GROW Weeks 1 and 2 – Reflections on a New Beginning

Last year was a huge struggle in many ways and by October I was ill, exhausted and felt very distant from my faith. I want  2014 to be different, but had a dawning realisation that  I had to change some things about myself and how I respond to other people and difficult situations. I also knew that I couldn’t do that alone.

I had been asking God for guidance as I was given a vision for the future of my creativity and business just over a year ago but last year’s events totally overtook me. …although I do have sketches and ideas dotted around that I plan to develop creatively this year. One result of seeking guidance was discovering The GROW programme developed by Artistic Hands of Faith on Facebook.  During the year you take part in a series of themed bible studies and the current theme “A New Beginning”, was just what I needed.  Each week we memorise and meditate on a  bible verse which we also read in context whilst journalling our responses.

Week 1 – 2 Corinthians 5 v 17

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Having taken time talking this verse and its setting through with God I realised that although I know what the verse means, there is a gulf between knowing and doing! I ‘know’ that being born again and baptised helps us to lose the undesirable aspects of our old self and understand that this isn’t instant, but a journey. However I quickly realised that if I wanted to control the process, then I was blocking any work God wants to do in me, so for things to change I need to be willing to let go of them and give them to God.

So  having realised and accepted this essential truth,  the heart of my personal prayer life, needs to be an act of surrender, if I want to change the way I live life for the better. And with those changes I will be freer and more able to talk about God and what He is doing for me and live my life in a way that glorifies and reverences him.

This was echoed in this Sunday’s church service – when we treat God with reverence, ask for forgiveness and let go, he can do works of renewal in us. I’m hearing this message so often I know I need to listen and act upon it!

Week 2 – Isiah 43: 18-19

This complemented the previous week well, stressing the importance of letting go of the past. It reminded me of John’s description of God as a gardener, able to grow and improve any soil, bringing rain and nourishment to the land. I see “us” as plants that He tends carefully, pruning away the dead wood that impedes growth and allowing healthy new shoots to grow, bloom and bear fruit. But He can only do this with my agreement, if I don’t allow Him through the garden gate then I immediately block him from achieving anything in me.

The crazy thing is I know how well this works. I had a very deep seated grief and pain caused by the death of my mother as a child. It was massively affecting my ability to function as an adult and talking therapies hadn’t worked. But as I came to know God better I “talked” to Him by journalling and boy did He take me on a journey. I finally let the pain out, cried, wrote reams, talked honestly with people about it and at the Christmas Service that year understood I was healed – I had a beautiful childhood memory of my Mum for the first time in years.

So I’m now facing the challenge of exploring why I still hold on to other stuff that is hurting me or holding me back.

I’ve discovered the following verses seem really relevant to this next part of my journey and have something to teach me:

Isiah 43v2 Love Is

Some Recent Makes

In between cuddling my gorgeous grandson I’ve also been knitting and crocheting away.

In the run up to Christmas I made up 2 custom orders and created a range of Christmas gifts for family and friends. I’m still working on my Dad’s final sock as I’m seeing him next week for a belated Christmas!

Today I’m going to focus on the commissions and the gifts I made for adults. I’m saving the baby knitting and crochet for Handmade Monday, and I promise its worth the wait 🙂

Here is a small selection of my festive makes  – I’ve just realised that I forgot to snap all my creations so I may well be asking friends to do the honours and share 🙂

wpid-20131226_152608.jpg Ladies handwarmers

I made 2 pairs of these, 1 in red chunky yarn which were much longer in the arms, specifically for school runs.

This pair were made for a friend who loves lilac and black and I added a shamrock accent to each glove to echo her Irish roots.

I really enjoy making personalised designs that say something about the person I’m making them for.

wpid-IMG-20130905-WA0000.jpg wpid-IMG-20130909-WA0000.jpg  Cuddly Cats

Made for 2 little boys who love kittens. Apparently they are rarely put down and their own kitties now have a bit of a break.

I used a variegated yarn for the brown cat and a brushed DK for the black cat which gave a beautifully soft feel to it.

wpid-20131211_204819.jpg wpid-20131211_204855.jpg  2 Christmas Jumper Makeovers

A friend’s children needed Christmas Jumpers from school, so she arrived with 2 charity shop jumpers for me to embellish.

I used a white yarn shot through with a shiny thread to create the snowflakes and embroidery

For Rudolph I crocheted a motif and then added crocheted eyes, nose and antlers.

Both jumpers were very popular and frequently worn by both children. Its given me an idea to pursue in the coming months!

wpid-20131204_161620.jpg wpid-FB_IMG_13862631606179271.jpg  Rudolph and Flowers

I picked up a couple of commissions at a local craft fair. I was helping my daughter assemble her reindeer and was asked to make another. The other lady is passionate about daisies so  designed and made her a trio of brooches. Do you think its worth making brooches in batches of 3 that match or co-ordinate?

I also made a beautiful crocheted beanie in a green DK shot through with primary colours, complete with curly tassels hanging from the crown for a friend who loves mad hats, a chenille cowl for a friend who’s a dinner lady and needs to keep warm and some bathroom accessories for my brother’s fiancee which I will show when she has had them delivered. I’m also working on a special present for another friend which got a bit delayed as I was shattered from being a birthing partner and then went a caught tonsilitis! Now I’m better the needles are flying as I start my next batch of special commissions.

2013 – A Review

I’m currently undertaking an online bible study on the theme of “New Beginnings” which I will be blogging about each week as I progress. As part of moving forward, I’ve realised that tod refresh my enthusiasm and take my crafting into 2014 I need to think about what went well last year and what didn’t, and look at what I learned:

Work – Life Balance

  • I’ve realised that was way off beam, that I was often slogging away all hours of the day and night but not making progress.
  • I was spending so much time planning ahead I wasn’t prioritising getting things done and was spreading myself too thin. The result was exhaustion and illness towards the end of the year, which I’m only just recovering from now.
  • So I’ve decided this year has to be different! I am going to stop trying to please everyone that I come into contact with and focus myself on offering the majority of courses from one, easily accessible centre. This will mean I can target advertising, have a known base and hopefully be able to offer a better service because I’m spending less time travelling and will find it easier to promote my classes locally.
  • I’m also going to accept that there are times when family life has to come first and if I need to take a few days out to support someone or to look after me, then by improving my time management and writing articles in advance, I can manage this.
  • I will also be setting myself hours of work – making sure I have at least 2 days where I can do what I want, take some down time, go and see an exhibition, visit the seaside and of course play with Kayden – because not having that discipline rapidly turns me into a workaholic who eventually runs herself into a flare up and I want to be a well Nanny who can enjoy time with my daughter and her baby! And learn more about my other passion, Medieval and Tudor history 🙂

Creativity

  • Creativity wise I’m also planning to focus my making and specialise in an area that really appeals to me and I feel very drawn towards, but more about that another day. It doesn’t mean I’ll refuse commissions, but it does mean I’ll be targeting my marketing to a very specific audience and be treating myself more kindly.

Bright Shiny Things

  • Some time ago I read something about being distracted by “bright shiny things”, swayed by the advice of others, even if I knew the idea would be unlikely to work etc – and of course told myself,”you don’t do that, you’re very focused”! Well as you can imagine, the long hard look my flare up caused me to take, has made me realise that I am a bit of a “bright shiny things” girl and that I can be easily lead and distracted into doing things outside the business plan and the dream.
  • To be fair that’s not always a bad thing, sometimes its opened my eyes to other places and markets and its helped me realise where I want to go…….what my vision and almost “calling” is within crafting.

Time Management

  • I also need to learn to use the online tools that will help me schedule things. I need to make work plans for the week / month that include scheduling blog posts and social media. That way marketing  online becomes less of a chore. I need to make Facebook, Twitter and Craft Juice work for me.
  • I also need to set a regular date for newsletters, so that my customers receive them on a regular basis. I can also then work on the content through the month and include information about what else is out there!

Media

  • This is my big challenge for 2014 – to find a way to get my name into the Crafting Media. At the moment I’m not sure exactly how to do this. I know I need a plan and I know I need to work on some ideas I can perhaps submit for publication. I need a list of publications I want to target and I need to understand the crafting trends of the coming year – but I need to be sufficiently disciplined to tailor them to my dream, vision, speciality. As I develop my plan and embark on the journey I’ll be blogging about it, with the aim of encouraging others and providing a space where the crafty community can share their ideas and their stories too.

Selling

1. Online Shop – I want to take my shop in a new direction, so although it will be under the “Bits and Bobs” banner, it will have a different name. I will either create my own website with a shop or move to Etsy. As part of this I need to make a commitment to joining in with the online community in order to get my work out there. I need to also be aware that I need to target my marketing to the products, which will mean lots of hardwork and research to help me find the best places to advertise

2. Local Stores –I want to target a small selection of local specialist shops so that I can make my creations more accessible. Again this is going to mean doing my research and also getting some high quality photography done, so that I can send off images to potential outlets. I can also use these images to create a postcard I can distribute in selected areas to market my wares

3. Craft fairs – I didn’t do many fairs last year and I’ve realised I miss meeting up with other crafters, chatting and sharing ideas. I want to make fairs work for me though so need to carefully consider where I sell and how often. It might be that I need to move from the generic fairs to something more specialised.

Revamping the Blog

  • I will also need to revamp and update this site to reflect the new direction and vision. I will be continuing the “Make it Your Own Series” and using that as a platform to launch online lessons later in the year. This is something I’ve been considering for some time and I’m planning to work on a way to achieve this towards the autumn and winter, as often people like to stay in and be warm and learn to make things for Christmas!

Introducing my Grandson!

Hi I’m Kayden and I’m going to help my Nanny tell you all about me!

Before I get into the full on blogging for 2014, here’s an introduction to the little man who’s been keeping me very busy during December and January, my grandson Kayden. He was due on Dec 4th but tried arriving at 36 and 37 weeks….then decided he liked it where he was thank you very much, despite my poor daughter’s best efforts at eating curries and walking miles!

He eventually arrived on Weds 18th Dec at 10:28am by emergency c-section, weighing 9lb 3oz after 3 days of trying to persuade him to come via the usual route. My daughter coped amazingly with a very long induction process, followed by 14 hours on the drip to get her contracting, but much like she did, he settled back to back and had stuck his head in a very odd place. The difference in care she received when he was born and in the following 3 and bit weeks has been amazing, compared to when she was born. The midwifery and health visiting teams have really pulled out all the stops to help her and the way they dealt with the need for the c section was really gentle and lovely to see. I’d had a very similar experience but sadly not the same quality of care, but its been really healing for me too – although my poor body is still struggling to come to terms with being birth partner and helping with the night feeds! The medical team went out of their way to accommodate my needs too so that I could be in theatre when he was born, giving me time to slowly shuffle in on sticks – they’d even offered to spring clean the wheelchair if that would help!  – and providing me with a comfy chair to sit on. It was a real privilege to be there and because my daughter was so spaced out have first cuddles with him – I knew he was a chunky lad before he hit the scales!

All brand new, just had my first mummy cuddle 🙂

Ready to come home, wrapped in my shawl!

Kayden is a beautiful boy, very chilled and calm, he only really cries if he is in need of something or one of us mean people are changing his nappy or stripping him off for the tub when its not quite convenient! When he’s tell us off he sounds like the famous talking cat and says “Oh no no no” as part of his cry, its really cute!  He  gave me a lovely proper smile this morning, and loves to lay there looking at you and trying I think. to figure out how easy its going to be to wrap you round his little finger 🙂  He also loves nursery rhymes and the animals on his play gym and will lay there quite happily trying his best to chat to them whilst trying to figure out how to get hold of them. We often sit and have long chats and read through his board books. He’s a big distraction and its lovely spending time with him when he’s awake 🙂

“At the Gym”

He’s obviously been wearing some of  the outfits and blankies Nanny’s created for him, including the embarrassing Christmas jumper, a plethora of snuggly hats and mitts and his blankie and shawl. I really enjoy making things for him and my next creation will be something on the theme of Mr Sneezy as he does sneeze alot!

My christmas jumper….Grandad got me a reindeer suit to wear over it and I was so impressed I slept all day except for my milk 🙂

My daughter is fortunate too in that he quite happily fills up on food in the evenings and then goes 5 hours between feeds at night. He is bottle fed now because despite everything being tried including having his tongue tie snipped at 3 days old – he was more annoyed at having a piece of gauze under his tongue to stem the bleeding than he was at the actual snip – he just couldn’t get the hang of breast feeding. The midwives were really supportive of the fact that she tried hard for 2 weeks, expressing on an electric pump most of the time and have been really good about accepting her decision. She is well aware that breast is best, but has made the best decision for her baby and I fully support her in that. I remember the huge sense of failure that partly fuelled my post natal depression I felt when nothing worked with her and I’ve been so pleased that everyone has focused on how much good she did by persevering for so long. She’s only just 20 and has issues of her own and it was lovely to hear other older and experienced mums who were sharing her hospital ward praising her for her willingness to try too. She is a natural mother and its beautiful to watch the bond growing between them.

Me and my Mum

Me and Mum at home