Tag Archives: Advent

Self Care In A Pandemic (21): Time To Think…

While we are all approaching the year’s end, no doubt this year we’ve had a lot of new thoughts going through our minds. Things that we never would have thought about in 2019, when the idea of a pandemic, for most of us at least, just wasn’t on our radar….at all.

This year may have given us all new and challenging things to think about as we’ve been living through and processing new experiences of the world, yet, perhaps in these challenges we can find space for an opportunity.

Here in Scotland, where I am living for the winter season, the first frost has arrived and the once green grass is speckled with white. The cloud laced skies are actually a bright blue which is beautiful for this time of year, and the vibrancy of autumn / fall has well passed and the branches and twigs of the trees have been stripped bare of life and of colour. We are approaching winter with a beauty of its own. Elsewhere, friends have told me, it has been snowing.

As the seasons change, we are presented with the opportunity to slow down. I give my gratitude to all of you who are front line workers and who will be working hard and steadfastly through the winter with little chance to pause, but for most of us, we will hopefully be safe and sheltered indoors.

With the slowing of the seasons, comes the opportunity to slow our minds and to think. I don’t know about you, but some of my thoughts this year haven’t been so much related to the pandemic as they have been to discovering more about myself and my friendships and connections with people through this experience.

For example, things that had been feeling ‘not quite right’ with certain friendships before the pandemic seem to have come more to the fore this year, especially as I spent four months living completely alone. I came to a deeper realisation that certain friends who have spouses and children and families of their own were oblivious to some of the fundamental lived realities of what it is to be me. Friends who shared that they were happy and doing well and who I tried to connect with but just didn’t have the need and didn’t contact me until after I had been locked down alone, only perhaps when they needed some diversion after Lockdown 1.0. Friendships are deep and complex things, but as an empath I sometimes suffer from how much I give to others, and I do acknowledge that friends are also there for me or have been, but I’ve had more time to think and to realise what I am or am not comfortable with this year, and being alone in lockdown for four months helped me to see who the people were that I could actually mutually connect with and the others who didn’t have the need for a single friend and only got in touch when it suited them. Beautiful, kind hearted people. But people with their own priorities, their own selfishness (and no doubt I will have my own that I’m unaware of even though I try to be a good friend) and their own blind spots and inability to think or relate to how a person completely isolated might have felt. Lifelong friends, but friends with whom I need to move on from the dynamic that was there before, and to consider my own wellbeing and sense of selfhood and I’m discovering this as I move forwards and as we all approach 2021. And I need to use this time to think things through.

Perhaps certain things in your life have been simmering in your mind against the backdrop of a pandemic year. Maybe the ‘other’ things you have had more time to think about or have needed to spend more time processing are completely different to mine. I am intrigued to know what these things might be, or if any of you can relate to what I have shared.

Perhaps an opportunity in the midst of the difficulties of 2020 that we have been presented with is the chance to do things differently, to not just continue with the way things have always been, or the way things have been for us for too long. Perhaps something within you has been stirred to make a change. Perhaps you are awakening to a realisation that you have been caring for the needs of others, which is a beautiful thing, but at the same time have been neglecting your own needs and suffering for it, which is something I can relate to.

Can we give ourselves that bit of self care in this pandemic by taking time to think things through, to pray things through, to seek wisdom and insight as to whether the way things have been aren’t right for us as we embark upon a new season, and consider that the way things are can be changed?

What have you been thinking about, or what do you need to make time for yourself to think through in this season? Are there any deep changes you need to make in your life as you move forwards, or are there any small day to day shifts that you feel are equally important for you to make?

I hope you are able to find new answers and fresh hope as you move forwards, as we all move forwards through the Light of Advent season, into the Hope of Christmas, and the potential of a New Year where we can face the future with greater resilience, courage, faith and determination, and a desire to lift each other up, but not to allow ourselves to be burnt out in the process.

Peace and Love. x

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Self Care In A Pandemic (18): Expectations….of yourself…

Well done friends, we have all made it to the final month of 2020! God’s Grace has carried me through many storms prior to this year, and I have been kept safe in His Care this year, and this makes me wonder how many of you feel like 2020 has been a stormy year for you?

I started this blog in 2017 (hence ‘livingfully2017′ in the title), and since then I have enjoyed writing series’ of posts on self care during the winter seasons, and I wrote quite extensively last year, so if you need a little ‘pick me up’ and some good advice from last year then do a little search through my blog archives and you will be sure to find something helpful, inspiring and encouraging I hope!

I think that we can all agree that this year we all need a bit of encouragement as we enter the final month of the year. I don’t know about you, but I’ve certainly never experienced a pandemic before, but that being said I think a lot of the advice I would normally offer at this time of the year would still hold good, especially as I am particularly mindful of how this can be a sensitive time of year for many and that it is also a time of year that highlights more starkly the contrasts that exist between people who are doing well and those who are suffering.

As we hit December 1st in any given year, social media presents us with all sorts of lifestyle goals, and perhaps we put pressure on ourselves to have those picture perfect experiences that aren’t always entirely in touch with the real lives we are actually living through.

This year, I would encourage you, and myself, to consider the expectations we have – and in this post let’s think about the expectations we place upon ourselves.

As a Christian, Advent – the time of the year where we focus particularly upon the preparations in the lead up to Christmas as we think about the reality of the first Advent before Jesus Christ was born into the world to Be The Saviour of The World, is a special and meaningful time for me. It reminds me of the real preparations of heart, mind and spirit that I should be making in thinking of what God has done for me, of Emmanuel, the Living God being with me, and how to live to honour Him because of His Sacrifice of His very life for me at the Cross, so that in His Resurrection I can live a new life. I have been delivered out of darkness, fear, hurt, pain, and been forgiven and set free to live a new life in Christ, and this is what we rejoice about at Advent – the Gift of the Messiah, the Saviour, God Incarnate come to dwell with His Creation and offer us Forgiveness if we put our trust and hope in Him. Jesus Is The only reason I’m still alive in this world today and He Is my Rescuer and my constant source of Peace and Comfort all the days of my life no matter what happens in my circumstances.

Whatever you believe, or don’t believe, this is a time of year when you may feel pressure to meet certain expectations. Do you feel pressurised to decorate your home in a certain way, if you have kids to keep them entertained and happy with different activities, to be a peacemaker in your family, to reach out to your friends, to do all sorts of acts of charity, to be creative, to cook, to organise things, to have a picture perfect holiday season, to have an album of holiday pictures that will make people wish their lives were more like yours?!

We absorb expectations from all sorts of places, and in the society we live in where media is at the forefront of our daily lives, some of these expectations are unrealistic especially when we may be struggling to get through or to keep our heads above the water.

I want to encourage you to focus on those expectations of yourself that are internal. That are more to do with your character, your journey to discover Truth, your mental and emotional health and wellbeing, your healing, recovery and authenticity in your friendships and relationships and in reaching out to others. Also to allow yourself to be unable and to cry out for help because we all need help at some point in our lives.

Are you, are we burdening ourselves with things we can really let go of? Has 2020 taught us anything in this way about the excesses and unnecessary things we spend our time and attention upon?

You don’t need to have a picture perfect holiday or Christmas whatever that means. We are living through hard times and if you are in a good place then maybe it is a great opportunity for you to use that to inspire and encourage other people, but we need to learn that covering up how we actually are with filters isn’t an authentic way forward.

So please, if you are hurting yourself with the weight of your own expectations of yourself, consider laying that down. I pray you will lay it down at the foot of the Cross of Jesus Christ Who will bear you up in His Loving arms and carry your burdens for you. He Died for you to be free. He Loves you. And even if you don’t relate to that right now, consider that in any case you may be adding weight to your own load by the expectations you place upon yourself.

This has not been a perfect year. Don’t add to your own struggles if you don’t have to. Take care, and find rest. xx

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Winter Survival Guide (43) ~ Create a ‘Reverse Advent Calendar’.

What is a reverse advent calendar?” I hear you ask 🙂

Traditionally when we think about ‘Advent’ we are referring to a season observed by many Christians that is symbolic of the expectancy of Christ’s first Coming into the world, and the preparation and celebration of the Nativity of Jesus Christ at Christmas, and the return of Jesus at His Second Coming, which we still expectantly await.

Advent calendars fill the shops, and most people think of them as a kind of a ‘countdown’ to Christmas. They pop open little cardboard flaps on a cardboard advent calendar, and then pop a little festive shaped chocolate into their mouths, and so it goes. Advent calendars have over the past few years become much more elaborate though with people having the option of spending a small fortune on high end advent calendars that contain everything from chocolates, teas, beauty products and the like.

A ‘reverse advent calendar’ turns the commercialised idea of an advent calendar on its head. Jesus came in meekness and humility and love, and He came to serve other people and to give. We use advent calendars as a way of ‘treating ourselves’. To reverse this would be to give to other people.

One way in which to do this is as you ‘count down’ to Christmas, each day, or for whatever time frame suits you and is most convenient, collect an item that you can give to someone who is in need and without the blessings of food and warmth that you and I enjoy and often take for granted.

For example, you could collect items for a food bank, a soup kitchen or a homeless charity, and once you have collected them all, you have a collection of things that you can give away.

Perhaps this is something that you could do with friends or family, to encourage a community spirit and to help each other think of other people who are in need this season. And if you feel financial pressures yourself, just think that buying a tin of soup is probably cheaper than buying a box of Christmas crackers or novelty toys, and will go a lot further in making a difference. You could even pick up an extra item when you do your own shopping and you will hardly notice the ‘dent’ in your purse or wallet if you do.

If you are in the position to do so, you and your friends and family could collect some change each day and at the end of the time you could contribute that money to a worthwhile cause or charity.

Is this something that sounds like a good idea to you, and would you try it out with your friends and family or by yourself? Maybe it is something you could introduce into your workplace and see how many other people you can get on board. A little goes a long way, and it will make  difference to someone this year if we consider ‘reversing’ our advent calendars to celebrate what should be a season of giving rather than getting. Be blessed. x

food chef kitchen soup
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