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Posts Tagged ‘mess’

Wednesday was quite a cluttered day here in the Vicarage. Jolly left for a new safe home, and the Vicar spent the morning with him, the Hope for Justice team, and CID. As you do. Meanwhile, I was with the team running our monthly soup lunch. For a chilly February day we served Melrose lentil soup and an approximation of Spiced Root Soup. There were also whole orange cakes for afters. And then our dear friend Song came to spend her day off with us and so Wednesday disappeared with rather a lack of attention to the mess.

Pleasingly, today’s rummage in the boys’ bedroom meant I could knock out 3+4 items easily. Look! Lots of picture books that haven’t been read for quite some time. And I’m not even going to hold some of them back for later in the month – I’ve barely started with the book shelves in there.

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I am terrible at throwing stuff away. I can always see a use for it (the curse of creativity) and so the clutter slowly covers all surfaces and occupies all cupboards. So when a vicar’s wife friend started a declutter “game” on Facebook last February I joined it. The idea is to declutter on each day of February, starting with chucking one thing on 1st February, two on 2nd February and working up to 28 (29 this year!) things on the last day of the month. In a non leap year, that gives you a grand total of 406 items disposed of, and 435 this year, if you keep going to the end.

There are no formal rules, so today I chucked a load of out-of-date pulses out, and I’m counting that as one item. Later in the month I might have counted each individual extra wizened chick pea to make the total for the day (sometimes I found myself needing to stretch the numbers last year).

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No counting rules!

Last year I managed about half the month, and it was definitely worthwhile. Obviously you get most done in the second half of the month, but I still managed some fairly effective clearing out. I found the focus of getting rid of something every day very helpful. Counting is a good way to Do the Next Thing. This February I’m giving it another shot, and if you’d like to join me, I shall be posting progress on here.

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I started so well. I expect you did too. January I mean. The new term. Full of cheese, chocolate and sleep, we launch into the new year forgetting that the lethargy we felt before Christmas will return.

But then term really gets going, a couple of weeks in, and going for a run becomes the last thing I want to do. A bad night’s sleep and my bible reading seems to need too much energy and motivation to tackle. My plans to blog every night disappear as ideas are squeezed out of my head by family admin.

So tonight is a good night to remember to Do the Next Thing. The next blog post, the next bit of exercise, the next load of laundry, the next bible reading. I need to remember that the two week pause doesn’t mean that I can’t do the Next Thing today. I can read my bible again today, even if there’s been a hiatus. I can write something again, even if it’s just writing about not writing.

And, remembering the God of grace who knows my failures and struggles, and the forgiveness that he offers for those who make a mess of life, and especially of resolutions, tomorrow I’ll set my mind on Doing the Next Thing.

Do the Next Thing Burnt Heart

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The September sunshine is streaming through the Vicarage living room windows as I type. Yesterday the Engineer was off school for a teacher training day and we had a lovely time at the park with his friend, playing in the early Autumn warmth. I’ve been quiet on the blog this month, but not only because of trips to the park and the temptation to sunbathe in a garden that has usually been warmer than the house. In addition, I was writing some other things, explained below.

Our sunny September park

Our sunny September park

At the beginning of the month I took the plunge and put my name forward to stand for election to the General Synod of the Church of England as a representative of the laity of Lichfield diocese. There are 22 candidates for six places, and you’ll find me fifth from bottom of the list and can read my election address. You can also identify me by my surprising middle name. With so many people standing, I am praying for wisdom for the electors and trusting God’s sovereign will to be done throughout the next synod.

And at the end of the month – this weekend just gone – I got to speak about mess to a group of clergy spouses from Chelmsford Diocese at their annual retreat in the beautiful surroundings of Pleshey. Following publication of The Ministry of a Messy House my Twitter friend from the diocese, who organises it, asked me if I’d be the speaker and didn’t seem to mind that my speaking experience was very limited.

It was a real pleasure to meet her face to face and to share some of the things I’d learnt whilst contemplating (and writing about) mess. It was especially good to talk with a group of people who I know are often overwhelmed with extra mess not of their own creating – ecclesiastical, emotional and spiritual. We laughed a lot and encouraged one another. We shared recipes and tips for mess containment. We prayed and we sang and we gathered around the Lord’s table. I enjoyed myself very much and came home encouraged and surprisingly energised, with some new recipes to try and thankfulness to God for the work of the gospel in Essex and East London.

October is kicking off with the excitement of joining the youth group on their first ever weekend away together. I suspect there will be as much chatting as the weekend just gone, but with added running around and screaming. The joy of youth work, eh?

[Edited to add some words I lost in a draft and then found again]

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Hello there blog. Sorry it’s been a while. But now it’s May and the sun is shining and I think I should see if my brain links to my typing fingers for more than 140 characters. What news in the Vicarage?

1. I gave some talks to people I’d not met before, which was a first for me. The lovely spouses of Sheffield Diocese asked me to speak to them on Messy Ministry and so I spent last Saturday talking to them and encouraging them to talk to each other about the messy and peculiar world of Vicarage life. I was very much encouraged to meet them and hear of God’s work in Yorkshire. I also got to drive past the church where my parents were married, as the venue we were using was just close to the village where my Yorkshire grandparents used to live.

2. The Ministry of a Messy House is available in German now. I have a copy of Herrlich Unperfekt but my schoolgirl German isn’t quite up to reading it. They even translated my dad’s poem.

3. The book in English is currently being reprinted by IVP, as they are out of stock in the warehouse. There should be another 500 copies available at the end of May. See if you can find one at your local Christian bookshop in the meantime.

4. I have cleared my desk. This momentous achievement means that my head feels a little less messy. Maybe I’ll even start writing things again. Although it’s amazing how attractive housework becomes once there’s something else that you feel you should be doing instead.

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Bleugh. I’ve had a slow start to the year. But a friend has challenged me (and some others) to do some decluttering in this dullest of months. So a group of us are chucking stuff out. One thing on 1st February, two things today, three things tomorrow, four things the day after… all the way up to 28 items on the last day of the month. Those of you with maths heads will have quickly worked out that this will lead to me having a grand total of 406 fewer bits of toot in the Vicarage. It sounds like a lot. Well, it did to me. But then I started looking round the house with different eyes. I surveyed the contents of the bathroom cabinet (saving it for a couple of weeks’ time) and had a brief peek in the Queen’s craft cupboards. I’m already starting to think I’ll need to do the same thing all over again in March.

But for now, here’s today and yesterday’s rather meagre gatherings. I am working myself up to clearing some larger items as the month progresses, but I may spare you the more gruesome details. Please don’t worry that the essential messiness of the Vicarage will be compromised. It will take way more than a month of decluttering to change that. As my husband would agree, after noting the three separate packs of butter left out in the kitchen the other day…

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If you’re like me, you probably have one or two (= about a hundred) things left to do to prepare for Christmas. Here in the Vicarage, we have been reading a few of the Jesse Tree readings at teatime but have so far failed to actually get a suitable twig to hang the decorations from. We’ve been pulling the decorations from their tin as we read. And then popping them back, saying ‘We must get a twig to hang these from’. And failing. Are things a bit upside down in your house too? Maybe you even have a few (all the?) pressies still left to buy. Or you need some encouragement in the final flapping. So, in a spirit of festive helpfulness, I have six paper copies of The Ministry of a Messy House to give away in time for Christmas.

Tell me below the latest you’ve been up wrapping on Christmas Eve in the comment box below and on Sunday evening I’ll draw six names out and post your book out first thing next Monday.

MMH IVP marketing tweet

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A friend tagged me last night on Facebook with this picture of her copy of The Ministry of a Messy House. It took her a while to find it on the table. Looks almost identical to our hall table. Although I think there’s a miniature Amy Pond figure there rather than a toy gun. I’m sure there’s some great ministry going on in her house.

Messy book lost

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MMH IVP marketing tweetThe Ministry of a Messy House is officially published today. And some people have even started reading it. A few have said they have enjoyed it, which is lovely. I have been praying that the book will be a blessing to readers. But I also want to say that’s it’s okay if you don’t love it with your whole heart.

It’s a bit weird writing a book and realising that it might not be for everyone. And that some people might even hate it or think it heretical or boring. But since I wrote about God’s grace and providence in the book, I can remind myself that his grace is sufficient for me and although I’d love everyone to think my book is the greatest thing evah, it’s okay if they don’t. So don’t be embarrassed if you read it and find it’s not for you. We can still be friends.

You can buy it in lots of places – including here on this blog. And today I’m linking to my special magic author discounts at my publisher’s: 40% off the print copy and 50% off the e-book.

I have been given a few author copies too. I’m afraid that I’ve already allocated the print ones, but I have a couple of e-books to give away. Tell me about the messiest part of your house in the comments and I’ll pick two at random to send you the link to the book. Sadly this isn’t available if you’re in North America – although IVP will be providing an alternative in the near future for anyone in the US or Canada who would like to read it.

I am also doing a proper author-type book signing on Saturday 26th October. I shall be at CLC Bookshop in Birmingham from 11am-2pm, under the Pallisades, just next to the entrance to New Street Station. I shall bring some Can Do Cookies (the recipe is in the book) and my best pen. Do come and say hello if you’re in the city.

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Still a mess

Still a mess

A few updates on the book which has been occupying me pretty well for the past four months. And looks like taking up my time for a few weeks longer…

1. The title has changed! It’s now

The Ministry of a Messy House:

Grace in place of guilt

My favourite other option was ‘Another Fine Mess’ but we thought that we might miss those who were’t Laurel and Hardy fans.

2. The book is going to have illustrations by the wonderful Ian Mitchell. I’ve seen a couple of rough drafts and am pretty sure he’s set up a surveillance camera in the Vicarage.

3. I wrote over 36,000 words for the first draft and flabbergasted myself by submitting it pretty much on the deadline. Now I’m editing and writing an introduction and a few other bits to go with the main manuscript.

4. I am writing this blogpost as a distraction activity from the editing and writing I should be doing. Of course.

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