Self Care In A Pandemic (38): ARKs – Acts of Random Kindness…

This year sure has had far reaching consequences. Something unseen to the human eye, a virus, has caused devastation far and wide. There is debate as to the causal factor that started the initial spread of the virus, but whatever you are lead to believe on that count, I am sure most people would agree that it could have been caused by one small act.

Just as devastation and destruction can be far reaching and have consequences impacting the whole globe, let us have faith and believe that small acts of kindness and love can also have far reaching consequences. Whether or not they impact people across the world we may never know, but they could change the day or life of one person.

Has anyone ever shown you a kindness that you did not expect? Didn’t it make you feel more hopeful and like passing it forwards?

In these difficult days, let us be the people that hold forth hope with Acts of Random Kindness – ARKs that offer some shelter and respite from the storms and flood waters of life.

How can you take this thought and pass it on?

Let’s once again ‘brainstorm’ some ideas together and if you wish to share some kindness here, please comment below so that someone perhaps in another part of the world can take forward your idea and inspiration and touch the life of someone else.

What can you do?

– You could write an encouraging blog post of your own.

-You could get in touch with someone who is lonely.

-You could send a letterbox gift (if it is safe to do so) to someone who might need the encouragement.

-You could offer to pay for a friend’s grocery shopping.

-You could offer your skills and talents for free for example to a local business that is struggling by setting up a website for them.

-You could donate to a charity, foodbank or raise money yourself for a good cause.

-You could do so many things, many of which I can’t think of right now – but if you want to inspire me or others, then please comment below.

Let us shelter each other in our ARKs and help each other sail safely through the storms of this pandemic. x

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Self Care In A Pandemic (37): Find Your Own Focus…

With so much going on around us, in the world, and in the lives of other people, it can be easy to feel lost or become swept up in the events of others so much so that we lose focus in our own lives.

As we continue on through the pandemic, and as we near the end of 2020, and approach 2021, take some time to consider what is important to you and to find your own focus – no one else can do it for you.

I’ve been asking God for vision and wisdom for my life for a while and there are things that are important to me that I know that I can keep building up on day by day to help other people and to develop my own gifts and use them for His Glory.

What is important to you in this season, and what are you doing to find your own focus?

What are the things dragging you back or pulling you down? How can you address these? Perhaps like me you’ve had a lot of inner emotional and psychological healing to do so that you are not hurting yourself after others hurt you but are giving yourself a chance. You can use the positivity you develop to help other people too.

Maybe there are other voices from other people who are discouraging or distracting you. Take control of what you have to do and make sure you are not letting negativity rob you of your purpose.

So what is your focus? Maybe that’s too big a question all at once. One helpful tip is to take a piece of paper and a pen or pencil and simply brainstorm all of the things that matter to you, that you enjoy doing or that you feel bring purpose into your life. These can be building blocks for going forwards with greater purpose.

If for example one of those items on your list is ‘helping people’ then that’s the first step, but the next might be to take practical steps to looking into opportunities around you, in your own family, volunteering opportunities or what other people might be doing and see if you can join then. Maybe you could become a telephone volunteer for someone who is lonely in the pandemic or you can help out in some other way. Maybe you can write encouraging blog posts! 🙂

Perhaps you want to focus on writing a book – break it down into small steps and just make a start at writing regularly if not everyday.

Maybe you want to create and sell art work – you’ll need to put in the time developing your skills and also broadening your knowledge of business and seeing what other people out there are doing.

Perhaps you want to focus on health and fitness. What are the small daily steps that you can take regularly and build these up into habits?

These are just some suggestions. Your focus and vision might be far greater – perhaps it is helping to spread the Gospel, maybe it is to help your neighbourhood and city, or to encourage frontline workers, to support single parents, to create an online forum for your community.

Think about what is important to you going forward, it can be big or small, for ever big venture started with the smallest of steps – seek wisdom, purpose and vision and then ‘put feet to your plans’ and simply take the next small step. x

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Self Care iN a pANDEMIC (36): cONSIDER THE cOMPANY yOU kEEP…

This has been one of the strangest of years many of us have lived through in terms of world events. While many among us have faced our own challenging times previously in terms of our personal life journey, I’m too young to be able to remember anything quite like this pandemic that reached into every part of the globe. The older generation that lived through the second world war, will have many more stories to tell and the things they faced were probably far more frightening than what we are facing today, but nevertheless 2020 has been quite a year for us all in terms of the pandemic!

It’s been a year that has prompted us to make changes, slow down, speed up, take action and think more deeply. One of the things we may have been made to think more deeply about is our friendships, relationships and the company we keep.

As someone who is not white, and who has suffered from racism in my earlier years particularly as well as sporadically in adulthood, the issues that came to fore with some of the BLM movements opened my eyes to the sheer lack of awareness of racism among those brought up with privilege, as well as ongoing prejudices. I’m aware that some friends sought to become allies. Other people let go of former friendships or loosened ties with certain people whose opinions were brought to light as prejudicial and unacceptable.

All of that aside, 2020 may have also prompted us to look at the deeper things of life and whether our close connections are meaningful or detrimental or toxic in some way. I’m blessed to have many good friends, but even then I realised that some of them are wrapped up in their own lives and could not begin to understand what it was like to live alone in a pandemic for several months. I also realised that as an empathetic person some of my friends take advantage of me and use that side of my nature, perhaps not intentionally but they do it nonetheless, without asking if I’m ok but just taking advantage of my kind and caring nature.

Going forwards, I find myself asking where I should be spending my time and which people to focus on in terms of building relationships. Sometimes friendships just drift apart because of different life stages although this is not always the case. For several years I’ve been the friend showing up to my other friends’ occasions from engagements, weddings, baby showers, births, birthdays, children’s parties and so forth (and I’ve had none of these occasions myself, other than birthdays, and no one ever thinks of celebrating or acknowledging their single friends in such a way). I’ve been a very giving person but at times feeling like I’m on the sidelines of my own life it has caused hurt, emotional fatigue, pain and burnout. Not to say that my friends haven’t been there for me through ups and downs, they have, but in this pandemic, many of them shared with me that they were really enjoying their lives and times with their families and just didn’t stop to think or really care what I might have been going through alone. Being alone (with God) strengthened me, but it also awakened me to rethink some of the dynamics of my friendships. There have been probably three or four key people outside of my family where from a distance we have been able to support and encourage each other and that has been a great help. Yet, it does lead me to think and ask you whether it is a good time to consider our connections, going forward and as we approach 2021?

Friendship dynamics change:

Friendships, true friendships are a blessing. They also take work and commitment and effort on the part of both parties. Sometimes friendships change as life changes or as we change. Rarer still are those friendships that last a lifetime through different seasons of life and through the ups and downs.

So, how do we know whether to hold on or to let go?

I find myself considering whether a friendship is one in which I am able to encourage someone to think about or draw closer to Christ, one in which we are able to mutually encourage each other in our faith, or where we believe different things, one in which we can enjoy fun, share our thoughts and build each other up in some way and share life (even if socially distanced).

If a friendship is toxic, then am I able to provide a good influence, or is that person simply dragging me down? Am I being taken for granted or made to feel miserable? We may not always be meant to let go of people, but perhaps we should be lessening the time we spend with certain people, and reconsidering our boundaries. Even when a friend is not a toxic person, perhaps something in their life triggers something in ours. Maybe they are always talking about or sharing something good in their life that makes us feel sidelined, overshadowed or alone – maybe they share their struggles and overburden us just because they can and we are good listeners.

As we approach 2021 we need to find a healthy or healthier balance between nurturing our friendships and relationships and taking care of our own wellbeing.

Sometimes this will mean considering whether to reassess our boundaries, let certain toxic people go, or move on. It may involve putting in more effort to strengthen bonds, to exercise forgiveness, commitment, love and compassion or to open up conversations to the ‘blind spots’ they or we may have and to seek to make things better. It may even mean taking a bold step to reconnect with or apologise to someone we have lost touch with or hurt or to forgive someone who has hurt us.

Where do you find yourself at the end of this year?

Has the pandemic affected your relationships or highlighted a need for change, for forgiveness, reconciliation or for stronger boundaries?

I hope you take your time and act from the heart with love, forgiveness, and wisdom and take care not only of the people in your life, but of you as well.

You matter. x

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Self Care In A Pandemic (35): Strengthen Your Heart…

Life can leave us with all kinds of internal wounds. You know what I’m talking about, right? A broken heart can be the result of all kinds of different things, not merely the lovelorn heart that we often read about in literature. Our hearts or spirits can be wounded or crushed because of not feeling loved, rejection, low self esteem, feeling like we don’t measure up, wounding words, verbal abuse, mental abuse, physical and psychological abuse, or just feeling ignored, hurt, used or left out in the world. Even when things seem to be going great, our hearts can get wounded because of friends taking us for granted or a harsh tone of voice. In this pandemic year, we are faced with many more challenges to normal. We see and hear of people dying from coronavirus and other things, we may feel isolated or alone or just disconnected even when around people. Empaths may be having a particularly hard time of it in feeling the pain of others. Then there are the circumstances related to ill health, mental health, financial worries, and so forth.

My heart was wounded and my spirit crushed pretty badly in childhood, over and over again and the effects still linger. I owe my life to my Saviour Who ‘heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds’, (psalm 147:3) and it is ‘by His wounds we are healed’ (Isaiah 53:5). There is no love so healing, so understanding, so compassionate and loving as the Love of Jesus. He knows and has felt every pain. He can make it right in His perfect way and time.

Over the past few years I have learned that I need to take better care of my heart because no other human being is going to do it for me – in fact, most people in our lives will hurt us in some way, even though there are people who love us deeply – it’s just the way things are in this broken world.

Ultimately, it is Jesus Who heals our wounds as we let Him in. Our Creator, Whose Heart was broken for us at the Cross and in His Life can more than Handle Healing and Renewing our broken hearts and making beauty come forth from them. There is nothing He cannot Redeem with His Sacrificial, Perfect Love poured out for us all.

God Is also a very practical God, and there are other ways we can strengthen our hearts too. The Source of Healing Is God Himself, by His Spirit and His Word, yet complementary to that we can all strengthen our hearts in different ways.

Healing and strengthening can come from friendships of mutual respect, love and care. There will be some people in the world that have said horrible things to or about you but isn’t it wonderful and healing and soothing to receive the kind words of a friend who will say you are valued, important, unique and wonderful (and if no one has ever told you that, then please receive them from me today). It strengthens our heart to give such true words to others too.

During times of depression, anxiety and mental distress, and chronic pain, I found that my brain found relief through creative activities such as arts, crafts, adult colouring in, music and such like. These kinds of activities engage areas of our brain related to healing, pain relief, pleasure and concentration or ‘flow states’. Over time, these have been like a medicine to me, and a source of joy and healing under God’s care.

Nature can strengthen our hearts, as can doing things that are helpful for our body and mind such as reading good books, looking after our health in what we eat, getting a healthy amount of exercise and positive self talk. Our hearts can also be strengthened through learning more about the lives and testimonies of others.

If you need some inspiration, know that the person writing to you was once so broken, crushed and defeated that I felt I could not and did not want to go on in life as a child, and then in adulthood have suffered from the recurring effects of that, but now I am finding a way forwards, and am moving through the stages of victim, rescued, survivor, overcomer to hopefully soon the next stage of ‘thriver’ by the Grace of God.

So if you are feeling defeated or down, know that there is hope for you. Take some time aside from the needs, demands and cruelty of others and give yourself time and space to strengthen your heart, daily. Please choose wisely as not everything we do is good for us -sometimes we want to numb out pain, but ultimately that leads to more problems or even destruction.

‘Guard your heart above all else for out of it spring forth the issues of life’.

Be blessed, be hopeful and take some time out to nurture yourself today. Perhaps like me you find that writing strengthens your heart too – if you haven’t written anything or blogged in a while, why not take a few minutes today to pick up a pen or type some words on your keyboard, whether or not you will share them with the world, with a friend, or keep them to yourself, it is a start and it might just give you a bit of ‘heart exercise’ that you need today.

With love and prayers, for your peace, salvation and wellbeing. x

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