steve ball

personal thoughts on family, faith and work

Archive for the tag “family”

reflections on… may

During the last week in May I was in Harrogate at a New Wine Leaders conference for three days, back at work for a day and then off on holiday to Cornwall – so (while on holiday), I’ve finally got a chance to write up my thoughts on the month of May.

There has been much to be thankful for this month, much to think through and also some changes at work. All of which are pretty exciting

Family:  We have had some lovely times together as a family this month.  We went to see ‘The Wizard of Oz’ show at the start of the month, which was excellent. We have had some lovely walks with my sisters family – one was a nine mile walk around ‘Darling Buds of May’ country in Pluckley.  This was the longest walk the boys had been on – and they did brilliantly.

James went on his school trip to the Isle of Wight for a week which was great for him – he really enjoyed it – but was a little strange for us as it left the house rather quiet

Faith:   Church has been good this month.  Our Overflow service had the largest worship band we have ever had and I thoroughly enjoyed writing some parts for the brass section that we had.  This meant that James was able to join in on his saxophone for the first time which was fantastic for me to see.  Hopefully the first of many times he will be playing

For three day in the last week of May I was at the New Wine Leaders conference in Harrogate.  This was a time to really get to know people that went better over food and drink and also to re-asses my thinking on where the church is and how we could be serving the community more effectively.  Some of the sessions were rather intellectual, but the content was excellent – lots to digest and work through when I get back home

Work:  I continue to be busy at work with various projects which I’m enjoying.   Have increased my hours from this month which will help give me the time to get through the work load more effectively. I will reduce my teaching a little to offset the extra hours I’m doing at the office.

Highlights of the month:

  • Seeing the Wizard of  Oz
  • Our long walks
  • The leadership conference

the challenge of change

Change is inevitable. It may be a gradual, subtle process or it may be an unexpected crisis that happens out of the blue which necessitates change – but change happens. Without change a church or organisation will stagnate and, in my view, eventually die. How we approach and manage change is therefore vitally important if we are to support and keep the confidence of the people the change effects. 

I think I’m pretty good at change. I enjoy the challenge of improving systems and processes at work, and I love seeing people develop into new areas at church. Many of the projects I’m involved in at work require a change in work practices (currently a new internal communications system). Although there can be mileage in the thinking ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it’ I firmly believe that you can only ‘not fix it’ for so long. At some point change will have to take place, or we essentially are going backwards.

Subtle changes are relatively easy to manage – most people may not even be aware of the changes until they look back over a period of time. Major changes are much more of a challenge. 

Most reasons for change will fit into one of three categories – and there is one key thing that best alleviates objections or aversion:

Keeping up to date.
These are primarily the more subtle, day-to-day changes that keep a church, organisation or relationship relevant and active. It’s the organic process that should (in my view) be embedded in the ethos of any organisation. Examples of this could be as simple as keeping a website up to date, improving systems, making and developing new personal contacts etc.

This category often is centred around people. Whether it’s a promotion or new job, moving into a new role at church, or a change in direction for an organisation – because the change will affect people directly it is more difficult to manage. Change in this instance can be accepted differently depending on your perspective. I hope that I would see the positive, trust the people proposing or appreciate the necessity for change – even if it doesn’t feel right at that time to me personally. I’m then in a much better place to help shape and facilitate the change. Some people, however, seem to always fight against change – just because they can.  I’m all for constructive discussion, but that’s very different from being deliberately obstructive. I think this is the hardest type of change to manage and throws up the greatest challenges.

Change due to crisis is dramatic and often fairly instant. Whether it’s being made redundant from work, the death of someone you love or the final breakdown in a relationship – the effects are immediate and usually painful. I know that when my dad passed away back in February, the changes I (and the rest of the family) had to come to terms with were very difficult. Paradoxically, it can be easier to cope with the challenge of change due to crisis, as you have been forced into a situation (willingly or otherwise) and have no option but to work with the implications of it.

The best tool to manage change.
In my view the single, most effective way to best manage change is good, clear communication. ‘Announcing’ a change will more often than not lead to an automatic reaction or objection.  If a change has been carefully explained, and the rationale given, it is much more likely to be accepted and people will work with you to implement those changes – something for us all to work on, no matter how good we might think we are at communicating!

Points to ponder:

  • How do I instinctively react to change? 
  • When was the last time I encouraged someone to develop into a role and help them implement their changes? 
  • Are my comments about change part of constructive discussion or deliberately obstructive?

reflections on… april

I’m writing this post on the train home from Blackburn after a busy day at the end of a busy month! A short break, visiting family, Easter, days out, deadlines for my diploma, the marriage course, church, work… I feel worn out just thinking out out it all – although, in the main, it’s been a good month.

Family: At the start of the month, we had a short break with my brother, down at Winchelsea Beach which was good – always a time to switch off a bit. The noticeable missing person was our eldest who was snowboarding with the school for the first week of the Easter holiday and then straight off on a church mission in Spain (alright for some!). Our youngest comfortably passed his Grade 3 sax which is excellent, and I’ve been continuing to enjoy playing with him, getting ready for a worship service next month. We also went to the gadget show which was great fun. We have been on some long walks (before the constants rain of the last week or so) ensuring we always passed the house my in-laws hope to buy.

Faith: Church is usually busy over the Easter period, but this year I’ve not been quite so involved as usual, which has been a change. Barbara’s home group has been going well – a lovely bunch of people – and we had a good curry night a couple of weeks ago which always goes down well. Our monthly Overflow service starts again in a couple of weeks and I’m getting prepared for that – hoping to have some new people as part of the worship team.

Work: Work has been incredibly busy. With various projects on the go and the usual work on top of that it has, at times, felt like I’m chasing my tail! Add to that the diploma work and my teaching and you can see I’ve been busy.

i love my ipad, but…

I got my iPad about eighteen months ago for a ‘significant’ birthday. At the time I thought it was an extravagance, but I very quickly (too quickly!?) realised that it was a brilliant piece of kit that I would have to replace straight away if it ever broke. Since then,  my eldest son (14 years old) has got one and Barbara uses a company iPad – which they too love! My youngest (11years) has various electronic gadgets including a 3Ds and an old iPod – all of which can access the internet.

What I find really concerning is the lack of any significant parental controls or web monitoring for my children on their iDevices. It’s not a question of trust, but one of accountability. There is a plethora of software available for the PC or Mac to give real parental control of a child’s Internet use – but nothing (as far as I can see) available for the iPad or iPod.

This is a huge oversight that, in my opinion, does nothing for the credibility of Apple’s social responsibilities. Also, on the iPad, there is no way of disabling the ‘private browsing’ facility. Why ever not!?

I don’t think my family is that unusual from others. With the age of wi-fi and broadband we (and our children) can access the internet from anywhere in the house and be watching anything online whenever we want. We speak to our boys about the potential dangers of the internet and searching seemingly innocent things on YouTube, but if a parent is not given the technical tools to be able to help their child be accountable for their internet use, we are already at a disadvantage and putting preventable temptation in their way.

And it’s not just as simple as saying to your children ‘you can’t use the internet in your bedroom’ these days – they can access from any wi-fi hotspot. Education, accountability and the tools to do the job has to be the way forward.

Our children (and adults) are faced with all sort of temptations and issues these days. Why should safe internet use be one of them when there is the technical ability out there to prevent it?

I would really love to be wrong on this one. If anyone knows of something that will do the job, (without having to jailbreak our iPads) I’d love to hear about it.

Points to ponder:

  • When was the last time you spoke to your children about safer internet use?
  • How do you monitor your children’s online world?
  • How would you feel if your online habits were publicly known, and would that affect how you use the internet?
  • How are you accountable for your your internet use?

reflections on… march

March has been one of the busiest months I can remember in a long while! As well as being busy ‘doing’ stuff it has been a bit of a roller coaster of emotions too. The sadness of dads funeral, the fun and laughter of being with extended family, the concern for friends going through very hard times, the satisfaction of getting work done on my diploma, the excitement of being with my son in his sax exam – all mixed up together. I’m looking forward to some time away this weekend to give my brain some space!!

Family:  It was lovely to be with all my family, despite the sad circumstances, at the start of the month. Catching up with Aunts and Uncles over a (rather ambitious) three course meal planned and cooked by my eldest son (with help from Barbara) was a really fun evening.

We started The Marriage Course this month and discovered we like each other!! Three sessions in and it’s fantastic to see how strong our marriage is. I’m very thankful to God for Barbara and our boys – especially when you look at the difficult times many other families are going through.

My youngest son has been working really hard ready for his grade three saxophone, which he took on the 23rd. I was able to accompany him on the piano for two of his pieces (which was a bit of a shock as usually the teacher does) which turned out to be a great project we could share together. Just the wait for the results now – very proud though, whatever the outcome. No doubt we will be playing together lots more.

Work: My diploma is going well. Interestingly, some of the concepts we have been discussing can be equally applied to other areas of life including church. I’ve caught up with the work after loosing a few weeks last month due to circumstances and my first assignment is done with only a couple of minor alterations to make.

Today we had our annual staff team day for all CCPAS staff and trustees (which is no mean feat as they are spread all over the country). It’s great to be part of a fantastic, enthusiastic team.

Faith: Getting back into the swing of things after a bitty February was good. More encouraging was that everything carried on without me being around all of the time.  It’s always good to see people happily taking a lead when needed.

Highlights of the month:
Having family, who we’ve not seen for ages over for dinner
Accompanying my youngest son in his sax exam
Finishing my first assignment

lessons in life – from my dad

Back in October, we didn’t think dad would make it until his birthday or Christmas so I decided to thank him for what he meant to me while he was around to appreciate it.  When I read this to him, he wasn’t able to talk much, but he smiled and chuckled as I struggled to read it through to him.

He did say a few words after I finished.  This is what I read to him.


You have taught me so much throughout my life, but there are four things that stick in my memory.

I remember when we were small kids going swimming, and you would be the one throwing us around and splashing us – generally making our time there fun.  You taught me how to love and have fun with family.

I remember going to collect my exam results from school with you.  I did pretty badly, but the first thing you said to me was ‘well done’. You taught me how to always try and see the best in people.

Remember my first car?  The pea-green Fiat 128!  I needed some new tyres and you leant me the money, but made me pay it all back. I thought you were a bit mean at the time, but you taught me another valuable lesson – honesty in your word, and the value of a strong work ethic.

As kids we were dragged from one church meeting to another – most of which I enjoyed!  You helped me to find my own, strong, faith which I will be eternally grateful for.

I hope that I can pass on these valuable life-lessons to my boys:

  • To love and have fun with my family,
  • To always try and see the best in people,
  • To have and honest and strong work ethic,
  • To encourage others to find their own faith.

Thanks for everything you have done for me,

With much love, your, very proud of you, son.


Dad replied – ‘You’ve been a good son to me’.  Words which I will always treasure.

Points to ponder:

  • What life-lessons would you want to pass on – and how can you do that?
  • Is there someone who you should take time to thank while they’re able to appreciate it?

reflections on… february

Keeping a positive outlook can be difficult – especially when you go through tough times.  My dad sadly passed away, peacefully, on 15th February; which makes now one of those times.  I am though, determined to try and keep positive through this strange period between dad passing away and his funeral, which is not until the first week in March.

Family:  We started the month with a visit to my sister-in-law and her family. The plan was to leave our boys there while we went on a worship training day, but things didn’t go to plan and we didn’t end up getting to the training. We did have a lovely time though, and it was definitely the right thing to do.

After dad passing away, a lot of my time has been with my family sorting out the many things that need dealing with.  This has been a sad time and I posted about it in the post “time-a-precious-gift” earlier this month.

In contrast, last weekend was a great, happy occasion when we were at a family christening.  It was good to meet up with extended family that we hadn’t seen for a while – and some of them are staying down until the funeral, so no doubt we will see them throughout the week too.

Faith: With everything that’s gone on in the last couple of weeks, I feel slightly out of the loop when it comes to church. We have had lots of cards from church family which has been lovely.  It’s good to know you’re being supported in prayer when you go through tough times.

With the loss of someone close in your life, it brings your faith into sharp focus – and I’m absolutely confident that dad is in a better place now and I will see him again one day.

Work: I had another session for my diploma on managing quality which was enjoyable and provoked thoughts on what that means outside of work. (See my previous blog – managing quality.)  Colleagues have been very supportive and dealt with as much of my work as they could. I’m fortunate and grateful to have an understanding boss who has given me the time I needed after dad passed away.

So, like January; February has had its ups and downs – I wonder if a pattern is emerging!

Highlights of the month:

  • Being with family at the christening last weekend
  • The murder mystery dinner at church – excellent!

Below is a link to a challenging song that was played at church a few weeks back.  I didn’t know then that I would be listening to it with the backdrop of loosing dad. Casting Crowns – Praise You in this Storm…

time… a precious gift

Wednesday 15th February was a very sad day. My dad peacefully passed away. Me, my brothers and sisters were there just before he finally went and mum and her sister were with him at the end. A very sad, emotional time, but we were grateful we were all able to see him one last time.

Eighteen months ago dad was not really ill at all.  He steadily deteriorated from that time on resulting in him being in hospital back in October.  Even while in hospital he would be giving advice and showing concern for everyone – especially mum. I never thought he would make my birthday in the middle of October – but he did. I had said my thankyous and goodbyes which was an almost impossible thing to do, but I’m thankful that I was able to share those with dad rather than saying something after he had gone. From that moment, I have been really grateful for any extra time I had to be with dad.  Time… a precious gift.

Since October, he was moved to a hospice as they didn’t think he had much time left.  He would have good days and bad days, but somehow his health didn’t seem to be deteriorating as quickly as was expected, so it was decided that he would come home and mum, and the family, would care for him there.  He made it to his birthday in the middle of December.  Time… a precious gift.

We had a good Christmas with all of the family being able to visit. It was lovely to see him being part of what I knew would be his last Christmas. Time… a precious gift.

Dad passed away on Wednesday – his time on this earth had come to an end.

Since then we have been swamped by people’s kind words, thoughts and prayers which has been lovely – beautiful at times.  This has really been touching; reading them through the tears.  It is plain to see that dad made the most of his time on this earth.  He has helped literally hundreds of people in his work. He has been a shining example to me of how to live life. He will be very, very missed.

Time is a gift that can not be replaced, taken back or exchanged. Dad chose to make the very most of his time, at work, at church and with his family.  This is evident in the lives of the people he has come into contact with over the years.  A good friend wrote this about dad:

…you were never flamboyant or concerned with the flimsy or superficial things of life. Instead you dedicated your life to important things such as family and helping others. You knew the true meaning of hard work and through relentless self-discipline you brought light to those living in darkness and colour to those whose lives were grey.

I pray that I can be as effective with my time on this earth as dad was.  Thank you dad for your great example.

Time… a precious gift.

reflections on… january

The start of 2012 has been a series of ups and downs and we’re only a month in!  I tend to remember the downs clearer than the ups, so I thought each month I would look at the positives and things I can be thankful for – not to dismiss the negatives as unimportant, but I know that at the end of the year I will remember them more than the the positives if I don’t write the down.

Family:  I am truly blessed to have a fantastic family – both immediate and extended.  It’s easy to take something for granted when it is a constant in your day to day life, but that’s one of the strengths of my family – it is a constant.  Speaking with my sister last week, she commented that our families are pretty similar – probably slightly boring – but boring can be good!  I’ve had some interesting chats with dad over the weeks which has been great, and also helped him play sudoku (which he is still better than me at!). Mum has had loads of support from family (especially her sister) which has helped with looking after dad.  Barbara and I went on a lovely walk together, which was great just spending time being on our own, chatting and ‘doing lunch’.

Faith:  Church life quickly springs back into action after the busyness of Christmas and we have had some good times.  Our monthly ‘Overflow’ service was great with lots of people being spoken to.  We had our first Worship Team training session a couple of weeks ago which I was really pleased with – mainly seeing new people emerge and take new things on, and doing them very well!  This I find exciting!  We continue to meet as a Leadership Team each week, and I’m sure God has lots of blessings in store for our church throughout the coming year.  I am thankful for an incredibly supportive Worship Team and Leadership Team.

Work:  I started a Level 5 Diploma in Management this month (with Barbara) and I’m up to date with all that I need to do which is a relief – we are only a few weeks in though!!  I am working on a couple of large and interesting projects at the moment which should keep me busy for the next few months on top of my usual responsibilities.  My teaching continues to  be as busy as I need, which is amazing considering the financial pressures on many households.  I am blessed to have two jobs that, for the vast majority of time, I enjoy.  (I don’t think there is any job that is always perfect if you’re dealing with people!)

So… ups and downs in January, yes – but still a huge amount to be thankful for.

Highlights of the month…
  • Going out with Barbara for a walk and lunch.
  • Forgetting I was leading at church last Sunday and being told two minutes before the service started was not good – but it certainly made me rely of God which is always a highlight!

Points to ponder…

  • Do you take time to think on the blessings as much as the more difficult times?
  • What are you thankful for in January?

time – a bit of a juggling act

We get into a routine of doing things week by week, month by month.  I can be incredibly busy, but as long as my routine doesn’t change too much, I’m pretty much able to cope with that.  I would certainly rather be busy and doing something useful than sitting around twiddling my thumbs.  In fact, when I do have some time free from the usual routine, you’ll find me pottering around the house doing all of the little jobs that have been waiting for ages to do – this makes me happy!

Recently, while looking after my boys we spent ages designing and building a lego house – complete with garage and swimming pool.  We also spent the best part of a day making a Christmas decoration and some other bits out of MDF last week.  These times are great.

And so, life goes on – until something messes up my routine!  Then organising my time really does feel like a juggling act.  Trying to prioritise doing this or that, while not upsetting or letting down people can be pretty hard.

Back in September, I made a conscious decision not to make myself too busy over this Christmas period.  Last year I was shattered by the time New Year came, and thankfully we had booked a short break to recoup.  Adding to my time pressure this year was the fact that my dads’ health was deteriorating and so, naturally, I wanted to spend more time with him.  Having to re-prioritise my ‘usual routine’ brought some challenges, and some interesting observations.

We sometimes think that ‘we are the only ones that can do the job’ (unless that’s only me?).  In reality this is rarely the case – it’s usually the case that someone else will do it just as well, but maybe differently.

What I’ve found over the last few months, as I’ve been with dad more and had to step back from some  commitments are two things…

1. I have a fantastic support network.  From family to church to work – all have been there to give me some time out, cover for when I should be doing things and generally being supportive.

2.  Other people can do jobs just as well as me (and probably better in many cases)!  Given opportunity, it’s amazing to see people head up areas of work which they wouldn’t have been so willing to do if I were around to do it.

I consider myself an inclusive, encouraging sort of guy, but I wonder if sometimes I get in the way of other people reaching their full potential.  It’s certainly given me some things to think about…

Points to ponder…

  • Where would we be without or support network?
  • How can we actively try to ‘give away’ some area of responsibility and encourage someone to develop?
  • How would we respond if someone asked us to take on a new responsibility – and with what attitude would we do it?

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