Setting Christmas Expectations WAY Too High

Really don’t be so hard on yourself, you’re worth more than that!


Christmas and the Holidays are about connecting.  It all started with a little family celebrating the birth of a baby, and the guests pretty much either brought their love (the shepherds) or a gift each (the kings).

When we think about having enough for Christmas, some years we’ll be financially able to King It Up, other years you’ll have a shepherds heart, both are completely acceptable to people who love you.

It is ok to “cut our coat to the cloth” and have a financially and emotionally manageable Holiday Period.   In the old days, tailors would decide what coat they were going to make based upon the quantity and quality of the cloth they had in front of them.  The more cloth, the fancier the coat, the less cloth, the simpler, but there was always a coat at the end of the cutting and stitching, they just had to assess what they had and decide how to proceed.

It is easy to want to give family and friends the exact gift they want, and sometimes/quite often we can do that.  But sometimes we can’t.  I’ve always gone as extravagant as I could and struggled in November – January.  This time folks will be getting cute, fun, ideal gifts which perhaps don’t require us to sell a kidney or rob a bank and although humbling, I’m completely ok with that now.

Have a diary so you don’t miss fun events, and have a good gift wrapping kit with scissors and a proper tape dispenser to make life easier, and book a day off work if possible or set aside a non-workday to prep, then enjoy.  It doesn’t have to be stressful, it doesn’t have to make us frazzled.  We decide how we react.

If the priority is in connecting with those we love, or in caring for ourselves during this period, we can’t go far wrong.  If we are invited and want to go, GO!  Don’t let worry stop us visiting with people we love and having fun or kicking up our heels.  If we are lonely, find someone to serve.  It is the quickest cure for loneliness.  If we are frazzled, stop and think about the people you are attempting to connect with through lovely festive food and a gift.  When we remember the who and why, the how becomes less fraught if we let it.  If we are overworked, simplify and delegate.  There is no prize for arriving at the holidays completely overwhelmed and fractious, we determine our destination and how we arrive there.

For me, it is the traditions of Christmas that I remember the most from growing up.  Wearing your nicest clothes and PJ’s, those little sausages in bacon during dinner, seeing Nan and Granddad, taking a couple of hours out on Christmas day to colour in the new colouring books with new felt tipped pens while laying on our tummies on the rug.  I don’t really remember exactly what gifts arrived, we had a few great ones to be sure, but what remains is how I felt during those Christmas periods.  Grandparents are no longer with us but I can still feel being pulled in to a hug by Nan with a big kiss on my forehead and I can still see Granddad laughing and chuckling to himself with tears in his eyes after making a dad-joke type pun.

If all we can do this year is bring a Shepherd Heart, we’ve done a lot.

Remember when you nearly pegged it?

You never realise how comforting light and sound are until there is no light or sound…

Perhaps that is an exaggeration.  Nobody nearly pegged it or died.  But that is how it felt in the dark of the middle of the night when plunged in to perceived peril.

It’s 3am, you’re woken by a fizzing pop sound near your head, the lamp which you normally leave on is dark, the radio you normally leave playing through the night is silent and in your stupor you wonder why the alarm won’t tell you the time.

Gosh darn it.  Something’s up with the electricity.

You reach for the extension socket and can’t get it out of the confined space in which it lives.

You pull your bed away from the wall with the lack of grace so profound that scientists are starting to write papers on the absence of grace as a contributing factor in String Theory.

Your hand gets stuck behind the headboard so you have a little middle of the night panic.  The hand is free at last so you try again unplugging the surge protector finally.

Yanking cables and trying not to drop items off of the bedside table ensues.  It does not go well.

So, in the dark you find your way across the room to see if the light switch works and do a happy dance when it does.

You determine that happy dancing at 3.05am is not a beautiful sight to anyone but you so you calm down a little.

Walking back to the socket area you crack your knee on the out of place bedframe but don’t cuss anything worse than “for the love of Sundays” which is a great replacement cuss, it has all the cadence and resonance of something far more cussy, it is very satisfying.

Back at the socket you find and release the surge protector from its captivity and notice that the little surge light is the culprit for the fizzle pop – it looks bedraggled and burned out, having done its job admirably and the switch has fallen off.

More growling sounds from you and trapped hands behind the headboard later, we find a spare socket for the alarm clock and set that little beast in luminous neon Star Trek blue so that it can wake you in a couple of hours now.

You discard the spent surge protector.

You muse that thank heavens you heard the fizzle pop sound through your dreams and responded otherwise your family would likely have slept until noon without interruption.

You worry that your house is going to burn down and that you shouldn’t have taken the battery out of the smoke alarm when you cooked sausages yesterday.

You vow to learn to cook sausages without having to have an evacuation procedure in place.

You stare at the clock for a while to make sure that the numbers change as they should, you nod off.

“I’ll not offer again” and that is a great thing.

“Missy, In order to try and keep options open for you and to be the kind of mum you deserve, I’ve been offering once every quarter to see if you want to be in touch with your dad.  You’re 17 now.  From now on I’ll not offer again but if you change your mind you can tell me.”

“Oh thank heavens, about time too.  I’ve been telling you for 5 years he was awful to me and I want nothing to do with him and FINALLY you listen”.

“I remembered today what he did, and I’ll not put you through that again.  If one day in the future you want to speak with him it’s fine but it is my job to protect you from harm and I will never put you in the position of defending your opinion again”.


Passion not Panic

Almost nothing is so urgent that it requires an absolute split second decision. There is time. Time can be our friend in most cases.

Chatting with a colleague friend yesterday I uttered the words “the decisions I’ve made recently have been borne of panic not passion” and a moment of clarity ensued.

I desire to live a life of passion, to passionately pursue my goals and to enjoy my 72 free goes around the Sun. Continue reading “Passion not Panic”

Lip Service Repentance vs Restitution

Lip service repentance should not ever get a predator off the hook. Predators need to know that there is no space for them as wolves among the lambs. #twitterstake #bloggernacle

Many woman in the Church have a story about how they were recipient of really awful behaviour by a man in the Church.  Often the aggressor being someone in some kind of authority or who has jurisdiction over some aspect of their or someone else’s life and safety.  The purveyors of aggressive behaviour are not great in number but they are like chili flakes in a sugar pot – unexpected and unwanted.

The experiences sit around either someone being domineering and aggressive, a creeper, being completely inappropriate or verbally and or physically aggressive toward them.   

They have stories of how, in the Gospel, we are required to be forgiving so after taking the concern or fear to the Church authorities the survivor of this conduct drops it, leaves it alone, waits to be called back in for a follow up conversation but when this rarely emerges they try not to mention it again.   

Frequently the complainant does not perceive they are truly believed. 

But here’s the kicker, the Church authorities frequently “have a quiet word” with the person and perhaps the behaviour toward the complainant stops for a while, perhaps there is tension….  

But there is no actual restitution.   

Almost never at any point is an abuser expelled from the congregation, only once to my knowledge because police became involved and a person was sent to prison for their offence but otherwise I have never known of a predator or aggressor being expelled. 

Never are other women warned about the danger, the complainant does not receive an apology from the aggressor, I’ve never heard of a plan of action being shared with the complainant, and women talk! 

There is a disconnect. 

Predatory or Domineering behaviour is rife, it is everywhere, even sadly occassionally within the Chapel Building walls. 

Young Women of aware parents have been told by their vigilant Mothers “Stay away from that person by any means necessary…. Scream, shout, kick up a stink, be direct with your words, but never ever let them come near you, they are dangerous” and the child’s life is altered with this knowledge and they will never be a completely innocent child again. 

Young Women of other parents are not warned of the danger, and the parents either trust the Lord to protect their kids or hover like helicopter parents and the children never develop a sense of danger and warning and walk through life in a Doe-like fashion. 

First, Women need to be believed.  Leaders need to express their thankfulness that the women have been brave enough to share their experience and asked if they want help pressing charges. 

Second, the predators need to be held accountable to the highest standards.

Third, we need the loop to be closed, the complainant needs to be approached by the person with whom they shared their concern, they need to be thanked again, they need to be told what the consequences were for the aggressor and asked again if they want to press charges. 

Forth, the aggressor needs to apologise and make restitution in full. 

Lip service repentance should not ever get a predator off the hook.  Predators need to know that there is no space for them as wolves among the lambs.  They need to know that the shepherds have got their number and that there is no hiding place.  If predators leave because they cannot predate with ease, so be it.

The missing piece right now rests around accountability and closing the loop by reporting back and receiving a restitutory apology at the very least.

Lip service repentance does not negate the requirement for justice.  In fact, it elevates the requirement for justice because lip service repentance is a dangerous and manipulative weapon used by aggressors to evade justice and consequences.


Locked out the house

I looked down and in my left hand was a phone, not the usual set of keys, oh dear.

D’oh.  I did a fuzzy brained thing.  I normally hold my keys in my left hand but I was holding my phone.  I closed the front door and it locked and Missy and I were left standing outside with no access to the house.  We were stranded.  It was catastrophic.  It was freezing cold outside and we were dressed for church.  This was not good.

We tried to open the house using various methods.  Then I asked on FB for someone to come and collect Missy and get her in to the warm while I resolved this issue.  Then we called a locksmith who, knowing we were on the doorstep, gave us an appointment date of 13th of November, a full 8 days time.  Without cursing I think I reiterated we were on our doorstep now, he reiterated the appointment date and I hung up.

I called another service and they gave us an appointment time of 1 hour which was far more suitable.  During the hour wait we followed the winter sun around our front garden trying to stay warm like cats.  We could see a set of keys through the letterbox but neither us nor the locksmith when he arrived was able to get to them so we had to be drilled back in to our house.  Luckily I had a selection of door locks in a box to choose from as a replacement for the now defunct locking system, he selected a suitable one and voila, we had access to our home again.

Things I’ve learned from this escapade.

First, when you ask for help it will not be forthcoming, you’re on your own no matter how much people say they’ll “be there” and “anything you need”, what I needed was someone to take my daughter to the warmth of the chapel on a freezing Sunday morning while I sorted out these things.  Lesson learned.  I shan’t ask again.

Second, don’t lock the door behind you without checking what’s in your left hand.

Third, get the key-safe sorted out.  It does no good sitting in a box unutilized.

Forth, my house is pretty difficult to break in to (not tempting fate) even for a professional so that’s a positive.

Luckily it was a crisp morn and clear skies, luckily I had the spare lock ready, luckily our guy arrived in around an hour, luckily I had the cash to hire the locksmith, luckily luckily luckily.

Be safe, kids.  Make sure it’s your keys in your hand.




The surprise benefit of being free of bad debt

To not be shackled to yesterdays worries so that we can fully face todays challenges is a beautiful gift.

I am pragmatic.  I decide to talk about positive things.  I believe we either talk and act ourselves in to or out of a happy life.  However I don’t care whether the glass is half full or half empty.  I know how much water is in the glass, I know what I am working with on any given topic.

So the benefit, or even blessing, of being unshackled by debt during a period of potential financial constraint is a superb comfort and reassurance.

Like everyone, I have income and expenditure.  Thankfully I was blessed with the moxy and ability to get out from under a serious financial burden in the tens of thousands of pounds range and reset the financial accounts to “we don’t have a lot but we’ve paid our taxes for the benefit of the country and what we do have is our own” as we paid down every debt we’d been left with.

When guaranteed income is in jeopardy we start to look closer at the expenditure side of the spreadsheet.  It has been one of the few delights recently that unlike previous times either house or income is at risk, this time I am not carrying a negative financial legacy like an albatross around my neck.

I have to find a way to generate revenue to cover our modest living expenses but I don’t have the worry of paying for things on instalments, I don’t have the worry of credit card debt, I don’t have the worry of consumer spending spread conveniently on an unreasonable monthly payment at an exorbitant APR.  I just have to make sure that enough comes in for Mortgage, utilities and groceries.  That’s it.  That is far less of an ask than carrying the worry of paying for something I bought and used up two years ago.

Being in this fortunate situation brings a degree of peace, a calmer disposition than I would otherwise have had.

It also frees me up to be flexible with regard to the future opportunities I can pursue.  I don’t have to find a position to cover Bills and Debts, I just have to find something to cover Bills and anything else is a bonus.  That is a freedom for which it would be hard to quantify the optimism and relief felt at the moment.

I am the head of my household and the responsibility sits on my shoulders.  Until you’ve been the head of the household you have no idea what so ever how heavily that mantle sits on the shoulders.  It is completely and utterly different to being the 2nd earner.  Head of the household is like being an Adult Plus.  Nobody is going to bail you out, you are it.  The buck stops at your feet.  The responsibility for keeping everyone in your abode alive, sheltered and fed sits with you.  Once you get the hang of it, it starts to sit easier a little but the knowledge in the back of your mind never actually quite goes away.

If I could wish for you one thing, it would be the freedom of being bad debt free.  It is worth the blood, sweat and tears, the overtime, the going without for a while, the humble birthday and holiday presents, the dinners in rather than takeaway or restaurants, the forsaking holidays in the sun or snow to reach the goal of being without that burden.

Bad times come for such are a part of earth life and mortality.  To not be shackled to yesterdays worries so that we can fully face todays challenges is a beautiful gift.