2021 and…

DEC01 _ 2021 & Me
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2021 has taught me so much about myself that otherwise I might not have learnt. What may have been intended for negative entropy may have actually caused a positive chaos. This year, I posted lessons and things that 2021 had taught me, you can see the original posts on my instagram feed. But I have reposted them here in case Instagram ever goes bust 😂.

DEC02 _ 2021 & Plans
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After 2020 supposedly taught me that plans are impossible to guarantee, I somehow trundled into 2021 expecting to achieve a long list of things that 2020 had ‘robbed’ from me. But that very thinking was the proof I hadn’t learnt this lesson yet. And I’m still learning. But oh the importance of the present, rather than relying on my tomorrow.

DEC03 _ 2021 & My Wife
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There’s no way I could put this into a few lines, but this year has shown me how lucky I am to be a part of my wife’s life. Her strength, compassion, resilience and joy has literally carried us through this year in more ways than I could ever list here. Grateful to be married to her would be an understatement.

DEC04 _ 2021 & My Girls
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Nothing compares to the love we have for our girls. The last two years enabled more time with them, something I will forever cherish. Those times weren’t always easy but they were so worth it. May I remember to never loose times like these behind screens, notifications, education and life. These girls are my world and the way they see their world is what I need more of in my life. Thank you girls for being the best daughters I could ever wish for. I love you ∞

DEC05 _ 2021 & The Husky
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Ever wondered what a world-halting global pandemic does to a husky? Absolutely nothing. He’s not bothered by new strains, vaccine effectiveness or the resulting politics. He still loves us. He still loves you. He still loves life. Sometimes I need to be reminded, that his is not the worst state of mind by a long shot. He’s a good boy. And I sometimes ponder if he has it more together than I do.

DEC06 _ 2021 & Business
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It’s sad that my business goals and aims were only put into perspective by a global pandemic. But, whatever the cause, I now see business for what it is; a means to an end. Success, failure or somewhere in between – its status is not measured by wealth, influence or fame but solely on its ability to let me spend more time with those I love most.

DEC07 _ 2021 & My Faith
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The older I get and the more I see, the more I realise just how unimportant a complete scientific conclusion is. I used to ask ‘God, what about this?’, ‘God, why that?’ – but if I’ve learnt anything more vividly and conclusively in my faith, it’s this: the less I know for sure, the more I have to trust Him. Which is the absolute best place I can be.

DEC08 _ 2021 & Photographers
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My wife being a professional photographer gave me a bit of an insight into the utter madness that lockdown had brought the industry. While all shoots were canned by enforced lockdown in 2020, in order to recuperate lost earnings, all photographers crammed two years’ worth of bookings into one 6 month slot in 2021.

I cannot tell you how much respect I have for the photography industry (and others similar) who have literally put their entire livelihoods on hold to meet demand. But none more so than my wife, who somehow managed to do all that, look after her family, help my business and volunteer at church – all with a smile on her face. She is incredible.

DEC09 _ 2021 Politics
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Warped media posts and controversial headlines plagued our society this year with ‘hot topics’ that polarised our societies. Maybe not more than normal, but I certainly noticed it more this year. As much as I’d like for it to have taught me how to drill home a political point, or to fight for what I feel is right – it didn’t. It instead reminded me of the need to ‘put the glass down’ and realise: it’s usually not my fight or responsibility.

Ever heard that story of the uni professor asking his students, while holding a glass of water, how heavy it was? The answer was relative to how long he held it. For a short stint – it was super light. But after an hour or so of constant holding – that glass would be heavier than ever. And, just like that glass, the longer we hold onto stresses and worries and concerns (that ultimately we can do very little about), the more it drains us from the things that are actually important. 2021 might have tried to make the glass weigh more, but that doesn’t matter if I’m not holding onto it.

DEC10 _ 2021 & money.
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The last two years have been a financial rollercoaster of uncertainty and blind faith that it’ll be alright. Truth is, it’s always worked out ok for us. Sometimes the money comes in advance, sometimes it’s at the last minute. Sometimes it comes in abundance, sometimes it’s exactly the right amount to the penny. I don’t count it a small thing that we have always been provided for. We are no strangers to the stresses of not knowing how the next bill, invoice, tax or fine is gonna be paid. But this year has taught me that either I trust God with everything or I don’t. And when I do – He always, always, always delivers.

DEC11 _ 2021 & parents.
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I am so grateful that both mine and my wife’s’ parents are around to help us when things get tough. Over the last year, we have called on them countless times to help us out with the kids (among other things) – they were lifesavers. The gratitude I feel for them has definitely grown massively over the last year more than ever. Thank you guys, you helped make a difficult year a lot easier 😊

DEC12 _ 2021 & Notifications.
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Beep. Buzz. Bing. This year has meant working on the go. Somewhere between homeschooling, sick days and home working – mobile devices were more crucial than ever for the business owner in 2021. But it meant being notified more frequently than I’d have liked. Facebook business and Etsy rank high on the intrusive scale, both insisting on reporting, to your potential customers/followers, exactly how active you are – and marketing/penalising your services accordingly. But this year has taught me the importance of the 5pm cutoffs, weekends and removing emails from everything except work machines. Hard to do; but so worth it to prevent business from stealing family time.

DEC13 _ 2021 & News Media.
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I don’t like shifting the blame, I think I’m just as guilty as anyone else. But this year has taught me just how utterly unreliable modern news media is. And I’m not running away from the actual events of 2021. But there is a difference between presenting the facts, allowing each person to interpret them verses presenting opinions with a side of facts. I mean I sometimes forget that ultimately, they are businesses and their goal is to increase their profits. And if profit is found in scaremongering and warping the reality – then that’s where they’ll go. In some ways I don’t blame it for that, but rather blame me for not seeing it in that light.

It’s made me so aware that I’m just not compatible with the news they broadcast and publish. This year I hid the News app on my phone and permanently switched off the broadcast News. I honestly feel lighter for it. Maybe I’ll watch it in a few years time on catch-up. Probably not though.

DEC14 _ 2021 & Our Marriage.
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I am so grateful that we came out of this year a stronger composite. Not without effort, more from her than me, but I know we are now closer than ever. Yep this year, she became the chief earner which was an adjustment for us both. It was such a strange year but we worked hard as a team to catch up, shape up and prepare for 22. I learnt the crazy amount we can achieve together. And though we’re both absolutely exhausted from all that 2021 threw at us; I think we did a decent job of it. Our friendship, our love, our kids and our journey together continues to be my biggest joy. A joy, I pray, I never take for granted – even for one single second. Cheers honey🥂

DEC15 _ 2021 & Customers.
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For years I have worked with clients, building them websites and designs. I love working with them and I want to stress that this post is not about them in any way.

But about 7 years ago, I started an e-commerce business working with (mainly) one-purchase customers rather than friendly clients. So these days I act as business manager with a side of Customer Services. It’s not my favourite part of the job, to put it mildly. But I do it.

These last two years have taught me something of the 2021 consumer though: globally, they are at the end of their tether. I mean I’ve dealt with disgruntled customers in the past. And it’s all (thorny) roses. But man, this year, it seems like customers exchanged all their manners for the last loo roll. And as far as they know, this customer services punchbag has kept his cool. But mentally I’ve got about one nerve left and the next unreasonable customer is leaning on it.

That all being said, if nothing else, it’s changed my mentality as a customer though. It’s made me go over-the-top super polite when talking to other customer services teams. After all, I get a sneaky peak at what they have to put up with all day long. They deserve a bit of love. And if I’m ever in a shop when a customer is throwing a hissy fit because their caviar infused organic vegan turkey’s were out of stock, I’m there backing up the staff. Naughty customers.

DEC16 _ 2021 & Mental Health.
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There’s no way that the subject of mental health can possibly be properly summarised in a paragraph or two. But this year has taught me a little bit more from the multitudes still unknown.

It wasn’t that long ago that I journeyed through a heavy depression myself. I thank Jesus I am where I am today. Surrounded by those I love and my mind largely in perspective. But that’s not to say some days aren’t harder than others. Naturally forced lockdowns, isolation, scary headlines and future uncertainties weathered hard against my walls. I’m grateful that none of these took my perspective away from my Healer or from the things that matter most to me. But the constant bombardment of life in 2021 made it clear that positive mental health is more important than ever for me and for so many.

I can’t speak for others, but for me, that positive mental health came in the form of choosing who (or what) gets to speak into my life. That gate in the wall where I control what gets my mental space and what gets turned (kicked, punched or nutted) away. That really helped this year. And to anyone struggling with this stuff – it does get better. Please speak to someone, anyone. It’s not worth bottling.

DEC17 _ 2021 & Common Ground.
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I learnt the Rubiks cube this year, and the mixed up array of colours – twisting and turning to ultimately find where they belong on the cube reminded me of people this year. The mixup and mishmash of opinions that rained on social media feeds, news headlines and daily gossip really fuelled the polarising of communities, friends and even families. Sensitive issues like the correct side to unravel loo-roll or length of time to fry a bacon rasher.

It’s hard but I’m trying to remember that our biggest strengths are jumping on the things that do unite us. Ultimately, we do all want a peaceful, joyful Christmas with those we love and flushing away that sodding virus once and for all. While I may have learnt the cube this year, the whole ‘we’re all in it together’ thing is still a work in progress. I am honestly trying though.

DEC18_ 2021 & The Highlights.
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I’ve read posts like mine for years now and I’m no stranger to how annoying they can be. After all, highlight reels from life can be a massive kick in the nuts for anyone going through life trials. So this post is credit to the reality check that life isn’t always fairy lights and snowflakes. I may have had rough days and difficult seasons, which naturally didn’t feature in my highlights. That being said I also know that relatively speaking – this year hasn’t been that bad for us either. A stress filled rollercoaster, sure. But not devastating. Huge respect and love for those who’ve had it worse. Praying that the next year is a better one, after all we all deserve a highlight reel to be proud of.

DEC19 _ 2021 & Tech
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Tech is a wonder and gift, that personally I’m a big fan of. Or, at least until it doesn’t work the way you think it should. Then it becomes the source of wild unimaginable frustration. I spent a lot of this year learning how to use a giant machine that is wayyyyyy beyond my understanding (it’s a over the top Flatbed Printer). I’ve always loved tech – reading up on it, working out the parts, learning how to use it to its’ full – but sometimes the tech beats me. This one hasn’t beaten me yet though, I’m still learning and however steep the curve is, I am determined to tame this beast and have it working for me. In the meantime however, it’s a wonderfully humbling reminder that I absolutely am nowhere close to knowing it all, even in the areas I’m normally pretty well-versed in.

DEC20 _ 2021 & What We Have
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Somewhere between the 3rd and 13th lockdown, the stresses of juggling it all got a bit much. I remember holding it all together until the one supermarket still selling sugared jam doughnuts were out of stock (you can keep your ‘powdered’ rubbish, Tesco).

Partly, the lack of decent doughnuts was world shaking for me, but mainly it was the final straw, amongst a stack of issues, that pushed me to the edge. I felt the tears building and my eyes went puffy. The frown was probably not visible to the socially distanced shoppers but this bloke in a soggy mask left the shop in a state. But when I got home, as I walked through the door, I was greeted by my girls who were so happy and content with the shopping I did manage to scavenge from the ravaged shelves, I felt the warmth return. Much like Scrooges’ epiphany on Christmas morning (just with fewer Muppets and no snow or moneybags), I started to see it differently. Albeit in an exhausted state, the overwhelming sense of looming lockdowns and impending restrictions faded. And I began to feel content in the thought of hibernating with my family – surrounded by what we have and knowing that is more than enough.

DEC21 _ 2021 & Christmas Spirit
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I don’t know what it is about Christmas time but there is something so magical about how life changes just for the sake of a few weeks. I learnt at the end of 2020 that the Christmas Spirit never dies, even in l the midst of pandemics and threats of restrictions. Instead of running away from the excitement and Christmas feels, the valuable parts of Christmas become even more important. Family. Peace. Joy. Giving. And, of course, turkey.

DEC22_ 2021 & The Star
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I find the star which led the star-gazers to Jesus fascinating. Something that was so unusual and so out of place that it caused men to follow it. So un-natural that it directed them to a specific point on Earth, billions of miles from its’ origin. And yet that distant light would become a crucial part of a story that would impact everyone. To think that star of hope marked The Light of the world which still shines for those who seek it today. Not so much a lesson learnt from 2021, but very much as reminder in the importance of keeping that which is most important in focus.

DEC23_ 2021 & The Child(-like wonder).
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I’m a big Stars Wars Mandalorian fan, guilty. From the moment they introduced The Child, all the way to its big finale last year, he was a big hit. Even though he didn’t really say anything the entire time, his giant adorable ears and eyes pretty much gave away more emotion than most of the other characters throughout.

The Child reminds me of my own kids in his reactions to stuff over this year. This raw oversized emotion, living life with no filter.

“Please don’t touch that heavy bottle”, only to turn around to one of them bringing it to me with one hand.

Or “Please behave in this shop, they’re super strict on restrictions” – two minutes later in the shop queue (in the loudest voice ever,) “Daddy why does that person smell like bum?”.

But much like The Child, and unlike so many adults, the kids don’t have restrictions or fear of what other people think. They are innocently being themselves – a lot of the time better than I manage to be myself. If I could just learn the ways of childlike wonder and innocence, I think life would be a lot easier. They had challenges this year too, but they not only conquered them, they trundled through them with ease. And somehow managed to give us such joy along the way. I’m so so proud of them and amazed at how much I can still learn from them every single day.

DEC24_ 2021 & the silent night.
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I don’t know how “silent” the night Jesus was born actually was. Probably not that silent to be honest. Overcrowded town. Surrounded by animals in a stable, who may or may not have been overly impressed about sharing their home with a human family. Not least one about to give birth. We picture Jesus’ arrival as a perfect event in a perfect time. When, in reality, it was a perfect event – done unusually in an exceedingly imperfect scenario.

For me that just about sums up 2021. ‘Imperfect scenario’. I’ve learnt many lessons and no-doubt more will come but the insane events and circumstances can sometimes come a swirling.

The last hour before my kids bedtime in our house, is something like a nativity. Chaos, distractions, howling animals (well one chatty husky). I remember it being said ‘it’s not fair that the people who want/need sleep the most have to force people who want/need sleep the least to bed’. It’s a fair point. But yet all the hard work and craziness of getting to kids to bed changes in a split second when they finally drift off to asleep. Then suddenly the exhaustion fades a bit and a wave of pure love washes over you as you watch your babies sleep silently. That’s the silence that’s golden.

I know that my God does the same for us. When we panic and fuss and worry and strive all day long, we’re surrendering to the craziness around us. But when sleep finally comes, my God says He watches over me, just like He does for every one of His children. And if He feels the same way that I feel about my babies as I watch over them (and I’m told it’s even more so). Then reminding myself of God watching over me – puts everything else in perspective. And it makes me think that if I can rest under His watch on a silent night, then I need to start resting on the crazy days too.

DEC25_ 2021 & Jesus.
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It’s been said many times, in many ways, but the reality of the nativity is something of pure marvel. Easy, perhaps, now to familiarise ourselves with the story and for some it has faded into only legend. But, to the ones that know, this story is one of impossibilities becoming possible realities with unlimited results. A baby boy that not only represented God but actually was God in the flesh. A fragile, tiny baby – exposed to Earthly life in the very physical world He had created. And yet, in that single moment, surrounded by only a few – the greatest plan for all humanity was safe and provided for. As he drew His first breath, a history of disarray and a future of uncertainty were instantly reversed.

A baby like no other would provide passage for us to wipe the past away and to find salvation through something we desperately need in this season. To find hope. And not just sympathy-text or greeting card hope; but rather life-altering, earth shaking eternal hope. Hope the defies logic, shifts fears and eclipses our own perspectives. Hope that is only found in the once-baby son of God; Jesus.

If I’ve learnt anything about Jesus this year it’s that the closer I am to Him, the brighter my inner hope burns. His birth may have been two thousand and something years ago but, this year more than many, I have found Jesus to be at the heart of most of my lessons. Helping me, guiding me, strengthening me and bringing hope where it was most needed. And, for me, that’s a good enough place to exist this Christmas – it’s certainly where I want to be as I move into 2022.

Merrry Christmas everyone.