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 Focus

I can often find myself getting lost in myself. My brain can be a infinite abyss of complex realities and unending reasonings.

That is, as you can imagine, only multiplied in times of extra stresses, confusion or uncertainty. And lately, that has felt a little bit like where I’ve been.

Firstly, let me just stress that I am so blessed with the worlds’ best wife and children. I am by no means ‘going through it’. In comparison to many in the world today, I’m living the dream. But every now and again, the minor stresses that I deal with eat away at the joys.

And its times like this that it’s good to stop and re-adjust the focus. This song, recently released by UNITED, is one that really spoke to me in this way.

So often, I feel guilty of loosing focus in the moment of a stressful week or an uncertain bill to pay. So much so that even when I do try to refocus, I miss the most amazing point of all. If only just for the 7 odd minutes of this song, I began to realise that the re-adjustment wasn’t about my focus – but it was all about realising how intensely focused God is on me. Just like He does on all of his children.

And as the universe around us screams of His greatness, it fails to compare, nor does it distract God from His ultimate desire – us. And that’s more than enough to bring my focus back each time to meet His gaze.

But what measures could amount to your desire?
You’re the one who never leaves the one behind.

I’m not a big fan of the aesthetics behind this lyric video, but the song and the lyrics are just phenomenal.

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Digitalisation: Switching your library to the cloud

I think that one of the most exciting developments of the 20th century is the cloud. For anyone who doesn’t know what the cloud is, it’s a number of things. Firstly it’s a backup for your data. Second, and this is my favourite one, it’s a centralised way to store files we all use. For example, music. Spotify, Apple Music, the list goes on. They store the songs and you pay a subscription to access their files in a library so vast – you’d never have enough storage to assemble yourself.

As a TV and film addict, naturally my physical archives reflected this. In my early days, this was in the form of drawers and drawers of VHS’s, taking up a significant portion of space in my bedroom and living room. Then came the arrival of dvd. Aside from being able to skip through films, play films on my computer and fit longer playback on a single disk – it had a significant other advantage of VHS. Size. Slowly but surely my VHS collection shrunk to half the size, while doubling the actual content.

Flick forward a few years and a similar process began changing my dvd collection into blu-rays. But before I got too far into the transition, the cloud hit hard, and before long another medium for TV and film was born.

Now I like to own the entertainment that I enjoy, especially when I plan on watching it several times over. So while I love Netflix, Amazon prime, NOW TV and the likes; they don’t completely replace the old fashioned way of assembling a personal video collection. Enter iTunes…

Back when iTunes was first starting out as a digital supplier of music, Apple probably didn’t realise the scope that it could actually achieve. Perhaps this is most evident in the very name of the service. But by the time iTunes was offering TV shows, films, audio books and such, they were clearly beyond the point where they could change the name. But either way, once iTunes had set itself up to be the virtual TV and film library of the future – I started to comprehend the space that would be freed on my shelves. The ease of selecting my programming, and ability to watch the videos on multiple devices were also massive bonuses.

So, now I write this, probably about four years into the digitalisation of my entertainment library. I thought, as we move further and further into the cloud -based age there may be some tips I could share. Things I’ve learned along the way.

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Hypocrite!

Nothing like an insult and exclamation mark to drive home a post title, eh? The title could relate to any number of people or things. Like the fact that this blog post is nearly a week late for week 4 of my 52 week blog journey. I mean that’s slack by anyone’s standards, and only the fourth week – wow! But, no, this post is about something a bit more close-to-home…

I wrote a blog post last week about the way in which the new US President, Donald Trump as been ‘welcomed’ into office by outraged social network users and media agencies alike. Not brilliantly. And while I could draw similarities between the title of this post and the said media agencies *cough* BBC *cough*, this post isn’t even about that.

It’s about the very notion of hypocrisy. The definition of the word hypocrite, according to dictionary.com, is “a person who feigns some desirable or publicly approved attitude, especially one whose private life, opinions, or statements belie his or her public statements.”

And in the light of that definition, I think I need to make something quite clear. I am, by no means or measure perfect. This will come as no shock whatsoever to anyone who knows me. But I wonder if I dare suggest something grander, we all suffer from imperfection. The classic line whenever we mess up to excuse ourselves: ‘nobody’s perfect!’ comes to mind. And while flippantly used here and there in our daily lives – it’s actually a really truth that we should pay attention to every now and again.

So at the risk of beating a dead horse (a physical action I would highly advise against, but in analogy’s sake…), I revisit the Trump debate. Since my last post, there have been several actions of the new President that have been wildly unpopular amongst the louder-voiced of the Western World (dare-I-say, making their point seem more universal than it actually is). But it’s debates like this one that bring out the best and worst in people.

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