When was the last time you lifted your eyes and watched the clouds drift lazily across the sky? Shadows, darkness and wisps of wonder traverse the skyline, slowly, heavily, lightly, fleeting mists.
When was the last time you looked up, and allowed the gentle pace of the clouds to calm your breathing, and softly nudge your mind to rest?
Have you ever watched the clouds move? Have you ever let them invite you in to a lazy, carefree space within yourself?
I watch the clouds move, and my heart grows calm. The noise of the world seems to dissipate, and all there is is what is in front of me, the moment that I am resting within, swaddled by these wispy, whimsical, gently floating dreams. I don’t see where they go when they move past the corner of my window….where do dreams go as they drift along?
In this vast universe there is a little window of time, of opportunity, of life, your life, and mine….will you slow your heart and mind for a moment to hear it, to experience and to live it, to allow it to deepen the wonder within you?
The seasons of the year remind us that change is an inevitable, and thankfully purposeful, part of our lives. Autumn is a beautiful conundrum: we are mesmerised with the beauty of leaves turning vibrant shades of gold, orange, red and yellow – yet what is actually happening is that these leaves are changing, dying and falling away. One season of life gives way to the next, and the spectacular thing is that there is great beauty and vibrancy in Autumn before winter sets in…a beauty which is at the same time a decay and the falling away of old things.
I find this both strange and captivating. Autumn is truly beautiful to me, glorious even, and many other people also find it wondrous – yet who really celebrates decay in any other aspect of life? It’s quite an unusual thought when you reflect upon it.
I think God gives us gifts in the lessons we can learn from the changing of the seasons. There can be beauty in transitions, even ones which mean letting go and moving on.
I think this post in my Winter Survival Guide may be challenging for some of us. There is a tendency among human beings to want to ‘hold on’, or if we want to let go, it doesn’t happen without struggle. We don’t let go of aspects of our lives by seeing them bursting into beauteous colours to gracefully float away in their appointed time, but this is one of the lessons that this season teaches us – the beauty and even majesty of change, of life giving way to life, through death (and isn’t this the message of The Cross). And there is a time and season ‘for every purpose under heaven’ (Ecclesiastes).
If we allow the lessons we are gifted through the changing of the seasons to be an opportunity to reflect upon our own lives, then what is this season saying to you? What can we more generally as human beings learn from it?
I certainly don’t have all, or even many of the answers on this one, but maybe we could find some points of reflection about our lives in the following:
Beauty and Gratitude in life’s changing seasons: Perhaps you are facing some poignant changes in your life. Maybe you are in a season of life where you have ‘grown up’ children who are leaving home for the first time, and it is a bittersweet transition for you. In what ways can you truly take time to reflect upon the beauty and the gifts that you have enjoyed, and how can you gracefully let go as one season of life gives way to the next as your children move into another stage of their lives? What ways can the ’empty nest’ – the feelings of sadness, loss and parting be looked upon for their beauty, vibrancy and life? As these previous seasons fade to memories, what aspects of ‘spring’ in the seasons to come could you be looking forward to?
Acceptance of loss: Maybe what you or someone you know is facing is actual loss, as you deal with bereavement. Is this a time you can spend reflecting upon the good times, and learning to celebrate the life that was? Or maybe you can helps someone else who is grieving to find comfort and hope in this season, maybe it can be a time of quietness, solitude, ‘hibernation’ in a sense, to come to terms with things as they change.
The parting of ways: Often times we feel reluctant to let things change or to embrace and step into change. Think about the things in your life that you have held onto, even though it was time to let them go, because you were anxious about the unknown, unfamiliar or unexpected. Sometimes ‘leaves’ fall from our lives seemingly without any rhyme or reason, and we are faced with the choice whether to let them go. Sometimes it is right and good to seek to hold on to something, to work at reviving it, nurturing it, bringing it back to life, and health with love because it wouldn’t be right to simply let it go. A marriage for example – maybe it is changing, maybe facing decay in aspects, but it would not be right for the couple to simply give up on each other. Maybe one is already giving up, but the other has to fight to keep things alive, to nurture, to care for, to bring life.
At other times however, things do just seem to naturally ‘fall away’. Friendships for example. This is something I am facing at the moment – a friend of several years has silently moved on – it is something they have done with other friends as well, and so I reached out in love and have left it up to them as to whether they wish to connect, but otherwise to say a loving goodbye if that is what they wish. I have been met with only silence, and so all I can do is pray, and let go. There is a time and season and reason for some friendships and sometimes those seasons pass and we need to allow the dead leaves and dead things of our lives to fall away.
Perhaps you have been reflecting on the friendships, relationships, acquaintances and connections in your life, and you have decided to intentionally let go of certain people, with it not necessarily being their choice. Maybe they are not ‘life bringing’ connections and you feel it is best for you to move on. Perhaps you could reflect on how best to do this in a loving way, and where possible if appropriate to offer some explanation to the person. Understandably this isn’t always appropriate depending on the nature of the relationship and how unhealthy or detrimental it might be, but it is nonetheless something that you can take time to reflect upon.
Things, things, things! Maybe the ‘dead leaves’ of this season in your life are in fact certain material things that you no longer need, use or appreciate. Perhaps their falling away from your life, as you let them go, could bring beauty to someone else’s life. Maybe the ‘letting go’ in this season for you could be a good old de-cluttering and instead of a ‘spring clean’, having an autumn / winter clean!
What are some of the things you no longer need that someone else could benefit from? Clothes, books, toys, household goods, furniture, and so forth. Letting them go may benefit not only the people who can make good use of them, but also free you up to enjoy a ‘lighter load’ and the opportunity for a new season. Maybe you don’t need to get rid of things as such, but just unsubscribe from things – emails, newsletters, subscriptions, etc. Do you really need to hold on to them, or is it the season to let them fall away by choosing to intentionally let go?
Priorities: Sometimes our priorities or projects get old, start to decay, and it becomes time for us to let them fall away. Maybe they once served a purpose, but now they no longer do, or they are just time-wasters, and maybe take our time, attention and dedication away from other more important aspects of our lives. Perhaps when you were young, carefree and single you could spend as much time as you liked doing whatever you liked but now that you are a parent you need to refocus your priorities as your child is far more important than your hobbies or even your career. Maybe you need to make an intentional shift and let certain things go, or at least lessen your time spent on them so that you can nurture new life in other areas of your life. Maybe you are young, carefree and single, but some of the ways you are spending your time are dead priorities, and not even that important after all – maybe it’s time for you to let some of that go so that you can invest in bringing life to more important things such as nurturing yourself, your mental health and wellbeing, your friendships and family relationships, building upon your skills and pursuing your dreams.
When the dead leaves are our own thoughts, attitudes or characteristics: Many if not most of us get stuck in unhelpful patterns of thought. We hold on to them because they are familiar even though we know them to be destructive. What would happen if we let them go? Of course, it’s not so simple with our minds as to simply see thoughts fall like autumn leaves, but we can make a decision to do the hard work to let go of unhealthy thoughts, to stop believing lies about ourselves or our lives, and to choose to allow new, positive, true, beautiful, kind and noble thoughts to spring to life in the next seasons.
Letting go of good things: What if the things we need to let go of are good things? There is nothing wrong with them as such, but they just no longer belong in this season of our lives. It can be hard to recognise these at first, but perhaps slowly the realisation dawns upon us – maybe they just no longer are quite the right fit for us. You might have some profound thoughts on what some of these good things in your life might be. I feel like I ought to be able to come up with something at least moderately deep and meaningful to give as an example, but actually the only thing I can think of right now is the Planner I use. I’ve used this type of Planner for the past two years, I absolutely love it and there are so many good and great things about it, its format, set-up, how it helps you see and plan out your goals and for the first year and a half I was making some really good use of it. However, as good as it continues to be, for the Planner hasn’t changed, I’m not really making the most of it anymore because I have changed – the way I do things, the amount of time I can spend doing my Planner in a certain way – it continues to be good, lovely and wonderful, but I think it is nearing the end of having served its purpose for this season, and maybe in the new year I will have a different planner, a different system or way of doing things that works better for me for where I am right now. Maybe it’s just time to let go! 😉
So, what about you? What are the leaves that are falling away from your life in this season? What are some of the things you think you may need to let go of? What have I missed that maybe I could be encouraged to reflect upon? As always, happy to hear your thoughts.
Think of the kindest thing you could say to someone you love or care about – next time you look in the mirror, say it to yourself; it may be difficult to start with because many of us are used to abusing ourselves in our thoughts and ‘self talk’, but over time we may be able to have a much healthier and loving self-perception.
We all need mental resilience to make it through this life. For some of us, this has been a great battle when it comes to our self perception.
Once upon a time, you were born, a precious, adorable, beautiful and wonderful little baby, full of hope and promise. Perhaps like me, you are blessed to be loved by parents who wanted you. Yet, even if you sadly didn’t have that love, there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever about the fact of the miracle of your birth, the wonder of your life, and any person of sound mind and heart would declare the truth that you were born a precious, loveable, beautiful little baby, worthy of love, and to be cherished, regardless of the hand in life or circumstances you were dealt.
Each and every baby, every life is precious, no matter how it came to be. That includes you.
However, somewhere along the way, life got tricky, it got complicated, and we got hurt. Those who were meant to protect us either didn’t or couldn’t and we were wounded. I’d like to focus here specifically on one aspect of wounding or abuse (as this is such a vast topic, I couldn’t do it justice to try to explore in one post all the different ways we can be hurt in this life) – that of words.
Perhaps like many of you, the wounds of words came early in childhood, and consequently caused a great distortion in self image, feelings of worth and confidence. If you have suffered the wounding words of childhood, adolescence and even adulthood, it can be hard to differentiate the effects of those wounds from the truth of who you are. It can be a life long journey. I know.
Perhaps you are stuck in a time, or feeling the reeling pain from memories where you might have been labelled with cruel words such as: ugly, stupid, fat, disgusting, loser, loner, nobody, outcast, dog, pot ugly, idiot, geek, weirdo, or whatever it may have been.
At a formative age, we don’t know the difference between who we are and what we are told about ourselves. I have as a young child, a teenager and an adult been told that I was pretty, lovely, beautiful, etc. However, there was a time in my life growing up that I believed and felt that I was too ugly and disgusting and repulsive to even be alive. I was called ugly, black *****, pot ugly, dog, etc. I was also physically hit and hurt by bullies at school, but that’s another story, I’m just focusing on words for now.
The words literally broke me. I felt repulsive, like a monster, sick to my stomach and I felt like my poor mum had to live with a monster for a daughter, I felt too ugly and worthless to be on this planet, so much so that I felt I would lessen the burden if I wasn’t here. I went through great psychological trauma, and couldn’t express it.
However, the confusion continued when I started getting compliments maybe only a year later. I truly believed that the people saying nice things about me were ridiculing and tormenting me and abusing me further with their mockery. But they weren’t. It didn’t make sense to me that I could go from being the ugliest girl ever to someone who was admired or thought of as pretty. I couldn’t handle or make sense of it, and it takes a very long time to unpick the lies we absorb as children.
The reason why I’m sharing this isn’t merely to provide insight into my story, but to help you with yours. You probably have some wounds caused by words that you still struggle not to believe are true. Were you called ugly, or stupid or worthless? Do the words make it true? Perhaps, like me you internalised them as being true, you felt the horrific feelings that went along with the pain of verbal abuse, and they all but wrecked you. But are they really true? Were they?
As an adult, it has taken me decades to make progress, but I feel I am getting there, and as I get stronger I want to help other people too.
Think back to the image of the baby I told you about. You need to believe that each and every baby is precious. So what happened? Did you and I turn into some kind of monstrous creatures as we grew up? Those words cut so deep and so many people were saying them that surely they were true? No, that’s one of the effects of abuse. The lies wound us and distort our self image, perception and sense of value. You might have heard the illustration that a £20.00 note (or whatever your paper currency is) doesn’t lose its value and worth just because it is crushed and crumpled. It isn’t any less valuable than a crisp new one from the bank. The same goes for you and I. The words are the crumpling, but they don’t determine our worth or our identity or our dignity as human beings.
You and I didn’t grow out of being beautiful, precious, lovable, special babies. We didn’t lose our value. The world told us lies and we believed them and have suffered from that. But our stories don’t need to end there.
Can you love that baby but not the child or adolescent? Why? Why are we like that as a society and individuals? No matter who you are or what you’ve done, you are precious. You are worthy in God’s sight, and no lie is of the truth.
You might think it strange to hear me say that we are in a ‘spiritual battle’, but we are. There is evil in this world, that seeks to steal, kill and to destroy. But Jesus Christ came to give us life in all its fulness. He can heal those wounds. It is knowing and believing the Truth that sets us free.
No matter what you look like, or your perceived intelligence levels, social status, or abilities, you are of incredible worth. You are precious, wanted and loved. No matter if you have never been told that by another human being, it’s how God sees you.
And even if you’re not at the point of believing that, just think of your worth as a person. Think of that precious baby. Only a very cruel and callous person hardened by the world and their own hearts could look at a baby and not see it as precious. So look kindly upon yourself, remember that that’s how you started out and the lies you have come to believe about yourself are just that – lies. You are lovable, forgivable, beautiful, worthy, incredible, and you deserve to live.
So grow strong in knowing the Truth. The lies are powerful, but not as powerful as the Truth, so just try to imagine how powerful that Truth actually is and what you can do with it when you share it with the world! No one said it would be easy, but my friend, your journey doesn’t end there. Nor does mine.
Let me leave you and I with some affirmations the truth about who we are:
I was born beautiful, lovely, unique, precious, lovable, one of a kind. I am and always have been special, worthy and full of potential. I can be forgiven, cleansed, cherished. I can overcome lies with the Truth. I can grow strong. Nothing can take away my worth as a human being, even if it doesn’t feel that way right now.
I am and always have been beautiful, precious, fearfully and wonderfully made. This is the Truth of who I am and nothing and no one can take that away or change it. Maybe life has ‘crumpled’ me a bit, but it hasn’t taken away my value or intrinsic worth and it never will, even if for a while I believe the lies.
But no lie is of the Truth and the Truth of who I am is so much more powerful than any lie that has tried to defeat me or make me feel worthless. I am a human being, and I am precious, and I will live knowing my worth and being kind to and loving myself.
There’s a sensation in the air that the approach of autumn may not be so far away. Sometimes our heart can sense the changing of the seasons before we apprehend with our senses that any change has yet come. My heart tells me that autumn is a time for lingering, for slowing down, but not yet stopping, for taking the time to live, to be, and to reflect. I find autumn to be a beautiful time of the year (when it is not raining, that is). I sometimes feel that the natural world can have a deep impact upon our inner lives, and the pace of change within ourselves. As I look out of my window and type, the fir trees still stand steady, inked with a deep rich forest green. Other smaller, leafier trees, whose names I don’t know but wish I did, have begun the resplendent transformation as bright yellow gold leaves intermingle with the fading greens. A change is in the air. You can feel it. Not yet winter, but no longer spring or summer, it is time to ‘stock up’ for the colder days ahead, and time also to ‘take stock’ of the days we have lived.
Autumn is a gift. It is a gift that life gives us to slow down and apprehend that life is happening, right now, and it is our duty to pursue wisdom and to live life well. For, as we see life happening, rich, fascinating, unfurling from green to gold to auburn and brown, we are reminded not only that we are alive, but that life also changes, it also fades and this season’s tapestry will in time give way to the next.
In thinking of the seasons of our lives as a tapestry, it helps to remind us that each stitch in time, is part of a far greater picture, and yet is not insignificant – for each little stitch is so important in making the picture, so that things don’t unravel, and so each has its own important place.
It is an important reminder to ourselves, as moving into the latter stages of a year can at times bring feelings of ‘underwhelm’, anxiety, the sense that we have not achieved ‘enough’ or become who we were hoping to be, or done what we wanted, planned or dreamed of doing. Yet Autumn, beautiful and tender Autumn, gives us the permission to slow down, to breathe, to take time over each stitch and to remember that the smallest of details is exceptionally important even in this grand picture, this tapestry of life that is being woven.
You and I may only be a little, tiny piece of a far greater scene – a universe beyond us, time and space that we know nothing about, mysteries that our lives may never apprehend. We someday will be someone else’s ‘history’, we are someone from the past’s ‘future’, and we are here and we are now, each making a stitch in time. We are part of something far greater, and yet we are important – nature reveals this to us – and our Creator through nature speaks volumes. We are both challenged and permitted to take up our own paintbrush as it were, our own pen to write, to create, we are drawn into focusing on the beauty around us, and yes, the fading beauty, but reminded that while we think on these things, we have a part to play, a keystroke to type, a brush to caress a page, a song to sing, a letter to write, a dance to be danced and a life to live. There is beauty in Autumn, and Autumn reminds us that there is beauty with each change, beauty in the smallest of things. So take today as your gift, and be the beautiful part of this grand design that you were born and called to be. x
Sometimes we need to relax, need a bit of a ‘pick me up’ but can’t really afford the time or money to go for a pamper or spa day somewhere.
That’s not to say that you can’t create your own relaxing spa experience at home. Some people set aside whole days for this, but if you want something quick, simple and relaxing, then all you need is a bowl or basin suitable for putting both your feet in at the same time, and being able to hold hot water, some towels, moisturiser and a bath fizzer or shower gel, with your favourite scents, and maybe a pumice stone if you want to use one. Check the temperature of the water is just right for you, put your feet in, add your fragrance, then just sit back and relax. I did this evening, and I now I have soft and happy feet. Simple! 🙂
Embrace the truth today that you are worthy, unique, special and do not require another person to complete or validate you – you are enough. We are sold the lie so often that we are incomplete, defective or lacking in some way. Once you begin to be able to identify that as a lie, you will approach your life more positively and hopefully with less fear and worry about society’s expectations. Your life path and journey can’t be dictated by someone else’s or society’s plan or timetable, especially when we live in a time when society’s standards are unfortunately quite low and seem to be slipping daily. There are things, eternal things, that we have little grasp of and therefore we can fall into the trap of being overly influenced by the noise around us from a multitude of sources. You have the capacity to reach great heights, to fulfil your potential and to inspire others, ‘just’ as you are today. Be blessed. x