So, it’s a dark, cold and rainy winter’s night. You’ve watched all the things you want for the night, you’ve had some reading time, you want something interesting to do and think about.
Why not read your blog from over the past year? I don’t know about you, but I spend a lot of time writing my blog, in comparison to how much time I ever spend looking back and reading and reflecting upon old posts.
And yet, I feel like having this is such a blessing in my life, because it captures my thoughts about life as I live and go through my days. I think it’s wonderful that I have this record to look back upon and see what I’ve been learning and not just what I have done.
Maybe you haven’t blogged as much as you have wanted to this year, and that’s ok, but if you have written a few posts, why not spend one of these winter nights in just taking the time to read what you have written and get an idea of how you have grown and changed over the year and what you have learned.
You might actually find some really helpful and insightful ‘nuggets’ from what you yourself have written to share with other people. Give it a go, and enjoy the journey! 🙂
“Here we are as in olden days, happy golden days of yore, faithful friends who are dear to us gather near to us once more, through the years we all will be together…“
Can you think of other Christmas songs that warm our hearts with sentiments of togetherness, love, friendship, kinship and cosy happy times?
There are also many other songs, not particularly related to this season that also speak of the bonds we share and our need for one another:
“I’ll get by with a little help from my friends…”
“I won’t be afraid, I won’t shed a tear, just as long as you stand, stand by me”
“Lean on me, when you’re not strong, I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on, for it won’t be long till I’m gonna’ need somebody to lean all….I’m right up the road, I’ll share your load, if you just call me….”
We have to realise that we all need each other, and we were created to be that way too. However, we live in an increasingly fractured and individualistic society, where we may feel ashamed or frightened to admit that we are as human as everyone else and need some help, support or friendship.
If you’re in this situation, please receive the encouragement from someone who has been in need and has at various times in my life had to reach out for help when I just couldn’t get through life on my own. It’s normal, it’s ok, and we all need each other. Someday you’ll be the one lending a helping hand, another day you might be the one needing help, life ebbs and flows and changes like the seasons.
Don’t be afraid to reach out for help, and ask someone. Express what you need and ask for help. Sure, you might not receive a favourable response at all times, but ‘keep asking, seeking and knocking’ and you will come to an open door.
Don’t allow pride to keep you from the help and support that may be readily and generously available to you. Maybe the help you need is something fairly straightforward but that would make a real difference to you – you might be hosting a dinner party, and find that things are getting a bit hard to manage in preparing for it – in that case, why not ask a friend to help you do the cooking, or better still if there are a group of you then ask everyone to bring a dish, ‘pot luck’ style so that the work is shared and you all can spend more time focusing on enjoying each others company?
Your needs might be of a deeper and more serious nature, and in that case I definitely encourage you to please reach out and ask for help. It may be that you are going through a hard time with your mental and emotional health. Even if you don’t know anyone personally to turn to, there will be a doctor, a helpline, an organisation or charity that you can reach out to, to help tide you through this difficult time.
We all need each other, and none of us are meant to go it alone. Don’t talk yourself out of pursuing help if you are in need, simply because someone else has rejected you at some time or another – I’ve been turned down, and refused help when I was at my weakest and most vulnerable, but those people weren’t meant to be the ones to be there for me – others came along and were a real ‘God-send’. Receiving help from others enabled me to eventually get back up on my feet and lean hard into God’s strength so that I don’t need other people in the same way right now and I can use this strength that I have received to help and encourage other people.
If you are struggling to reach out and ask for help, try thinking of it this way – the help you allow yourself to receive today, could lead to the strength you have ‘tomorrow’ (some time in the future) to be the one to support and help someone else. Surely that is worth it?
Helping others is often very good for us too. As the winter season draws in, it is not uncommon with the drop in temperatures, the low light levels, and shorter days for out mood to also drop.
We can become sluggish, lethargic and inwardly focused if we are not careful. Offering to help someone else can help us to keep an outward focus, think about the needs of other people, feel more productive and be more active.
You don’t need to overstretch yourself, but if you are in the position to, why not offer to help someone else with something?
Does your mum need help to organise a family event? Would your wife appreciate your help cooking dinner? Can you pick up some things from the shops for your elderly neighbour while you are doing your own shopping? Can you help a younger brother or sister prepare for their nativity play? Can you help with organising a particular event in your community, or babysit for a friend so that they can get a bit of a break?
Helping others ‘survive’ and thrive this winter can also go a long way to helping ourselves too. x
We all have that something, don’t we? That something, or maybe even a bunch of things, that we keep meaning to get around to doing some day. Not necessarily great big things, but just those ‘niggly’ little things that maybe aren’t urgent but we know we need or want to do.
If you’re wondering what I mean, let me share with you some of my things that I’ve been meaning to ‘get around to’ for quite a while:
-Add addresses into my address book (an actual book, not an electronic version).
-Sort out my paper work.
-Tidy out my spare room, so that I can eventually turn this unintentional ‘storage room’ into a guest room.
-Reorganise my kitchen cupboard.
-Print out photos from the past couple of years to make an album.
– Meet up with a couple of friends to do creative things and play the violin together.
-Make an appointment with the doctor / dentist.
-Get new ceiling / spot lights and get them fitted as quite a few have stopped working.
Hopefully that gives you more of an idea of what the things you’ve been meaning to ‘get around to’ could be, or maybe you are well aware of them, but like me, you just never quite get around to them! 🙂 🙂
Maybe it’s not even something that takes too much effort, it could be that there’s a particular novel that you’ve wanted to read, but you just haven’t ….yes you guessed it…..got around to it, yet.
Or maybe there’s a job needing done in your kitchen, not a big home-improvement project, but just something needing fixed. There could be a bit of your garden that you want to tidy before the weather gets too cold. Maybe you want to reorganise, or get organised with your household system (or create one if you aren’t quite at the point of having any workable systems yet). Maybe you’ve been meaning to call a friend to check in on them and see how they’re doing for a while, but the days just slip by. Or maybe there’s an email you wanted to write. Perhaps you want to create a scrapbook of memories from your family holiday, but instead of doing so, you let all the ‘bits and pieces’ you want to include in it remain scattered here and there around your house. Maybe you’ve been meaning to write out some recipes and update your recipe book if you’ve got one, or maybe you even want to try cooking or baking something new that you’ve been meaning to.
Whatever it is, sometimes we just need to remind ourselves of what we’ve been meaning to get around to, and a bit of a nudge into action. How easy would it be to spend one of these winter days or evenings just doing that simple thing that we’ve been meaning to do, or at least make a start on it?
For example, I could choose the photos I want to get printed and make a folder on my computer and then it will be easier when I do go to send off to get them printed.
Maybe I could spend some time one evening making a list or inventory of the specific lights in particular rooms that I need to get fixed so that I know how many I actually need.
I could write in one address at a time into my address book.
I could spend half an hour at the weekend tidying up my spare room, and at least I would have made a start.
Some of the ‘niggly’ wee jobs needing done can be done there and then. For things that might take longer, at least starting out, even if it’s just a small start will hopefully give us the opportunity to build momentum until we’ve accomplished that thing that we keep meaning to do.
So what is it that you’ve been meaning to get around to doing? And are you actually going to decide to get around to it in this season? 🙂
Maybe you grew up enjoying some beautiful festive family traditions. Maybe you didn’t, but you longed for them. Either way, why not start a new tradition, whether you are single, in a relationship, have family of your own or will be sharing your time with friends. Regardless of your past or your circumstances now, you can always start anew.
A few years ago, I decided to start a new ‘tradition’ of my own, if ‘new tradition’ isn’t too much of an apparent contradiction that is! 🙂 I went to Berlin and Potsdam and visited the Christmas markets there, and I bought some tree decorations to hang on my Christmas tree. Since then, I have gone to Christmas markets more locally with friends, and each year I try to get a new decoration to hang on my tree. A few of these are beautifully carved, unique, wooden decorations, and on the back I can write in very small handwriting the date and place so that in the future I can remember where I got them. I like to add one new decoration to the tree each year, and I like it to be meaningful, and from an event or experience such as from somewhere I’ve been with friends or family (or by myself as was the case with the one in Berlin).
The decorations don’t need to be from a Christmas market (I also have some hand made ones I made myself the year I had my first Christmas craft stall), just one new item each year, and it’s nice to see these personal touches adding up, and hopefully if or when I have a family of my own I will be able to continue this on and share it with them.
What ‘traditions’ do you have, or what new things would you like to start? x
In my last post (21) I wrote about taking time out just to ‘be’ and to enjoy doing nothing in particular. This post explores taking time out to reflect and to deal with some of our ‘stuff’. Not the stuff in our attics, spare rooms, garages or basements – but to spend a bit of time sorting out what’s overflowing from our ’emotional junk drawers’ in our hearts and minds.
Hopefully we’ll all have a bit of time this season where we can have even at least a day or two to ourselves to rest and reflect. If we think we don’t have this time, then maybe we are not being intentional in making this time for ourselves (time we would otherwise spend watching TV perhaps).
The new calendar year will be upon us in a matter of weeks, and the general mood of new years, and beginnings of various sorts tends to be geared more towards action rather than reflection. Those around you, as well as the things you read and see in the media, will be imparting messages of goals, things to accomplish, plans and experiences.
This time of the year, however, lends naturally to reflection, to taking time to pause and ponder, to rest and be thankful, to look back before looking forwards, to re-evaluate where we are and where we need to go. It is also a time for being honest with ourselves and taking time to deal with some of our ‘stuff’ emotionally and mentally.
We can choose to view some of our struggles as blessings. For example, this time of year can bring certain things in our lives more sharply into focus. Light might be shed upon our true feelings and motives, for example, the sociable nature of this season might reveal our inner loneliness; the frivolity and consumerism might pull on our heart strings to search for something deeper and more meaningful in our lives; the end of one year might nudge us into reflection as to whether we have made the best use of our time or simply been frittering it away.
As much as we need plans, and to take action, we also need to do this purposefully and to do so requires quieter times of thinking and reflection.
Moving forwards also requires letting go of some of the burdens that we carry. We might be allowing things from our past to hold us back from stepping into the future that we long for. Perhaps we need healing, need time to seek counsel, therapy and to get help with how to deal with traumas or difficulties in our lives. This can be a long road, but we have to start somewhere and we don’t have to do it all at once. We often face a ‘stop-start’ process in any journey of self-reflection, repentance, healing, recovery and change. But the thing is to start, to reflect upon what is needed to go from where we are to where we are meant to be.
I am blessed in that I don’t take this journey alone. Jesus Is my Shepherd, King, Healer and Lord, and He leads me forward with grace and peace. There is healing that only He can bring and things that only He can do. There are also certain things that I must do to cooperate and participate in the process – things like renewing my mind, working on difficult issues, forgiving, letting go, and reframing the way I think about difficulties I have experienced. These things, like the changing of the seasons take time.
But it’s important that we do take time to reflect upon our lives and to consider what things we have been ‘stuffing down’ deep within our hearts, and into our subconscious that we hope will just ‘go away’, things that actually in their time need to be dealt with in order for us to go forwards in our journey with a greater understanding, appreciation of life, sense of identity and purpose.
Will you give yourself some time to do just that this season? You need and deserve it. x
Every now and then we need some ‘down time’ – time out just to ‘be’ and not to do very much, time to enjoy the simple things of life.
Maybe you just need to spend some time ‘pottering about’ at home, with no tasks, commitments or anything in particular to do. Perhaps you have an entire day to yourself and you want to take it a bit easier for a while, and stay indoors and be cosy, maybe you could take a nap, read a book, go for a long hot bath, put together a nice winter outfit, go for a walk in nature, catch up with a friend over coffee, or just wander about with no plans in particular.
Sometimes we need to enjoy doing nothing because the rest of the time we are so busy doing everything else. I love lazy Saturday mornings like that, when I have a bit of ‘me time’ and when I don’t have any appointments, I can just take time and enjoy the simple things, linger over a hot cup of tea, watch birds flying outside my window, do a bit of tidying up at my leisure, listen to some music, read a bit, put on cosy socks and curl up on the couch and watch some TV, phone my family for a chat and a catch up.
Sometimes the simple things are the best things in life. Maybe you have someone special to spend your time doing these things with, or maybe like me, you’re on your own, either way there are so many day to day things and charms that we can find in ‘doing nothing’.
I think the Italians have a phrase for the blessedness of doing nothing: ‘La dolce far niente’.
Are you a people pleaser, a perfectionist, or someone who regularly over commits? Do you often say yes to other people, even if doing so is detrimental to your own physical, mental and emotional health?
If you are any or all of the above, or you habitually say ‘yes’ to everyone and everything, even when the words you are hoping will come out of your mouth are ‘I would if I could, but no thank you…’, then this post is for you!
This time of the year can be a tricky balance between sharing peace and enjoyment with our nearest and dearest, and taking on the lion’s share of the burden of organising, planning, getting things done and keeping everyone happy.
There may be some commitments that you are obligated to fulfil, and can’t get out of. But what about the other things that you end up doing (and I wonder if this is more applicable to the ladies out there) to look after others, help people out, and make things run smoothly simply because everyone else knows you are good at it, have done it in the past, or just expects you to. And of course, you don’t want to disappoint anyone, do you? But what about yourself? Where does your wellbeing come into things if you end up saying yes and overcommitting yourself, leading to stress and anxiety, when what you really want and need to do is to say ‘no’. It’s not always easy to do, but setting boundaries and managing expectations is important in good communication and healthy relationships for ourselves and other people in the long run, as the other person or people may have no idea that you don’t want to do something, and may think you actually enjoy it or want to be the person to do it.
Ok, so maybe there are some family commitments that you know you have to take the lead on or contribute to. You’re looking after what is closest to you. But what about all of the other things that are more on the periphery of your duties and commitments?
Someone asks you to go to an event, but you are feeling ‘stretched’ on all sides, and know that by going you won’t be able to manage your time and commitments in other areas, and it will leave you feeling stressed if you do go. But you don’t want to disappoint the person who asked you. What do you do? Could you try saying a polite ‘no’, thanking them for their offer, and explaining that you have a lot on at the moment, but you appreciate their invitation?
You need to make sure that you are looking after your own health and wellbeing, and that saying ‘yes’ to things is held in balance with what is wise to do. Just because you are an excellent cake maker it doesn’t mean that you need to say ‘yes’ to everyone who asks you to make something for a Christmas party or family event if you are ‘juggling’ other commitments and trying to manage your time and priorities in other ways. Saying ‘no’ might actually give someone else an opportunity to say ‘yes’ to something for a change. What can you think of in your life this season that you might have to pluck up the courage to say ‘no’ to for the sake of your own health and well being? If it is the source of stress and anxiety, consider how crucial it is, and if it is not that important in the grand scheme of things, then try saying ‘no’.
This time of year could be the perfect opportunity for you to experience personal growth, make new connections and step out of your comfort zone. It could also simply mean giving yourself the chance to do something that you enjoy but usually don’t make time for due to competing priorities, or just the ‘hum drum’ of letting daily life trundle along without being too aware of your choices and chances.
Maybe, like me, you’ve had to work hard at overcoming anxiety. Perhaps there is something you’d like to do, some event you’d like to attend, or some new people you’d like to connect with – BUT you are allowing anxious thoughts to talk you out of giving it a go.
Maybe you’re brimming with confidence but are used to doing the ‘same old, same old’ that you haven’t even thought of saying ‘yes’ to that new opportunity.
Perhaps there are people, causes or needs that you can give your time to, to alleviate someone else’s burden at this time of year.
Wherever you find yourself, think about some of the opportunities in your life coming up that you might automatically say ‘no’ to.
Think of whether it is a good and positive opportunity in your life, and if it doesn’t compete with other more important things, and if it ‘ticks these boxes’ and it is something you actually think you can benefit from doing, then try saying ‘yes’.
Who knows where that simple ‘yes’ might take you, and what further doors of opportunity and friendship it might open…..