All posts by livingfully2017

Hang in there (mental health post)

If you’re reading this blog post, chances are you have ups and downs with your mental health. The mind can be a tricky place. And not just the mind, but the brain itself. Realising there is a physical and biological aspect to mental health helps take away some of the stigma when we might feel like we ‘shouldn’t’ be struggling or suffering in our minds when we ‘ought to’ have control over our own thoughts. I’ve had this ‘argument’ with myself, but often our brains can do things we don’t want them to, especially in times of stress.

Thinking over my life, yes there have been times of stress, of trauma and mental overload and confusion, but there have also been great times and wonderful days feeling well, travelling (see my travel posts 🙂 ) even with anxiety, going out with friends, helping other people, serving in church, walks in the park, being part of community, and being liked, admired, respected by other people and achieving various goals. There have been days enjoying soaking up the beauty of being alive, of nature and connecting with God. Wondrous moments. Yet there are also days like today where I know I’m not 100% ok. I’d been pushing through anxiety and troubling thoughts to do various more positive things recently like going to work a couple of days in the office post-pandemic restrictions, going for walks and chats with friends, attending church and meeting new friends there and being able to help out, meeting up with good friends again. Some of those days have had the backdrop of anxiety but they still allowed me enjoyment. For the past month and a bit I’ve been recovering from Covid and post-Covid fatigue and it is impacting my mental health and brain health. I look at photographs to remind myself that my life is a beautiful life with a lot of blessings despite the times of stress or difficulties that I’ve experienced in various seasons. Yet my mind / brain can forget these things and bring up all sorts of ‘automatic negative thoughts’ – I think I’ve written about these ‘ANTS’ in previous blog posts – perhaps I’ll do a search to see if even I can find something helpful. When we’re ill and fatigued things can get a bit more difficult mentally especially if we’ve struggled in the past.

So why have I written the above? It’s to remind you that if you are in a dark or confusing moment that those are not the only moments you’ve had in life. This too will pass. You are a special, beautiful, worthy human being no matter what your brain is telling you, no matter what anyone else or any experience has told you. Our minds can be tricky and disorganised places and it can be difficult to pull ourselves up and out of the experiences of our own thoughts. Try to recall a time when you were in a better place or try to distract yourself by thinking on something good, true, lovely. Sometimes something as simple as watching a nature video can help, or talking to a friend or family member. It can be hard when we feel stuck to take that small step that cognitively seems huge to us, but just try a little at a time.

If you are in crisis, remember that it will pass. Don’t act on any troublesome thoughts but try to sit with those difficult feelings and if you can reach out to someone, even a helpline. Look at something that is positive rather than trying to ‘make sense of’ your confusing thoughts, although there may be a place for that when you are feeling better. Try to eat well, rest well and connect with people in some way. If you are able, go for a walk – I’m not able to go for a walk at the moment with the way my health is, but I often find that this helps to ‘clear my head’. I’m blessed to know that I have a loving Heavenly Father, and a Saviour Jesus Christ, and I know I’m never alone and can reach out to God any time, and am indwelt by His Spirit. This is a real comfort to me, as is turning to His Word and being reminded in Scripture that we can cry out to God, and that so many people experienced times of distress and that God rescued them from it. Even psalm 22 prophesies the intense distress that Jesus Christ would face on the Cross hundreds of years before the event. He knows, and He understands.

Despite the past seasons of darkness or trial, my life overall is a beautiful life, yet at times my mind tends to overwhelm me with unhelpful thoughts. If you’re struggling, you’re not alone, and it doesn’t have to last forever. No matter how bad your life might feel right now, there is hope. Ultimately, I would point you to Jesus Who has taken away my deep pain and Who forgives us and gives us a brand new life, gradually changing, cleansing, freeing us from within. There is hope for another day. Know that there are hundreds if not millions or more people across the globe right now whose brains are also struggling with the world we’re living in. Perhaps because of experiences, perhaps because of Covid, or ‘just because’….just because we’re human. It can be easy to look at others and think they’re doing great, and maybe they are but we can’t see beneath the surface or understand what’s really going on in someone’s mind. Most people would look at me and not have any idea that my brain can cause me distress but then I might look at them and assume the same. Wherever you are, just hang in there. Please. Know that it isn’t the end, there is light in the darkness and the thoughts tumbling upon you will clear. Thoughts are not reality but they can lead us in directions that can either help or harm us, so take a moment to consider dwelling on a different thought. Sometimes when you’re in the thick of it this can be difficult to do so an external input or distraction can help – this might be something you watch or read or talking to someone who can be a kind and supportive voice – or perhaps reading this blog post might, I sincerely hope, give someone a bit of perspective to hang on in there.

Don’t give up, dear friends, you’re not alone. Yes, our minds can cause us distress, but they can also be places of hope and of inspiration, faith, love and joy. That might feel like a million miles away from us at the moment but we can start with one thought at a time. For me, writing this blog post has helped engage another part of my brain, my mind, my thinking to steer me to a more helpful course, to seek to help someone else rather than getting lost in the automatic thoughts that my brain seems to throw at me from time to time, especially when feeling unwell physically. What might help you when you’re struggling? I’ve written in previous posts about having a ‘toolbox’ for mental health and self care, perhaps this is something we can have in reserve – strategies that are helpful – that we can go to and remind ourselves of on those more difficult days.

I hope that you’ve founds something helpful in this. Praying for you. Hang in there. Those thoughts, like clouds, will clear, and once again we’ll have brighter days. ❤

Photo by S Migaj on Pexels.com

Living it out…

I’ve been inspired recently by seeing Spirit filled believers living out their faith in love and in action, being as Jesus would have us be on earth, using their gifts and talents for His Glory and to love and serve other people. I’m most touched by the love and gentleness imbued in these actions and sharing of gifts and talents, whether these be people helping others in need or using their musical gifts to lead in worship.

Sometimes if I’m to be honest I can look to others and see their lives as fruitful and flourishing and pleasing to God, and perhaps not see myself in that way, even as I seek to live out my faith, but I am reminded that it Is God Who works in us to will and to do His good pleasure.

In Galatians 5: 22-23 we are told that the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ (that is the Holy Spirit indwelling believers) is love, joy, peace, longsuffering (patience), kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control. These are the beautiful qualities of Jesus Christ Himself, and in contrast to our fallen natures. That is not to say that people who don’t know Christ can’t be kind or loving, etc, as bearing the hallmarks of their Creator, but that the Spirit of Christ is the fullness of Love, joy, peace, etc. Spirit filled believers / followers of Christ also struggle against our fallen natures as God gradually changes our hearts from within to be more like Jesus.

I was reading this evening in James that ‘faith without works is dead’, and a few thoughts are coming together with regards to this. One is that God has created us uniquely and each person has different gifts and talents to use for His Glory, and God’s Spirit brings about unity and harmony among His people (when we are living lives surrendered to Him) as we live for Him rather than a sense of unhealthy comparison. So I can take heart that God Is using my life even if in different ways to others, and that I can look to the Giver of good gifts rather than the gifts themselves that I might admire in others. In 1 Corinthians, Christians are described as being the ‘Body of Christ’ – we all belong to the Head (Jesus Christ) and are members individually (just like the hand, foot, eye, etc are individual members with different roles and functions of a human body) but we are all part of the same body.

I’m not a teacher of Scripture, so just take these thoughts as musings and encouragements rather than any form of teaching.

As I think about the ‘works’ that come from living out a faith in Jesus Christ I’m reminded that the Gospel (the good news) is different from any other religion where one may have to work their way into God’s favour. The Bible is clear that no one can possibly be made right with God through what they do, but through faith in Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrificial work on the Cross to bring us into right relationship with God the Father with the indwelling Holy Spirit as a ‘seal’ of our redemption, confirming that we are children of God. The things we then do are an outworking of that restored relationship with God, but not something that can earn salvation which is a free gift at Christ’s expense.

Knowing Jesus personally, knowing the tender presence of His Spirit and the reality of His Love changes these things from mere words to life. He Is very real, and those who are His seek to live for Him.

Yet, as I have perhaps digressed, how do we live it out? I think abiding in Christ, staying closely connected with Him and letting Him change us from within is an important step, listening to His Voice and leading in our lives personally, and then looking to what we have to give to others and how we can serve them. Another important step is to stay connected not only to the Head (Jesus) but to His Body of believers as well as we serve together in churches / fellowships. I’m encouraged that God Is the God of encouragement and that He notices little things, and little people too. It may not seem like we have a lot to offer, but love will work its way out in the opportunities we have each day. Some people’s sacrificial lives and love will be very powerfully lived out, but perhaps there are ways we can live for Him as believers each day as He leads – could it be in allowing His love to flow through us to encourage someone else, to show kindness, to practically share what we have, to help someone who is suffering, to give financially or with the goods we have? Could it be in investing time in the gifts we have such as in music, or writing or teaching, or even writing a blog post? Could it be in using the powerful weapon of faith fuelled prayer? What do you have at hand today? How can we encourage each other to live lives of love in the power of the Spirit? Could it be in being more careful in the words we speak, in looking to the practical needs of others, those who are marginalised or suffering, spending time with someone or phoning someone who is struggling or needs encouragement, preparing gifts for those who are homeless or don’t have as much as we do? Maybe the first step will be a small step, but it is somewhere to start.

What are your thoughts on living out your faith, and what encouragement might you have for others?

❤ x

Photo by Matthias Zomer on Pexels.com

Mental help

At times we can feel like we’re the only person feeling the way we are or we may be frustrated that we are feeling and thinking in ways that we know aren’t helping us, but we don’t know the way out, and that can make it feel all the more frustrating.

In this moment, I’m thankful that I have the gift and outlet of the blog to reach out to someone feeling the way I am just now. It can be hard to be human, no doubt. It can be difficult and confusing to have brains that don’t always serve us well and thoughts and feelings that can be confusing.

You are not your thoughts:

Something that has helped me to hear is that ‘you are not your thoughts’, and that the ‘stuff in your head’ is just ‘stuff in your head’. It can be difficult to separate ourselves out from what’s going on seemingly inside us, but regardless of what your mind is telling you, you are unique, valuable, treasured and worthy. You are the only one of you – one of one, not one in a million, and you are not your thoughts. I believe that each one of us are worth dying for, worth the blood of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, that’s how precious and valuable our lives are, but even if you don’t believe that in this moment, know that you are unique and valuable.

Brain overload:

Our brains have had to process so much in our lifetimes and in the past few years globally. The amygdala and its fight / flight response can trick us into feeling that we are constantly under threat and we can lose perspective of who we are, our worth and what is actually real about our lives. Maybe we use ‘coping mechanisms’ to help us through. If you’re going through this, even when you’re trying to rest, know that you are not what’s happening in your brain and you’re not alone – you’re certainly not the only person experiencing mental, emotional or physical distress and it doesn’t mean something is wrong with you – you’re human, and these experiences are part of the human condition.

Finding an outlet:

It can be easy to listen to and follow up on the thoughts that come into our minds, even if they are not helpful to us or are confusing. We can feel bad about ourselves for doing so and that can make it worse. But we don’t need to follow every thought that pops into our minds, they’re not real, and we don’t need to go down every rabbit hole.

Finding an outlet can be helpful to distract us, and I know that can be difficult at times especially if coupled with low mood. But we can start small, telling ourselves that ‘this too will pass’, affirming that we are not our thoughts, that thoughts aren’t real, and that we are valuable no matter what anyone else has said or what our own minds tell us. We are unique, valuable and one of a kind, anything contrary to that is a lie.

Eating well can fuel our bodies and our minds, as can finding positive and true things to think upon such as watching or contemplating something in nature and being careful of the media we take in or the thoughts we dwell on. Reading something helpful or studying can activate certain areas in our brain that are more ‘rational’, and reaching out to talk to someone can also help as can doing something creative even if for a little while.

You are not alone:

It can be a hard battle to fight to try to untangle ourselves from the many messages we’ve taken in or the chemical reactions going on in our brains involuntarily, but you are definitely not alone friend, so please don’t give up. Even if you find a little relief from your distress for a moment it will help you to think a bit more clearly and perhaps you can find a regular healthy outlet that can help you to build up more positive thought patterns, resilience and connections in your mind.

One thought at a time.

I also take comfort in my faith in knowing that on another level I’m not alone and never will be alone. Jesus said, ‘Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest for your souls…’ He knows us on every level and will never cast aside anyone who comes to Him.

And you’re not alone in your human experience as there are millions of other people going through mental health issues throughout the world. Take heart and don’t give up. Do something kind for your mind today. ❤ x

Photo by cottonbro studio on Pexels.com

Your unique value and worth…

Well dear friends, I’m back – and my latest news is that I got Covid for the first (and hopefully only) time. I tested positive on 5th October and have since had negative tests, but it seems that I’m suffering from a form of long-covid, and I hope and trust that in time it will pass and I’ll be back to strength again. But it has been somewhat of a rough ride at times with the exhaustion, shakiness, fatigue, breathlessness, inability to do much at home and the ‘brain fog’ and mental stress, emotions and anxiety and confusion in sleeping and waking hours. I know people have different symptoms but in addition to the cough and cold like symptoms earlier on these have been some of mine and in the early stages they were quite severe and I was unable to get out of bed for long and had restless sleep or attempts to sleep. I’m finally sitting up and able to blog, so that is progress. Perhaps writing will help me to shed some light on what I’ve learned.

There is Light

Being unwell can be a scary place to be, especially when our bodies and minds feel like they are vulnerable, weak and not doing what they were created to do in being healthy and able. We feel the value and fragility of life. I’m feeling much more myself now, but I’m not there yet. I’m sitting up or able to rest in bed and do a few more tasks at home without as much fatigue as before, which is wonderful, but I still need to conserve a lot of energy as I fully recover. For the most part I’ve been on my own during this time, with a bit of time staying with family in between, and am on my own today again. In the early stages I was on my own (I don’t say alone), but so thankful for regular phone conversations and emails with family and friends and doctors, even though I couldn’t speak for long.

Being unwell with Covid has made me grateful for the things that give life and that are easily taken for granted on ‘normal’ days. As many of you know who read my blog for mental health encouragement, I have had many struggles with anxiety and panic attacks over the years, and in the past, c-PTSD, so I know what it is like to struggle to breathe or to experience mental distress. However, with Covid I’ve been reminded of just how precious something so simple and profound as our breath is. I wrote previously about how our lives are like a breath, a vapour, and when we can’t breathe properly, we are reminded of our frailty, our vulnerability, our need. I’m reminded of the things I have at times taken for granted (although I’ve been more aware of being grateful for them since seeing a good friend suffer for a while in hospital and with long term health conditions) like being able to walk for long periods of time, or being able to walk at all, to sit up and eat and do things for myself, of feeling young and healthy and alive.

Despite the distressing side of those experiences, I have also been held and lifted and drawn closer to Christ and felt the reality of God’s Peace and Presence with me at times of need. I know this may seem strange to some of you reading this, but there Is a Real and Living God Who we can have relationship with through Jesus Christ and He was there for me, counselling me and carrying me through. I’ve been able to receive this in this season as I digest the truth of His Word in Romans that I have received the Spirit of adoption (not the spirit of bondage again to fear) by Whom I can call out to God as His child. This reality has been precious to me, even as I wrestle and struggle with my broken humanity of weakness, distress and fear, there is a Peace in Christ that transcends that and all understanding, and it was made real to me afresh that beyond ‘religion’ there is something so much more, and that nothing can separate me from the Love of God in Christ Jesus. Often we (or perhaps I) feel better about ourselves when we are fit and able (although as I mentioned I have ongoing battles with anxiety and an overactive brain that can be distressing at times), when able to connect with and interact with other people, when able to look nice and go outside and enjoy walks, or lunches with friends, when we’re able to help other people, or are looked upon favourably and complimented and feel healthy and well. When we’re unwell, we’re not at our best and our bodies and minds can make us vulnerable physically, mentally, emotionally. It has been a huge source of comfort to know that I’m known and completely loved even when I’m struggling or not feeling my best, and that this goes beyond human opinion. I know there will be brighter days ahead when once again I’ll feel and look good and healthy and vibrant and able to go out and connect with others, but none of us know how long these things last, and for anyone no matter what health or circumstances may take we can know a love that will never leave, and that has been my Light in this, as well as the care of friends and family. But to be known and valued at the depths of who we are….that can only be found in Christ, and I have that greatest treasure…in sickness, and in health….ultimately in life and in death.

And that is where our unique value and worth is found. No matter what people may have said or done, no matter what age or health may do, there is a perfect love that is boundless for those who are in Christ Jesus, one that comforts us in the night watches, one that will last beyond the grave and usher in eternal life where there will be no more sickness, sorrow, pain or death. This knowing, this relationship, this love is the greatest treasure of life and sometimes we find it in times of weakness or fear. He Is Real, He knows you….

Recovery

I’m thankful for the strength and health to be able to write a blog post again. I realise that having the cognitive functions to be able to do so, to be able to remember things, to be able to touch type and form words and sentences with meaning that might actually help or encourage another precious soul are gifts and blessings far beyond my ability to appreciate. I’m so blessed with all the things I can ‘normally’ do without thinking about them, and maybe sometimes we realise this only when we see our vulnerability to not having them. Perhaps recovery will take time, but I hope it will be a full one.

I have become more mindful of people who have longer term health conditions, and who physically have to deal with things without the chance of restoration that I have. I have no doubt I’ll be back to health even if it takes a few more weeks, but I have friends who may have life long conditions now who once were extremely fit and healthy and active. While I will recover and be able to tidy up again without getting tired, or go for walks and breathe normally again, there are dear friends of mine, and many more who I don’t know and perhaps some of you reading this who will not be able to do so. And the insight of the weakness, fear and vulnerability of not being able to do simple things for oneself has been humbling. While I am optimistic and hopeful and feeling certain that I’m slowly but surely going to get better, there have been times when it has been worrying and I’ve not known how to manage, but there are people who will have to live with life long conditions and need care and help from others. I can’t imagine that and my heart goes out to you / them as I’ve gained this little bit of insight.

May whatever lesson life is showing you just now lead you to the deepest, purest most sacrificial love of the One Who identified completely with our weakness, frailty, sin and death so that we can go free. May it help you to grow in compassion for those who are suffering and to grow in depths of enjoyment for all those little things you have in life that are in fact the big things – like being able to see these words on a screen, to understand them and not forget or be confused, like being able to be present in this moment, to feed yourself and go outside for a walk if you can walk, to breathe and feel your lungs working, to go through your day even with its pressures and not collapse with fatigue. May these as well as the other many wonderful things we have like friendships, family, sunsets, community, love, faith, good food, health, homes, jobs, encouragement from people who care for us, bring even greater joy to your soul even in this troubled world.

“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Anxiety busters

Anxiety can be a big deal. I know, I’ve lived it and continue to deal with overcoming its challenges. Our brains and bodies and nervous systems can cause all sorts of havoc and experiencing anxiety can be very distressing not only because of the physical sensations but also because of the intrusive and scary thoughts and memories that we can have, especially if they are coupled with other things like trauma or depression. When we are in the midst of this it can be very difficult to separate what we are experiencing from the reality that we are not our thoughts and that what our brains are doing are not real experiences in the moment. That’s not to say that we are not experiencing them, it’s just they are not in the real world. Thoughts are powerful but at the end of the day they are just thoughts and with time and effort we can replace them with Truth.

Our fight / flight / freeze mechanism can keep us in that heightened state of stress and anxiety and troublesome brain activity. So practically what can we do to alleviate some of these symptoms which many of us are facing on an almost daily and nightly basis?

  1. Monotasking

Sometimes it can help to slow down and focus on just one thing at a time to calm down that frantic sense of the many things we need to do that can leave us immobilised. I find that if I am struggling then if I set a five or ten minute timer on my phone I can focus on a task at hand for a few minutes and get ‘out of my head’ a bit more because I have a goal at hand to achieve. That doesn’t mean troublesome thoughts don’t exist but I’m not merely sitting with them and getting lost in them or overwhelmed by them. I’d have still have done my dishes or made something to eat in the meantime, or accomplished whatever small goal I might have, and then be able to take a break and go on to the next thing.

2. Eating well

Speaking of something to eat, it’s important to fuel up our brains and bodies but when we are running on high levels of stress it can be hard to get past the anxiety and depression to be able to take care of ourselves and focus on eating well. Planning in advance during the times when you do feel a bit better or asking someone for advice in this area can help because nutrition will help build us up and provide the energy that our brains need to operate better.

3. Breathing

Deep breathing can help calm the nervous system and get us out of fight / flight mode when thoughts automatically pop up causing us distress to think that there are things we need to fight or flee from. If we can calm our bodies to be in a state of rest and digest rather than fight and flight then we can be better placed to calm that anxiety and get on with our day more productively and healthily. This can take time and practice but it is good to know that something so simple as breathing can help with our wellbeing. Breathe in deeply through the nose, and exhale for a longer count through the mouth, and repeat as often as required to calm the nervous system.

4. Talk to a friend / get support

Anxiety and distressing thoughts can be overwhelming, especially if we feel like we are going crazy or don’t realise that these are ‘normal’ symptoms. Sometimes we need the reassurance that we are not alone, that we are not going to act on these scary thoughts (some of which for heightened anxiety include suicidal or harming thoughts) and we can diffuse what we are going through by chatting to a friend, or a counsellor. Spending time with people, making connections can all help to keep us grounded in the moment that we are in and out of our heads. It also helps to know you’re not the only one going through what you are and that there isn’t something wrong with you for experiencing anxiety and stressful thoughts.

5. Exercise, rest and time outside / in nature

It really helps the mind to keep the body moving, especially if this can involve getting fresh air and exercise outside or going for a walk in nature. There is something calming about the pace of nature and if we can engage our senses to notice the things going on around us in the here and now that can help us get outside of our own heads. That doesn’t necessarily mean distressing thoughts or feelings will automatically go away but they will be alleviated in the moment. Rest and listening to our bodies is also important so make sure you get good sleep as well, and if need be have a nap during the day.

6. Things you can’t control

Our brains are processing so much and especially with the things going on in the world right now it can feel hard to ‘switch off’. We might find ourselves worrying about so many things outside of our control that we can’t do anything about whether in our own lives, those of our friends and families or at the world at large. We can try to make a conscious choice during our waking hours to engage with what we can control rather than worrying about what we can’t. I know it sounds easier said than done, but at least we can try.

7. Creativity

Whether it be cooking, gardening, colouring, drawing, dancing, playing an instrument, or reading or writing a blog or a book, creativity can really help to keep us grounded and engage our hands and our minds in a productive way. So too can learning something new. It might help ease some of that stress even if we start small at first.

8. Faith and the Reality of God

The other week I was trying things to help alleviate anxiety and stress – deep breathing, I started adult colouring again, and for the first time perhaps in years I tuned in to a Ted Talk. The remarkable thing was that that very Sunday at church my pastor talked about all of these things as ways and means people turn to in order to help with stress and anxiety and seeking wisdom (including the ‘art of decluttering’) in how to live and get through these stressful days. It really did make me take notice, as sometimes you know God Is speaking specifically to you. However, he went on to discuss the importance of seeking our wisdom in the True Source of hope and wisdom for life, and the only True source of real Peace – Jesus Christ. We need to ask for the Spirit’s help to reveal the reality of these things to us, we need a saving relationship with the Living God, and that reality is only found in Jesus Christ. I am so grateful that while I may try various things to ‘help me through’ He Is The One Who has saved my soul, Who will hold me fast through this life and bring me safely to Him after death, and Who Is with me each and every day on earth. I have something better than mere ‘tools and techniques’ to get me through, I have a Living Saviour Who loved me and gave Himself for me and Who will be with me in every anxious moment, helping me to look to Him and find Peace. ❤

Photo by Belle Co on Pexels.com

Someday I will be gone from this world….

Someday I will be gone from this world, and if anyone happens upon my blog (if it still exists) they may have no idea of who I am….obviously, since it is anonymous, yet isn’t is strange to think that others can observe and read of some essence of the journey of someone’s soul through this life?

This life is a breath, a vapour, so transient. For those of us who are thinkers, we perhaps approach young adulthood thinking and trying to discover a greater sense of meaning, of purpose, and trying to find a vision for our lives, and perhaps escape some of those troublesome ‘growing up’ years and their lingering imprints upon our hearts and minds.

As we progress through life, or perhaps even for young people nowadays, our minds realise that death is not such an abstract concept. One of my dear friends passed away from this life just last week. She was 65. In my younger years, years of searching as a teenager, I had different concepts of what might happen after death, and like some thought of some kind of ‘oneness’ with the universe. That was until I had a powerful encounter with Christ and so many things changed for me eternally in reality and in my outlook and life. That being said I take comfort in knowing that my dear friend Teresa is in perfect peace with Him. I realise this is not a view of reality that some of my readers share, but still the past few years with the Coronavirus pandemic, the war in Ukraine and a society that is increasingly unsettled and even violent in places has brought thoughts of life and death to the minds of many.

Much of what has been happening in the news and across the world has brought unsettling thoughts and worries to our minds, and while I know many people who have ‘sailed through’ and are enjoying life, some of us have more sensitive minds and have found it hard to ‘switch off’ those worries and anxieties.

There is something of a relief and a release in writing, in sharing our thoughts and getting away from the things that trouble our minds. Brains can be funny places, they can bring forth inspiration and wonder, yet they can also lead us into dark and confusing places, which is why we need to take our thoughts captive and work on choosing what and how we think, but the mind can be a battleground.

Sometimes it helps to slow down, to prop up our feet, to watch the world go by from our window and to blog a little. Life may be fleeting but it is happening now, take it in, take a deep breath and take a moment to contemplate, and take a moment just to be. ❤ x

Living in the shadowlands…

I finished writing my novel. The next step is to get a copy for myself and family and friends, I guess. I’m not sure if I will publish it, however.

And yet, a life goal almost accomplished (once I get a hard copy version), and there is a sense of life moving on far too quickly. Depending on your age and life experiences I suppose you will know something of adapting to the reality of a life that is not quite a fairy-tale.

Time seemed to move at a slower pace when we were younger. Perhaps. I’m still in my thirties but even so things have hurtled on and the ‘big’ milestones I thought I would have met haven’t quite come to pass…yet. And even if they do, we can’t hold on to them anyway. In a world where people are passing away at a younger age, young parents leaving their children behind, and the inevitability of loss, it is hard to live in the shadowlands. It is hard to know that we are living in a world that is rapidly changing, and that seems to have speeded up with its changes over just the past few years. It is hard to make other people take notice of certain things in their lives. And yet, with all the worries, perhaps I’m not taking time enough to allow myself to slow down and be thankful.

I have a hope, a very real hope in the Living God, Jesus Christ, that there is so much more than this. It may sound strange but it’s my experience and I have great Peace in Him, despite the battles of life and the spiritual battles that we are in.

Yet, even so, it takes courage to be human. To contend with our own minds, and the world we live in, and to press on. Sometimes feeling helpless and weak can lead us to the Grace we so desperately need, and finding comfort in the God Who will love us if we just would turn to Him. I found that afresh today. The God Who will reach out to me in my weakness and gather me in and comfort me with His very real and tangible Peace and Presence.

Some may look upon Christ as a crutch for the weak, yet He Is very real and the only real hope we can have in this life or the one to come. While this life is but a breath, a vapour, what is to come is eternal, and for those in Christ, an existence and a reality to be welcomed and hoped for.

Still, we have to live in the tension in the meantime of a life in the shadowlands. And that isn’t always easy. But maybe taking the time to slow down, to listen and hear what He’s saying to us, to appreciate and be thankful in the moment we are in can help us do more than worry about the uncertainties of life. There are certain bridges that we will just have to cross when we come to them. I hope you will find a place to rest today. x

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Being human in 2022

Hi friends,

I’m back after a little hiatus from blogging. Not an intentional one, but just a natural lull as life has been changing a bit post pandemic restrictions in the UK.

I just want to check in with you all and hopefully encourage someone out there to feel less alone if you are finding it challenging to adapt to life in 2022.

I’ve been very fortunate in many ways, yet being human isn’t the easiest of things is it, especially these days? I’ve moved back to my own flat after spending about a year and a half working from home and living with my parents. The change has been good in many ways, and I hope to be able to visit again soon, but there is a sense of adjustment too.

Hybrid working, and a world of change.

My work has us now working a hybrid working pattern and for most or many people this means working two days in the office and three at home. Over the lockdown / pandemic I had two new bosses after two bosses left, and have started work in a new team. I am gradually adjusting to working in the office and it has been good to have face to face interaction. However, that being said, some days have been mentally and emotionally tiring, and I’m aware that there is an anxiety to resuming ‘life’ in 2022 even with all the benefits of being able to meet and interact again.

I remember, and have blog posts from 2019 and early 2020 where there was a sense of excitement and anticipation and hope for embarking upon new adventures, 2020 vision etc. The big news story of the day was Brexit, and so I had hoped to get some travelling done in 2020 before EU restrictions on travel from the UK. Little did we know how much and how quickly our world would change, and how our world continues to change.

In early 2022 many of us were feeling a bit hopeful if somewhat apprehensive about ‘getting back to normal’ again. It’s been good to start doing things again, and seeing people, but I’m aware that mental health is a big issue for many and I’m aware of frustrations with my own mental health as I strive for something more ‘normal’ or ‘healthy’ whatever that means while giving myself understanding that we’ve all been through many things recently even if you haven’t had challenges in the past. It can be hard to keep our heads above the parapets in a world like the one we are living in. The war and human devastation that is happening in Ukraine and other places in the world is far too big for me to write about but I know that this adds to the stress and trauma of society and individuals. Many people are adapting and coping well in their own individual lives as they ‘switch off’ from what is going on, but so many people cannot switch off from the horrors they are living through and we are faced daily with the reality of death, and how to live our lives in this world.

I’ve appreciated being back in community again with people and being able to talk and pray with others who know the saving grace of Jesus Christ. I have felt such comfort in seeing His Hand at work in my life in the ways He has provided friendships and connections for me and often giving the same or similar messages to me and a friend that has been an encouragement to be reminded of the reality of the Living God Who I have encountered again and again in life. It has been an encouragement to be with other believers and to also know His Peace carrying me.

Yet, being human our minds are often wired to anxious thoughts and feelings and even though I know the hope that I have in Christ, and the Peace for those who have trusted in Him and know His forgiveness and saving grace, it can still be a challenge to live in this world.

There are no easy answers

I know that there are no easy answers to what we are all living through in these days. Of course many people are doing great and are able to move through life well. But at the end of the day there is no point in gaining the whole world and forfeiting our souls. ‘Call upon the Name of The LORD and be saved’.

In a simple and practical sense though we all need to look after our mental health and wellbeing so that we can keep going through life. We are so complex as human beings and it can mean riding the waves as we move through life.

Little practical steps

I have found it so helpful to be able to connect face to face with friends again.

Other things that have been beneficial have been going for walks which I had so missed before.

Of being aware that many people are thinking and worrying about things and that we are not alone in trying to reign in our minds to more helpful thought patterns.

Taking rest and sleep when needed and trying to eat regularly and get a bit of exercise as well as setting a timer to do a task to focus my mind and then doing something else have also helped focus on the here and now.

You’re not alone

If you find your mind anxious or thinking about past things or worrying about the future you’re not alone. It takes time to build resilience in our minds and with everything going on in the world you might be feeling like you can’t cope. Something I learned during the lockdowns of the pandemic is that I can manage the next 10 minutes. And if you are feeling unsure and uncertain about the future, think about what you can do in the next 10 minutes of this day.

Take care and know that you are not the only one whatever you are going through.

Appreciating life as it is today, not how you wish it to be…

The past few years have been quite a big learning curve for many. We may have learned some deep lessons, but being human it can be easy for us to forget what we have learned.

As humans, we often worry so much about the future or think too much about the past that we miss the day that we are in right now. The only thing that we can presently work with. We often let fear come in the way of faith.

I’d like to explore a few thoughts as they come to me.

Today.

During the pandemic, I really missed interacting with people, going for walks in the park, worshipping in church and being with other believers who know personally that Jesus Christ Is The Way, The Truth and The Life, and being nurtured and fed together in Him. I missed seeing the cherry blossom trees, and ducks and squirrels and just going with my camera out on walks and having a bit of independence.

Today I enjoyed all of these things. And I enjoyed coming home to my flat. I must admit, however, after church and spending time with some new people and a friend I know quite well, I felt a bit lonely. In the park there were couples and families walking and I found myself wondering about my own life and being on my own.

We can so often miss what is right in front of us in the here and now either by the thoughts going on in our minds that could be to do with the past, or just longing for something or someone such as companionship.

During the pandemic many of us experienced a range of emotions and thoughts, including the more pressing realisation of the shortness of time. When living in day tight compartments, and in a situation when you are faced with your own mortality, you gain perspective that any day could be the last one. Therefore, in some ways we become more present, in the present.

The now and next

We are created to hope. To hope in the future, and for believers in Christ, to hope for the reality of His coming again, and for the very real place of perfection that He Is preparing for us. Being present with Christ today means being aware of His presence and purpose in today, and of making the most of every opportunity. Yet, sometimes on an earthly level we think about the ‘what next’ of our own lives, perhaps in terms of finding that someone special, especially if we’ve waited a long time. Yet there is also the realisation that people lose their spouses or friends for a number of reasons. The only constant and comfort is Christ.

Appreciating what is, not what we wish things were.

Life is very troubled in this world at present. For those of us who are in relatively good circumstances, perhaps in those moments when we are tempted to think about what we lack, whether we are feeling lonely and want a companion, or thinking about what we think would make our lives feel better or more secure, then we should take time to be more present and grounded and grateful. The things that I missed during the pandemic, I have now.

I appreciate being able to speak to my family on the phone ❤ I appreciate my flat, my food, my health, my clothes, my friends that I can speak with in person or online. I appreciate being able to go for walks and write blog posts. I am so thankful that in this day I know that God Is working out things for my eternal good and that I can pray and intercede for others.

In a world where people are in trauma and lacking so many things and have lost loved ones, I am choosing to be thankful for all the good things that I do have right here and now.

Day tight compartments.

This life is very short. We need to learn to focus on the day tight compartment that we are living in and give all our attention and heart to it, making the most of every opportunity as it comes to us, knowing what to say no to but also knowing what to embrace. Life comes in seasons and each season will pass, so what will we do with today?

Using our gifts and encouraging others

Each day will be filled with tasks to do, duties to fulfil, but also gifts that we can use and encouragement that we can share with others. These may be hidden things that the world does not see, but that are important nonetheless. We do not know what difference it might make.

Thankfulness

So while there is so much we cannot be in control of, we can take a few moments to be thankful for what we do have. The time will pass anyway, let us, where we can, pass it gratefully. x

Photo by George Dolgikh @ Giftpundits.com on Pexels.com

Some gentle advice…

It’s hard to put into words what is happening in humanity right now. It is hard to know how to react. The senseless violence that many are facing right now is overwhelming. If you are not in that situation and are affected by it all, it can be hard to know how to process and look at things.

I am writing this post with a dear friend in mind. Someone with a deep and compassionate heart who is grief stricken by what is happening.

There is no way of saying how people should be dealing with or processing things going on in the world right now, and I am seeing many people who are switching off from it and turning to look for how they can have the most fun in their lives. Others are finding different ways and means to cope with things, and there are some who are rising up to lead in relief and humanitarian efforts through acts of love and kindness big and small. I know of people who have gone into Kyiv to rescue refugees. I don’t know them personally, but through people in church who left Ukraine and who are now helping local efforts for refugees.

There is no right or wrong way to process or deal with such traumatic realities. Well, perhaps there are wrong ways when it causes harm to others, but one thing I can say is it is ok to care for yourself even if others are suffering.

It is ok to acknowledge overwhelming thoughts, emotions and the effect of seeing such human suffering and the horrors of what is happening. There are no words for this, and I am unable to spend a lot of time watching or thinking about it.

Try to be gentle with yourself, try to look at the ways you can care for and strengthen yourself and do what little you can to help in some way.

Take one day at a time, remember you are important and realise that there is a lot that we are not in control of but where we can make a change or add compassion to the world, we can try a little at a time to focus on that.

There are no easy answers. But know that caring for yourself even when others are suffering is ok. ❤ x