Wednesday, 31 August 2016

G is for...

Yeah we're talking about gratitude today!! So... why gratitude and why today? Well we've reached the 'G' in our alphabet (surprise surprise!!) but it's the perfect time because I've got the perfect challenge for you all. 

Having a heart of gratitude really does change everything. There is a reason why so many people do "Gratitude Challenges" - like my #100daysofgratitude Instagram challenge - or why Ann Voscamp's "1000 blessings" is so popular - we have finally figured out that when we are grateful and thankful life gets a little brighter, a little more rewarding and a little nicer! Being thankful takes the mundane and turns into something to rejoice in. Like this picture I found - I'm afraid I don't know who write it but it's so very true... 

This week marks the return to school for most of us. All my boys start back this week, while we as a staff started back last week to prepare for the new school term. Teachers are an amazing group of people and as a parent I've adopted a simple task each September to share my thoughts with them. 

In Northern Ireland were not really into 'teacher questionnaires' or things like that, but I wanted to let the teachers know that I'm there to help if they need me. And so I started writing little letters to them. 

Now there's nothing exciting about my letters - I'm sure lots of people write letters to the teachers, especially if your child has a few issues that you want them to be aware of, or if there's certain family situations going on, but my notes are different. 

I want the teachers my boys have this year to know that I am there to help if they need things for their classrooms or if they need buns etc, and I want them to know that I'm on their team as they teach and spend 30 hours a week with my child. I want them to know that I trust them, and that I'll back them up if they think my child needs disciplined for something, and that I'll always ask for their side of a situation before I overreact! I want them to know that I care and that I commit to doing my bit of this process at home as well as I can.

But most of all I want them to know that I'm praying for them, that I've been praying for them all summer and that I will continue to pray for them all year. I want to let them know that I'm ever so thankful for everything they do, for the effort they put into their lessons and for choosing to do something that I couldn't do. I want them to feel appreciated, loved and prayed for. 

So I write them a note! 

As a classroom assistant I get a first hand look at everything that goes on in school to make it happen for our children, so my challenge to all of you is to take a moment this year and reach out with a heart of gratitude to any teachers in your life. They truly appreciate it. And they'll treasure your thoughts. I'd much rather be remembered as 'that weird wee woman who wrote us notes' than someone who either isn't interested or who only chats to the teacher to complain! 

So get out your notecards and put down a few cheerful and prayful thoughts down for your child's teachers. It makes a big difference in your year. 

I'd love to see your notes so please share!!! 
Keep shining xx 

Monday, 29 August 2016

Once I was seven years old...

You may or may not have heard the Lukas Graham hit with today's title's name, but my boys love it so I've listened to it A LOT!!! And as I did I thought about my life and all the weird and wonderful things that have happened to me at certain ages... so I thought I'd write you a wee post about it! 

So let's see where he starts... 

Once I was seven years old my momma told me

Go make yourself some friends or you'll be lonely
Once I was seven years old

How true this is for me! When I reached the lovely age of 7, my mum, dad and two sisters moved from the lovely town of Enniskillen to Newtownards to my Dad's family farm. I remember a summer of trips up to do wee jobs about the house, where Dad would pick me out of bed, complete with my cover, and put me into the back of his car. Half-way to Newtownards (which took about 2 hours in total), I'd wake up, have a sandwich or cereal bar breakfast (on the back seat beside me) and then chat to him the rest of the way up. What fun days!!! 
Well, when September came, and we'd moved up properly to Ards, at 7 years old, I started in a brand new school, with brand new classmates and a whole new set of teachers. And guess what my mum probably told me? To go get some friends!!! And I did! I had a couple of wonderful friends in primary school and am still in contact with them, although not as often as I'd like. 
Once I was eleven years old my daddy told me

Go get yourself a wife or you'll be lonely
Once I was eleven years old

And then we come to 11... At the age of 10/11 in Northern Ireland we do an exam that helps determine which school you go to for secondary education. When I did it it was called the 11+. (And now it's known as the AQE.) You do a series of tests, and then get a score. Everyone who has done the tests then gets a grade. If you got an A you passed, if you got an M you were borderline, and if you got an F you had failed it. Yep - it was that plain. 
I got an A and got accepted into our local grammar school - Regent House. And what did I do when I got to Regent? Why I found myself a husband of course!!! Seriously though, my husband and I didn't start dating til we were at university, BUT we were in the same year at the same school and were in several of the same classes!!!! 

Once I was twenty years old, my story got told

Before the morning sun, when life was lonely
Once I was twenty years old

And then comes 20... At 20 I was fearless, had 'left' home and thought I knew everything. In reality, I had packed my stuff and moved to the house I lived at in Belfast - where I was at uni - a house my mum and dad owned and paid all my bills for! And yet I thought that was it - I knew better and didn't want to be at home with them anymore!! Yeah.... Well.... 
During my years at university I had a lot of great friends round me. I started a chemistry course with my best friend, only to realise I loved the maths questions more than the chemistry, so changed to a maths degree. Here I met another set of fabulous girls who really helped me through the purse, despite being two years younger than me!! I may not be in touch regularly with all of these girls - although I think I'm Facebook friends with them all!! - but every one of them helped me in ways they can't even think about. I was not a nice person during university - I was selfish, lazy, focuses on the wrong things and totally preoccupied, yet these girls were willing to help me even despite all my many many faults. Thank you girls. 

Soon we'll be thirty years old, our songs have been sold

We've traveled around the world and we're still roaming
Soon we'll be thirty years old

And then we hit 30... I got married when I was 24, had one son at 25, another at 28 and was pregnant with my third at 30. So what do I remember about turning 30? 
Seriously??  Yep - not a thing. 
Let me explain why. You may or may not remember me mentioning my battle with post-natal depression or the dark times I had while pregnant with number 2 and number 4 sons. Well - when I got pregnant with son number three I got everyone to pray for me - and I mean everyone. If I met you in the street I probably told you and asked you to pray! And the whole time of my pregnancy I had no symptoms, no signs of PND and no reason to take any medication whatsoever. Fantastic, right? 
Yes and no. Yes - because obviously at the time I had a wonderful pregnancy and was able to enjoy it and my other two toddlers. No because apart from major things (like a trip to Disneyland Paris in the July), I remember nothing about that year. Not a thing. The only thing I remember about being actually pregnant that time was walking round Disney in the heat at a huge size, and the morning I went in to have him. I was lying in bed, ready to go up for my section, when a news report came on about Richard Hammond having his big accident (he was a car show presenter). It was shocking and I just remember watching it before I went up. And that's it.
I don't know why I can't remember such a big part of that year, but I'm sure there's a reason. All I know is while I can't remember it, I have a wonderful son to show for it and for that I'm truly thankful! And as my mum reminded me tonight, when we can't remember how we got through certain periods that's when God carried us..... just like in the poem about the footprints in the sand. (Thanks Mum!)

Soon I'll be sixty years old, my daddy got sixty-one

Remember life and then your life becomes a better one
I made a man so happy when I wrote a letter once
I hope my children come and visit, once or twice a month

Thankfully I'm not quite at the age to be able to sing this last verse, but I'm sure hoping I get to see it! My mum and dad are both alive at well at 64 and 67, and while I've just turned 40, I'm at a really reflective stage of life - call it a mid-life crisis if you want! I'm really thinking a lot about my life in the hope that I can start to pass things over to God and deal with them, to make my life a better one. I know I have issues - some small and some huge, but I also know that I have a Father God who knows every single one. And is there to help me deal with them as I need to. 
So there we go - my life in a song! Have you actually tried thinking back at different times in your life and looking at where you were? It's definitely a wonderful experience. 
Keep shining xx 

(Disclaimer: memories may appear different to different people, but since this is from my head, I'm happy with them!)