social spark Aisling Beatha: December 2011

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Welcome to my blog. I hope you enjoy your stay, however short, and find something that interests and blesses you.

The tabs just below will take you to posts of particular topics. So if you are looking for my posts on food, fitness or creativity, you will find them there. You will also find my posts on thankfulness or other more contemplative posts, as well as a set of posts with traditional blessings from a number of different cultures.

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Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 - The Year of NEW

If you want to know more about yearly themes, or about my recent yearly themes and how 2011 came to be the year of NEW, check out my recent post about my yearly themes and the links I shared at the end of that post.

Specifically, you might want to check out the post from the beginning of 2011 about my theme for 2011, NEW, how I came to that realisation and the bible verses I was standing on.    If you read that you will see there were certain things I was pretty sure were going to be part of my year but I wasn't yet ready to discuss.  One of those was "teaching".  I had NO IDEA how or why or when, but I knew in my gut it would be part of my year.

If you have followed my blog during this year you will know that I did indeed get to do that.  I travelled to Romania at the very end of the summer to teach craft projects to a group of poor Roma Gypsy women and teens at a project our church has connections with.  These were projects that hopefully will continue and be grown through the people that are still there, and eventually lead to these women having things they can make to sell. It was a hard trip in many ways, but we also had fun.

Other New things,
I have an eldest son at university and a younger son at sixth form college.  That means I no longer have a son at school.
I picked up a new school in my work doing talks in school assemblies.  I also lost one because their schedule can't fit around the other new thing.  I now lead a team of 4 of us women from church plus the head teacher of the school, doing weekly bible story assemblies in our closest school.  It has been a really exciting first term doing that and we have had lots of positive responses.

Do the New things end as 2011 ends?
As in previous years, there is certainly going to be an overflow of the previous year's theme into the new year.
On 1st January, Life Book Starts and I am really excited for a year of online art classes.




And as last year there is another possibility in the wings, waiting to be fleshed out and opened up.  It fits with both the theme for 2011 and the theme for 2012, but at this stage is still only a POSSIBILITY, so I won't be talking about it until I know more.

Later today I will get around to writing a post about my theme for 2012, so check back tomorrow if it's not up there yet!

What is a Yearly Theme all about

Reposting from December 2010, which is, in itself a repost from December 2009, which was an edited version of what I posted in 2008.  Anyway, here it is:
  1. I first came across the idea of themes for the year a few years ago through reading the blogs of friends. Basically the idea is to seek God for an underlying theme for the coming year and then watch how He works that out in your life. Also considering your actions and lifestyle in light of that theme.

  2. I started doing this myself a few years ago and have noticed more and more people commenting on their themes for the year.

  3. Some years this has been a process of taking time out, sitting with God, looking at the previous years theme, how that went, praying, reading, listening, and other times it has just been one word or phrase that dropped into my spirit and I KNEW that that was the theme for that year.

  4. Some years the theme seems like a really nice one and you approach the year thinking "Yeah, I can DO this, this will be fun." and other years you approach your theme with a little trepidation.

  5. For instance, I have friends whose recent themes include Patience, and everyone knows if God wants to grow patience in you, He's going to put you in some situations that will require you to grow patience and those might not be fun. I have another friend whose theme for the coming year is Enjoy and I'm really excited to watch and see what God does with her this year.

  6. Other years you look at your theme and you think it's going to be one thing and looking back on the year at the end you see it totally fitted with your theme BUT absolutely NOT in the way you had expected that to work out.

  7. As an example a few years ago my theme for the year was "Seeking God for myself, not relying on others to speak into me." I thought "yeah, I can do this, lots of time praying, reading my bible, listening for god to speak, yeah, I can do this." What I did not expect was for it to be the most isolating year of my life socially, where a lot of relationships were stretched, broken, and there were fewer and fewer people close enough to be able to speak into my life. I had no choice but to seek out God for myself.

  8. Then there was 2008. REST! Great, fantastic, slow down, take it easier, REST. HA! God really has a sense of humour.

  9. I started 2008 knowing that I was having some medical symptoms that I suspected were sleep apnoea related. I had tried to seek medical advice previously but had been rebuffed by our family doctor who would not refer me to a specialist. As my symptoms began to worsen, and I realised I had less and less energy, needing frequent 3 or 4 hour daytime naps just to get through the day, falling asleep sat up at the computer desk, and even, at times mid conversation with my family, I knew I would have to face the doctor again. And I was prepared for it to be a battle, I was prepared that I would need to FIGHT to be heard.
    Alongside that, hubby and I had been struggling in our role as small group leaders at church. We had taken on what turned out to be an incredibly difficult group, for various reasons. We HAD previously tried to get help in our role, but had not been heard, we had even tried to quit before, but had been persuaded to stay. I was prepared for this, too to be a battle, I was prepared to have to FIGHT for what I knew God was doing in me!

    So, here were two situations in which I was totally expecting a battle.
    When I finally got up the courage to approach the doctors again, in the end I got my referral to the sleep clinic! PRAISE GOD. I went to my first appointment and for the first time in relation to these symptoms I felt like I was really HEARD. It truly felt like God had gone before me and prepared the way.

    Small group leading? It was awesome. We hold no blame over the couple who led the ministry at that time at all, and they were absolutely fantastic, totally coming to terms with where we were at, apologising for not having realised before and giving us the space to step back with no repercussions.

    So, two situations in which I expected battle and found nothing but the way already prepared before me.
    A year in which physically I was forced to take more and more rest as my symptoms grew.
    A year in which I tried to make much more of a focus on getting to "soaking" meetings, where we just sit on a comfy sofa, or lie on the floor and rest while appropriate worship music is played over us. Sometimes someone prays and sometimes they don't, but we just SOAK in God's presence.
    Then, at church family camp 2008 I had the most amazing experience.
    I wasn't sure about how attending camp would affect my sleep, and not being able to nap during the day, etc, but I went anyway, figuring if had to hide out in our unit I would. There was this one meeting, and worship was awesome, and I was singing and dancing, and then the tiredness, slowly began to come over me. And I got to a point, where I could not dance any more, but I still stood and sang, and raised my hands. And as the tiredness grew, my hands came down to hold on to the seat in front, and then I had to sit down and eventually even stop singing. I could not even muster to the energy to do that. I COULD NOT fight the sleep, I could not DO anything for God in that moment, I did not even have the energy to think through the words of the song in my head, it was all I could do to just BE. And in that moment I felt the nearness of God like I have NEVER felt it before, I felt His love and His closeness, and His passion, and it overwhelmed me. I mean, seriously overwhelmed me. I could DO NOTHING, and in that moment He came to me. I could DO NOTHING and in that moment He poured out His love on me. I could DO NOTHING and in that moment he came to dwell with me. I could do NOT ONE THING to make myself acceptable to God, I could not earn it in any way shape or form, I could not even keep my eyes open in the worship service, and in that place, He expressed His passionate love and care for me.

  10. 2009 began with a theme of Breakthrough but in fact, at first glance, it started with some situations that did not look like breakthrough at all.
    I would not be allowed to drive my car for a few months at least. Due to my diagnosis of Sleep Apnoea, my driving licence had been medically revoked. My precious little gift of a car was put off road for a while!
    I was to receive a local bus pass because of that but that would take 5 or 6 weeks to come through, so in the meantime, and for any journeys after it came through that were not possible by bus, I was reliant on others!

    So, NO, this didn't look like breakthrough, and it didn't feel like breakthrough, but I KNEW that I knew that I knew, that God, the Father had His hands completely on this whole process and that He would use this, even this to bring about the breakthrough He intended!

    And at the same time, I was heading towards some fantastic moments of breakthrough that I already knew about!
    Hubby and I celebrated 15 years of marriage in February. Something a lot of people never thought we'd do!
    I got my CPAP machine (Sleep apnoea treatment) at the end of January 2009 and despite an early struggle to get used to it and moments of absolute despair at the possibility of things never improving I am now able to go about my day without falling asleep and without needing daytime naps and live life more or less normally. Of course there are still bad days, bad nights, and I still don't have the energy to do EVERYTHING, but this is SO much better than things were before I got treated.
    The restoration of day time energy levels meant I could focus once again on losing some weight and increasing my heart health through exercise! And that year I lost almost 30 pounds.
    I have also seen breakthrough in other areas of my life, I got my driving licence back at the end of the summer 2009, and God met me particularly in the struggle and desire for deeper female friendship, with that being met in more than 1 way. God had also spoken to my local church about breakthrough, that October, using the very verses from Joshua that I had used to back up my theme for that year.

    2009 was NOT over yet when I wrote this list of points. I did not Believe the year of Breakthrough was over yet! I believed there was much to come, both in the remaining 5 weeks of the actual year, and truly, I believed beyond that! When I sought God for a theme for 2010 it was not denying the breakthrough that would continue, it was merely adding to it!

  11. So, 2010? This list was originally written in November 2009 and friends had been speaking of their themes for this coming year already, and I was refusing to even acknowledge it, refusing to accept that this was possible. I was still in the middle of my busiest 2 months of the year and quite simply, it was not even on my radar and I was fine with that.

  12. THEN, one morning in November 2009, I was lying in bed and a thought dropped into my head, ONE WORD! And I thought after it, "Oh that might be my theme for the year" Then I reminded myself that I was refusing to think about that yet and that anyway was I really sure I wanted a theme like that? Remembering what I said up in points 6 and 7.
    I mentioned to some friends that I thought I MIGHT have my theme and was GRUMP GRUMP GRUMP in response to it.
    The truth is this theme fits in with other things that God has been speaking to me over recent weeks, and was confirmed by a blog post from someone whose writing I trust, the morning I wrote this list.

  13. One word - or at least one word, that can be put in a number of different ways.
    SIMPLE
    simplify
    simplification
    SIMPLE!
    Not working harder and harder, but working smarter. Not doing things just because "well someone's got to do it" but focusing on those things that I believe God wants ME to do. Not doign things because "Doing A is the only way B is going to happen" but trusting God that what He has promised to do, He WILL do. Simplifying STUFF as well, de-cluttering, getting rid of junk, emotionally, spiritually and physically. NOPE, I don't think this is going to be an EASY theme to live through, but I think it's going to be an adventure, and I am up for that!

addition in December 2011:
Check out the following links to see other posts on my yearly themes

    Monday, December 12, 2011

    Christmas Shepherds in Colour

    You may remember this picture from a few posts ago:


    There was some question over whether I should colour them in or leave them as they were.

    Then a week went by and this happened:


    Can you see that?  Yes, a child took a crayon to the wall.  I spoke to a couple of people and it was one of our young adults who gave the most insight.  He said if you were a child, with access to crayons and you saw an almost life size colouring page, what would you do?  I concluded that he was right, and set about colouring them in over a few sessions.  We do keep crayons in that corner for the children to use during the service, but most of them were broken, so we have temporarily removed them and all colouring pages.  I will buy a new set of crayons for the children that use that corner in the new year.

    I pulled the box of kids paints back out and began mixing colours to suit what I wanted.  I quickly learnt that some brands of children's paints are better than others and know which ones to buy when we come to need more.

    Finally though, the corner was finished.  We have now pushed the tables up against the wall beneath the picture as the children kept standing up against it yesterday and we don't want the paper to come down.


    You can find the sites I link up to over in the side bar!  Have a blessed week, and if you don't come back before Christmas, I hope it's a good one!

    Edited on 14th December to add:
    One final photo that I grabbed last night.  From the outside at night, with the lights on inside you can see the window shepherds just as clearly.

    Thursday, December 08, 2011

    No Tree?

    We only have a small house and as various bits of furniture have been added over the years, there has been less and less room for a tree at Christmas.  So I am having to find creative ways of using our decorations.  In the dining room, I decided to go with something that hangs from the ceiling.

    We have a whole load of blue tree decorations from a blue phase I went through a couple of Christmases ago, and our Christmas placemats are a snow scene with blue sky.  I figured blue and white was a good idea for the whole room then, so I got hubby to put up our string of blue lights and I got to work.

    I knew I wanted a frame of some sort to hang from the ceiling and then hang the decorations from.  I grabbed my one remaining embroidery hoop, which I no longer use, some blue and white ribbon from IKEA and a glue gun.


    Attach the end of the ribbon to the frame with a blob of hot glue at an angle, so that you can wind the ribbon around the frame.


    Wrap the ribbon around and around the frame, gluing every few turns.


    When you get back to where you started, cut the ribbon at an angle to prevent fraying and glue down.  I used an extra blob of glue over the end of the ribbon to be sure of no fraying.


    And you will have something that looks a bit like this:


    You can leave the frame like this or you can add more to it.  I had some wired decoration string, that I decided to use.


    Being wired it was easy to manipulate into place and only needed hot glue at the very beginning and end, although I did have to hold the wire into the glue at the end, it kept wanting to pop up out of the blob of glue before it has begun to set.

    I had just enough wired thingy left to create the hanging method.  You could use more ribbon, or string, or even fishing wire if you wanted that part to be less visible.

    I cut two lengths


    Then I attached the first one by bending the wire around the frame at one end and twisting it back around itself like a tie wrap.


    Did the same at the other end on the opposite side of the hoop.  I didn't measure the exact opposite point, just eyeballed it.

    With the second string, I did the same, but when it crossed the other wire in the middle, I looped it once around the first wire, to keep them together.


    Next I grabbed narrow ribbon and baubles.  If you don't have narrow ribbon, you could use embroidery thread, fishing wire or anything else you have to hand that you think might work.


    I started with the 4 long, pointy baubles.  I cut off those fishing wire loops that are on them in the above picture. I cut 4 matching lengths of ribbon and tied them onto the baubles.   


    Tie your baubles onto the frame.  I started by putting these 4 in the centre of each section created by the upper wire and then worked to fill in the gaps.

    Use a variety of lengths of ribbon and keep holding it up as you work to see where you need to fill gaps.

    Deciding when to stop, when you have added enough, may be the most difficult part.  But in the end I did.  And this is the result.  I have hung it from the ceiling in the dining room, using 2 drawing pins (thumbtacks), slightly to one side of where our usual dining table is.  The reason it is slightly to one side is that we have 2 smaller identical tables in there, that we push together for special occasions.  When we put the tables together for Christmas dinner, it should be hanging right over the middle.




    You can find the sites I link to over in the sidebar.  Go check a few of them out and come back soon.

    Friday, December 02, 2011

    Christmas Shepherds

    It seems the job of organising the decorating for Christmas at church has fallen to our small group.  Thankfully others are helping but we are doing a lot of it.  I volunteered for one corner in the main room and the room that the children meet in (although the idea for that room came from someone else, I am actioning it).

    The corner of the main room that I am decorating is where we have our nursery corner.  We do have a separate nursery room, but we have this corner as well, so that parents can keep their young children occupied and still be in the meeting.

    First of all I took down the one piece of art work that was on the main wall in that area, and began covering the painted brick wall with frieze paper.


    Once that was done I fetched an Overhead Projector and brought out the images I had printed onto OHP sheets the day before.



    I pencilled in all the lines onto the paper.  This wasn't easy as the sun coming through that window was very bright and making it difficult to see where the lines were.  I had to put myself between the sunlight and whatever particular part of the paper I was working on.  That, of course, meant I sometimes got in the way of the light from the projector.  But eventually I got it done.


    You can tell how bright the sun was by how difficult it is to make out the pencil marks in the above photo.


    I used children's colouring pages from the internet for the images, and put bits from a number of pictures together to make my final image.  I couldn't resist this sheep and had to include it, a number of times in fact.  I even had one peeping out from behind the shepherd's robes.


    I grabbed paint and brushes from the children's ministry supply cupboard and got to work going over those lines with the smallest brush I could find.




    I only had that sheep printed on the OHP sheets once.  I moved the projector around to get the sheep smaller, and flipped it over to make the other one face in the opposite direction.


    Finally that wall was finished with the outlines and I turned my attention to the windows.  I had found a fantastic colouring picture with shepherds looking in over a stable door or dividing wall.  I couldn't resist using that on the windows.


    And this is how I have left it for now.  I had originally planned to colour them in as well, but now I am thinking that maybe just one or two pieces, such as the belt, hat, etc.  Also, I can't decode whether to cut the excess backing paper away on the windows.  I had planned to but I am worried about how narrow that crook is and whether it would get ripped if it was cut to the lines.  If I don't do that then I will cover the rest of the window with paper.


    We're also planning on putting a star up in the other window panel, above the shepherds looking in.

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