LOCKDOWN LIFE LESSONS (2). (INTERACTIVE SERIES)

Welcome back to my new interactive series of journal prompts / contemplation points to help us together to navigate our way forwards through 2020. Instead of looking back and feeling that it has been a negative or wasted time, I hope this series will help us to learn more about ourselves and find the ‘hidden treasure’ of this year.

If you haven’t yet seen my first post in this series, please take a look at my main page and you’ll find it there, just before this one. Feel free to start and stop this journey and take things at your own pace to make the most of these times of reflection. And as always, you are so very welcome to share your thoughts in the comments.

So without further ado, here is the second prompt:

(2). Think of at least one thing that you had taken for granted, or not appreciated fully before the 2019/20 pandemic.

I’m sure that I’m not alone in the awareness that there are so many things that I have not fully appreciated, even though I try to cultivate an ‘attitude of gratitude’ on a daily basis. We can be thankful for many things, yet sometimes it takes a crisis to more fully and deeply appreciate them.

There are *so* many things – faith, family, friends, health, homes, food, clothing, the internet and maintaining connections, blue skies, the very ability to breathe and to be given the gift of life each new morning we wake.

I think this question can take us to deep places of gratitude for many different things that we may usually be thankful for, but not quite as deeply so. I’m so thankful for all of the relationships, people and things I’ve mentioned above, however, for this post I want to express my appreciation for one thing in particular: the health care service and all the people who make it work.

I live in the United Kingdom, and here we are very fortunate and blessed to have the National Health Service where most treatment is free. I have friends in America who always have to worry about health insurance, and even crowd-funding long-term treatments for their health problems, whereas here we never have to think of such things. Sure, there may be costs for adults undergoing dental treatment and such like, but GP consultations, prescribed medications, hospital treatment, mental health and psychological care, and the list goes on – it is all FREE to the patient.

And while we have been in the midst of the pandemic, doctors, nurses, auxiliary staff, administrators and a whole host of people have been working tirelessly, sacrificing their own wellbeing, time with their families, and in some heroic cases even their own lives, in their commitment to helping and caring for other people.

We had a weekly ‘clap for carers’, however, even after these things fade away, I know that I should be so deeply appreciative of the people and systems that work tirelessly to preserve and improve the quality of human life. I hope the government will appropriately and financially honour those who do so much for our society.

Yes, this is something I am deeply grateful for, and am so very thankful for during this pandemic.

What about you? What positive thing can you take a moment or two to be appreciative of as you think of this year so far? If you need a few ideas, how about these as starting points for you to explore some thing or various things that you recognise have been a real gift and blessing to you through this experience, even if indirectly:

Prompts:

Family

Friendships

Health

Faith community

Food

Water

Medicines

Company

Work

Mental Health

The ability to breathe

Life

Communications

Support groups

Home

Sunshine

Community support

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Lockdown Life Lessons (1). (Interactive Series)

Slowly but surely, we are beginning to emerge from what in some places around the world has been a complete lockdown due to the coronavirus.

Hopefully we are seeing some ‘green shoots’ of recovery, although the recovery process may well be far from linear, and a global journey of learning that needs to be taken carefully, wisely and cautiously for the sake of public health and wellbeing.

However, as certain restrictions are being relaxed in various places, and we begin to embark upon this ‘new normal’ that everyone keeps talking about (while none of us know exactly what this means or what it will look like), many people are beginning to reflect upon what they have learned during lockdown.

Perhaps this is something you have been thinking about too. The coronavirus, changes in society, and in our personal lives have all served to highlight that when striving towards what is good, we are better together.

That is why, as I embark upon considering some of the lessons I have learned, I’d like to bring you on the journey with me with prompts to help you reflect upon your own experiences and learning curves. Maybe you could grab a notebook or journal or even keep a note on your electronic device so that you can look back over these lessons as you move forwards, and get the most out of this reflective exercise.

To begin with, my first prompt is to pose the question:

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  1. What has been the most unchanging, steadfast and dependable aspect of your life that you have been able to cling to throughout these changing times? Conversely, if you don’t have an answer to that, then what had you been depending on before that turned out not to be so reliable, and what have you learned from that realisation?

My answer to this question is the Reality of God in my life has been the most unchanging, steadfast and dependable thing. I’ve had lots of ups and downs in my life before this, and found both then and now that when I couldn’t see a way forward, or when I didn’t have the strength to make it through, Jesus Christ Has never left me nor forsaken me and Is Faithful and Good and Loving and Powerful in any and all circumstances.

Now it’s your turn – take a few moments to reflect upon this question for yourself, and consider what you have learned and what you might need to change in your life going forwards. Write it down in your notebook, or in a document, or maybe do something creative so that you have a ‘look-back-book’ (I think I just coined a new phrase, lol) for what you have learned during this unique time in world history. Also, I’d be delighted if you wanted to share you answer or answers in the comments below so that I and others can learn from you too.

Feel free to follow my blog so that you can see when I post the next prompts in this interactive series. 🙂

Peace. x

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Small Steps Forwards…

We’ve all been living through a time of change and of readjustments. For some, such changes have been drastic and even life changing, for others the changes have been adapting to new routines and day to day restrictions.

And here we all are, once again, facing change as societies across the world venture into adapting to a ‘new normal’ and gradually or perhaps in some places more dramatically, moving forwards.

So, how do you feel about all of these major and minor adjustments in your own life? Has lockdown helped you to learn more about yourself and how you cope with and adapt to changes? Does the prospect of a ‘new normal’ feel daunting to you? Have you spent your time in a kind of hiatus and now are looking to re-engage with your life in more meaningful ways, yet don’t quite know how to go about it?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Many people have varying degrees of anxiety specifically about moving forwards with all of the societal changes we’ve been facing particularly around the coronavirus.

You might be facing challenges around your employment, you might have to physically leave your home and commute to get to your work and all these things can be quite daunting.

But those things aside, what about finding ways to keep moving forwards in your personal growth? Perhaps you have had more time to focus on such matters during lockdown, or perhaps things have been too busy that you have had to let such things take a back seat.

As you look to moving forwards, think of those small and simple steps that you can take to get back into things.

Maybe, like me, you had more pressing priorities during lockdown and you haven’t been able to blog for a while. Try taking the small step forwards of dipping your toe back into the water and writing a short post. And then keep going as and when you can.

Maybe you need to look after your body better after spending a long spell of time indoors. Start today with something manageable, a bit of exercise, even if 5 minutes is all you can manage, and build it up from there.

Do you feel like you’ve been disconnected from people and don’t know how to re-engage with society? Think about reaching out to a trusted friend, take that first step, ask how someone else is doing, and allow things to take shape in their own way and time, even if that means facing silence or rejection. At least you will have tried, and you can take some confidence from that to keep trying to take new steps.

Does going outside seem daunting? Start small. Plan a short walk, be prepared with all your health and safety measures and gradually ease yourself back into the outside world.

Do you feel like you’ve been overly preoccupied or worried with certain aspects of your life? Try to do something that will help your mind move in a more positive direction. Perhaps you could read a book, do a crossword, have a conversation with someone positive, do something you enjoy.

Do you find the thought of doing certain things daunting? Can you reach out to a friend and share those thoughts with them? Maybe they feel the same, and maybe you can mutually help each other face those changes together.

Wherever you are at, there is no doubt that things always feel more overwhelming when we try to tackle them all in one go. Instead of seeing the mountain before you as a challenge to conquer, see the mountain and just take that one next step. We each can only live one moment at a time, yet all of these little moments add up and shape our choices and the direction of our lives.

Has it been a while since you have prayed? Start now. Have you forgotten gratitude? Write down three things you are grateful for today. Have you found it difficult to blog and are struggling to know how to come back to things? Write a paragraph, post a picture, share the little that is in your hand today, knowing and believing that someone else may benefit from it. Life is full, but we have to participate. We have to reach up in faith to find what we are meant to do and be on this earth while we have the chance. I look up to Jesus everyday, for all the Fulness of Life, Love, Goodness and Truth Is found in Him. And He Who holds all things together, also cares about the tiniest of details. So start small, start in faith and see where those small beginnings might lead you. Perhaps on the adventure of your lifetime! x

Before The Restrictions End…

It’s been quite a year so far, hasn’t it?!

I remember towards the end of 2019 I was writing a lot, blogging about ways to stay safe and well during the winter seasons, I think I may even have called my long series of posts a ‘winter survival guide’.

This year, the words ‘stay safe and well’ and ‘survival’ seem to be on everyone’s lips, and have taken on a different meaning with the novel experience of living through a pandemic.

All across the world countries have been forced to react to the coronavirus, something that has been termed as humanity’s ‘common enemy’, affecting people all across the globe, irrespective of borders, time zones, or any other of our usual ‘limitations’.

Who could have known, at the start of 2020 – a year which sounded so ‘perfect’ and which many people referenced as the year of 20-20 ‘Vision’ – that the world would be struck with a pandemic that started out in an outdoor market and slowly but relentlessly spread from country to country, and across the continents, leaving very few places untouched?

If you had asked people at the start of the year what they envisaged for their lives in 2020, some would have said they hoped to travel more, to graduate from school, college or university, to get married, to build up their businesses, to visit new places, to work on their careers, to spend more time with their families, to start a family.

What was on your list of hopes and dreams at the start of the year?

Did anyone include something like ‘to slow down and learn to appreciate life more’?

Many of us have spent extended periods of time in ‘lockdown’, in a whole variety of situations according to our unique circumstances. Yet one thing you often hear is that the enforced time away from our usual routines and busyness has caused many people to reflect on their lives, to ‘take stock’ of what is truly important and to reconsider their priorities and how they have been spending their time.

We are now gradually, across the world, albeit at different rates, trying to establish what has been deemed as a ‘new normal’, to venture back out into the world again and to try to re-engage with society so far and as safe as it is to do so in our own countries and circumstances.

Restrictions still remain in place in a variety of ways, but we slowly see them easing. Before the restrictions end, will you take a little bit of time to consider what you have gleaned from your reflections of life during lockdown?

How have your priorities changed, if at all? Are there things or influences you need to let go of, or reprioritise? And fundamentally, what is the foundation upon which you have been building your life? Will it stand the test of time, of changing circumstances, and ultimately even of death?

I personally know that the only sure foundation to build our lives and eternities upon is the Rock of Jesus Christ. He Alone Is Unchanging and Unshakeable – even in death.

Perhaps this is something you have been pondering or would like to ponder.

Wherever you are in life, or however ‘easy’ or difficult lockdown has been for you, there is little doubt that it would have caused you to stop and think.

Some people seem in such a rush and a hurry to get back into the busy ways of society, but they risk losing out on the very important lessons that have or could have been learned during this unusual phase in our lives, and indeed in world history.

What has caused you to stop and think?

What changes do you feel compelled to make?

What are you more deeply grateful for?

What foundation are you building your life upon?

These are just a few of the questions that we would do well to delve more deeply into while we have the time, before restrictions end.

Love and Peace to you all. x

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Living life as it happens…

“All the best laid plans of mice and men….” and all that ! 🙂

Hi Friends,

How are you all? I hope everyone is muddling through this pandemic as best you all can. I apologise that I have been absent for some time, and I understand if anyone has not noticed, because who can really keep up with things and keep on top of everything these days?

I had actually written several posts on surviving the pandemic, and you may have read a few of them – however, I have many more that I had written in advance and saved, ready to post. Yet, I’m wondering if I’ve missed my moment with them as lockdown has been in the process of easing around the world at different times.

To catch you up on things, I’ve been fairly busy with work, researching and writing reports on best practice for easing work restrictions and in reinstating public health related services – a bit of a change from my normal subject areas, but it’s been good to feel a bit ‘useful’ in helping with the Covid-19 effort, knowing that there are so many people going so far above and beyond by putting their own lives at risk in the health care services for example, among many other areas, but it’s a good time to encourage each other that all our efforts, big or small all add up to help our communities.

I’ve also had a brief stint joining a larger effort as a volunteer on a helpline to check in on people who are ‘Shielding’ due to their health conditions during the pandemic, and to see how the Council can help them. Despite sometimes feeling nervous on the phone, I must say I enjoyed it and felt a real sense of connection with people in the city that I would never otherwise have had any contact with – some doing really well, and others struggling, but relieved that there are avenues for support. It also gave me the opportunity to speak on the phone to a variety of people which was a novelty since I’ve been in lockdown in my flat for three months now without any human company.

I’ve been valuing the chance to slow down and invest more in my relationship with God and in daily creativity and have ventured outside for a few walks although recently the fear of going outside (being a ‘visible minority’ and all) has been a factor on top of the coronavirus that has seen me become a bit more of a ‘home bird’. We’ve had some quite sunny days here in Scotland, it’s been sweltering at points, but today is ‘dreich’ and rainy so venturing outside wouldn’t really have been in my plans anyway 🙂

I have also been engaging with some excellent teaching and resources on Creative Christianity and the outflow of creativity in our identity as image bearers of the Living God, The Creator of all things. It has been wonderful, a real breath of fresh air as it is not something that I usually hear taught, especially with looking at craftsmanship and creativity throughout the Word of God – amazing! 🙂

Other than that I’m hanging in there as many of you are also doing. I hope you’ve been finding deep pockets of joy throughout this pandemic, and I know that for many it has been very hard with job losses, financial worries, grief, health struggles and family or relationship challenges….sending as much love as my tiny heart can muster up – knowing that the Living God has boundless Love for you and just longs for you to reach out to Him.

I pray that this next season (can you believe we’re almost entering July?!) finds you well, safe and healthy and resourceful in a time of communal challenge and change.

Take care on your journey, friends. x

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My Blog Is Three Years Old! :) Thank You for being part of the journey :) x

I’m celebrating the three year anniversary of starting my blog – it has been a journey I am so glad I have started, and that has been made all the more fulfilling by having you all as part of it.

Thank you so much for taking time to read, comment and post on my blog, I am so grateful for that.

Also, sorry that it seems to be a few weeks now since I last posted (time does fly when you’re in the midst of a pandemic and social change!). It has been a time of adjustment for us all with so much happening in the world that is impacting upon our daily lives. Yet, I have not forgotten about you or my blog – of now three years 🙂 ….

So hopefully it won’t be too long before I can be blogging regularly once more.

Sending love and positivity to you all, and hope this finds you all safe and well in otherwise uncertain times.

Thanks for celebrating with me and for your part in my journey. x

white red and yellow tulip flowers
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Surviving The Pandemic Together. Words of Encouragement (22): *A nice safe space*.

*A nice safe space*.


For those of you with gardens, you may be sorted with this one 😉 For the rest of us, we may be apprehensive to go out even for that once a day form of exercise. I am, as I live in a building with a footfall of hundreds of people within the two blocks of ten and twenty stories, with each floor having at least 6 or 7 flats housing single people, couples, small and larger families. I feel safer and more socially responsible staying inside.


I think it would be a helpful thing for us all to have a nice safe space in our homes or our gardens where we can be ‘tech free’, switch off from the world for a few minutes, and relax and enjoy. Something much needed for our mental and emotional health in these days. Feel free to share pictures of your little ‘getaways’ to inspire, uplift and encourage others reading this. Alternatively, the ‘blanket fort’ is a popular choice – # staycation vibes. 😉 😎 Don’t compare with others, and make the best of what you’ve got .

Here is a little look into my attempts to recreate a beach-house vibe 🙂

Rest well. x

3

 

Surviving The Pandemic Together. Words of Encouragement (21): *Time on your hands? Deal with some stuff*

*Time on your hands? Deal with some stuff*

We all have this immediate threat to deal with. Currently it is taking up most of our collective consciousness, attention and energy. While in ‘lockdown’ we may initially find ourselves regularly watching the news or keeping updated on what is happening around the world and in our own area. We will also be putting a lot of time and attention into figuring out how to adjust to a new way of being where our freedoms have been curtailed and our routines changed. We will be concerned about practicalities such as health, food supplies, shopping, child care, work, money and so on.


We don’t know how long it will be before this virus abates and before it becomes safe again to have some kind of semblance in society to the lives we lived before. At a minimum it will be weeks, but looking at the reality of the situation it could reasonably be months. We will have to think again and revisit how we will manage the above concerns over a longer period of time, but after we have got some kind of handle on that, and how we will use our time to the best of our abilities, we will also have another opportunity.


At the moment we are in a kind of ‘survival mode’, although our actual lives may not be at risk if we are fortunate enough to be the healthy ones who are safely tucked away in our own homes. Humans adapt to change, and we all will in a strange way ‘get used’ to this new way of life. One that affords us the opportunity to do some deep work, and deal with some of our ‘stuff’. While having spring indoors may be the perfect time for a ‘spring clean’, the real work is dealing with our internal ‘stuff’.


We all have baggage. We all have emotional and psychological pain to some extent, and it’s not going to go away just because we’re in the middle of a pandemic with more pressing concerns.


In the rush and hurry of lives once lived traveling to work, filling our minds with entertainment, sports, distractions, concerts, travel, events, nights out, socialising, trips to the cinema, dinners with friends, taking pictures of our meals and posting them instantly online, we have a tendency to ‘stuff’ our issues down, and they may be bubbling under the surface for years, for some of us they may ‘explode’ and bubble over at times of great stress or change, or even rest when we can no longer distract ourselves from them with more pressing concerns or with frivolities.


You can choose to continue to distract, to fill your minds with escapism, or you can take even a little bit of space and time to truly seek how to live life with a lighter load.
This catastrophe has show us that none of us are sufficient in and of ourselves (and if you are like me and have lived many years in weakness and fear, then you will already be well aware f that fact).


It is a time to look at what are the flimsy crutches you have been using to prop yourself up, and which have now been pulled away from you. What will actually keep you standing through this storm? Are you going to continue to cling to the idols of distraction and entertainment or are you going seek a bit deeper?


What are some of the things you have been shoving down that you can no longer avoid facing up to?
– Fear of death and dying.
– Selfishness.
-A broken heart.
-Grief.
-A troubled past.
-A struggling or broken relationship.
-Prioritising work over your family.
-Never having enough time for other people.
-Depression.
-Loneliness.
-Fear of being alone.
-Unforgiveness.
-The scars of separation, divorce, family conflict.
-Insecurity.
-Mental health struggles.
-Your fear of the future.
-Your ideas of what it means to be ‘successful’ in life.
-Your worth or value as a human being, in comparison with those around you – doesn’t this tragedy show us that from Princes to Paupers, we are all essentially the ‘same’ and equally vulnerable.
-The people you haven’t spoken to for years, but wished you could reconcile with.
-The things that might be left unsaid and done before it’s too late.
-Your children’s futures.
-Your addictions.
-What you think will happen after death.
-How you want to spend your time before you die.
-What kind of legacy will you be leaving.
-Should you make that will?
-What do you look to for hope and comfort?
-Why you have resisted getting in touch with that person, and whether you will regret it if you don’t.
-Your freedom to live.
-Childhood trauma and pain.
-Confidence issues to step up and be the person you were born to be in this world….while there is still time.


We have an opportunity to choose not to carry bags of regret throughout the rest of our lives, however long or short they may turn out to be. Only you know what is in the ‘junk drawers’ of your heart and mind. Is it time for a clear out? Is it time to face the fear and open the drawers? Is it time to ask for help from someone who can actually take these burdens from you?
Maybe it is or it isn’t I don’t know. But it is definitely a time for us all to think and to reflect more than we usually allow ourselves to do.

person holding black backpack
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Surviving The Pandemic Together. Words of Encouragement (20): *Do you want to survive or thrive in lockdown?*

*Do you want to survive or thrive in lockdown?*


We’re all somewhat anxiously finding ways to adjust to this new and unwanted ‘normal’. While we may be able to enjoy more time at home, and have more time to do things, it is under awful circumstances, and so it can be hard to settle and to concentrate on anything much.


We all have a choice here. To survive or thrive in lockdown. The third option is to go under, and that’s not a pleasant place to be. Many of us will have experienced times in our lives that have felt dark, scary and as if things are falling in upon us. We need to be strong and not let that be an option here. My heart goes out to those who are living in terrible domestic situations or even homeless in this time, such that ‘thriving’ isn’t really an option. But for the rest of us who are safe at home, we do have options. 


Unless we have vision, we’re going to simply drift along, trying to muddle through each day as best as we can. If you want to thrive in this situation, you’re going to have to put your mind to it. We’re part of a unique time in history, and I personally don’t want my ‘legacy’ or ‘fruit’ of this season to be merely having spent all of my time playing computer games, watching films, or sharing random videos on social media. Do you? We need to step up if we want more than that for ourselves and our communities.


If you’re in this with me, then I encourage you to write down at least three things that you want to accomplish, work on, or build up during this time. You don’t need to share it with anyone, but you do need to be clear about what these things are. That way, even if you don’t have a solid routine (and who does in a time like this anyway?), you can still ‘chip away’ at things little by little, day by day, moving purposefully and with focus and direction.

Perhaps once you’ve written them down, share them with at least one other person, or simply display them somewhere for you to see and to keep yourself accountable by.
It can also help us to focus so that we don’t give in to the stress, sadness and negativity of this situation.


What about you? What focus will you have to help you more than just ‘muddle through’ this stressful and challenging time?

Surviving The Pandemic Together. Words of Encouragement (19): *Swords and spades*.

*Swords and spades*.


The initial cheers for our frontline workers (medics, virologists, drivers, supermarket workers, cleaners, crematorium staff, care workers, the list goes on…) across the globe felt like a crescendo of encouragement, ‘rallying the troops’. In this pandemic, countries are not warring with each other, but rallying together against a common global enemy.
Perhaps being isolated, you have felt helpless and alone in this strange catastrophe. Yet, the scenes we have witnessed and been part of, open a window to the many others who are all ‘on the same team’.


Now, we’re collectively fighting Coronavirus, and I sincerely hope that the ‘troops on the frontline’ feel a bit more refreshed and appreciated in their ongoing battle.
Let me just get back to the image of everyone clapping outside their homes, or from their homes. We are not isolated, although tucked away inside, we are not alone, and we *all* have a part to play, no matter how small that might feel to you at the moment, we all have a crucial role to play in ‘blocking those gaps’ against this unseen enemy, by staying at home, by good hygiene, and by supporting other people in a variety of ways, and also by taking care of ourselves.


You may be wondering why I have titled this post ‘swords and spades’. I’m glad you asked ! 😉 Some of you I’m well aware will already know, and that gives me a boost of confidence for a variety of reasons 🙏👌.


For those of you who don’t yet know, if we look back in history, there was a man named Nehemiah who was an ordinary and decent man, living in 5th Century BC, who found himself in extraordinarily difficult circumstances. We have witnessed news of wars and terrorism all across the world, and Nehemiah lived at a time where he was living in the midst of constant attacks from groups of people who wanted to destroy and crush those he knew, those he worked with, those he loved, an entire group of people just going about their lives. As enemies descended upon them with distressing regularity, they found their daily lives to be changed and challenged.


In front of *their* own homes, each and every one of them had to be part of a defence and recovery mission. Literally, with a sword in one hand an a tool for building in the other they had to both defend themselves against attack, and also collectively build together what was constantly being broken down. Just as in a previous post where I talked about the image of us bringing our ‘shields’ together in mutual defence and protection, I am sure you can see the analogies here with our own situation, from these actual events in history.


What figuratively are the swords and spades you are able to use, each from our own homes, in a collective and united effort?


What are your means of protection, and what are your instruments and skills to rebuild what is being broken?


Remember that you are part of a great and collective effort against all of this distress and unseen attack, and no small effort is wasted. Keep going, you fight and build with millions around the globe, so be encouraged! You are making a difference, but you shouldn’t let your guard down. Keep protecting, keep rebuilding.


(For those who are also fighting and defending on another level, a different ‘frontline’ where the battle is real and fierce, remember it is fought and won on our knees! Have vision and remember the stakes are even higher in this one, so pray and allow the Light to break through the darkness. Our Commander in Chief has got this. 😉 🙏👌💪

ancient antique armor armour
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man planting plant
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