UP

Two letters, one very short word. It doesn’t have too many meanings. Perhaps your mind immediately goes to the Pixar classic with the balloons and the house. Maybe the atrocity that VW dares call a car. Or maybe you’re normal and your mind goes to the actual definition of the word. Well, when I hear UP, I think of something completely different.

My youngest daughter is a wild soul. Perfect in every way, but when she’s in go-mode, there’s nothing that can stop her. And yet for all the speed, agility and momentum – there comes a point in the day when very suddenly, that all-consuming energy diminishes. The fun ceases and the quiet sets in. Then she’ll find one of us and simple say ‘UP’. Not because she can’t formulate a sentence, not because she’s lazy and can’t be bothered to say anything more than that. But because she knows, that’s all she needs to say. At that moment, we’ll thrust her up into our arms and cuddle her for all she’s worth. And sometimes -very rarely- she’ll relax enough to fall asleep.

To me that’s the perfect analogy for our lives, in our endless cycles and attempts at victory. We sometimes, if we’re honest to ourselves, wonder where God is in it all. We wildly chase through life’s gigantic hurdles and chasm-sized potholes trying to see a pattern or logic to it. Sometimes we find the pattern and push through, rolling with the punches. Sometimes we’re lost in the water and the rolling waves hit his before we can catch our breath. But yet, sometimes it takes us to loose the energy we once had, in our own strength, and simple ask God to pull us ‘up’. Into His control; into His peace and into a perspective that puts everything else into model-railway scale.

It wouldn’t take too much strenuous scrolling in the blog history timeline of my site to see that life was a challenge for me over the last year. As my family and I battled to purchase our first home, make no mistake it was painful and frustrating. We seemingly circled the conclusion a million times before eventually landing our breakthrough. At the time and shortly after, I knew that there were lessons that I was learning in the process that would change the way I do life. But I wasn’t aware of just how identical life’s patterns can be.

Less than a year later, the same pattern of challenges emerged. Without getting too technical, we found ourselves up against new challenges and obstructions that we’d never faced before in business this year. Simple things like securing a working overdraft on our accounts became a big issue for the small-minded, but heavily bloated, banks. What started as a positive move to a limited company quickly presented some unforeseen difficulties we couldn’t have imagined. And yet, somehow it was all wildly familiar.

I am absolutely amazed at how identical the issues I face match up to last years’ battles. And I’m starting to believe that there are only a finite number of battle varieties we face during our lives. Sure, the intricacies and details move. But overall, it’s the same thing but a different aesthetics. With that in mind, I believe that as we recycle those game-plans of how we won those battles, we come out better and stronger each time.

And I believe one of the only ways to fight those battles is to learn from before, fight hard, then take a beat. And in that breath just a single word is enough to put it all into perspective. Turning to my God with my weary breath, ‘up’. Is enough to bring peace and a spiritual cuddle with the Almighty. A reminder that no matter the battle. No matter the recycled attack or difficulty. He’s bigger and he’s not letting us go.

And then, keep on going.

Read more

Brain Storm (Second Guess)

I know, I know, it’s ‘Mind Map’ or ‘Fluffy Picture with Lines’ these days. But I’m not referring to the process of mapping out a particular topic on paper. I’m talking about something else.

I don’t know if this happens to everyone, some people or if it’s just me. But I know that far too often I find myself lost in a Brain Storm. Official terminology aside for lack on knowing, but I use this term when I’m lost-at-sea in a thought. You see, about half the time, I have a tendency to overthink things to the nth degree (the other half if made up of stupid impulse reactions, usually courtesy of my tongue). And that can be a useful tool. It helps me problem solve, helps me predict likely chain of events (even if they never pan out that way!), it helps put my mind at ease to know I’ve thought it through.

But it’s not all plain-sailing. A Brain Storm can also hinder things. The emotional and environmental factors aside, there is a monumental assumption that underlines every Brain Storm. That logic (my logic, no less!) can answer everything. It’s a similar way that leading scientists around the world claim that science can prove everything – even if it hasn’t yet. And I’m not refuting that claim. But I am raising the point that sometimes there is a gap between understanding and truth that our minds cannot connect. Furthermore, my never be able to connect.

The question then becomes: Is truth, indeed truth? And if it is, does understanding matter?

Humour me for a second. If you know something to be true. But you don’t understand it. Does it make it any less true? I am, of course, talking most specifically about the truth of who Jesus is. Immediately offensive to some, I realise. But truth to me. Trying to fit his reality inside of logic doesn’t work. And so the only way to accept his truth is to put it into a category outside of Brain Storming and outside of a tidy theorem. Into the category of faith that what he said was true. In this case, the truth that God’s love is so massively incomprehensible that time and space were no matter for him. He broke ‘rules’ of nature and logic to connect with humankind because he cared about every little thing they did. More than that, the fact he could look past all the crap and see the value. How could I possibly logic that one away?

So to that end, this particular truth can actually calm any Brain Storm. That there’s a higher power. That he’s more than interested in me – he actually wants me. And to think too much about how or why would be a waste of my time when I can just enjoy the love he wants to give.

There’s a song that encapsulates this. And it’s been resonating with me for weeks now.The lyrics that go a little something like this:

If you want me heart; I won’t second guess,
Cause I need your love more than anything,
I’m in, I’m Yours,
Your love’s too good to leave me here.

The lesson I learnt, and am still learning? If our definition of truth is based purely on evidence that is concrete and logical, then immediately we cancel out all other potentials realities. If we broaden our acceptance to include things outside of logic, we can begin to have faith in love that can actually make us valued, accepted and whole.

Read more

Family First

It’s that time again, no not that one. Or that one. But the end of January. Unlike our other office breaks this season is not a public holiday and is, perhaps, the least understood.

It wouldn’t be too far of a stretch for the outside eye to think I’m slightly lazy or part-timer for taking a break so close to our recent Christmas break. But, in reality, I’d like to suggest it’s quite the opposite.

You see, when it comes to business, most shut down over the Christmas break. But because our businesses are so diverse, we power-on through. So in reality, even though our offices are shut over Christmas – we aren’t really on a break at all. In fact we were often chasing orders, replying to emails and preparing for the year ahead.

So, even though it’s a challenge for most to go back to work after the Christmas, I’d perhaps argue – we are less rested than most. Our kids are savvy to this also. While we are able to give them 100% over Christmas Day and the few surrounding days, anything more than that is a bit of a luxury for us (and them). With that in mind, we have January.

The last two weeks in January are very special for our family. Not only is it my birthday, but it’s the time that we set aside especially for each other. We enjoy each others’ company. We go out to places during the days. And we make up for all the time that we are otherwise busy.

It may not be ideal timing for everyone who has to wait until we come back to work on February, but I thank-you for understanding. For me and my business, it will always be Family First.

So please don’t judge us for taking time out, we’ll be back in full-force on the 4th February to take on 2019 head-on. Thanks for understanding.

Read more

Driving HOME For Christmas

After what feels just shy of a millennia, today is a very special day. No, not the fact that it’s Black Friday – although it is a purchase. In fact, I can safely say this is the largest item I have ever bought on a Black Friday, or (actually) ever. And yet, this is a purchase that I won’t get told off for making. Black Friday 2018 finally saw the completion date for our house. We finally closed the deal and purchased a home!

The relief is perhaps so palpable in light of the efforts and tribulations that we endured along the way. Nearly a full month after I posted the (what I hoped the be) full story, the conclusion has finally arrived. Not without its’ own mini-dramas, of course. Even today, on completion days, I still had a few curve balls that needed batting out of the park. But no more. It’s complete. No chance of undoing it now.

If you missed it, you can read the full story of the journey we’ve been on- titled ‘The Battle of Mort Gage’. Told as an epic battle between us and those trying to stop us, it poetically reflects how long and painful the journey had been for us. While the story couldn’t include every detail and battle we fought, it certainly gives you a taste. You can read it here.

Whether you read my previous post or not, I’m sure you will have gathered by now that this was a beast of a journey for us. One that so many people have to walk through in order to gain ownership of their home. It’s a sad reality of the age we’re in. And I am SO thankful to God for pulling us through – but also for the people involved who had the power and ability to help us where we needed. They know who they are. This victory, perhaps, proof that if God can do it for us – then He can do it for anyone! I had the lowest credit score, the biggest debt and I’m self-employed.

My hope from this journey is that it will show other people in the journey that they aren’t on their own. That other people that have, and are, walking through this incredibly long and -at times- painful battle can see it does end. That you do come out the other side with a victory that is monumental. My other hope is that the lessons I’ve learned through it will inspire me and my family to remember how blessed we are and perhaps that some day, we too could be the ones with the power and ability to help others complete their journey to property ownership.

Over the battle, I ended up formulating a playlist of songs that I found myself listening to regularly as they depicted the season really well. You can listen to them, if you’d, like here:

Read more

The Battle of Mort Gage

This one is a long read. But it’s one I have crafted carefully over the last season.

You always hear that life is a battle. But a wise man once told me that it’s not always about the victory, sometimes it’s about the honour in how you fight. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but now I can safely say that I have lived this legend. And telling it is easier than walking through it. This is the story of how a thirty-something family man tried to get a mortgage in the UK.

The battle to own a property has been one that I’ve fought over the last three years. Along the way, I’ve been challenged, disassembled and rebuilt more times than I’d care to count. Through this process I’ve fought financial, stereotype and mental battles that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

I don’t know why, but while the whole story is still raw, I thought I’d write about it. Thank you for humouring me. This is ‘The Battle of Mort Gage’.

Read more

McDonalds Monopoly 2018 Winning Tickets Wiiiin!

Without further ado – here’s the quick way to check if you have a winning ticket at this years’ McDonalds Monopoly.

  • Brown – Old Kent Road
  • Light Blue – Euston Road
  • Pink – Northumberland Avenue
  • Orange – Marlborough Street
  • Red – Strand
  • Yellow – Coventry Street
  • Green – Bond Street
  • Dark Blue – Mayfair (obviously)
  • Stations – Liverpool Street

What I do find interesting is that this is largely unchanged from last year. The only downside? They aren’t stickers anymore, so have a roll of tape handy in your car!!

Also, this year, save 10 of any stickers to get yourself a NOW TV pass. That’s just good sense. In fact, arguably, that’s a better prize than the food. Upon claiming your first NOW TV pass, there is a limited of four per person, but no limit if you sign up in different names.

Read more

My Decision

Found these old cards the other day. My first ever business cards. From a simpler time. When I had hair. But in all seriousness, it felt appropriate to share them today. Today marks a special kind of anniversary.

24 years ago today I made a decision. As a seven year old boy, not a lot of your decisions sick around for much longer than a year. But this one has lasted me nearly a quarter of a decade (and counting). It’s not a decision I took lightly then, and it’s one that I take even more seriously now. That decision was to externally express an internal trust and belief that Jesus is who He said He is.

I didn’t do it on a stage. I didn’t do it around others. I didn’t do it because I felt I had to. I did it because I read about the importance of accepting Jesus as He is – so He would accept me as I was (and am). I did it because -even then- I knew that the ‘feelings’ I got when I spoke with God were more than feelings. I knew Him to be real and that He was interested in knowing me, an insignificant pre-teen.

So much has changed since then. Both in my world and in the world around me. But He never changes. And just as He accepted an uncomplicated seven-year-old then – He just as much accepts the highly complicated and over-thought thirty-something now. Something I find highly re-assuring.

And even though I don’t remember much from being seven, I remember making that decision. It’s a decision that has tested me, torn me apart but also kept everything in perspective and exposed to faithfulness that is unmatched by any human. I don’t always make good decisions. But God knows, that’s the best decision I have ever made.

Read more

The Nano, The Camera and the Steves

May the iPod nano rest in peace. Apple finally but to bed arguably their most colourful device, in the shadow of the technology that has overshadowed it for a while now. Sure the iPod shuffle shares the demise, but it’s the nano that will be missed. You know, not from a useful-tech perspective, but from a sentimental perspective. If you didn’t have one, you knew someone who did. It was arguably the most colourful leap forward in tech of its generation. Something Apple would do well to bring back into their repertoire (have you seen the pathetic pastel offerings of cases and devices of late?).

But all this got me thinking. It’s crazy how fast things can change. In my business, it’s very evident that the latest technology is already dated the moment you leave the shop. A quick think back to my first ever computer reveals either how fast things can change or just my age. One of the two.

I remember going to PC World with my family as my Dad discussed specifications with the salesperson. I was far too young to know what he was talking about, but if I were to go back as a fly on the wall, I think the PC’s specifications would be laughable by today’s standards – but – back then, it was top of the range.

I remember the giant CRT monitor, that would take up the majority of the desk for a relatively small image size. I remember the giant horizontal CPU, complete with floppy disk drive and the brand new ‘CD Rom Drive’ that was only included on the newest of machines. Complete with Microsoft 95 operating system, this bit of kit was world changing for little me…

Read more