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.

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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:

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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’.

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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.

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SH61

The keen-eyed among you will have noticed I have a new header at the top of my website, the not-so-keen-eyed are checking it now. I always enjoy a little tweak and change every now and again when it comes to websites. I don’t often get the chance, but when I do, I like to really think about what the design means. In this case, it was a perfect opportunity to consider the purpose of this blog as well as my history of getting here.

Blogging, for me, was the natural progression from my earlier life where I kept journals. And, although this is a far more public forum to voice my thoughts – it is a poetic collection of the progressions and developments that make me who I am today. And when I thought back over the many years that I would write about my activities and adventures, one early memory still sits fondly at the the start of the story. Yes there were many stories prior, but this one was the start of my journey of becoming who I am today. That is the story of 61.

You’ll notice from both the title of this blog post, as well as the subtitle on the website, SH61 is a code marks my initials and favourite number. Favourite number because of the story of 61.

Many of my friends from my tweens will know the origin of 61, a short home-video I helped produce alongside a fantastic team of friends. The story of 61 revolved around secret agent named Back Jauer and followed the east same premise as the critically acclaimed FOX TV show 24. Sound effects and soundtracks were lifted from 24 to produce a not-too-shabby couple of movies that will live fondly in the memories of those involved. But 61 served an unexpected purpose for me beyond the immediate joy and entertainment that it provided to those who were lucky enough to see it. It helped me realise that when you really believe in something, and you rally a team around you who feel the same way – you can accomplish things that you previously wouldn’t have dreamed of. Was 61 perfect? No. Part of me would love to go back and re-act, re-film and re-edit them to bring them up to the high standard that is achievable with today’s home-video technology. But we didn’t have that back in the day. In fact, it was incredible we were able to achieve what we did. But all that aside, the end product was a success in our eyes. And it’s that success that has kept me believing, inspired me to keep on trying and to hope for things that I never thought were possible.

And the most exciting of those adventures, I believe, are still ahead.

Oh, and what of the feathers and the lion in the header?
They play their own parts in my story too. But those stories aren’t finished yet.

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When the stars align or Procrastination Constellation

It seems a little late to wish everyone Happy New Year, perhaps that’s because things are moving so fast. Not surprisingly, then, that we have nearly reached the end of the first week of 2017. Crazy.

It’s usually about this point that I give up on my New Years’ Resolutions. In fact – that’s the main reason that I gave up on them. To quote my instagram post from New Years’ Eve 2015:

“The only thing that will change for certain tonight is the date. Everything else remains as unchanged as you want it to. This year I’m making daily choices, not one-off resolutions”

And it’s true, resolutions can give the inaccurate illusion that by publishing dramatic lifestyle changes to social media – that you have actually achieved it. When, in actual fact, the resolution is probably a lot more involved than a quick decision on December 31st. And then, when most probably, it doesn’t happen – you end up feeling worse than when you first began.

But here’s the thing. There’s another side to it too. For me, at least, it’s so easy to not make any drastic decisions for the year ahead. But then forget to make the little ones daily too. And decisions and actions for change can be a really good thing. Even if they are uncomfortable at times.

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Order Overload

It’s been too long. And for those of you who know me, you’ll know why. Things have been crazy busy at sholdstock towers over the last few weeks as our LEGO Minifigure Caricature business received its biggest ever boom in the build-up to Christmas (pun intended!). We’re thrilled at the volume of orders and as much as I’d love to write more about it, time doesn’t permit on this occasion as the orders are literally waiting for me in my next browser tab…

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Spammalot

We live in a fantastic age. The age of smartphones, instant communication and virtual mailboxes. But with every development comes the annoyances. And with modern technology – it’s spam. The rise of the spammer has been a gradual dripping tap to everyone with access to communication. But here in 2016, it’s a bit less of a dripping tap and more of a torrential downpour of plain horse excrement. It is the juicy un-popped pimple on the face of modern technology. As an owner of quite a few web-based businesses and manager for many more, it’s something I have to deal with on a daily basis. Sometimes hourly. So my patience for spam is all but gone. As an 80’s sitcom once put it “I’ve got one nerve left, and they’re leaning on it..!”.

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Social Protocol for the Modern Man

I am a man. Something I quote to myself overtime I need to do something I don’t want to do. You know. Change a poopy nappy, walk the dog in the rain, socialise, get up in the morning. Live. You know the deal.

But in all honesty, I think there is a ridiculous stereotype that grinds my gears. And it’s the expectation that all men need to be ‘men’. You know what I mean. Men need to drink beer and burp. Men need to love football and hate crafts. Men need to drink Coke instead of Diet Coke. Men need to be the master power tools and be obsessed with sex. And heaven forbid that a man ever like pink as a colour…

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