A fundamental part of what it is to be human is to love, to give, to care, to demonstrate kindness and thoughtfulness towards others.
We all need to know that we are loved, important and valued, and while it is good for us to receive, it is also incredibly important to give…to keep that heart muscle of kindness pumping.
While we need to look after ourselves in order to be able to give of ourselves (and for Christ followers, we know the instruction to ‘Abide’ in Him so that we can ‘bear much fruit’ because apart from Him, The Source of sources, the True Source of Love, Light, Wisdom, Righteousness, Goodness and Truth, apart from Him we can do nothing of eternal significance that will stand the test of His Perfection), we still need to be giving out once we have received.
We exist to love and to be Loved, and yet in this fallen and dark humanity, it can often feel that this is hard to come by. Yet what might take very little effort from us, to reach out to check in on someone and ask if they are ok, to send a note, a text or an email or some other communication in this technologically flourishing world to say ‘I’m thinking of you’ is often something we don’t do often enough.
Is there anyone in your life today who can benefit from your kindness, the power of your gracious words, your time?
Send that text.
Pick up that phone to your family member.
Remember that person who is probably lonely.
Give to a stranger.
Give to a friend.
To be the fullest versions of ourselves we need to be thoughtful Givers as well as receivers. It will benefit not only them, but you as well. Who can you bless with your love today? x
Perhaps you have been reading, following along, or dipping in and out of my ‘Self Care in a Pandemic’ series of blog posts.
If so, I am so encouraged to know that, and find joy in encouraging you and hopefully providing some words of hope in these challenging times.
I have written 16 posts in this series so far, and have written a series of posts prior to this earlier on in the year at the start of the first lockdown (so scroll back through the archives to check out anything you may have missed). I now have time off from work (I blog as a ‘hobby’, unpaid, but I love it and hope and plan to spend more time writing especially as we approach a difficult winter season this 2020), and would like to ‘check in’ with my lovely readers, and welcome my new followers, and thank you for joining the journey, so happy to have you here 🙂 .
I intend to keep on writing and encouraging, and hope that you will find these posts a comfort as we near December and as we all could do with a ‘pick me up’ this year. My question to you is if there is anything in particular you would like to see written about in this series of self care in a pandemic posts? This is for you, so please do let me know how best I can serve and encourage you with my writing. If you have anything in mind that you’d like me to explore, even if I don’t have the answers, I can still open up discussions and explore avenues of hope together, then please do comment below. Otherwise, I will keep seeking inspiration and praying about how best I can uplift and encourage you through these testing times.
Have you ever seen (or perhaps you have been) a child fully absorbed in play, while sitting in the midst of a mess of toys and games and bits and pieces strewn all around it?
My parents have memories of me being that little child / toddler, and although I love to be neat and tidy nowadays I can relate to that child especially when I am absorbed in some kind of messy craft project. There are photographs from my childhood that show me sitting perfectly contentedly on the floor examining some little toy, object, or the bristles of an old fashioned style broom that my grandmother had that I had pulled apart, completely engrossed in my ‘activity’ while all around me is chaos. In one photograph of me as a toddler, I am wearing a lovely little summer dress and have found my way into a toy cupboard, have crawled into it, am chewing on my chosen toy, but in order to get to that happy state I had pulled out absolutely *everything* else and left toys all around outside the cupboard on the ground. But I am happy and content and have found my ‘sweet spot’ or ‘happy place’ in toddler life! 🙂
As we grow older, for many of us at least, we begin to equate mess with stress. Growing up, the phrase ‘tidy your room’ did give me a sense of anxiety and stress, because as good as I was at getting messy, I needed to put in a lot more effort to get things tidied up.
Now as an adult, with my own place, I like things to be neat and tidy, and aesthetically pleasing, and ‘just so’, and I do get a bit stressed I admit, because it is a daily effort to maintain especially when living alone. How can we have that neat and tidy space around us without having to put in the work of doing the dishes, tidying up, doing all the chores, and maintaining everything – and when you’re on your own it can be hard to keep up. I’ve written several posts about decluttering and tidying so if you’re using some of the extra time you might have in this pandemic year / lockdown depending on where you live, to get your home sorted, then there is plenty of advice to be found in my blog.
At the moment, I am at home in my parents’ house, not wanting to spend winter and Christmas alone as we face a second lockdown in many parts of the UK. Not everything is just as I would like it in my room and I’d love to do a bit of a ‘declutter’ but not everything here is actually mine, so I can’t just do whatever I want with this space. This got me thinking of some things I have said in my blogs in the past, including ‘enjoy your mess, enjoy your tidy’ and the importance of finding balance in whatever season of life, and of our environment that we are in.
Perhaps reading the title of this blog post, certain ideas or thoughts were triggered in your mind. What did or what does the phrase: ‘The mess you are in’ signify for you? Is it an actual physical mess of your surroundings, is it an emotional or psychological mess, is it the mess of circumstances, of failing health, of uncertainty, of worry, anxiety, fear, broken relationships, grief, death, or a shaken world, of poor job prospects, of financial difficulties, of unruly children, of a struggling marriage, or drifting friendships, of frustrations, pent up emotions, trauma, of stress of planning for Christmas with pandemic restrictions, of political unrest, of loneliness, of struggles with singleness, of the comparison trap, of friends moving on, of feeling ‘stuck’?
Life can be pretty messy sometimes, that’s for sure. But I invite you to imagine the image of the child sitting in his or her messy surroundings, perhaps with their eyes focussed on some little trinket or toy, completely absorbed and mesmerised in the joy of that moment of discovery and of play.
You will notice that in parenthesis in this title I encapsulated the word ‘Now’. What is the mess you are in now? Right now? It is big, it is bigger than you feel like you can handle, or perhaps it is simply frustrating and annoying. Do you know, that while as an adult you are not called to forget about your responsibilities and obligations, you still have the freedom to take a break from them, even if for a moment, and find rest?
You may not be able to deal with, tidy up, pray through or resolve the whole of the mess you are in right now in a moment, in a day or even a year. Broken things take time to repair, especially when they are precious. But in the midst of the mess and the chaos, you can stop. You can look with wonder and be absorbed in something really special – right NOW.
What will it be for you today? What chance will you give yourself to pause, to sit still even in the mess, and to dream, to imagine, to play, to wonder at? What life will you find in your moment right now? xx
These are frustrating times, right friends? They are certainly challenging and frustrating times for the world at large. We’re probably all a bit frustrated with hearing just how ‘unprecedented’ the times we are living through actually are! Enough already, 2020!!
Yet, for some, perhaps many of us, we’ve been living through or have been faced with seasons of frustrating times long before the pandemic. Some of us may have had to contend with a whole range of challenges and frustrations in life including but of course not limited to in this fallen world, some of the following: poverty, low self esteem, abuse, trauma, mental illness, health issues, eating disorders, unfair treatment, unfair upbringing, unkind people, prejudice, lack of access to opportunities, things going wrong time after time, the comparison trap of our peers reaching milestones while we face difficulty after difficulty, self hatred, self esteem issues, financial struggles, neighbourhood disputes, natural disasters, and oh how sadly and frustratingly the list can go on, and on!
If reading all that has made you a bit frustrated with me, then I do apologise, but don’t give up just yet, there is hope to come, so let’s take the next step together.
Sometimes our frustrations can build because of the gap between how we want or desire things to be and how they actually are. Feeling like this can affect not only our feelings and perceptions about ourselves and the situation we are in, but can have a knock on effect on everything else going on in our lives even if other things are not that bad at all.
Think of it this way, do you ever find that you are doing some ‘ordinary’ task in your day such as taking a shower, going for a walk, tidying your home or making dinner. All the while your mind is giving you a show reel of the things that annoy and frustrate you and get you down. Before you know it, you’re so caught up in your frustrated thoughts that you lose sight of the good that you are actually living in right now. I’m not downplaying the severity of the tough things we all go through at some point or another as human beings. Goodness knows, I’ve felt the stab of those ‘glib’ responses of other ‘well meaning’ people including friends, who just wanted to ‘fix’ me, my situation, or tell me off or what to do in times of real suffering. No one needs that kind of ‘advice’ so I’m not going to give it to you. I’m not going to tell you that thinking better will take away your grief, or that you shouldn’t think or feel a certain way because there is so much else happening in the world, and you should just feel grateful for what you have.
No, none of that, but what I do want to offer you is something that has helped and continues to help me in tough times or times of frustration or need. We can shift our perspective and retrain our thought patterns so that the way we process our experiences can help give us a bit of a ‘lift’ even if in the short terms so that we are not adding weight to our existing worries and troubles. As Jesus Christ graciously challenges us, “who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?”.
That puts things in perspective a bit, but it’s not always easy to get off the ‘rocking chair’ of worry and frustration. Sometimes when I’m in the shower or washing the dishes or doing some task I’ll notice my mind begin to wander into ‘grumpy land’. I start to divert my thoughts upwards and ‘now-wards’ if I can coin a phrase, and just start thanking God. Thank You for the clean running water, thank you that I can hear, see, touch…and then I get on that train of thankful thought that leads me to a better place mentally, psychologically and can help me to live a better day.
I think today is American Thanksgiving. Perhaps this could be a good day to give ourselves a refresher in living life with an attitude of gratitude to use that cliched phrase. It may be cliched but it is powerful. At least it can be, if we let it.
Many people nowadays talk about mindfulness. Some people are quiet wary of the term. It is something doctors have helped me with in times of struggle and is a good tool to have if you struggle with anxiety or any mental health challenges really. It is in a way a means of redirecting your focus from the inner workings of your mind to looking outwards, noticing things with your five (or perhaps more, if you have some superpowers? 😉 ) senses, and ‘getting out of your head’. I’ve written about this in previous posts and have a lot of posts about helpful things relating to mental health and anxiety so feel free to delve into my archives, or do a search on my main page and hopefully you will find something helpful for where you are at right now.
Being thankful may not fix all of your problems right now. But it can help you to protect your mental, emotional and consequently physical health. It can help you to become an encourager rather than a complainer, and it can help you to heal. If you are grieving over the loss of a loved one, you will need to process your grief and it is important not to deny the whole range of emotions you are feeling – you can’t just wish them away – you have to go through that difficult tunnel, but even while you are in there you can still see the flicker of lights along the way while you wait to get to that great Light once you get through this tough season. How? You can begin to be thankful for all of the special times that you did have with that person. It may be a small step, but perhaps it will lift you at least a little in times of pain.
You may be in a frustrating living situation. You might be alone, or maybe you are feeling frustrated by the people you are living with. Instead of staying on the negative train, ring the bell for the next stop, get off, change tracks and choose a new destination. Start being intentionally thankful and looking for the good in the situation, in the solitude, or in the people around you and if none of those, then in the lessons you are learning that will make you stronger, more patient, more resilient and perhaps the leaders of the future in your sphere of influence when someone needs encouragement from someone who has ‘been there’.
Whatever you are feeling frustrated by or anxious about right now, there is something you can choose to be thankful about. I am a person of faith but I am also a believer in neuroscience, and for me the two go hand in hand because the Creator Who formed and fashioned the intricate workings of our brain also tells the most learned and the most innocent ‘do not worry’, He tells us to ‘take your thoughts captive’ to ‘be transformed by the renewing of your minds’, and to ‘give thanks in all circumstances’. There are so many more references that can be found in Christian Scriptures that give us real and practical hope, health and healing for our mental health, but ultimately it is Christ my King, Who Is the Healer and Who can and does ‘guard my mind and heart in Christ Jesus’….with a ‘Peace that transcends all understanding’.
If right now you just want to think about the neuroscience, well I’m sure there is a great likelihood that you’ve come across the phrase ‘neurons that fire together, wire together’ (and this is something I’ve also written about previously). We can create ‘tracks’ of thinking that can reinforce and trigger similar thought patterns. As someone who has overcome years of debilitating anxiety, panic attacks, complex PTSD stemming from childhood trauma in the form of ‘bullying’ physical, emotional, psychological and other long term stressors, and severe clinical depression, then you can take it from me, the person writing these things from experience that there is reality and Truth in the fact that the way we think can deeply impact our lives, and also very hopefully that our brains have ‘plasticity’ and we can reform and reinforce new thinking patterns based on Truth. As we are encouraged in the new testament book of Philippians: “Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable–if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy–dwell on these things”.
I’m convinced that the way we think not only impacts our own days and lives but also the way we think of, relate to and treat other people in a small scale as well as a larger societal scale.
I think you have great power to lift your thoughts, change the outcome of your day, and impact the lives of the people around you as you share Truth with them.
We can stay seated in the Rocking-chair of Grumpiness, or we can get up, take action and get on a new train of thought that actually leads somewhere.
It’s not easy, friends, I know. And I certainly don’t mean this to be a ‘glib’ post, but hopefully having read a very little of some of the challenges I have faced and am overcoming, you know that there is something in what I am saying. These days are frustrating on a number of fronts but you can change your perspective about them. You can be a leader, in time. You can speak for Truth and Love and Hope, in a world that is languishing in darkness, hate and fear.
Life may be extremely frustrating for you now, and I hear that, I feel it, I’ve been there. I’m not putting pressure on you that you ‘should’ think this way, but just gently and lovingly encouraging you that you don’t need to stay ‘stuck’. Let’s keep on encouraging each other, and perhaps a good place to start today is by choosing to be Thankful, and then choosing it again, and keeping on going until it is a train of thought that we more naturally get on each day.
Be blessed. Stay safe. With love, in sincerity and Truth. x
We all have those days when we find it hard to get ourselves going. Perhaps you’ve been working from home or working on the front line (thank you!), and that has given you a sense of structure and purpose to your days. However, quite a few of us are on the approach to the Christmas holidays or a period over winter where we may not have the structure of work each day.
Whatever your situation is, this next self care ‘tip’ if you like, can come in handy in all walks of life. It is to have a hobby that you can turn to that will give you a sense of enjoyment, relaxation, creativity and rest. You don’t need to be particularly good at it, but let it be something that you enjoy and that helps you take your mind off things. This can be a particularly helpful ‘go to’ on those days that might otherwise feel a bit wasted if we can’t quite get ourselves going.
My personal favourite for the past few years has been ‘adult colouring in’ and while I know not everyone is keen, it has helped me through depression, complex PTSD, anxiety, and now is not only a source of self care but is an artistic and creative pursuit. I am able to link up with creative groups, and see and be inspired by artist quality works that spur me on to better my own technique. It is something that is relaxing, fun, but also something that can be calming, develop my motor skills, creativity and open up a whole world for me. It is easy to pick up and put down without any pressure, except from the self-imposed pressure to better myself, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
On those days when you are unable to find structure, especially when you are staying at home during the winter seasons if that is the case, then having a hobby can be a real source of comfort and strength and calm for your mental health. Instead of feeling depressed at not being able to do what you would otherwise want to do, whether because of restrictions, health or lack of motivation, having something that you can work away at over a period of time can be so beneficial to your mental, emotional health and sense of wellbeing. You can see progress, and you can continue to form those important positive neural connections that are so vital for brain health.
Another thing you may have noticed that I do is obviously blogging. I do it as a hobby and don’t get any income from it, but with the times we are living in, it may be worth seeing if I can develop it as a ‘side hustle’ once I develop the skills and know-how, if that is what I am being led to do. But as it is, blogging as a hobby can provide me with so many positive things in my life, and as a blogger you may also find the same. I am able to express my thoughts, share them with an audience, and hopefully help and encourage all of you who read them (thank you if you do read my blog! 🙂 ). It can provide new insights into my own thoughts as I express them. I have created a holiday booklet for myself to keep me accountable in how I use my time, and one of the pages is dedicated to ideas for my blog posts and as I progress in them I can see that I have been using my time and mind well and helping and encouraging other people.
Some of you are very outdoor focussed when it comes to hobbies, and perhaps you are able to continue these. Where I live, winters are generally cold, dark and rainy, and with increasing restrictions it is good to also be able to find indoor pursuits that can benefit our mental health.
What do you have that you can pick up every now and then especially on those less structured more ‘wobbly’ days when you may not be feeling your best? Do you have an instrument, or can you do some cooking, doodling, singing, dancing, or colouring and drawing? Do you enjoy blogging, designing art work, knitting, reading, writing, sewing or crafting? You don’t need to be any good at a hobby for it to be beneficial to you and remember we all have to start somewhere. The key thing is to have something relaxing that you enjoy that can help your mental health instead of allowing your mind to chase those negative trains of thought when you are unfocused and not putting your attention to something positive. Sometimes we don’t have the energy or wherewithal to use our skills and in those times maybe just watching a show can help.
But do have something in mind that can help you get through those days that you struggle with so that you keep your mind engaged and active, and move your thoughts away from those dark tunnels that you otherwise might let yourself delve into.
What works for you? Any other adult colouring in fans out there? If so what are your favourite books? Add your own special little sparkle to the world, even if it is just a ‘doodle’ on a post-it note, that in itself is special and it is a good place to start. x
I’m fairly sure that if you are reading this, and are looking for ways to better care for yourself and others during this pandemic, then you are likely to have encountered some challenges along the way this year.
I mean, really, which of us haven’t encountered challenges? I’m sure we are all dealing with something. That being said, how we get through things can have a lot to do with not just our circumstances and means of help, but also how we process (or don’t) the things going on in our lives.
Let’s take for example somebody does or says or doesn’t do something to you and this stirs up your emotions, you start thinking about the situation and feel almost ‘stuck’ in your thoughts, and you *react* to things in a visceral way. There may be certain situations in life when an immediate ‘gut’ or visceral reaction is appropriate and even necessary, such as if you or someone else is in immediate danger and you need to do something instantly, but in the main, this kind of response is not helpful, to ourselves, other people, to resolving the situation, or to our wellbeing.
If you think about what you’ve had to take in this year, even if you’ve not had a lot going on in your own personal circumstances, the chances are you’ve had to process quite a lot. The fact of the pandemic itself has been a big thing for us all. Then there has been the various lockdowns and easing of restrictions, the daily ‘count’ of deaths in some countries where we are presented this in the news or by politicians’ daily briefings, social and political unrest, the situations of friends, family members, colleagues or acquaintances, our own day to day routines and the impact on our living, job, relationship and mental health situations, and so forth. Whether you have experienced the ‘big’ things hitting you this year, like grief, loss of a loved one, loss of a job, loneliness and isolation or other health concerns or you name the thing that you’ve been dealing with, or if you are somehow coping or trundling along without a great deal of change in your personal situation, either way, the fact that we are in a pandemic year will have impacted you in some way, and it is important to take note and take account of that.
The reason I say this is because living through these things in a ‘reactive’ way can be damaging to our health and can also impact our relationships and be damaging to those around us. Can you think of anyone you know who when they see a news story that raises a reaction in them, they start calling people names, or swearing, or getting agitated or anxious? There are a lot of people reacting in such ways at the moment. This impacts their immediate physical, emotional and psychological health, and most likely not in a good way.
If you are that person, soaking up the news and experiences of 2020 in a very reactive way, then chances are you are causing yourself some damage. So what’s the solution?
I’ve found in recent weeks that things have been affecting me such as work stress, or changing dynamics of friendships. When I get those ‘warning signals’ in my ‘gut’ so to speak, when those anxious thoughts and feelings start to arise, I know that it’s time to take a step back, to take a break, to take a few deep breaths and get a bit of space from the situation and focus my mind on something calming and grounding.
Doing this can produce an almost ‘immediate’ effect on our nervous systems. However, in itself, it is not enough. We not only need to get distance and calm ourselves down in the immediate situation, but we need to put in a little bit of effort to make sure we are giving ourselves the time, space and chance to process our thoughts, our feelings, our instinctive reactions so that we can move forwards positively and actively rather than reactively.
There are various ways that we can process what we are dealing with and it is probably good to have a range of ‘tools’ and techniques to hand, and it is good when we can also find ways to use what we learn to benefit other people.
So what could you do?
One thing is finding a way to externalise your thoughts and feelings. This could be by writing or journaling, for example.
Talking to someone else can also be a very helpful way to diffuse intense emotions, and can help give us a more balanced perspective, as well as helping us feel that we are not so alone in dealing with our problems, challenges and issues. If you are physically alone, perhaps you could have a few friends or family members that you can talk with every now and then, on the phone or online. And if you feel like there’s no one in your life that you know who you can turn to, then perhaps you can seek out some helplines that you can phone. I have done so in the past in times of depression, anxiety and crisis, even though I have friends and family members. Sometimes we need to just talk to someone else, because maybe those close to us aren’t available or we don’t feel comfortable always turning to them. Sometimes we just need to hear the voice of another human being and chat things through and that’s perfectly ok, and definitely not something to feel ashamed about. That’s what they are there for.
Creativity can also be a balm to troubled emotions and it can also be a stepping stone into community where you can link up with like minded people, and these days there is so much going on online, even if you don’t wish to connect personally you can still find sources of inspiration by watching or reading about what others are doing and this may help you as you seek to process or externalise or express your own thoughts, ideas, feelings and experiences. Creativity could be expressed in a variety of ways such as art, music, song, dance or play or so many other things.
Community can also be a source of easing our inner tensions, diffusing pent up emotions, sharing experiences and letting us know we’re not alone. For me, keeping a sense of connection with church and other Christians has been an encouragement, but at the same time, sometimes we need to be careful that we aren’t left feeling alone by being a part of a group, which can happen from time to time. Try to find a helpful balance for you.
Nature is also a source of calm for me, that helps settle me down and release those ‘reactive’ thoughts and feelings. It helps lift my mind and take my mind off certain negative trains of thought.
There are many more calming and soothing things you can do to gain space, perspective and help process your thoughts and experiences and it is so important to do so to enable you to act rather than react to situations.
That’s not to say everything will somehow sort itself out, but you will be in a better place to make positive decisions in your own life in response to what you are facing. I’m personally finding it necessary to reassess some of my friendship dynamics this year so as to avoid being taken for granted for example, or even forgotten about, and so that I can protect my mental and emotional health as well as that of others. I’ve found that even though I’ve been really productive at work this year, working from home, that doesn’t necessarily stave off the stress that accompanies work at times, and it is my responsibility to step back, and find a healthy balance for myself so that I can act positively rather than simply react instinctively to ongoing challenges and situations.
So what about you, friends? Does any of this resonate with you or do you find it helpful? What do you do that helps you? Whatever you are going through this year, I hope that you will take the time, and find a way to step back, process, and move forwards in a way that will contribute to your health, happiness, wellbeing and that of those around you.
Take care, stay strong, and sending each of you uplifting prayers for this day and those ahead of you. Peace. x
There is power in learning to stand alone, but there is also great encouragement in standing together. Sometimes life, and perhaps particularly life in a pandemic, is a fine balance between these two positions.
I have been learning a lot about this in 2020, and perhaps you have too. I have been learning some of these lessons before this year as well through various tests and trials in life.
This year, I spent the first four months of lockdown living alone, and not having any face to face contact with any living thing for almost all of that time (except perhaps from interacting with a delivery driver or passing strangers on the street). I have found this to be strengthening, challenging and enlightening in a number of ways. I have grown in my relationship with Christ, knowing Him more deeply as my True Source of Love, Encouragement, Strength and Provision. Yet as human beings we are also made for connection with each other, and although I used my time wisely and creatively, there were still times of loneliness, of missing out on the interactions that we otherwise tend to take for granted on a daily basis. As a single person, I have disciplined myself to learn to enjoy and thrive in my independence of living alone, travelling by myself, seeking to be creative and to inspire other people (which has been a discipline, choice and challenge to seek out adventure rather than retreat as I have had years of panic attacks and anxiety) as well as investing time in myself to heal from traumas, and to reach out to help other people. As a quieter, reflective and creative soul, I crave and need time by myself to replenish, to think, to process and to create. Too much noise, people and goings on can cause me a lot of stress, and panic attacks, anxiety and so forth. That being said, I also have quite a lot of deep friendships that have been cultivated one to one or in groups of twos or threes over the years, am a friendly and caring person, and I enjoy interacting with people in ways that suit my personality, nature and disposition, and where I have the choice to do so or not to do so, and perhaps you can relate to some of this?
Lockdown took away control from a lot of us, whether we live alone or with others. Perhaps we like staying indoors sometimes, but we tend as human beings to like to maintain the choice in the matter, and to do things or not to do things with the freedom of choice.
Being in lockdown alone for four months changed some of my relationships. While I have some very mutually giving friendships, I realised that friends who have families of their own just didn’t have single people on their radar. Some friends with families actually enjoyed lockdown as having more time together, were able to have fun and flourished in the situation. They did not think that someone living alone might be really struggling with the contrasts of that, and as such some of my friendships have changed in dynamics, I’ve had to reconsider my boundaries, and other friendships have grown closer.
I’m very blessed to have a family that I could phone everyday or whenever I needed to throughout those four months living alone with no other contact. Of course, I live alone in the city in general but as I usually work there too, even as a single person pre-pandemic I’d have interactions with work colleagues, I’d be able to meet up with friends and go out to dinner or to music events or go places by myself. Not having that changed the way I saw some of my friendships where I wasn’t on their radar so much, and I guess that’s ok. We all are going through different things and have to recalibrate our lives and boundaries from time to time. Some people kept in touch, but mainly to ‘vent’ because I am an empathetic and caring and loving person. Other friendships have been a source of encouragement, fun, and camaraderie through these times.
The point I am getting to, in the hope of edifying you, is that as we head towards the winter season of 2020, consider your crew and who the important people are in your life in this season. Perhaps you have a strong sense of who these people are, a network of friends and family that you have shared the ups and downs of life with. One thing I would suggest that you think about is even if you do feel you have such people in your life, consider whether you have a range of people to connect with and turn to and make sure that you are not overburdening (or being overburdened by) any one person. We are all going through something, and we all need encouragement, so make sure that you are giving as well as receiving that.
Perhaps you are not in such a place. Perhaps you are lonely and struggling, even if you live with other people or have many other interactions.
My advice or suggestions would be for you to consider whether you have the right connections in your life. Are there some people you need to move on from who are having a toxic influence on you? Do you feel like you don’t have anyone, and need to reach out for help? Even if you don’t have friends or family to turn to, perhaps you could connect with some online groups that are safe and have like minded people. Maybe you could reach out to community groups for help and support, or ask a volunteer group to connect you with a mentor or a ‘buddy’ such as they do with phone volunteers so that you can hear a friendly voice from time to time. There are plenty of phone lines and crisis support lines such as the Samaritans and Breathing Space here in the UK if you feel like you have nowhere to turn, and if you are in a different country, a simple ‘Google’ or other search could put you in touch with the details of similar groups or organisations. Maybe you enjoy the connections online that help keep you in touch with people, even as you learn to stand strong by yourself.
Yet having a lot of connections or a diversity of connections is not enough in itself. You need the depth and authenticity of feeling known and heard, and this may or may not be with your family, friends you already know, etc. You may have to take time to gather a new crew, form new connections, ones in which you are not simply just another face on a screen, or voice in a crowd, but real authentic connections.
Think about who your ‘team mates’ may be this season. If you are feeling strong in yourself then perhaps it is a good opportunity, if that is the right thing for you in your life just now, to be the one to reach out to someone else who is struggling and help and empower them, not to become dependent on you, but to know that they are seen, heard and help them to find an empowering way forwards step by step in their own life.
There is strength to be found in standing alone. But we also all need each other. Perhaps this is why in part we blog and write and share on platforms like this so that while we develop our own skills and gifts and talents and interests, we also are part of a community that can share with each other, learn from one another and grow together.
Who is your crew? Are there any wiser decisions you need to make in who you let close to you? Do you need to step up and be there for someone? Do you need to create space for yourself to step back and reconsider things or to ease out of things that are not meant for you in this season? Do you need to let go of toxic people, or do you need to invest in certain relationships, reconnect, or create a broader network of mutual support?
Now is a great time to be thinking about these things, of how we can get stronger and how we can help each other as communities.
Stay safe, well and I pray you will be blessed, friends. Thank you for stopping by and reading, I appreciate you. x
For many people, this year has been somewhat of a blur. Perhaps you yourself are in need of some clarity and encouragement, especially as we head into the winter season of this year.
I wonder how you are feeling about it all right now, how life is for you? If I think of my own life, and my circle of friends, I know that people are in very different places in themselves. While we’ve all had this common situation of a global pandemic as the backing track of 2020, for some people, the volume has been turned up loud and they’ve been unable to find the means of turning it down, while for others, it is an inconvenient and annoying hum in the background of their life as they press ahead with their own dreams, goals and plans somehow.
I can think of friends who have had ups and downs this year. They’ve had some positives but also some hard times. Some among us have had to spend months at a time on our own with no human or animal contact, while others have flourished this year and some have recently had new additions to their families with babies being born this month. One friend has become a dad for the second time, and another has become an uncle for the first time! Others that I know have embarked upon new relationships or got married or still managed to fit in a travel adventure here and there. Yet at the same time, some have seen their mental health struggles continue or worsen, some have had job uncertainty and experienced loneliness. And while we head into the Christmas season, a season of Advent in which we look towards the first Coming of The Lord Jesus Christ, Who Himself was Born into inhospitable, frightening and unsettling times (and for many, myself included HE alone is the Hope and Light in the darkness), are welcomed to enter into relationship with Him now and know the tangible Peace and Love of His Presence (and look forwards to the certainty of His Return) this time can be particularly difficult in magnifying the differences and difficulties among and between us.
It is a time of year when the nights grow longer, darker and colder. It is a time of year when at any other time, the contrasts between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ would still be stark. Yet in this pandemic year, we face all sorts of added challenges. There are restrictions upon our meeting, upon our usual ‘festivities’ and some families, in fact many families are sadly facing loss and loneliness on a number of fronts. Financially, many may be suffering or struggling to make ends meet, and loneliness has become an epidemic of its own.
If this year has been a bit of a blur for you and you have a sense of dread about this season, my eternal hope is that you will look to the Light and Transforming Love of Jesus Christ Who came into the darkness….for you.
And while that is always, I hope, the heart of my message, I know that there are many among you who want or need to take that message at your own pace and time, and in the meantime want some solid practical day to day encouragement, and I understand and respect that.
Don’t let the year end without taking time to acknowledge what you have come through, and what you have accomplished. You may never win an award for it, no one may ever think it worth reading in a newsletter, but if you know it is something meaningful to you then take time to acknowledge and even celebrate it.
You don’t need to have contributed to the discovery of a vaccine or raised a lot of money for worthy causes to feel you have accomplished something this year. Perhaps your accomplishment is to have got out of bed each day, to have given time and attention towards your mental health and wellbeing, to have continued working to support yourself and / or your family, to have stayed indoors and kept other people safe, to have been kind and considerate towards those around you, to have lived a quiet life, to have read a book, kept your living space tidy, started therapy, come off medication, admitted you need help, reached out to a friend, donated to charity, encouraged other people, encouraged yourself, put time towards a hobby, attended online church for the first time, or been consistent in doing similar, to have checked in on your neighbours, to have sought the good and wellbeing of other people, to have not given up on yourself or your life.
Achievements or accomplishments can look very different to each of us. But sometimes the small things are the things that matter in a big way.
Why don’t you give yourself that encouragement and take a few moments now, or this week, or in this season as we approach the end of the year to write down or think about a few things which you have done this year, whether or not you think you’ve done them well.
Encourage yourself, and look forwards with hope and perhaps even vision in what may be a joyful, or an extremely painful and difficult season for you.
You matter. A Light shines for *you*, a Love has come, for *you*. You matter. Give yourself some encouragement, friend, because you matter too.
Yesterday, we thought about how it’s ‘ok not to be ok’. It is ok to sit in those difficult moments and learn to endure those difficult feelings, knowing that ‘this too will pass’.
With that being said, once we are ready to get up again, to take the next deep breath, and to make that next step in life, however small it might feel to us, it is so important to move forwards in a way that nurtures the core of who we are.
That might sound fairly profound, but the practicalities of getting there, one small moment at a time, needn’t be an overwhelming or big thing.
What do I mean by that? I suppose we could look at this through the lens of ‘slow living’, of learning to slow ourselves down, be more present in the moment and despite whatever we are feeling inside or what is going on around us, just take a moment to enjoy the moment we are in.
Last night I wasn’t feeling my best. To be honest I was struggling a bit. Yet, with a new day today, I have found new possibilities, new moments, and new reasons to hope, and to smile and I feel good in *this* moment. While that may change from time to time, as it does on this journey as human beings, we can seek to ‘collect’ and experience more and more of those precious moments that feed, nourish and nurture our souls.
After getting ready this morning, and preparing my room to be a place that I’d enjoy being and working in, I checked my work emails, did a bit of correspondence, and then took some time away from my desk to walk in my parents’ back garden. It was wonderful. Something so simple as feeling the fresh air on my face, the softness of grass beneath my soft shoes, to hear the birds chattering away, to see the trees, some with colourful leaves, but most with bare branches, and to look up into the sky and see the sunlight gently filtering through the clouds – in that moment my soul felt happy, and I drank it in, and even now I feel happy thinking about it and it reminds me to look out of my window and enjoy the little bit of nature that is around me.
I know from experience that nature while being a wonderful balm and tonic to our souls, isn’t always readily accessible to everyone. I spent the first four months of lockdown here in the UK from the end of March to July on my own, in the 10th floor of my flat, at first not having opportunity to go outside at all for weeks, and for most of the time with no face to face human contact at all. Even for an introvert, it was hard going at times.
Yet, there are ways we can nurture our souls even without being able to enjoy the fresh air and the calming effects of nature. The other day I had an experience of one of those ‘soul food’ moments. You know those moments when you are eating something hot in temperature like a broth or some kind of potato or vegetable dish, or some other comforting home cooked meal with healthy ingredients, perhaps something that is your ‘go to’ comfort food. Unlike unhealthy ‘fast food’, the heat of it causes you to slow down, you can feel the warmth in your belly, you are more awake to the senses of taste and texture and the beautiful aroma of different ingredients that awaken your senses. Perhaps as you read this different memories come back to you of homely times, or of times by yourself where you have taken a moment to really enjoy what you were eating and the experience has lingered with you.
Slow down, enjoy, nurture yourself. Whether that be by feeling the fresh air on your face, by taking time over a healthy meal, by making yourself a comforting wintery hot drink and eating your favourite snack, by creating a cosy environment, lingering over a good book or getting cosy and watching a film that makes you feel happy, there are so many moments that we can seek to experience more deeply, whether we are facing this pandemic alone or with other people. Amidst the ups and downs of these times, think of how you can nurture your soul, even if that is the tiniest moment at a time that no one else will ever see. Add to these moments day by day, bit by bit, and you will feel all the better for it.
I was doing pretty good today…until I wasn’t. For a number of years I was finding life difficult and overwhelming on a number of levels. I’ve worked pretty hard, and God’s grace has carried me forwards, and I’ve recently been in a place of building myself up. However, sometimes as we seek to press forwards, despite all of our best efforts, there can be an internal challenge to get to where we want to be and feel how we want to feel. Sometimes we just want to feel ‘ok’, but that might seem like an impossible dream.
If you’re struggling just now, I’m sending you a great big virtual hug and lots of compassion.
Especially in this pandemic year we may find that we go through ups and downs and that’s ok. Some of the things we struggle with might be to do with what’s happening this year, but then other things may be internal and seem to come ‘out of the blue’ and can be ‘triggers’ of some form or another. It can be tough, especially if you feel like you’d been making progress. But it’s ok. It’s ok to learn to sit with those uncomfortable thoughts, feelings and emotions until they pass (and eventually they will), and to take the next step to begin again. You’ve come this far, and if you need a well done from someone, then I am giving it to you right now, friend.
*Well done* – whatever it is you have faced or been going through or are going through now, it is something you are or have persevered through and possibly in the most difficult of circumstances for you – so well done. I’m proud of you, even though I don’t know you, but I know what it is to be human. I know what it is to struggle, to suffer, to feel weak and broken, and I also know what it is to get up again. And again. And again. And chances are if you’re reading this and relating to this, then you do too.
It’s ok to not be ok. It’s ok to be doing fine for a while and then not to be doing fine. You’re human, that’s part of what it is to experience our frail and fallen lives in this world. It’s ok to ask for help, it’s ok to need grace and it’s ok to be humbled to a place where you need to ask for help. I believe there is an amazing grace for us all, in fact, I know that the Grace of God has saved me and brought me this far and is giving me Peace and renewal day by day. It’s not always been easy, perhaps it isn’t meant to be. But I have a Saviour, a Friend, a King, to turn to and Who loves me through the dark times as well as the more joyful moments of life.
Whatever you think or believe or whatever you don’t believe, know that the moment you are in will pass. You will find the strength to not be ok. You will find the strength to sit in those uncomfortable thoughts and emotions, and to get up again. So take heart my friend, this too will pass. You are not alone. ❤ x