Friday, January 15, 2021
Home Authors Posts by Donna Burke

Donna Burke

Enjoy Christmas without completely overindulging

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Eat, Drink and be Merry

It’s that time of year again. Christmas is all around and following in its wake; year-end parties; festive get-togethers, chocolates, cakes, treats and tipples. Overindulgence and Christmas have become sadly synonymous.

The health industry today is BIG business. Magazines, gym memberships, sportswear, health food, recipe books, smoothie bars, the list stretches are a far as the day is long. The majority of us want to look better, feel stronger and live longer. All the resources are out there if only we’re willing to put in the work. The choice is ours, that is, any time of the year except the holidays. With the onset of the festive period, it’s almost a foregone conclusion that the healthy choices will fly out the window and be replaced by the consumption of far more than is actually good for us.

Things to keep in mind

With food at every turn, how do you stick to your guns, make the right choices and enjoying the festive season without stuffing yourself like the proverbial turkey?

* Don’t starve – It may sound ridiculous but by making sure you eat regularly and don’t skip meals, it will be easier for you to keep control of the amount of food you are eating. So instead of starving yourself before a big party and arriving hungry, make sure you’re eating as you normally would so you’re not ravenous by the time you get to the front door.

* Eat when you’re hungry – It may sound like a contradiction to the previous point, but the two go hand in hand. During the festive season there is food a plenty and after a blow out breakfast, it’s very possible that when lunch rolls around you’re still full up from your morning meal. If you’re not hungry at lunchtime, don’t eat. Just because your watch says it’s time for food, if your body doesn’t need it take a break.

* Look after your emotional health – The holiday period can be stressful. There’s a lot of activities and sometimes pressure in making sure Christmas lives up to everyone’s expectations. Making sure you’re not stressed out or overtired is a good way to keep a handle on your emotional wellbeing and control comfort eating.

* Smaller portions – It’s hard to pass up your favourite treat, especially if it’s something that you only get at Christmas (I’m a sucker for mince pies). Instead of torturing yourself and refusing all the yummy bites, exercise portion control. Have one of something instead of five or treat yourself to something sweet every other day. You don’t have to go without, just remember that less is more.

More than just good intentions

The book of Proverbs tells us that ‘A person without self-control is like a house with its doors and windows knocked out.’ Good intentions are worth very little without a good measure of self-control, but with a bit of forward thinking, you can set boundaries concerning your eating habits and can enjoy this Christmas season with losing control of your eating.

If you would like to know more about what the bible teaches on self-control, please click the link below.

Sharing is Caring – How to live a more generous life

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I was just thinking…

I’ve been thinking recently about generosity.

I live in a part of the world where many people are in need. There is a shortage of decent housing, a lack of jobs and it’s not uncommon for individuals to go door to door or stand at traffic lights asking for food or financial help. It’s unusual for a week to go by without at least one person knocking on my door asking for something to eat or clothing. I like to help, but at times, the little I give feels very small and insignificant. On other occasions, the pressures of my own household and caring for my kids makes the giving harder, as I wonder how we will manage without the items I’m donating to someone else. Regardless of my circumstances, I believe that being generous and giving to others is something that God would have me do and in Deuteronomy chapter 15 verse 10 we are told to give to the poor generously.

Good for your health

Studies have found that generosity is surprisingly beneficial, not just to the receiver but to the giver as well. It’s been found that people who make being generous part of their lifestyle, tend to be happier and healthier. Generosity helps to create a greater sense of purpose and fulfillment in their lives and focuses their attention away for the space they alone inhabit, enlarging their view onto the world beyond.

The book of Proverbs speaks about generosity. In chapter 11, verse 25 it says:

The world of the generous gets larger and larger;
the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller.

It sounds great doesn’t it? But for some, the thought of giving away a portion of their finances, when they are already stretched to the limit causes them to break out in a cold sweat. Fortunately having a generous spirit has nothing to do with the amount in your bank account and can be cultivated despite the size of your monthly paycheck.

It’s not about the ‘Benjamins’

No matter what your financial situation, here are a few ways to grow your generosity:

  1. Offer to mow the lawn, babysit or perform some other chore for a neighbour for free.
  2. Try walking or riding a bike to work or school one day a week for a month. Collect the money you save on petrol or bus fare and give it away to a person in need.
  3. Help a co-worker or a fellow student with a project or task.
  4. Find at least one person each day that you can give a sincere compliment to.
  5. Donate your skills. Maybe you are a hairdresser, a designer, a tutor, whatever it is to find someone who needs your skill and give your time to help them.
  6. Give a dollar. Sometimes starting small is the only way to begin, so each week donate one dollar (or whatever currency you use) to someone. Make it a habit.
  7. Spend time with people in need. It can be easier to show generosity towards people with faces and stories than to unknown masses. Volunteer at a homeless shelter or a soup kitchen and get to know people who would benefit from generosity.
  8. Spend time with people who are generous. Learn from people who live generous lives, ask them how they became generous and find ways to incorporate their wisdom into your own situation.
  9. Make an effort to be kind and courteous to everyone. Servers at a restaurant, telesales people, bank cashiers, the lady at the checkout. It costs nothing to be polite and by being generous with your smile and respect, you may make their day easier.

Start an epidemic

Remember that kindness is contagious. By being generous and becoming a generous person, those around you will learn from your example and you may well find that you are on the receiving end of the generosity you encouraged in someone else.

You may find it hard to forget your own needs and think of others.  It can be even harder to give of your own resources if you see your portion as being finite and limited to your own ability to provide. It makes a big difference when you understand that your provision comes from God and that even as you give to others, he will continue to take care of you and supply all your needs if you just ask him.

The Terrible Tantrums

Tantrums. We’ve all heard of them, most of us have seen one in full flow. Until you become a parent you may be deceived into believing that these delightful displays are reserved for the proverbial ‘terrible twos’, but oh how wrong you would be!!!

A perfect storm

I have four children. Wonderful little beings with personality in truck loads. My oldest is 7 and my baby is 16 months old.   Given the correct circumstances and the proper motivation, any one of my kids can completely lose the plot with dramatic effect. It’s really rather impressive to watch and sometimes the trigger is so seemly insignificant it amazes me but in no way am I claiming that my children are monsters or that my parenting skills leave much to be desired, in fact just the opposite. Having spent many hours chatting to moms I know that even the best parent and the most calm and placid kiddie can find themselves at the mercy of a terrible tantrum but the trick is knowing how to deal with it and spotting the signs before things get ugly!

Insane in the membrane

Experts tell us that typically tantrums surface around about the age of 1 and can last until the age of 4. Having said that this age bracket varies depending on who you’re listening too and let’s face it, if you have more than one child you know that regardless of what is written in the parenting books, most children march to their own drum and develop in their own time. For those of you who like science (I know you’re out there!) there is a biological reason behind the ragings of your little angel and it’s all to do with a section of the brain called the prefrontal cortex. This area of the brain controls our ability to reign in our emotions and manage our social interaction but, and here’s the important part, it only starts to develop around about the age of 4, so up until that point anything goes!! Fun stuff!!

Trigger: unhappy

Tantrums can come out of nowhere and strike at any time but having watched my own children I know that certain things contribute and make my job as a parent a bit harder.

  • Tiredness – Late nights, missed nap times, short or disturbed naps or a combination of the above all spell trouble. I know that if I’ve not had enough sleep it’s a good idea to keep your distance so if I struggle as an adult, how is a little person who doesn’t have emotional control going to cope.
  • Hunger – Food is a powerful tool. I’ve noticed how incredibly happy and excited my daughter gets when she knows she’s going to eat. I’ve also seen my hubby and my son get seriously hangry (hungry+angry) when a meal is delayed for some reason. It’s hard to stay calm when your stomach is empty!
  • Attention or lack thereof – Children need attention. It’s stating the obvious but imagine you’re trying to have a conversation with someone and they’re constantly checking their phone, watching the tv or speaking to someone else. How would you react? Kids are the same. I know that if I’m distracted and not giving the attention that’s being asked for, things spiral very quickly.
  • Sugar – I’m not a sugar nazi, I believe in moderation, so we limit the amount of sugary things our kids get. I’ve seen the effect that too many treats can have on four little people and it’s really not pretty!

Be the parent

The root cause of most tantrums is frustration, normally over not getting what they want but how as a good parent do you avoid a showdown of epic proportions without bending to the will of a little person and giving in to their every need. You can’t give a child everything they want, because they don’t know what’s good for them. For example, my kids often want to help me cook. They would love nothing more than to stir every pot, chop every vegetable and take things out of the oven. I know there is a limit to what they are capable of and have to draw a line. It would be irresponsible of me to let a 2 year old carry a boiling pan of water to the sink but when I say no….. so how do you avoid the tantrum but still remain in control of the situation?

  • Keep Calm and Carry on – The last thing you should do in the face of a tantrum is to throw a tantrum back. I saw a great ad of a mom having a tantrum in the supermarket as a way of stopping a tantrum by her child. It makes for good advertising but in real life you’re going to add to the problem and demonstrate a really bad way of dealing with your emotions.
  • Start at home – Don’t wait until you’re out shopping or at a restaurant to deal with meltdowns. Start showing what is acceptable and what is out of line at home and it will make dealing with issues in public much easier. Consistency is the key.
  • Walk away – Where you can and if it’s safe, ignore the outburst. Sometimes it better to let it blow itself out than to step in. If it is a demand for attention by giving attention you’re reinforcing the bad behaviour. Attention needs to be given before the melt down not during it.
  • Create a diversion – Find something more fun, in a different location, anything that will take the focus off the cause of the tantrum.

You’re not alone

Being a parent is hard work and at times it can be frustrating, draining and downright scary but the bible tell us that children are a gift and navigating childhood with all its challenges and joys is part of that. God has given us the ability and the strength to dig deep, be patient and find the wisdom to nurture the children he has given us.   I like to remind myself on the days that don’t go to plan or where tantrums steal the peace of my home, that tomorrow is a new day and that God has given me everything I need to be the mama my children deserve. It’s not in my own strength but it’s through his strength working in me.

If you would like to know more about how God’s strength can help you, please click the link below

Keeping Traditions

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A friend posted on Facebook this week about wanting to establish some family Christmas traditions in his home. He said that he and his wife had different traditions growing up and needed to find a way of celebrating as a family. I smiled as a read his post because I can completely relate. My husband and I grew up in different countries. His first language and mine are different. Our cultural backgrounds overlap in places but there are plenty of places where they don’t.   It’s been fun discovering and deciding on traditions to introduce to our home and our family.

Ties that bind

Traditions are wonderful and intriguing things. In a culture that is obsessed with getting the most up to date; the latest model, you may ask is there any place for something that’s intent is to bind us to the past? The dictionary defines tradition as the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice. So what’s the point? When we’re so busy trying to find new and better ways of doing, and moving forward, why bother with traditions that keep us looking back?

We are family

First and possibly foremost, traditions give a tremendous sense of belonging. By continuing a ritual, event or celebrating style that has been handed to you from a previous generation you are not only connecting to the people in the past who also upheld that tradition, but also connecting with those around you in the present who continue to observe the same tradition. Traditions also encourage a sense of comfort and security. Woody Allen (in his true cynical style) said that traditions give us an illusion of permanence in an otherwise changing and uncertain world.

Memories are made of this

My personal favourite reason for continuing traditions is that it gives us the opportunity to create enduring memories with friends and family. Many of my happiest childhood memories are bound to traditions that we had as a family. Christmases, birthday celebrations, Sunday evening McDonald runs after church, holiday board games and afternoon tea with biscuits after school. Traditions don’t need to be grand and lofty to be meaningful or even worthy of being passed on. The church I attended as a child had a tradition that every year on the day after Christmas there would be a soccer match between the under 25 year olds and the over 25 year olds. It wasn’t particularly auspicious or even very comfortable (I grew up in Europe and remember many wet and cold matches) but it was a really fun tradition that continued for many years and may still be going on as far as I know.

Excited much?

Traditions also create a wonderful sense of anticipation. In our house Father Christmas comes while we are asleep on Christmas Eve. We have a tradition of putting out a mince pie, a glass of milk and a carrot with a note for Father Christmas before we go to bed on December 24th.   I did this as a child, I’m pretty certain my mother did this as well and now each year my children do the same. It’s tradition. The toe-tingling excitement this simple act produces is mind blowing. I’m amazed that we can get my children to bed after laying out these goodies. It’s the anticipation, they know what’s going to happen next. They know that Father Christmas is on his way and that next time they enter the room, the tree will no longer be standing alone but will be surrounded by gifts! It’s so exciting, I can hardly stand it.

Our traditions remind us what is important. They very often reinforce the things that we value, be it family, good food, prayer, rest, hard work or happiness. By celebrating and observing these rituals we are also honouring those who have gone before. It’s a chance to say thank you for the legacy that has been handed on and a way to use that past as a reference point or as context with which to face the future.

I was interested to see that the dictionary also includes theology in the definition of tradition. It says tradition is also a body of teachings, or any one of them, held to have been delivered by Christ and His apostles but not originally committed to writing. I love that the teachings of Jesus are considered to be traditions. It makes perfect sense. The teachings of Christ are all about giving us a sense of belonging, of helping us to find our place in the larger family of God. The things that have been written in the bible were given to us, to connect us to God but also to other believers and to instruct us about the values and the things that we should hold onto. The bible is there to give us security and comfort and direction. It also gives us an incredible sense of anticipation and hope for the future.

 

How Will You Celebrate Advent?

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‘Tis the Season

The countdown to Christmas has officially started. How can you tell? It is now generally considered acceptable to deck the halls and dress the tree from December 1st onwards and of course we can’t possibly forget the good ole Advent Calendar, reminding us daily that Christmas morning is getting gradually closer.

It’s exciting! Festivities begin, end of year functions, last days at school or work, Christmas shopping and the all-important festive shopping trips. Seasonal music fills the malls and all becomes merry and bright because (as the song declares) Santa Claus is coming to town!

What’s the deal?

It can be a tricky time as a parent, especially a Christian parent. There is so much to celebrate and be joyous about. It’s a magical season that sparks the imagination but it’s so easy to get caught up in the trappings and commercial mayhem and forget the deeper significance behind the tinsel, lights and goodies. Don’t get me wrong, I love the music, the gifts, the food, the singing, the tree. All of it! I also love the fact that I get to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and focus on the importance of that event.

Let’s get creative

Today, Advent is almost entirely about the chocolate filled calendar and the coming of Santa, and as fun as that is, it can become old and dull over time and has very little to do with the great hope contained within the Christmas story. Many parents, both Christian and those of other (or even no) faith, are looking for new ways to make the countdown more meaningful and memorable for their families.   Using the tradition calendar as a starting point but replacing the pictures of festive items and sweets with other things. A really wonderful example of this can be found on the blog Between you and me but there are many ways to be creative, make memories or family traditions and add significance to this season.

This year my family has decided that instead of sweet treats in the calendar, we will be marking each day with a new activity. We are planning all sorts, like building a nativity scene; singing carols; having a special bedtime story; baking biscuit and driving to see the Christmas lights. These may sound frivolous but my children are all 7 and younger, so all the activities have been kept age appropriate for little ones. They love it. I love it. It’s going to be a wonderful countdown to Christmas day but I can see already that our Advent celebrations are going to change as they grow older and I look forward to sharing that with them too, in years to come.

What is Advent?

The word Advent is from the Latin word adventus. It means ‘Coming’. Traditionally the significance of this time could be summed up in three ‘comings’. According to the New Catholic Encyclopedia, Advent is a time of preparation, when we look forward firstly, to celebrating the birth of Jesus, the event that brought God’s Son to earth to live as a man. The second is that Jesus wants to come and be a part of our lives today. The third meaning of Advent is that we look forward to the second coming of Jesus, when he will return to earth not as a baby in a manger but as a King.

The period of Advent falls on the 4 Sundays before Christmas day starting on the Sunday closest to November 30th.  Some of the earlier traditions for celebrating Advent, are not just festive and beautiful but have wonderful imagery behind them. Just one example is the Advent wreath and it is one way people still mark this season. The tradition began in Germany, somewhere around the 1930’s. This is a circular wreath with four candles on it. The shape of the circle is to represent God’s eternal nature and the candles are to be lit on each of the four Sundays during the Advent season while Advent prayers are said. Each candle has a different meaning:  The first one represents Isaiah and other prophets in the bible that foretold the coming of Jesus.  The second candle represents the bible.  The third candle represents Mary, the mother of Jesus.  The final one represents John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, who told the people in Israel to get ready for Jesus’ teaching.

Other ways of marking Advent include the Jesse Tree and the very familiar Advent calendar.

How will you celebrate?

When it comes down to it, how you choose to celebrate this season isn’t really the issue, but what you are celebrating is of profound importance. If you only prepare for the turkey and the gifts, sadly you may miss the point of Christmas altogether. Instead, why not use this Advent period, to not only enjoy the festivities and jollyment, but to focus on the coming of Jesus?

Independence

I can do it myself

There comes a moment in every toddlers life when they stop being happy to have everything done for them and decide to assert their independence. We’ve just reached that stage in my household with my son. At 16 months old his whole motivation in life is to see what he’s capable of. This takes many guises. Climbing; walking; emptying things; repacking things; taking off shoes; putting on hats and in poll position on his list is feeding himself. It’s a fun stage but it has its challenges.

Milestones

Child development experts tell us that a newborn baby is not aware that it is separate from its mother but somewhere around four or five months old a baby will begin to realise that it is a separate individual. It’s a gradual process but a wonderful milestone in a baby’s life because it opens up a whole new world of communication, relationship with others and exploration. Being a separate person can be scary though, and this realisation is sometimes accompanied by a level of anxiety, especially when mom happens to leave the room.

Growth is good! It is a sign of health.  Being mom or dad is a lifetime role but no one wants to be changing nappies and feeding their child when they’re 18 years in the same way they would at 18 days. Your role changes dramatically over the months and years as your child grows and hopefully they become more and more capable of functioning as an independent individual.

Independence = Mess

One of the things I’ve noticed about increased independence in my children is that it normally goes hand in hand with an increased amount of mess. My two and half-year old daughter has recently decided that she is big enough to get her own drinks. It’s not enough to ask nicely for my help, she wants to pour her own juice from the bottle into her cup. This has resulted, on several occasions, in a juice puddle all over the floor.  At the same time my little boy is no longer satisfied with being fed his meals and insists on feeding himself. This is fine when there is toast for breakfast but you can imagine the mess when it’s spaghetti for dinner. This is increased when he decides that his chubby little hands would be more effective tools than using the spoon or fork provided, but it’s all part of the developmental journey.  Fortunately, despite the fall out during these learning experiences, Mom is there to clean up, ready for the next try. At this stage in their life, that’s what I’m here for.

With all of my kids, it has been very obvious that as they reach for new levels of independence they are less worried about whether they are able, and more concerned about jumping in, boots and all, and just having a go.   There is no question of ‘am I ready?’ but it’s a case of trial and error, and a whole heap of mess, until the new skill has been acquired. It’s also very clear that they have an unshakable faith in the fact that their parents are right there beside them, ready for the moment something doesn’t quite go to plan.

Got your back

As adults we tend to like things to be certain before allowing ourselves to take a leap into a new situation, but in reality progress or growth rarely happen in nice neat stages. Development requires effort; at times, courage and is, on occasion, messy but you will never develop or grow unless you learn to step beyond what you know and reach for something outside of your current understanding. It has to be said, it’s easier to make these leaps, if there is someone there who can pick you up when you fall and help you face whatever mess may occur as a result. Maybe that is one of the reasons why the Bible refers to God as our Father.

Unlock Your Creativity

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Creativity. The word sounds so mysterious and out there. It’s like this indefinable ability to be different and tap into a resource ‘normal’ people don’t have access too, but this is not the case.

Very often creativity is seen as an innate ability that we are born with, and while some people may display their creative bend more obviously than others we all have within us the capacity to be creative.

The bible tells us in the book of Genesis that we were created in God’s imagine. It also tells us that ‘In the beginning God created’. If God is a creative being and we were made to be a copy of his likeness, it stands to reason that we to are creative beings. The real problem is how to tap into that ability and make the most of your creativity.

A good place to start is to understand what being creative actually means. The dictionary describes creativity as:

The ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination.

It’s a well-known phrase but the easiest way to describe creativity is ‘to think outside of the box’. Creativity is not dependent on talent (although talent can help in the expression of being creative). You don’t have to be an artist or skilled at a particular art to display creative skill. Think of creativity as a muscle. We all have to muscle to come up with new ideas, methods and the like, but if you don’t flex and grow that muscle it will remain weak and insignificant.

There are many articles, studies and blog posts on the internet all looking at the topic of creativity and how to increase this skill. Here are just a couple of the things you can do to unlock your creativity:

  1. Play – Have you ever watched children and noticed how naturally creative they are. Whether it’s figuring out how to get a ball down from a high place, how to dress up like a super hero with a cardboard box, an old blanket and a tennis racket or what to do when there is nothing to do, kids are full of creative ideas. Playing can release your mind and allow you to use your imagination to come at problems from a different angle.
  2. Start collecting – Ideas and inspiration are everywhere but with all the information out there it’s easy for these seeds of creativity to go in one ear (or eye) and out the other. Start writing, scrap-booking, pinning and collecting things that you see, ideas; concepts. Write stuff down and use it as a spring-board to spark your own creative juices.
  3. Do something new – This could be in the form of a class or it could be as simple as change your morning routine or route to work. Challenge yourself, step outside of what is comfortable and familiar.
  4. Change your space – If you’re struggling to be creative where you are changing your environment can sometimes be the perfect catalyst. Get outside or move to a different room, just a change in location can make all the difference. Find a space where you can relax and be comfortable and focus on your ideas rather than your surroundings.

The biggest myth about creativity is that some people are creative whilst other just aren’t. Each of us has the ability to be creative and use our imagination in amazing ways. The Bible says we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Created in the likeness of the Creator and the ability to be creative is a gift given to us all by a God who loves us.

 

Is There Hope?

Cause for fear

It’s been a scary couple of weeks. Terrorist attacks in Paris; Mass shootings in Mali; Bombs destroying lives in Beirut and an airplane being blown up somewhere over Egypt. Not to mention the continued crisis in Europe with the thousands upon thousands of refugees streaming into the continent. The list goes on and the current global situation is looking decidedly bleak. The question has to be asked, is there hope?

My own little world

My world, at times, feels fairly small. I have my home, my husband and my kids. My day to day includes folding socks, making puzzles and cleaning up the rice that my 1 year old manages to throw around the kitchen during lunch. I make meals, run errands, play games and love my family. But my little world is surrounded by a much bigger, much more daunting place. At night when I look at my sleeping children I thank God for the peace they enjoy. I pray his protection over them and pray for a bright future. But there are moments, when I read the headlines or turn on the news when I fear that the future will be anything but bright.

I hear about the hate fuelled attacks going on around the world and wonder when, or even if, it will ever come to an end. The world leaders seem to be at a loss to know what to do next and no-one appears to have any solutions. Words are cheap and in the meantime people are dying and bitterness, anger and division grows. At times it feels like everything is in a state of collapse and peace is a far off fairy tale.

Where is hope?

But… in the midst of the disaster and pain I am reminded that ‘We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.’ (Hebrews 6:19) The hope we have is Jesus. While chaos and confusion fills the media and threatens all of our peace, we can still know hope. Jesus said he would never leave us. He said that he would be a help in times of trouble.

My faith in God is not an insurance policy against hardship. It isn’t some magic formula that once invoked makes all the pain and suffering disappear and leaves everything rosy. If anything the bible tells me that there will definitely be hard times and difficulties in life. It’s going to be challenging and tough on occasion but if my hope is found in Christ, I don’t need to be afraid. I have a promise that the end of this life on earth is not the end. This is just one chapter in the story but beyond death this story continues for those who trust in God and seek out his kingdom.

An Attitude of Gratitude

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God Bless America

I am very proud of my culture and nationality, but if there is one thing that I wish I could borrow from another nation, it’s the American holiday, Thanksgiving. Imagine having a whole holiday just about being grateful! I love being grateful. Being grateful is one of the best feelings. I defy anyone to feel anything other than wonderfully happy while they’re being thankful. You just can’t be moody and grateful at the same time.

Mind your P’s and Q’s

Gratitude is a bit of a personal obsession. One of the first things I taught my children to do was to say thank you. Not only is it good manners, it also gives me such a thrill to hear them being appreciative of the things that they have been given. When they are showing their gratitude I know that they have learnt something that will stay with them all their lives. It’s a life skill that will always benefit them and never leave them lacking. It seems like such a simple thing but the effect of gratitude can be life changing because thankful people are happy people. Gratitude breeds contentment. You can’t be grateful for what you have and remain unhappy with your lot in life. There is so much joy to be found if you learn to appreciate the little things and be thankful for them.

Every Good and Perfect Gift

As a Christian I believe that God provides for me. Being grateful reminds me, daily, whom I am thankful to. It reminds me that the source and origin of all the wonderful things in my life doesn’t lie in my own power, but everything I have from the food in my cupboards, my family, my home, even the air I breath has been given to me by God. It’s impossible to take these gifts for granted when you are continually thankful.

Creating a Habit

I know that there are people who have less in life than others, but gratitude is most certainly not limited to material possessions. It was the motivational speaker Zig Ziglar who first coined the phrase ‘an attitude of gratitude’. He said ‘The more you recognize and express gratitude for the things you have, the more things you will have to express gratitude for’. It’s not about the amount you have, it’s about appreciating what you have.

If you’re struggling to be thankful, there are lots of things you can do to make gratitude a habit, here’s just a few:

  1. Keep a gratitude journal – Oprah taught the world about gratitude journals and if you google ‘how to be grateful’ this is pretty much number 1 on every single list! Write down all the things in your life that you are thankful for. Try and add 3 or 4 new things each day. You may be surprised how many things you have to be grateful for and its wonderful to be able to go back in years to come and see how much God has done for you.
  2. Help others – Reaching out, helping other people and giving back can be one of the most rewarding things we can. Helping someone can also take your mind off yourself, change your perspective and make you feel grateful for the opportunity to do something practical. It can also remind you how much you actually do have.
  3. Spend time with the people you love the most – Being around your nearest and dearest is one of the easiest ways to feel grateful. Surround yourself with the people who mean the most to you and let them know how much you appreciate them.
  4. Make a choice – You don’t need to be all sunshine and daisies to be a grateful person. Thankful people also experience hardship, but they are more likely to be able to see good in the challenges. Even in the hardest times there are lessons to be learnt and if you look for them, you can find something positive in the toughest situations.
  5. Don’t compare – Comparison is the quickest way to spoil your gratitude.  It focuses on what someone else has that you don’t.

It’s a wonderful thing to be thankful. To live each day being grateful for what God has given, counting your blessings and giving thanks and appreciation back to your source. If you’re struggling to find a reason to be thankful or if this blog has spoken to you, please click the link below.

Are You On The Right Path?

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Have you ever stopped to think what you’d like your life to look like? What kind of job you want to have? What relationships? I don’t mean thought about it in passing, in a kind of, ‘Oh that would be nice’ way but really thought about what you want.

On autopilot

It’s the oddest sensation. You get into your car, or begin walking somewhere, but when you arrive at your destination you haven’t a clue how you actually got there. It’s like a sort of autopilot that takes over and guides you on your journey without you being aware of your direction until you actually get there. All that’s really happened is you’ve zoned out, your mind has been somewhere else and you’ve not been paying attention. Many times the worst thing that can happen is you end up somewhere you didn’t intend to go and have to retrace your route to get to where you meant to be, but what if you couldn’t retrace your steps?

Stop and think

If you’ve never stopped to consider where you want your life to lead you, what you want it to look like or what your desired destination is, you may well wake up one day in a place you never intended to be, without the vaguest idea how your life ended up looking the way it does. Your choices today are starting you on a path towards your future. So whether by design or by neglect, you can decide what your life will look like in years to come. It’s up to you to take responsibility and ownership of the life God has given you. But how do you make sure you are on the track you want to be on? What determines your course? Here are a few questions that may help you decide if you are on the right path:

  1. Is what is important to you now lining up with where you want to be?
    If it’s important that every month you stick to your budget and you put money aside in a savings account and you want to have financial control, then you’re on the right track. On the other hand, if you’re happily spending beyond your means but you’re hoping to be in a strong financial position later, you may need to reconsider your approach. Similarly if you want to be healthy in mid-life, but aren’t worried about eating right and keeping active while you’re young, you’re going to be disappointed.
  2. Who are you walking the journey with?
    The people we surround ourselves with say a lot about who we are and what we are allowing to influence us. If you want stability but your friends are all about living for the moment you’ll find that your goals will be at conflict with their life approach. Pick your running mates carefully, they have more influence than you may realise. Either your goals will suffer or your friendship will.
  3. Are you willing to sacrifice something today to get where you want to be tomorrow?
    Many things that are worth having take work and sacrifice. If you want a great job, you may need to study more. If you want a strong marriage and healthy family life you’ll need to give time to that over other things that could take your attention. You can’t have a beautiful garden if you’re not interested in getting your hands dirty and pulling some weeds.We have just one life and by being intentional and aware we can achieve so much. God has given us the ability to have dreams and hopes for our future so it’s up to us to make the most of the time we have been given.

 

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