what we feel capable of, or able to give, and yet we have to choose to put our children before ourselves.¬†I often find there is a fine line with being an introvert: we need time alone to re-charge but sometimes that easily move towards¬†self-indulgence, or self-absorption. Parenting is a great crucible for us to learn how to expand our capacity¬†in¬†giving time and energy to others and learning how to function well externally as well as internally. Though stretching, it’s a¬†great opportunity to learn greater dependence, humility, and His empowering. God uses those difficult times to refine us, so that we look a little more like Jesus.

 

Are you an introvert and a mum? Do you have any introvert mum tips?

(I guess a little post-script is helpful here, so that you can understand my life-circumstances over the past few years and my parenting philosophy, because this is my unique life set-up, which of course will differ from yours: Though I have engaged in both paid and voluntary work during those pre-school years, for the large chunk of my time I have been a stay-at-home mum. Our parenting philosophy was, in summary, choosing to fairly closely stick to routines, as well as forming strong and healthy attachments with each of our children. This was our parenting method, and what we felt most comfortable with, so there is no judgement on parenting styles here; this is not meant to be a parenting-style-blogpost. However, my views will inevitably influence some of my points above.)

board of truth

the board of truth

Back in the day, when we younger, thinner, and less wrinkled, Rich made me a little book: The Book of Truth.

It was filled from cover-to-cover with bible verses which all proclaimed my identity in Christ. I needed my thinking to be reconfigured with God’s truth, and filling my mind with those bible verses was one way that helped to recalibrate my thinking in line with God’s. That’s the simple command that Paul gives in Romans 12 when he tells the church to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

Of course the journey continues forever, this side of eternity. There are new aspects of God, and my identity in Him, that I need to re-engage with, or learn afresh, on a regular basis. There are some days where living in God’s truth feels a lot harder than others. I’m guessing maybe you feel the same.

I’ve been thinking about¬†how we are¬†helping our kids to walk in their true identity as God’s kids. We aim to read the bible every evening with our kids. This usually happens. But at the end of a long day, when everyone is feeling a bit cream-crackered, it can sometimes feel like a bit of a ticking-the-box thing, or a passing-on-information-thing. There is definitely some value in this, and the kids are picking up foundational truths. But I know from my own life that if the word isn’t applied, and if it doesn’t take root in my heart, it doesn’t really make any lasting difference: it just remains as head-knowledge.

We want the Holy Spirit to speak to our kids as they read the word, and we want to help equip them¬†to¬†apply God’s truth in their real, everyday, normal life. Because that’s where it has power to bring about transformation.

So a little bit similar to the Book of Truth, we have now developed the Board of Truth.  Just outside their room they have a chalkboard Рwith each of their names written on it. We have been writing little messages next to each name, which has a simple key truth they are currently reading through, or thinking about it in the bible, and how it applies to them right now.

I do not have nice, neat writing, so you probably can’t read very well what I’ve written in the picture below… but this gives the general idea. Esther actually re-worded her “truth” on this one, as she didn’t feel what I’d initially written accurately represented her key truth (ūüôā )

board of truth

My hope is that this will help them absorb, and live out more fully what they are learning, rather than forget about it, and move on. It also helps us grown-ups to think more consciously about whether or not we are helping them to apply truth.

It’s just one very¬†simple idea

How about you? – I’d love to hear any creative ways¬†you have as you disciple your kids – we might “borrow” a few of them!