30 September, 2016

31 Hugs - Ideas

(I’ll admit that title does sound a bit strange – are there thirty-one different ways to hug?! If you’re not sure what I’m on about, read the introductory post here. :)

Firstly, a big thank-you to all who joined the challenge! It’s exciting to think of all the lives that will be touched as we each share some hugs. It’s also not too late to be a part of it! If you feel thirty-one hugs are not manageable, why not set yourself a smaller goal? 

Anyway, here are some ideas which I hope will help and inspire you as you share appreciation this October. 

Hug Suggestions
Remember, a hug is a way to show appreciation, thankfulness, or support, so the options for conveying that message are endless:

Words – a few words of appreciation in person, a simple thank-you or I’m thinking of/praying for you, an email, a letter, a card, a text message, or a phone call.

Actions – a literal hug, some extra time with the other person (catching up, playing a game, shopping, working on a project, etc.), surprise housework or some other task, a gift.

Hug Recipient Ideas
Is there anyone who couldn’t benefit from an act of appreciation?!

Family – parents, siblings, grandparents, and other relatives – aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.

Associates – friends, workmates, people at church or other groups, teachers, bosses/supervisors, mentors, or anyone we spend time with.

People we admire – authors, musicians, artists, bloggers, athletes – anyone.

Strangers – shop assistants, cashiers, nuisance callers, people on the bus/train/street, or contacts through Postcrossing

Challenge Tips and Suggestions
Write a list of people you want to give a hug to, or hug ideas you want to do, so you can think ahead, plan, and avoid getting to the end of the day and wondering who to give a hug to.

Be genuine – say what you mean, and mean what you say. Do what you mean, and mean what you do. Make each hug personal and tailored to the individual, rather than the copy + paste style – they’ll appreciate it when they realise the effort is especially for them. 

Be specific – for example, instead of just telling someone you appreciate them, tell them why you appreciate them. Is it because they’re thoughtful and encouraging, happy and smiling, or their skills inspire you, or they encourage you in your spiritual walk? (Bonnie recently wrote a post that has more suggestions on how to give compliments here.)  

Get outside your comfort zone – we’ve all got those things we’ve comfortable doing, and maybe it’s easy for you to appreciate your friends or family. But I think comfort zones were made to be challenged, so take the opportunity to stretch yourself. Maybe you’ve never told someone how much you appreciate them before, or how much they mean to you. Maybe you find it easier not to talk on the phone (and I’m talking to myself here!). Maybe you’d rather not join your siblings on their adventures, or visit your relative in a nursing home, or do the ironing. But this challenge isn’t about us – it’s about others. So I want to encourage to not let your comfort zone hold you back from showing appreciation or support for someone else.

Do it from your heart – this is related to being genuine, but it will show whether you’re doing something out of obligation, or because you mean it. Don’t worry if you can’t craft a perfect gift or thank-you message. If you’re doing/saying/writing from the heart it will mean so much anyway. As Hannah said, “When you put your heart into something, it comes to life.” (Her whole post on that topic is very good, by the way.)

Be realistic – this isn’t about wearing yourself out, and becoming exhausted because of the extra ‘tasks’ on your to-do list. Keep it simple; only do what you can manage. Don’t feel pressured to write a five hundred word email, or buy a gift, or take a day off to give to a friend. If you need to take a break from the challenge, do. If you’re running out of people to give a hug, repeat – your mum won’t mind an extra hug. Challenges are about finding a balance between pushing yourself, and yet setting achievable goals. 

Be creative – this post is only ideas. Brainstorm your own list of people to share hugs with, ways to show support and appreciation, etc. The options are limitless – find a Bible verse relevant to their situation, write a poem, give them some cake (or whatever their favourite food is). Get them a plant, make their bed, or say thank-you. Tell them their hair looks nice, tell them they inspire you, and tell them God used them to bless you. 

I hope that was remotely helpful (and not too repetitive), and I hope you all have a fabulous October, and are blessed by giving 31 hugs. Thanks again for your support in this challenge already – each of your comments was like a hug. :) And I’m eager for you to add your thoughts! What are your tips for monthly challenges? Do you have suggestions for hug recipients? What are some of your hug ideas?

25 September, 2016

31 Hugs - Announcement

I hear a friend is going through a hard situation. I want to let them know that they’re not alone, and they are so valuable, and it will be alright. I want to give them something to make them feel special and loved. I want to send them a hug.

I read a book that introduces me to new people and places, and stirs up my feelings. I want the author to know how talented they are. I want them to realise that their words matter and they’re changing lives. I want to send them a hug.

I read a blog post which shares hope, brings lonely souls closer together, and helps me refocus on what matters. I want to make sure the writer understands that God is using them. I want them to know that they’re a light in a dark world, and their beacon will lead people home. I want to send them a hug.

Family and friends surprise me with indications of their thought and care. I want to give something back to tell them how much I appreciate them, and how much they mean to me. I want to ensure they realise they’re precious. I want to send them a hug.

I find some new music, which gets me excited and inspired. I want to contact the musicians and let them know that they have been a blessing to me, that God has spoken through their music. I want to encourage them to never give up, because they are instruments for hope and healing. I want to send them a hug.

But here’s the truth, cold and hard: I don’t. God uses so many people to encourage me in so many different ways, every day. And how often do I take a moment of time to let them know, to encourage them, to say thank you? Not nearly in proportion of blessing I have received. I want to spread hope and love and joy in this world, yet I have been overlooking the simplest of ways right in front of me. 

I want that to change.

Freely ye have received, freely give. Matthew 10:8

You’ve probably picked up by now, I like doing monthly challenges. I believe that they provide excellent opportunities for exploring new skills, developing talents, and adding an exciting challenge to each day. So for the month of October, I’m challenging myself to send a hug to someone every day. And I’m inviting you to join me.

What do I mean by ‘send a hug’?

Most of the people who bless and encourage me do so from a distance, so I can’t give them a literal hug. (And I’m not a super hug-y person, to be honest.) It would also be nigh on impossible to meet all the authors and bloggers and musicians in real life. 

I am talking about what a hug means – appreciation, thankfulness, gratitude, letting someone know you’re by their side. By ‘sending a hug’ I mean letting people know you appreciate them and what they’ve done, or you’re there for them. That could mean a literal hug and a few words, but I’m envisaging my hugs will be in the form of words in a card, or letter, or text message, or email, or some other way. You might give gifts, or make phone calls, or plan outings, or however you feel best conveys to another person that you care for them, and are grateful for them and how they encourage you – all the things we show by literal hugs.

I’m intending to send a hug every day of October, but you’re welcome to adapt this challenge to whatever you can manage. Maybe aiming for sending two or three hugs a week, or still sending 31 hugs, but giving a few extra on the weekend so you don’t have to do it every day through the week will work better for you. Set your own goals, but remember it doesn’t have to be a long, time-consuming activity. It could just be a few words, or a quick note. We never know how much a simple thank-you might mean to someone. 

I’m planning to post some tips and ideas on the first of October to get us kick started, but in the meantime, is anyone planning to join me? Who wants to be part of this adventure in spreading sunshine and giving back? Have you got any questions or suggestions? I’m excited already! :D

21 September, 2016

The Music Tag

A few weeks ago, Erin tagged me for the Music Tag. Music has been a big part of my life for a long time, but mostly as music I play. I don't listen to a lot of music via mp3, CD, etc, because I find it hard to find artists I like. So, my answers to this tag will be regarding what I play, not what I listen to.

Anyway, the rules of the tag:

1. Thank the person who tagged you. (Thanks again, Erin!)
2. Answer the questions.
3. Tag others.
4. Add you own question to the tag for your nominees to answer.
5. Include the rules in your post.

Now, the questions:

Do you play any instruments?

Yes, I play violin and piano - although I prefer to say I'm learning violin and piano. (At what point does one transition from learning to playing, by the way?) I can also get some chords, or squeaks, or screeches, out of a few other instruments, which I would like to improve on if I had time and funds.

What is your favourite music genre?

I enjoy playing music from a few different genres: folk, Celtic, Jewish, Baroque, Romantic, traditional, hymns, etc. Mostly, if something is dramatic with plenty of key changes, haunting, or in a minor key (or all three), I will like it. My favourite is soulful music; the stuff that gets into your heart, and squeezes it.

Is there a music genre you absolutely cannot stand?

I think I could safely say I can't stand jazz. I also don't like music with a lot of dissonance, repetition, or music that seems shallow (to me at least.)

What is your favourite way to listen to music? (CD, vinyl, MP3, radio, etc)

The very best is being part of an orchestra where you're playing, and  music is happening around you, and the whole thing works together to create amazing sounds. But I like playing with small groups, or one or two others, and by myself too. :)

What/who are your three favourite bands/singers?

As I mentioned, I have a hard time finding music that I really like, to listen to. (I hope that doesn't sound like I'm a stuck-up snob who never stoops to listen to anyone else's work. I honestly do consider a lot of music, I just rarely find some that really resonates with me.) Mostly, I listen to one or two tracks from here and there, so I don't really have any favourite artists.

What are your three favourite chords?

This is an excellent question, if you wanted my opinion. It's a pity that tag didn't also ask about favourite and least favourite notes, because low C sharp on the violin is my least favourite note. Anyway, my three favourite chords (well, keys actually) at present are: F minor, D flat major, and probably C minor. I have to agree with Erin's sentiment here, "Go minor, or go home."

And Erin's question:

If you had to pick one song to sum up your entire life, your very essence, the core of your being, which song would you pick?

Aside from a couple of instrumental pieces I've played, I come back to this song. It kind of got to me when I first heard it, and it's stayed a favourite ever since. It's sad but hopeful, and ultimately encourages me that yes, I might lose my way, but God is always there, and if I stick to His hope and truth, I'll find the way.

 I tag: Maggie, Julia, Clara, Victoria, Morning, Autumn, Bonnie, Emily, and Clare. And my question is:

What do you think is the purpose of music?

That's a question I've been pondering recently, especially as I consider what I play and listen to. Am I listening for entertainment, as a way to hear my emotions expressed, or to worship God? What is my motivation? I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts about it. :)

So tell me, how do you define your music taste? What's one song that sums up your life? Do you have a favourite chord, or note, or key?

12 September, 2016

God in Three Words

(In case you're wondering, that is my dictionary - a brilliant old 1957 edition of Webster's dictionary - it has wonderful example sentences, and quaint illustrations. I feel privileged to own it, and could spend ages browsing through it. And another fact I can testify after the above photoshoot: it's heavy. Photo credits to my sister.)

I like words. I especially like searching for the definition of words and the story behind them. Sometimes there’s a funny story behind how a word came to be used, and sometimes looking at the root words leads to something amazing – then I have an ‘ahh’ moment, and suddenly decide everyone in the house should know about a particular word and why it’s so exciting. Now I’ve decided that I need to spout to more than just the people in my house! Actually I hope you find these words just as fascinating as I did. :)

Universe – ‘the totality of all things that exist; the cosmos; creation.’

Take a closer look at the word: uni-verse. Uni means one, and verse means word. So universe literally means one-word. The question is why and how does one-word relate to the ‘totally of all things that exist; the cosmos; creation’?
I actually heard a pastor bring this up once, and he pointed out that the definition linked back to the fact that God created the world and cosmos by speaking. Our universe was brought about by the one-word of God. Isn’t that amazing that the individual words of our language words speak of the Creator and His power?! 

Inspiration - ‘an inspiring influence; any stimulus to creative thought or action.’

Inspiration literally means to blow or breathe air into. But it’s made up of the words in and spirit, and was always known as a divine influence on humans. In other words, inspired meant the Holy Spirit was influencing thought and stimulating action. 

To me, this was a reminder of where true inspiration comes from. Why is it, that when I’m lacking inspiration I turn to things others have created, rather than seeking the Source of inspiration Himself? Of course, it is inspiring to see other’s skills and talents, but ultimately, they’re all from God. 

Enthusiasm - ‘intense or eager interest.’

But, it originally meant ‘supernatural inspiration or possession; inspired prophetic or poetic ecstasy.’ Enthusiasm comes from the Greek word entheos. En means in, and theos refers to God – literally possessed by God, or God is in them.

This word is similar to inspiration, but stronger, possessed by God. It’s amazing that He condescends to dwell in us, to own us, and claim us. I like the picture that brings up – God being in us, and our words and thoughts and actions become His words and thoughts and actions, as He changes our characters to become like His. 

Honestly, I think the world needs more enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is more than fleeting excitement, or a moment of happiness when everything seems bliss; enthusiasm is a state of being. It saddens me the amount of people who lack an ‘intense or eager interest’ for anything. Where is our passion? How come nothing deeply excites us, and gets our hearts burning? And what is existence without enthusiasm? Perhaps the answer comes back to the original meaning of enthusiasm: we’ve lost sight of God. When He’s no longer in us, we lose our relish for life. 

Each of these words point back to God. It’s God who created our universe, our world, and everything in it. It’s God who gives us inspiration, and enthusiasm for life. That’s one of the reasons why I like words, and searching out their meanings and root words – surprisingly often, it points back to God. It’s amazing how He upholds everything, even the very words we speak. 

So, what are some of your favourite words and why? Do you think the world needs more enthusiasm? What makes your heart burn? Did I miss something about the above three words? Let me know how you see things!