Tuesday, 29 December 2015

A new year...

I love the thought of the new year - 366 days (yep it's a leap year!!) brimming with opportunities, like a blank page or book, just waiting to be written on. 

And each year I make lots of resolutions. And each year I fail miserably!! 

But 2016 is an exciting year for me. You see 2016 is the year I turn 40... And I think I may be having a mid-life crisis!! I want to make a to-do list which includes travelling, jumping out of aeroplanes and changing my life drastically... BUT realistically I'm a wife, mother of four, employee, and I have responsibilities that keep me from being the silly wee girl I feel like being. 

Why is it the thought of being middle aged terrifies us so much? Why do we need to make ourselves feel younger, more alive or different? 

I know for most of us life doesn't look like we imagined it would when we thought about being 40 - if we ever did because let's face it 40 sounded really old!! Maybe it's better. Maybe it's not. Maybe you are living your dream life with everything you ever wanted. Maybe you aren't. 

I'm not exactly sure why I am questioning my life because it's been pretty terrific up to now. I've been blessed with two wonderful families (my folks and my in-laws), a wonderful husband, four wonderful kids, wonderful friends and a wonderful job which let me stay at home with my boys, while telling people about God. Not much to complain about. 

And yet I find myself wondering. I wonder if I'm in the centre of God's will. I wonder if I'm doing right by my kids or if I'm giving them enough fodder for hours of therapy later in life. I wonder if I'll ever get a chance to live out the dreams I have. I wonder if I'll ever get to travel. Or to teach. Or to finally catch up on my laundry. 

So this year instead of giant and unrealistic to-do lists or resolutions, I'm going to take an area of my life each month and explore it. I'll keep you informed with this year's journey as I try to balance my 40 year old self with the person I hoped I'd be by now. 

January will be focusing on deeper Christiam living - on getting my relationship right with God so that I have the rest of my year - whatever that may bring - firmly on His foundation. 

I'm so excited!! I hope whatever God brings into your 2016 will be a blessing and a challenge to bring out a better you too. 

Keep shining xx 

Thursday, 3 December 2015

A bit of honesty...

2015 has come and gone. What type of year was it for you? 

For us it was a hard year. We enjoyed lots of wonderful times, made amazing memories and were blessed beyond measure. But there were hard times too. Not only did I end up in hospital with gall stone pains, only to later have to go back and get my gall bladder out, but I battled something slightly more hidden all year. 

I have struggled to live with what started out as post-natal depression for a long time now. I've been on and off my medication so many times that the last time I got it renewed the doctor very gently advised me that maybe this time I should just stay on it for good. I think after all this time (my youngest is 7 after all) it's gone past post-natal depression, and moved into plain depression.

I suffer from depression. 

I also don't know why I feel so defensive about it. Even to me there has always been a massive difference between someone who has normal depression and me - a girl with PND - as if the name made it better and less stigmatic. 

But it doesn't. And the root of the problem is the same. I'm broken. And this year has been hard. 

My medication had to be increased around March time for a series of reasons, and thankfully it really did its job. I tend to get 'stressy fingers' when I get bad and my head goes a bit haywire. I get really antisocial - closing myself off from everybody and just wanting to hide in my bed, or getting into my house and locking the door as quickly as I can. 

Obviously, with four boys and a very busy husband, my life can't just stop when a wee bout of depression hits. I still have to go to work, do runs to football, youth activities and after school clubs, and try to put on a smile. But it's hard. And I know that my boys (and particularly their daddy) get the worst of me and all the stressy bits when I can't put on a 'face' any more. 

But the worst episode I've ever experienced took place just after October half-term. I felt like I was split in two. One half of me was so focused in school - I was loving it and really enjoying every second. But the other half was distant, glazed over and not quite there. This was me at home - the place I'm supposed to be comfortable, happy and myself. Instead I was unemotional (and you know that's not me) and separated from my life. 

It was horrible. I've never felt more broken or more like a failure. 

But thankfully, the doctor was able to pinpoint the issue, re-evaluate my medication and get me back on track. 

Life is much better now, but it was a great reminder of how precious our minds are and how delicate out body's chemistry is. 

Mental illness is never funny and almost always hidden from view. It can take the most confident person and leave them in a heap on the floor. It can reduce the happiest person to floods of tears or make the most emotional person ever (ahem - that would be me!!) stoney, distant and unreachable. 

Please, as we start a new year, find friends who will be there for you, even when you shut yourself off; find joy in the little things in life - like a cup of coffee beside a warm fire; talk to people - no matter how weird you think what you're going through is; and know that you are not alone.

Here's to a great 2016!! 
And an extra big thank you to all of my wonderful friends who have been right there with me every step of this year. Love you all xxx

Keep shining xx 

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

The joys of parenting

We have a few Christmas traditions in our family. The first one involves the putting up of the decorations and is a lot of fun. 

Mainly it's fun for me because we get to go out for tea and then I get to decorate while patiently (and sometimes not so patiently) 'helping' the boys put up the tree. This year they spent more time drawing beautiful pictures on their Santa letters to allow mummy some quality tree time!!! Yep I'm that bad!  

Anyway - here's where the joy of parenting comes in. The difference between expectation and reality... 

All meet up after school and go out to Holywood for a lovely family meal. Then come home to soothing Christmas music, a beautiful time putting up the decorations and then sitting down to watch a Christmas movie with a nice glass of Shloer. Bliss :) 

• Ethan threw up in the middle of last night which meant he couldn't go to school (for fear he'd repeat the joy there) so went to my mum's for the day. (Thanks mum xx) So automatically our lovely meal out was cancelled :( 
• After running out to get some lovely pizza (2 for 1 Tuesday!!) we started putting up the tree... only to discover that I'm missing a set of lights. So only two sets are now string around a 3-set tree. I am not impressed :( 
• No Christmas movies where on (or none that didn't involve a dog!!) so we listened to music, read an extra long bedtime story and I curled up on the sofa to watch Taken 3 with hubby instead!! :) 

Life is very different to how we plan it or what our expectations are. Yet in this, it is beautiful. No we didn't get out to eat, but we all got in warm, comfy pjs as soon as we got home and closed the door to the world - quality family time. And I got some beautiful sneaky photos of my hubby and the boys picking out their wish list and looking at what gifts they want to give away. We sang, made jokes and truly relaxed. And I got to watch a movie with my hubby - something I'm usually too tired to do. 

Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans. And a lot of the time, it is even better than any plans you could come up with. There's a reason so many people are slowing down for advent this year - letting the craziness pass them by and just being in the season.

God came down to give us life to the full - but sometimes we're meant to slow down and appreciate the 'little' things in order to fully live, focusing on Him and Him alone. 

So next time your plans get waylaid, and your expectations go awry, stop, take a step back and relax - life just might beat your plans hands down!! 
You gotta love kids!! 
Keep shining xx