to do what I do…

I love what I do.  Sometimes I have to remind myself that it’s my ‘real job’!  But to enable The Husband and I to continue doing what we love, we both knew I needed to find another job that I could work into my ‘spare time’ hours.  With my back and legs healing so slowly and the pain being so inconsistent, it would be crazy to apply for another permanent contract with very structured hours, terms and conditions.

But then I had a thought.  A few years ago when Chloe was a baby I spent a couple of months selling Avon.  If I’m honest it wasn’t easy because I didn’t really have any kind of game plan and I found the area manager really unhelpful and unapproachable.  Then I caught bronchitis which developed some complications and I had to stop.  So it’s kind of easy to understand that when the thought of selling Avon floated into my brain, I wasn’t convinced to give it another go.  At first.  But then I chatted it over with The Husband and together we threw around some marketing ideas.  When I was reassured that it could work and we’d work at it together, the low risk set-up tipped the scales and we decided to give it a go at growing our own little business.  But whatever we do as a family, we lay it down first.

In Jeremiah 29:11 it says this:
 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

This scripture is used so often its easy to sweep over it and not take in the reality of it.  But God does have plans for me and those plans are good.  How amazing is that?! If we give all our hopes and dreams over to Him and choose to live in his will, there’s no safer place to be.  So with this mind-set, if our plans for Avon work well and are blessed then great! Praise God! And if they turn to dust, then through the fear and frustration we’ll still be secure in knowing that God will only position us in a place where he can bless us with his good plans over our lives.  I hope that makes sense. 

I guess all I’m saying is that we often pray that God will bless what we want him to bless, and that’s not always the same as surrendering to his perfect plans for us.

One thing we do need to do is hold up our end of the deal – and do as much as we can do.  In the book of Colossians (3:23) the writer, Paul, urges us in this and says: ” Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,”.  I love that.  It put’s worship at the centre of our lives and gives us the opportunity to glorify God by working our backsides off.

As it happens, my new Team leader and Area Manager are both really great! We’re building up a client list already and will look to increase our ‘territory’ after the next campaign.  We’re avoiding asking people we know outright and putting them on the spot if they want to receive the Avon brochures or even look now and again – we don’t want to be placing any pressure or expectation on them.  For that reason we are simply putting the information out there, along with the option of looking through the brochures and buying Avon products.

Pushy people in sales are probably more successful, but its’ just not us.  I don’t think we’ll ever make millions, ha! So here’s my shameless plug with five quick things I love about Avon and why I’m happy to sell its’ products

(please do resist the temptation to pass straight over this – these are all my own words and opinions, not something cut and pasted from Avon literature!);

 

  1. One of the main reasons that I’m selling Avon is that I truly love the stuff.  I’m a little bit in love with the foundation I use – Magix Cashmere Finish.  Avon have a primer called Magix and this is incorporated into the foundation, so it comes out a little like mousse.  The only foundations that equal it for me is a compact foundation from Clinique and a stick foundation from Mac – both which are perhaps treble the price.  For a while now I’ve made Avon purchases through my mother-in-law who has had various reps deliver brochures but the last one stopped before Mary went to Canada and I am literally scraping the bottom of the barrel.  Next Friday (deliver day) cannot come quick enough.Avon Magix Cashmere Finish Foundation

2.         Each campaign (brochure) is always different and holds different offers.  This way it keeps  it interesting, and after one delivery I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be interested in reading that same brochure again. 

3.        I get a hold of brochures a campaign in advance, so if there’s something specific some-one is looking for I can compare the current brochure with the upcoming one to find the best price/offer. Saving money is always awesome, right?

 

  Yes, I know that does not make good business sense because I should be wanting people to pay the highest price for products (I told you we’d not make our millions!) but I just know that I’d be over the moon if I was the customer and was looked after that way. 

4.  Christmas! Avon seriously comes into its’ own at Christmas.  Brochures are heaving with gift ideas, home decorations and festive party makeup at ridiculously great prices.  Wherever you seem to go, everything seems to be getting more and more expensive so I like it when I can find a bargain!

 

5. The ‘rep’ system works.  It enables free delivery and It creates a bridge between the customer and the products, making the whole process simple.  Customers are dealing with a real life person with a real voice, saving them from trawling a website to find a phone number and then spending forever pressing various numbers on an automated service! Man, automated services stress me out. Relax and leave the work to the representatives – you can’t get much more stress-free than that.

source

So if you live local and you’d like to receive a brochure then drop me an email at robandheather2004@live.co.uk.  If you live elsewhere and would like a local representative to drop you a brochure you should be able to request that here.

validation.

I reckon I was an awkward teenager.  Maybe even more self conscious than the average young person.  I would agonise over what other people said about me, and took it for gospel.  I was too shy to enjoy attention at social gatherings but not shy enough to hide behind that role.  I have ALWAYS desperately looked forward to my birthday.  Not because I wanted a top birthday present or a glitzy party but because I got to be a year older.  I’m a summer baby, what can I say?  When you’re a kid, being the youngest in the class sucks.  Fact.

I guess what I’d say is; I’ve never been comfortable in my own skin.  I always wanted to me more…To be less…  I thought that my insecurities would cease with my single years but I carried them through into my years of marriage.

Young adulthood is what you look forward to when you’re a kid.  You’re old enough to live how you like but not old enough to be considered ‘over the hill’.  I look back on my 20s with so many AMAZING memories; I became Mrs Steward, I became a mother, I became a youth worker.  But the nostalgia is tinged with a little sadness that I still took myself so seriously.  How much time did I waste waiting to validate myself?

As I wander into my 30th year I’m starting to feel a little easier with myself and its’ so liberating! My really short hair is growing out and it looks dreadful, but I’m actually pretty indifferent to scraping it back and pretending I in fact look like Zooey Deschanel.  I had NO idea who my pretend-teenage-daughter was talking about half the time today (actors and singers ‘apparently’) – and I was totally cool with just being excited for The Great British Bakeoff.

I just don’t know what it is about age that makes us chill out.  But for me it’s working so I’m not knocking it.  I look at 14 year olds in tiny skirts and no jacket, wondering what on earth they were thinking as they left the house, and then laugh at myself remembering that I was in fact that girl not too long ago who sneered at old people wearing jackets. 

And right now, I’m so happy to be someone wearing a jacket.  We’ve all heard the rumour that 40 is the new 30.  But for me, I have the feeling that 30 is the new 20.

a grateful heart.

I’m curled up on my sofa with my bigger littlie, watching X Factor.  Chloe was telling me about the Olympics mascots (which I still can’t pronounce), and how they’re made from old girders (I wimped out of asking her what a girder was).  Her whole face lit up as she talked to me and I could actually feel my heart swell.  I looked at her and said “You’re so smart Chlo”.  She beamed at me and responded “I know mummy, I am nearly in year two you know!”.  Sigh.  Melt. 

Some things I’m thankful for over the last week:

– my young people.  They totally rocked it on last Sunday night as they shared about their experiences of Soul Survivor 2012.  Rob and I stood with them as each young person took the  microphone.  So it’s not surprising that by the time they’d all spoken and it was my turn to say a little something I was an emotional wreck!  And I’m not one who can cry pretty – you know, neat individual tears trickling down the cheeks with a little quiver in the voice.  No.  There was  very snotty nose and much sniffling.

– Three full days PAIN FREE.  Uncomfortable at times but totally manageable.  I’ve had to play around with my pain meds so I’ve had a corker of a headache and feeling really tired,but my back feels so good! Thank you LORD!

– Pinterest. My dear Pinterest; When I need to rest and the blogs I follow have not been updated you never let me down.

– My dad, who is going to be the best and most kind hearted dad in all the world and not at all annoyed with me because I didn’t manage to call him today when it was his birthday.  Man alive, I know, I really do get the worst daughter of the year award.  So sorry  dad, I love you!

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I have to confess that I’m kinda wishing the summer away now.  I know, I know! Maybe it’s because I love autumn so much.  I do NOT like the darker mornings. Yuk.   But I do love the colours of the season and I love the excuse to wear snuggly clothes and boots in the cooler weather.  Maybe it’s because I do best with routine and the summer is always anything but orderly.  Over these weeks I have spent half my time trying to catch up with myself, not knowing which day of the week it is.  Maybe it could be that there are new things coming up in September and can be a very impatient person! Or (!) it could be that I so often go chasing anticipation.  It’s a great feeling right? That rush you get when you’re looking forward to something.  But there’s a risk of running after what is yet to be and what’s happens is that you miss what is now.  And I don’t want that.  Time goes by fast enough without trying to push it by faster, and so, although I can’t deny my excitement for autumn, I’m consciously trying to embrace this back end of the summer, and will be wearing flip-flops until the bitter end.

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Food glorious Food…..

After ten months of very little physical movement it’s safe to say that my body is….what’s the opposite of fit?  Unfit doesn’t quite seem to cover it! The other week I joined in with a game of plate wars – which has now been named anonymously (cough cough Pete) Robot wars (?!).  This game involves standing relatively still and throwing paper plates.  By the end of it you’d think I’d had endured a massive session at the gym.  Seriously.

When Muscle is not used it kinda turns into sludge.  It’s not much good for anything. And everyone knows there is a strong link between pain and…….cake.  These to ‘factors’ in my life have resulted in a situation that needs to chaaaaaaange.

I’m believing for my body to get stronger slowly but steadily, and as that happens I’ll be able to become more active.  Until then, after months of denial, I’ve been forced to admit that the harder option is, well……the only option.  Food control. Uh. 

I admire people who can just be really self disciplined and avoid junk food.  I’m certainly not one of them.  And you know people who can have like one square of chocolate? What’s that all about???  For me I need tough boundaries, a bit like a a toddler in their terrible twos. 

Come September The Husband and I both will be on a health kick, shunning chocolate for fruit and swapping cake for…..carrot sticks? This won’t be easy for us.  It’s not that we don’t like fruit and vegetables, it’s just that we really like cake.

So I left off last time just explaining a little about the base on which The Husband and I live life.  Its ALL about Jesus, what he’s done and how he sees us.  Everything we do revolves around that.  And this ‘diet’ is no different.  I’m not trying to get skinny to make myself feel better about myself.  I’m preparing my body so that its’ in a position to increase its’ fitness levels when the results from all the nerve damage eases.  This shell needs to keep me in business so i have to look after it, and as much as it grieves me to say it, chocolate does not look after it.

In todays’ society political correctness has caused a divide in opinion with all this.  There are still those hard-core fitness fans that insist that to attain a lean, mean fitness machine is the only option and anything else is lazy and greedy.  Then you have those that look at the you’d-laugh-if-it-didn’t-make-you-so-angry pressure piped out through the mass media and argue vehemently that to even mention dieting to young people is to stand with the airbrushed magazines. 

Consequently, for a Christian youth worker its’ a difficult position to be in.  Ultimately though, and we must say this on a weekly bases, we want to be transparent.  Young people come over and hang out at our home.  They’re part of our family, and we do life together.  So being a closet dieter would be both dangerous and very difficult for us!  I think that would just make us youth workers of the year, right?!  At the same time, The Husband can’t ignore he’s turning, like 100 in a few weeks and I can’t keep stuffing my face with rubbish.

So I repeat – I am not saying that diets are the best option for everyone, particularly teenagers.  Trying to get skinny and getting hooked on the gym will ache your heart way more than it’ll ache your muscles.  I beg young people to find their identity in Christ and not what they think they see in the mirror.  But I am saying that a BALANCED diet and an active lifestyle is a great start to healthy standard of living.

This is all about healthy eating.  A healthy life-style.  Celebrating Food and being creative with it.  Teaching the girls about nutrition.  Getting out into the fresh air as often as possible.  Boosting energy in the healthiest possible ways.  Getting enough sleep.

It’s about recognising that you’re important enough to look after yourself.  It’s about investing in yourself so that you can be healthy enough and strong enough to live life to the max.

You are what you see. But what do you really see?

We live in a technological world of social media where its easier to say what you think to a computer screen.  Blimey it’s easier to say what you think  to another person via a computer screen.  There is also a dangerous perception that words can be put out there and just deleted if regretted afterwards.  But it’s an illusion because once words are read by someone you can’t take them back.  The delete button is no-one’s safety net.

I wanted to share a little about some changes The Husband and I will be making in September, but before I do I need to be realistic and acknowledge that I’m in a position of influence both as a mum and as a youth pastor. The words I use matter. That’s not coming from a place of arrogance but from a place of responsibility that scares the baheebijeebies out of me.  But in my weakness HE is made strong and so on we go.  We want to live transparently, in our motives and actions.

So before I chat on about what September will probably look like to us, I want to put it all into context (this is sounding really serious, and it’s so not, ha! It’s just that I don’t want to risk any misunderstanding).

On Monday at The Link I talked to our young people a little about what it is to Give your heart to God…

When you are single to mingle and you find someone very cute and who like you back, its a pretty great feeling, right?  Having a crush on someone or even falling in love is often not a choice, it’s a progression of a relationship and before you know it you feel like your heart is not your own any more.  When someone has your heart there are a couple of things that happen that help us understand what its’ like to be in relationship with your creator, and what its’ like to be ‘in relationship’ with the world.  For now we’ll just look at one, but its’ a biggie…

When you’re infatuated, it’s very easy for your identity to be rooted in the object of your affection.  And before all the Mr and miss independents among you start heckling that no person will validate them – I say amen (!) but we have got to be real here.  People don’t complete you, but you’d be lying if you said that what the people closest to you say about you didn’t matter.  I’ve seen shy girls walk on air with a sudden spring in their step when their sweethearts have told them that they’re the best girl around.  And too often I’ve seen strong and amazing girls  reduced to nothing when the guy in their life has said they’re worth nothing.  Its’ gutting to see.  And this absolutely isn’t exclusive to the girls at all, its’ just been my experience because I’ve worked with a lot of young girls.

In today’s culture there is expectation screaming at young people.  The girls should be flawlessly beautiful (and when i say flawless I mean flawless, to the point of impossibility.  cough cough Photoshop cough cough).  They should be skinny but still have all the right curves and you know which two curves I’m talking about!  They should be outgoing, popular and affectionate but heaven forbid she fails to master the ultimate balance and be branded frigid or a slag.

 

 

And the guys don’t escape it either.  They are facing the pressure to be buff without becoming self obsessed, be reliable without becoming boring, be funny without be just plain weird and be sensitive without being a wimp.

 

Talk about a tightrope! whatever the pressure, there’s expectation to reach a standard.  So when you consider how young people place their identity and self worth in this culture its’ easy to understand how so many are gripped with eating disorders, anxiety, depression, behavioural issues along with so other mental health issues.

If we place our identity in God, its’ all about one thing: Seeing ourselves how HE sees us.  Our creator not only eases that pressure to conform to one model of human being but actually embraces diversity.  This gives us permission to relax into how he made us. Our bodies are to be loved, cared for and even celebrated, only, not in a way to objectify ourselves for someone else but to recognise that we’re made in the image of HIM.  The whole Bible is a love letter from God and is all about how he sees us.  and there are a lot of words in the Bible.  But here are just a few of what your creator has called you:

Precious                    Children of God                          Redeemed                        Restored

Worthy                 Accepted                                   Honoured                              Loved

God is passionate about us and is longing for us to recognise that so we don’t have to buy into the pressure to out perform each other in order like ourselves.

This isn’t new stuff, it’s the foundation of the Gospel – The good news of Jesus Christ.  He first Loved us.  We can approach him as we are.  We don’t need to be bigger, better, smarter, funnier, sexier, stronger to receive his acceptance – its’ already ours for the taking!

This is what grounds us as youth pastors.  This is what grounds us as parents.  This is what grounds me as a woman and its’ what grounds The Husband as a man.  Everything, everything is pivotal on  this, and its’ the safest place to be.

(To be continues in the next few days…….)

2032: letter to a 24 year old Ruby.

My Dear Ruby,

We’ve just celebrated your 4th birthday and you threw yourself so much into it that you could hardly climb the stairs to bed in the evening.  This didn’t surprise us because you throw yourself into everything, rarely showing fear or uncertainty.  I love your courage and confidence and I’m praying that you’ve clung onto these over the years.

In your fist couple of years you’d cut our head open twice and dislocated your elbow.  I’m amazed that we’ve managed to keep you out of plaster casts so far.  When you were three the specialists were investigating your ears, balance and cognitive development because you were so accident prone.  All tests came back clear and you were officially diagnosed with clumsiness.

You have always captivated the attention and affection of everyone you meet.  People can’t help but smile when they listen to you.  I think of recently when we had some work done in the house and you couldn’t wait to pop your head around the door and meet the builders, and you delighted them within seconds, asking them what they were doing and telling them all about the picnic you were about to have.  You’re hilarious and your laughter is contagious.  Don’t let anyone put out that spark inside of you Rubes.  It’s what makes you so incredible.  You were fearfully and wonderfully created and God does not mistakes.  Be yourself and embrace all that you are my beautiful girl. 

Only, your not just a girl now are you?  I can feel a lump forming in my throat at the thought that you’ve developed into a young woman.  My baby, a grown up all in her own right.  I can’t help but wonder what you’ll be doing?  As I ponder over what career path you’ve decided to wander down, whether you’ve found the man of your dreams or you’re living it up as an independent woman, know that the good stuff is to be relished and all problems can be sorted out in some way.  Be respectful always and meet insults with grace.  Don’t hold onto hurts, it’ll only eat you up inside.  Protect your friendships, invest in them and seek out the lonely.  Use that enormous heart of yours.    You were made with purpose so follow that Purpose, Rubes, and chase after God with all you have.

Know that your daddy and I have prayed for you since you came into existence and as you’ve gone through the joys and trials of growing up we’ve continually lifted you up to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.

Keep going, my girl! I hope you still love to hug and cuddle into those you love.  Continue to be courageous, to live loud, love hard and honour the Lord in everything.

With all my love,

 

Mummy x

Rested and Recharged.

(this post was written last week but Windows Live Writer was not my friends that day so I’ve had to shift some of the present tense stuff to past tense now just for it to make sense!)

We were nearing the end of our break.  The Husband will only relax when we’re away so when the option came up for a few extra days there it was a no brainer. 

It’s was awesome.  How crazy warm has it been?!  We tried to be creative and intentional with our time; keeping the balance of relaxing and making memories.

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We came home rested and recharged.

There was lots to look forward to when we came home.  Roo’s birthday was yesterday.  4 years old.  Yes 4.  She’s taking it in her stride, as she does with everything.

As shallow as it is, I can’t wait just to finish kitchen and the living room.  Our downstairs has been in upheaval all this year, and we’re soooooo close.  just a bit of painting here and sanding there and job will be a good’n.

I’m one of those saddos that always loved the beginning of the school year.  All those fresh crisp exercise books, sharpened pencils and new starts.  I still love them and make I have a habbit of forming a list of ‘resolutions’ as it feels just as much a start of a year than January to me.  But for Roo this year is an epic one.  Her very fist start of the school year.  Uniform and all.  Which reminds me that we’re yet to sort these out because we’ve been away…oops. It’s the beginning of an era for Roo and also for me; childless between the hours of 9.00-3.00 for the first time in six years.  No doubt I’ll be as crazy busy and rushing to be on time of everything as much as I’ve always been since I crashed into motherhood.

Since the summer our family has eaten stodgy, fatty, sugary goodness for breakfast, lunch and tea.  And in between.  So September will bring another season along with autumn; the season of healthy eating.  I’m not sure how long this season will last, but we’re all partaking in it!  Our house may be enjoying the freshness of new paint and new carpet but they’re wont be a sweet treat in the house! Uh, great.

The husband and I are bursting with ideas to weave into the kids and youth ministry into the year ahead, and more exciting is the load of ideas that have come from members of our team.  Youth work naturally runs alongside the school calendar, and since ‘employment-wise’ we started last September and we have been through the four seasons of a years’ youth work, so this feels a bit like the second chapter.  By the grace of God alone we’ve seen some awesome stuff so far and so we’re expectant of what is yet to come.