How iOS 10 made my morning miserable or, how to stay sane when the world feels crazy.

Unless you’ve been living in cave in the middle of the woods, you’ll have noticed that life feels a little crazy right now. Visit your favourite news website or scroll through your Facebook newsfeed and you’ll find yourself bombarded with what “he who shall not be named” has done now. Even if, like me, you’re not American, it’s impossible to escape. Here in the UK we have our own political dramas.

I don’t know about you but I find the whole thing exhausting!

With the dawn of a new month (February, already? How is that even possible?!?) and with no immediate end to the crazy in sight, my thoughts have turned to surviving or, dare I say it, thriving, during the coming days, weeks and months. And no, I’m not about to suggest you switch off or zone out. Action is needed. March. Phone your elected representative. Sign petitions. Write to your MP.

You have a voice and are called to use it speak up for the voiceless.

But while you’re doing all that, you also need to find a way to stay sane. And that’s what this post is about. It’s about changing the default settings (more on that in a sec) and making conscious choices about what you let into your day and when.

Together with an estimated 350 million other people on the planet, I have an Apple device running the latest iOS software. It has lots of fun features but the one that grabbed me by the throat and made my morning routine miserable for weeks and weeks until just this morning? The default ‘news’ items that appear when you swipe from left to right.

I’m the girl who never watches the news, arguing that if something major happens, Twitter will tell me. Until iOS 10, you might say I lived in blissful ignorance. It was wonderful, even if it did drive my fella potty! Suddenly, with the addition of the default news widget, I found myself keeping totally abreast of (the mostly miserable and frustrating) current affairs, every single day. It was horrible!

This morning I started playing with the widgets. Removing ‘News’ and ‘Stocks’ and ‘Nearby Traffic’ (My morning commute involves walking down my stairs. I’m pretty sure there’s not an app for that!) Replacing them with ‘Music’, ‘Streaks‘, ‘Babbel‘ and ‘Bible‘. Instead of reading the news while I cleaned my teeth, I listened to music. (And kept the music on while I was in the shower. How did I get to 38 without ever having listened to music in the shower?!?) Now when I swipe across, instead of being confronted with the exploits of our nations leaders, I see the Bible apps ‘verse of the day’ and a reminder that I haven’t completed my streaks yet.

This morning was the nicest start to the morning in weeks. It was delightful!

I congratulated myself on a job well done and was all set to carry on with my morning when my thoughts turned to you. Because even if it’s not the default ‘news’ widget, you probably have things that have found their way into your day that don’t fill you with delight.

Maybe you’ve slipped into the habit of checking Facebook before your feet even hit the floor or possibly email is your downfall. I know you want to feel on top of things but do you really want to start putting out fires before you’ve even had a coffee?

Whatever your ‘thing’ is, my challenge to you is this:

Remove it from your morning routine for the next seven days and pay attention to how your day feels as a result.

You can choose to let those things in later in the day if you want to. (With all that is happening in the world, I like check on the latest developments but not before about 2pm when my best, most creative work is done.) But by removing them from the very start of the day, by making a conscious choice about what you will and won’t let into your morning, you’re setting yourself up for the very best day possible.

But don’t take my word for it. Try it for yourself and then tell me how you got on. I’m game if you are! 🙂

 

If you need an antidote to the hate and the stupid, read this …

Love from the centre of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fuelled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.

Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody. Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody.

Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.” Romans 12:9-21

Between the decision here in the UK about whether or not we should stay in the EU and the political unrest in the US, not to mention the continuing heated debates around transgender bathrooms, it would be fair to say that there’s an awful lot of sludge running around right now. As such, when I received a cry for help from one of my long time friends and members of The League of Brilliance to do what I could to speak into the mess, I couldn’t resist rolling up my sleeves and getting my hands dirty.

Because how we as Jesus-lovers react during the hard times is massively indicative of our faith.

“For whatever is in your heart determines what you say.” Matthew 12:34

Give you a shove, what falls out? That’s who you really are.

Because it’s easy to be loving and kind when everything is delightful. It’s a joy to serve the people you like. But what about the people who totally do your head in? The ones with whom you really cannot agree?

Love them? Pray for them? What was Jesus thinking?!?

When the pressure is on, the world is watching. We as Jesus-lovers are God’s hands and feet and heart and mouth pieces. His ambassadors and envoys. What kind of a God are we showing the world when we pour acid on an already volatile situation?

Now here’s the thing … much like Saul in his pre-Jesus days when he was rounding up Christians, people standing by their convictions in God’s name genuinely believe they are defending the faith. They’re not doing it to be asses. (Well, not mostly at least!) They read in the bible God’s call to speak truth and take that as a call to arms. To remain quiet when they see wrong-doing would be akin to condoning it. It’s a spiritual battle, they might remind you.

What did Jesus do when he came face to face with the leader of the opposition?

He quoted the bible at him.

“Ah, but let me show you what my bible says about *insert hot issue of the moment*” I can hear it now. We take verses out of context, reading them in a language that is a translation, and use that as our ammunition. But what if, in our bid to speak up for our faith, we’re fighting the wrong battle?

Do you know what the one central, overriding all encompassing theme is throughout the bible? Love.

Love your enemy.

Pray for those who persecute you.

If you must correct your brother, do it with love.

Whenever you speak, do so in a way that will lift another up.

Don’t repay evil with evil. On the contrary, repay evil with a blessing.

Do everything in love.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

God loved the world so much, he sent Jesus. Not to condemn the world but to save it.

God is love.

And yes, I’m paraphrasing slightly but you know why? Because I wrote those off the top of my head because they are central to our faith.

We know this verses inside out and backwards so why is it so hard to live them?

Whatever hate and stupid you’re currently embroiled in, no matter which side you stand on, there is always fault on both sides. For every Trump supporter spouting vitriol you’ll find and equal and opposite Bernie fan. It’s Newton’s third law.

“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

But what if we coated every side with love? What if every conversation we had, every action we took, every moment of this day we stepped into was totally drenched in love?

What kind of a difference might that make?

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16

There is hate and stupid in this world but you, with your love and God helping you, can be the very antidote you came here looking for. It’s time to shine!

Is your life really your own or are you part of a bigger plan? What if the answer could be ‘all of the above’?

There’s a fun new game doing the rounds on Facebook. You might have seen this one already. You click a button, give the app the relevant permissions and, before you can blink, it shows you your Facebook status update ten years into the future.

Here’s what Facebook thinks my life is going to look like ten years from now …

fb

As an aside, I’ll bet my friends Sarah and Laura are going to love being dragged into the action! But I digress.

When I saw this on a friend’s Facebook wall, hers too was focussed on travelling and it made me wonder two things:

(1) Was the app sponsored by a travel company? and,

(2) What would I really like El from the future to be posting about?

“The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese proverb.

Now here’s the bit where I sometimes get into a bit of a pickle …

Is our life really our own or are we part of a bigger plan? And if the answer is the latter, how do hopes and dreams and aspirations come into it?

Because about four or five years ago, towards the end of the year, I wrote a letter to myself, twelve months into the future. I wrote it as if everything had already happened and it was super inspiring. And then I forgot all about it and got on with my year.

What do you think happened to all the stuff I’d written down? Did any of it come true? If you laughed and guessed “no way” give yourself a gold star because, without exception, every single item in my letter failed to materialise.

I decided that planning was a complete waste of time, gave it all up as a bad idea and carried on with my life.

Until a couple of years ago when, after hearing Michael Hyatt speak at WDS, I decided to give his Best Year Ever programme a try. I did all the exercises (on paper and everything. I didn’t just write them in my head!) and came to the conclusion as a result that 2015 was not to be the year of fiction for me. I simply couldn’t fit it in with all the other stuff I was going to do!

What do you think happened this time around? Long time readers will still be laughing because, after a few months of ignoring the fiction, by November it all got too much and I started work on my first novella series. I ended 2015 celebrating the best year ever because I was finally a published author, but still none of the stuff I’d written down at the start of the year had come true.

Seriously, what gives?!?

Is, as I was starting to suspect, this planning lark little more than throwing spaghetti at a wall, waiting to see what sticks? Or could this big, amazing God of ours who purports to love us so much, actually have some way to guide us in the right direction?

And what does “right direction” mean anyway? Right for who?!?

Am I little more than a puppet on a string, being dragged around wherever the puppet master might have me go, or might I actually have some say in the matter?

After starting the fiction in November I decided that that was it for me and faith work. I’d been around the block way too many times trying to figure out what this work was that I was meant to be doing. That was it. I was done. And I meant it, I really did. I finished the novella series in March and already had ideas for what I would write next, a full length novel this time. Life was feeling great!

And then, much like what happened with the fiction in November 2015, the faith work started niggling at me again.

And you know what happens to a niggle when you try and ignore it? It does one of two things. Sometimes it packs up and goes away. And other times it simply gets louder and more persistent. I went from dead website to fully fledged new thing up and running and ready to share with the wider world in the space of two weeks. It was crazy!

Having gone through this experience twice now, I’m more convinced than ever before that those niggles, those things that keep on itching at you and will not let you go, are God speaking, trying to get your attention. To remind you that there are things in your life that he would love to have a play at with you.

But the even better thing I came to realise?

The stuff that niggles at you is always, without exception, linked to the very best version of you. The ‘you on a good day’ you. In the flow, doing work that lights you up and leaves you feeling purposeful and inspired. God never niggles at you to do stuff you hate. He doesn’t coerce you into trying hard at something that should really be on your stop doing list. It’s always the cool, wonderful, brilliant stuff.

All of which led me to conclude that, yes your life really is your own, but you’re also part of a bigger plan.

They’re not two distinct entities. They’re actually part of one and the same thing. How cool is that?!?

All of which leaves me with just one more question …

What are those things that are niggling at you? What’s it going to take for you to move forward with them?

(Oooops, yes, you got me – that was actually two questions!)

What if your today wasn’t ‘same old, same old’?

In the continuing adventures of France, we packed up our things last Saturday (yes, we totally misjudged the strawberry tarts and ended up having to throw some away. Très horrible!) and headed a couple of hours south west to a little gîte near Loche.

We always knew that this second gîte wasn’t likely to match up to the delights of our home from home the previous week (the place we stayed in week one was only available that first week – probably before most of the UK broke up for the summer!) and I must confess that, despite being the queen of silver linings, I found myself a little teary Saturday evening.

Here I was, hundreds of miles from home, missing a house that I’d only lived in for a week. How ridiculous is that?!?

What’s really stupid is that, had we only been to this second gite, if we’d never sat and drank wine with Bertrand in his château the previous week, if the children had never met Filous, the thieving, adorable golden retriever, if Michael (my son who speaks no French) hadn’t laughed and giggled playing football with Louis (the little boy from the château who understood no English) this second gîte would have been wonderful.

We’d have been thrilled and charmed by the winding staircase. We’d have been blown away by the collection of fruit trees in the garden and the wonderful outside space. We would still have been a little let down by the pool (it’s covered and kinda smells funny) but we’d have focussed on the wonderful waterpark five miles away instead.

And it got me to thinking about how this perspective thing can have an impact on day to day life, times when we’re not on vacation and it’s a same ‘old same, old kinda’ day.

What if your today wasn’t ‘same old, same old’? What if today was instead about wonder and adventure and delight?

Because the thing we’ve learned this week is that you can be in one of the most beautiful towns in the world but, unless you open your eyes to the lovely all around you, you’ll end the day miserable!

(You’ll be glad to hear that I did of course keep my eyes open. I have hundreds of photos of Loche and half a novel outline in my head. It was a wonderfully inspiring town!)

August is almost upon us which will either mean a month of glorious sunshine and fun or a month until the kids return to school and you can have your house back! 😉 What if how August unfolds is all a matter of perspective?

Which leads me to your challenge for this week, if you choose to accept it …

I dare you to decide that August will be awesome. I dare you to find just one wonderful thing, every day, that causes you to smile (or even an outright belly laugh!) and share it with me and everyone you know on Instagram.

And yes, there is a hashtag for that: #AwesomeAugust. (I know, I know, it’s not August for a few more days but since when did we let a little thing like the calendar stop us?!?) Tag me if you like because there’s already some action on that hashtag (I’m ‘mseledwards’ on Instagram.) but I’ll keeping a look out for your smiles. I can’t wait to see them!

What if you made a contract with yourself?

I just got back from a Friday morning coffee with my fella and something we were chatting about got me thinking about you. Let me tell you the story …

So we were talking about 10 years from now when he can retire. (No, he’s not as old as all that. He’s a policeman and the job is structured such that he could leave as young as 50 if he wants to.) That totally fits with my dreams of travelling round France ten years from now and so I agreed that it was a fab idea. Between you and I, I’d love him to leave sooner, it’s not a fun job and there are days when it breaks him but, we’ll see 🙂

Anyway, as soon as the words were out of his mouth he started second guessing himself. He said that lots of his colleagues, when they got to that age, start talking themselves into staying a little longer because of what it does to the pension.

And that’s when I said the thing that also made me think of you …

“What if we do the sums now and get things set up such that, when it comes time, there is no discussion about if you should stay on a little longer because we’ll have already been planning for it and anything else would be breaking what we’d promised ourselves?”

Clever chap that he is, he agreed. (He knows better than to argue with a woman on a mission!) But of course I thought of you …

What are those things that are important to you? And what’s it going to take for those things to become a reality?

What if you promised yourself that it would be so, no excuses, no second guessing, just taking it as so and moving forward from there? What would that look like?

Too often we make all sorts of promises to other people but when it comes to our own passions, the things that get us fired up, we let them take second place to the wants and needs of others.

And there are times when this must be so. Children need to be fed. Nappies need to be changed. Homework needs to be helped with.

But who says that that stuff must be all that you’re about? And (dare I say it?) who says that you must be the one to do it all? (Gasp! Sacrilege, I know!) But seriously, you don’t have to do everything and you certainly don’t have to do everything to the detriment of yourself.

The stuff that lights you up, that thing that you can’t forget about or let go of, that stuff is vital to this world. It is your magic. Your secret sauce. The very essence of what it means for you to be you.

Choose you.

Make a promise to yourself and keep it.

Decide what’s important and declare that it will be so.

Show up, all you, all in.

And on behalf of the world, I thank you 🙂

I’m ready to come out. How about you?

Random question but, do you adore Doctor Who? Once upon a time, thanks to one of those conversations that, afterward, feel somewhat serendipitous, I found out that a higher than average percentage of lovely people around here are Whovians.

That delighted my little mind greatly but it also got me to thinking …

Is it a case of attracting like-minded people or more that, because I might randomly quote The Doctor from time to time, it then causes people to go “oooh, I love Doctor Who too!”?

I believe that life should be fun.

Sure, there will be times when it’s stressful or you have boring stuff to do but even then, I’d prefer to be like Mary Poppins and find the fun.

That’s probably why I get so stupidly delighted when I find out that yet another person around these parts is into Doctor Who. I mean, it’s not like it’s a requirement or anything (although it’d make for some fun marketing eh!) but it does make me smile.

So then I got to thinking some more about this idea of outing ourselves.

It’s tied to my love of you being youier of course. Where’s the fun in hiding those quirks and silly little things that make you you?

It drives my husband ever so slightly bonkers that I can not help but do foot jiggling, head bobbing and shoulder dancing, every time a slightly upbeat tune is played in a film but does that stop me?

No way!

It’s fun and it makes us both giggle.

And the same is true for you too. There will be things that make you, you that, for some people, will be a major problem. But do you know what? Life’s too short to waste time and energy on those people.

My biggest goal is for you to live a full-to-the-top-and-spilling-over life of joy, love and happiness.

That doesn’t come from dumbing down or playing small.

God created you to be you, in all areas of your life. There is nothing that makes him smile more than to see you being you. So full to the top with his love that it can’t help but leak out onto others.

This world needs you to be you.

God needs you to be you.

And so my challenge to you is this:

Look at where you are right now, the person you are showing up as. Is that you? Or are there parts of you that you keep safely stored away in a box?

It’s time to get really honest with ourselves. Are you game? 🙂

Some straight talk about love and inspiration …

So I was in the shower, thinking about the day, wondering what little gem I might share with you this morning, when a quote about being inspired popped in my head:

“I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at nine o’clock every morning” – Peter De Vries

It’s a funny thing, inspiration. Chase it too hard and it’ll run away and hide but wait for it to show up and you could be waiting forever!

And then I had another thought … It’s easy to step up and be the loving people God created us to be when we feel loved, but how about we see to it that we’re loved at nine o’clock every morning?

Even when it doesn’t feel like it.

Because here’s the pinch that no one seems to talk about very often …

Sometimes God can feel very far away.

Sometimes I wonder if it is all actually going to be OK.

Sometimes it all feels totally pointless.

Sometimes I just don’t know.

“Hey, where’s the little hit of happiness in that?” Ha! Good question.

But don’t worry, it’s a coming. Because, you know what? Even when we feel like that, God’s still there, doing his thing, loving on us.

And I know that you probably know that, logically, academically. But what I really want is to know it deep in my very being.

Painted onto my heart with every sunset that makes me stop and smile. Sloshed onto my soul like how my youngest likes to cover every inch of his body with water from the hose on a baking hot day. So dripping wet with God’s love that I leave soggy wet footprints with every step I take.

Just imagine what that might look like. What a difference that could make in this world of ours.

And so I guess my challenge for you is this … what’s it going to take for that to be a reality for you? And what does that look like?

Just a little something for you to ponder on as you head into your day 🙂

What if it wasn’t difficult?

So this morning, before writing this little post, I wrote the latest El Post letter. I’d done my usual trick of giving myself a deadline and then pushing up next to said deadline, so close they totally need to get a room! 😉

Ironically, this edition is all about stories and how the stories we tell ourselves (either consciously but, more often sub-consciously) impact day to day life. I say ‘ironically’ because one of the stories I seem to have sub-consciously told myself is that writing anything of length is hard. I write these missives to you easily, they are fun, but longer form stuff is a whole other ballgame.

The reality is that this is totally not true!

Once I actually got started I had a blast writing that letter. I need to go back and edit it a little ahead of tomorrow’s printing and posting of course, but the piece I’d been putting off as tricky? Anything but! If I wasn’t British and totally rubbish at tooting my own trumpet, I’d even go so far as to say it’s actually really good stuff and I wish I could send it to more people because it could be really helpful.

So why all the drama around starting? Because of that stupid story of course!

What if it wasn’t difficult? What if we told ourselves it was easy?

That reminds me of the time I cut up a whole chicken. I don’t remember why I was doing it (I usually go to great lengths to avoid touching raw meat!) but I remember that the instructions I found from Delia Smith told me that it was easy. I simply followed the steps and bingo, it actually was easy! I didn’t know it at the time but I was totally living a story (even if that story came disguised as cooking instructions!) The story was it was easy, and so it was.

What things have you been putting off, holding back on or just plain refused to do because of rubbish story telling?

What if you changed the story and decided it would be easy?

Give it a try and let me know how you get on.

 

What are your obligatory scenes?

I’ve been working on the outline for that new novel idea from earlier in the week (ideally just enough barebones to allow me to gauge my interest in exploring it properly but not so much that I throw myself off track on the other one I’m actually meant to be writing right now!) and I got to thinking about the ‘lovers meet’ scene.

You know the one I mean, it’s in every romance novel the world over, that moment when we first set eyes on our heroine’s love interest. He strolls onto the page and even if she doesn’t know it yet, we the reader know that he will be “the one”.

And yes, it’s a total cliche because real life doesn’t always quite work out like that, but without it, the whole thing just doesn’t work.

I didn’t want that to be true so I went in search of exceptions to the rule and yes, I found some and yes, they were terrible!

In chic lit at least, we have got to meet “the one” and the sooner the better. We can experiment with how it plays out, bring a new perspective to the scene in a bid to break free from the cliches but, like it or not, the scene is obligatory.

Which got me to thinking about you … what are your obligatory scenes?

It helps if you know what kinda story you want your life to be telling of course (lots of stories have a love interest but it’s only really in the romance genre that the two must meet and soon!) but even if you’re not totally sure, think about it …

What are the ‘must have’ or set pieces you want from life? When all else fails, do you believe that it’ll all work out well in the end or is your story fairly tragic?

Here’s the really neat part … you totally get to choose!

The stories you live by are not the final draft.

If you don’t like how things are playing out, all is not lost. You can tweak the plot. Make a new choice, change the direction of the action and watch a whole other story unfold.

You simply have to choose 🙂

No-one actively dislikes vanilla, but they don’t adore it either!

When was the last time you asked someone what their favourite flavour of ice-cream was and they got all excited and started jumping up and down about plain ol’ vanilla?

What’s that? You love vanilla with the little black flecks in it? Me too! But that’s hardly plain old vanilla is it? 😉

Or, when was the last time you stood in front of a crowd of one thousand random people, told them your favourite joke, and they all laughed?

Ok, ok, poor example. I adore people but I would never tell my favourite joke to a random crowd that big. That would be terrifying! But, play along and pretend that you did, do you think they’d all get it?

Not likely. They might laugh because you’re laughing, or get swept along in the moment and chuckle, but the chances of a mixed bag of people all finding the same thing funny are low.

So why is it that we all too easily find ourselves a little surprised when someone doesn’t quite get us? Or, maybe that’s just me? 😉

What if, for the next six months, we practiced showing up like that ice-cream with the little flecks of vanilla pod in it? Or, blueberry cheesecake, cherry or even olive oil and pine nut ice-cream? (Yeah, I think that last one sounds kinda funky too, but I’d love to try it!)

Whatever flavour of ice-cream you are, however many or few or weird people dig you, what if, for the the next six months, you showed up, all in, all you?

Collect photos of cloud porn if that’s what floats your boat. Laugh loudly and deeply at Miranda while sipping a freshly ground flat white if that fills your heart with delight. Marvel at the wonder that is Hawkeye (pun totally intended!) if comic-book heroes are your thing.

Whoever you are and whatever it looks like to be all you, all in, I dare you to be that person for this next six months and let’s see if that can help make it the best year ever.

Are you game? Fabulous! I look forward to playing along with you 🙂