a little rest

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I enjoyed a little retreat at the weekend. Two nights away in a beautiful place I have been to before, which is so peaceful. Westwood Christian centre in Yorkshire has a little place in my heart. I seem to have stayed there at really key times in life; in celebration and new beginnings and in despair and disappointment. Its simple, comfortable flats never fail to host me with loving arms.

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I spent the first night alone, enjoying silence and time to think, pray, write and read. The centre’s welcome book had helpfully included some questions to prompt reflection, such as ‘what significant things have you noticed in the past week, month, year?’, ‘where do you sense your attention is being drawn?’ and ‘what is on your horizon…and what obstacles are in your way?’ I found these a good starting point for my thinking and listening, although I reread my answers and wonder where to start!

The following lunchtime, two special friends arrived and we spent the rest of the day talking and sharing. Literally 12 hours of talking and knitting, stopping occasionally to eat, make more tea or pop open the champagne (of course). We laughed and dreamed and wondered and shared. There was so much to share, so much goodness and also struggle. We had a ‘rite good natter, as they say in Yorkshire! Isn’t friendship such a blessing, when you really know each other, when you can pick up where you left off, when you know what the other is thinking? And they’ve both become serious knitters, though someone forgot her knitting so her commitment to the handcraft is now in question! Lucky I had my colouring book to keep her hands busy.  There was much excited chat about the wonder of alpacas. Most blokes just don’t really get this stuff! I was inspired to step up my knitting and challenge myself a bit more. There was a little sadness in my heart that I’m not closer to share it all with them more often and I shed a few tears when it was time to leave. My, I love those girls. We got so stuck into chat & knit that I forgot to get busy with my camera so most of the memories are in my head.

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It’s really good to get away from home, from your work and all the normal stuff, to look at your life and listen for what’s next. And to be thankful. We had a few nice days with family before and after the weekend, and it was so lush especially to spend time with my nieces and nephews and smell the cheeks of the newest babe…delish!

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Oh, and he loved the blanket – apparently, its his favourite colour. What was I so worried about? 😉

It took a few days to work through that depressing transition of coming back home from holiday when you just have to get on with it all. Do a lot of laundry and be at places for an actual specific time and work out what everyone is going to eat today. And I forgot just how hard work a puppy is, after a week away from her. It felt like a bit of an uphill struggle towards the end of January.

The snowdrops and spring buds are teasing me but there’s still a fair bit of cold weather left. Some sunshine would be really great right now. Holiday to New Zealand anyone? Let’s keep dreaming…

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introvert alert

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I’ve been known to claim that I love being around children. Now, there are points in my day where I doubt this and wonder if I’m lying to both of us. But really I do think its true. I love the way they welcome the day (until they’re about 4 years old), I love their zest for life, I love the way they play and inspire each other – far more than we could inspire them. They’re precious and honest and vulnerable and so strong. And I think they quickly feel safe with me and it feels good to be good at something. I recently spent a couple of hours of babysitting time reading and singing to a two year old girl who really should have been traumatised at my appearance in her bedroom, because she had never laid eyes on me before. And her parents weren’t there. She had just turned two. She should’ve freaked out to the extent that I had to call her parents to return home, but after a look of initial surprise, she was delighted to make friends. We read some stories together – I think she would’ve happily climbed from the bookcase to my knee all evening; eventually I just had to call it. Back to bed. It took at least another hour of singing lullabies (like I said, Mary Poppins) for her to fall asleep in my arms. I wasn’t the least bit frustrated that she’d woken unexpectedly when I could’ve been knitting downstairs. I had one of those wonderful moments where I hear the whisper of God. This is the most important job in the world and I’ve made you good at it. I think God was talking about mothering but you could also describe it as nurturing, caring; it’s not confined only to motherhood. Now, we could argue that was the voice of my inner pride, the child who lives within me and still wants to be at the top of the mountain first…the best and the fastest and the most beautiful. But, no, it was His voice. I know it. Because it didn’t leave me feeling proud, it left me with that indescribable peace in my heart.

So, I love being around children, but I also wanted to share that I usually love them in really small quantities. Preferably one or two at a time, preferably when they’re having a quiet day and want to listen to me read to them. That, my friend, is called being an Introvert. I am a proud and happy Introvert and would share at length all that I’ve discovered this means for me and those around me. As long as we could have that chat in a quiet room (lets have tea and chocolate too), just the two of us, or maybe three. For those of you who haven’t ever completed a personality test (you don’t know what you’re missing. Its so fun!) or don’t know what I’m talking about, I’ll try and summarise. Introverts mostly get their energy from being on their own or in very small groups of people they already know well. They think before they speak and often prefer to listen to or write things rather than talk. My lovely husband is an extrovert and these foreigners speak out loud as they are thinking. They do not check first that what they’re about to say is sensible or wise or appropriate (well, without training). OK perhaps I’m doing extroverts a huge disservice. I’m possibly exaggerating, but hopefully you get the gist 🙂

So what does being an Introvert mean as a Mum, who is with most of her four children most of the time (other than she’s made some crazy decisions)? It means it can be hard work! Their requests and demands and leading the conversation and all the fire fighting (spilt milk, bottom wiping in the middle of cooking dinner, younger sibling is destroying my LEGO model RIGHT NOW) is hard for anyone but is especially hard as a introvert. They demand me to speak when I’d prefer to remain quiet. They shout the house down when I want a calm space, they choose cartoons on TV with annoying whiny voices, they fight, they want to join me in the bath, help me chop the veg (so sweet, how can I say ‘No’ to that?) and basically be around me all. the. time.

Now, I want to share with you the real actual me, through blogging. Yes, I love children, yes I’m sacrificing some other stuff right now to be home educating our children. But I want you to be under no illusion that I am very special and some kind of super human being. I mean there are moments when I want you to think that, but really I want you to know the truth. And nobody wants to be around Mrs SuperMum because she makes you feel crap about yourself. So, right now, while I am merrily writing this post, our 3 year old is playing a maths game on the iPad. The others are at gym class with dad. Should 3 year olds be playing on an iPad? Ideally NO, in my opinion. Never actually, its not what’s good for their developing minds and bodies. So sometimes I choose what’s less good for them because I need to look after myself. And I’m an introvert. I need some thinking time with a gingerbread chai tea in a quiet place where I have a secret stash of very good quality dark chocolate. I’ve learnt my lesson (I hope) from many points of burnout along the way.

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If you ever see this chocolate…buy it!

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As well as being an introvert, I am what some people understand as being a ‘highly sensitive person’. OK you’re either gonna love this label or hate it. I’m a little of both. I love it because it describes and helps me understand myself better, and bring a sigh of relief that’s its ok to be like this. But it also sounds like someone you’re treading on eggshells around and I don’t want to be that person. Its a couple of years since I read  this book which helped me to understand further the power and strengths of Introverts, but also has a section devoted to being highly sensitive. As I remember, a highly sensitive person is exactly what it suggests. Your senses are more sensitive. This may be focussed particularly on only one or two of your five senses, but likely they will all be more effected by stimuli. For myself, I am particularly aware of my senses of smell, sight and hearing being highly responsive to my environment. Bad smells will really make me feel unhappy and tired (petrol, an oily oven in need of cleaning. Ugh!), where as the smell of grapefruit essential oil that I drip onto my handkerchief (you don’t do that?) will make me feel happy. It will instantly lift me. Without exception.

Likewise, lots of noisy children all confined to the same room as me, I find really hard. All talking and shouting around the dinner table? I hate it. Playing drums on the kitchen pans? Get away from me! I really struggle with an untidy house and our house is often untidy. I would need a full time housekeeper for it to be anything else. Can you send me one? Clutter on the floors, dust and mould around the windows, a big puddle of dog wee slowly seeping into the floor boards (hold on while I just go for a little walk around the house and see what else I can find….). Ok, its hard to describe, there’s just stuff. Everywhere. Clothes littered around the stairs, hallway, in every room. What should be a beautiful kitchen dresser camouflaged with boxes and mail and bits of toys and batteries and pieces of yarn and a bread crust. A whole lettuce in pieces around the hallway after the dog pulled it out of the veg box. Its awful and I’m not good at changing it. I’d rather hide away and pray for the fairies to come and do it for me. Have you ever been in the shop ‘The White Company’? I want to live there. Tidy, clean, ordered, beautiful, smells like heaven itself.

But I cant hide away all day and I do actually enjoy the company of my kids, I just need a little time out. The time comes to go back out into the dust and noise and choose patience and kindness and love. OK, and scrubbing.

These just arrived….

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I might just string out this alone time a little more…

So that’s a little more about me. What gives you energy and how do you look after yourself? What have you learnt you need?