You are living a life that is unique to you. No one else can tell your story. No one. Some of the stuff that you have been through or are going through may simply feel terrible. You need to know, and I need to remind myself, that it doesn’t have to be wasted experiences.
I personally believe that in the Hands of our Creator, even the worst of life’s experiences can be transformed into something good.
I also believe that we have a degree of choice and personal responsibility in what we do with the hand we’ve been dealt.
Sometimes life feels very, very hard. Sometimes we can’t find a way through on our own, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. When we are at our weakest we are perhaps more open to the reality that we need help, from God, from other people, and there can be good that can come out of that. Once we’ve worked hard to recover and build up our resilience, we can reach out and help someone else….even when we are still struggling.
This morning I wasn’t feeling so good. I’m faced with the choice to stay stuck in my struggles or to find a way forwards. Maybe you can relate?
If I can encourage you today, it is to keep on going. Start small and keep on building and let the momentum take you forwards. I started this blog in 2017 when I was going through a rough patch. I started small, with no followers, and although I may still be relatively small, I take courage and comfort from that fact that I can encourage other people. I can use my own experiences of struggles to send a kind and helping hand through the internet to perhaps lift someone else up, and that’s amazing to know.
What are you going through right now? Know that there is power in the smallest of steps. Whether it is chronic pain or illness, severe depression or any mental health struggles, fear, loneliness, low self esteem, unemployment, sickness, fatigue, broken relationships, you don’t need to be defined by your struggles your whole life, or at all. You can overcome them and I believe in you. You can take the smallest of steps to continue on your quest through life for Truth and to live in freedom.
There will be ups and downs, good moments and bad, and I know that, I am faced with my own ongoing struggles. But we can choose not to let them be wasted by reminding ourselves that we are not alone, we’re not the only ones out there, and we each have a valuable story to tell that no one else can tell for us.
Someone needs your wisdom and help to know that they also can get through something similar to what you have got through.
And maybe you need encouragement yourself. You need to know that your struggles or experiences, even if they are positive are not wasted – try to pass on your knowledge, your learning, in some small way today.
The blogging platform is such a gift in being able to do this. To reach out to people, unknown though they may be, but unique and valuable individuals all across the world and say, I’m going through this, I went through this, can sharing something of my life help you…and in turn we can keep encouraging others.
Find a way today to use your experiences for good, and take heart knowing that they are not wasted. x
<p value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80"><strong>An example of positivity:</strong>An example of positivity:
<p value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">When lockdown initially started in the UK, one of my role models, Katie Piper (please, please look her up if you don't know about her already – she is a fantastic example of an overcomer if ever you needed one!) was asked on a breakfast TV interview how she and her family are coping with being 'stuck at home'. When lockdown initially started in the UK, one of my role models, Katie Piper (please, please look her up if you don’t know about her already – she is a fantastic example of an overcomer if ever you needed one!) was asked on a breakfast TV interview how she and her family are coping with being ‘stuck at home’.
Katie, a self-confessed survivor and thriver (despite being the physical victim of a brutal assault and acid attack in 2008, with the multiple traumas and stages of physical and psychological recovery that follow from that) was very quick to challenge the language of the question asked and turn it on its head. Instead of complaining about being ‘stuck at home’, she was quick to show her gratitude for being ‘safe at home’. Katie’s awareness of the power of language and thought is, I believe, a crucial aspect of her resilience and recovery. She is now an ambassador for burns survivors, has a charitable foundation to help others who experienced similar things to her, is a wife, a mother of two little girls, an author of various biographies of different stages of her recovery journey, and of self help and encouragement books. She has her own beauty product range, has hosted various television documentaries looking at the lives of people who suffer from being stigmatised by society for being ‘different’ in some way, and has also had a stint training with the Police for another television programme she was involved in. She has been on the television programme ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ in the UK, and has run marathons for charity, and continues to push through the negative attitudes of a society that still judges people based on appearance. Recently after an eye operation which was required because of ongoing injuries due to the acid attack, Katie was ‘trolled’ on social media by people abusing her verbally because of the damage done to her face. Personally I and many others think she is a beautiful and brave human being and she continues to speak out and raise awareness about social stigmas and the way we should treat each other. She has another speaking tour planned for 2021, obviously depending on how things are with the pandemic, but at the age of just 37 years old she is a formidable force of recovery and positivity.
I’m currently re-reading a book of hers that I read earlier this year. It’s called ‘Things get better’ and it starts out with Katie describing her ‘rock bottom’ after her attacks and awakening from a coma, so marred by the acid that she was barely recognisable to her own parents, and she longed for death. In severe psychological and physical trauma, the prognosis for her by most of the experts was extremely bleak. She was not expected to walk properly or be able to live independently and it was considered hugely likely that her mother would have to be her full time carer for life. Now just look at her go!
Katie, despite being desperately crushed and broken by her experiences, found a way to challenge her thinking patterns from victim to survivor (and in my opinion to an overcoming thriver, if not ‘superstar’ 🙂 ).
How can we look at things differently?
I wonder if you and I can take something from this incredible example? I think as a starting point it’s good to be honest with ourselves with where we are in how we are thinking and feeling about things in this pandemic. But let that be a starting point rather than an end result.
Maybe we’ll find we have some things in common with what we are being challenged to overcome.
I haven’t properly been outside the house for a long time. I’m missing nature, the fresh air, being in parks or by the beach, and I’m struggling with the low light levels of winter. Maybe you have similar feelings of being cooped up, restricted or ‘stuck’ or feeling ‘down’ in some ways.
How can we look at this differently? Well, for a start, I am thankful that I have windows from which I can look at the outside world from. I’m thankful that in this cold and somewhat bleak winter season in Scotland I am safe and cosy indoors, that I have a home, and I can enjoy fresh air if I want by opening the door and stepping outside, even if not to go ‘out out’. I am thankful that I have been gifted with an imagination and a memory, and that I also have photographs that can prompt me of reminders of enjoyable times. I can think of times spent at the coast, of sunsets at the beach, I can remember the glistening of sunlight on water, and I can remind myself of walks in the park, and of travel adventures that I was blessed to go on in times past. I can choose to enjoy the cosy things that being indoors can afford me such as daydreaming about such times, imagining a positive future, or watching something inspiring, reading, spending time with family (now that I am blessed to no longer be in complete isolation as I was for the first half of the year), writing my novel, writing my blog, emailing my friends, drawing, colouring, playing my violin, spending time with God, and so the list goes on….
(not to forget getting cosy and watching Christmas movies! 🙂 ).
From what appears at first to be a negative, we can draw out so many positives by looking at things differently, and choosing to keep doing so!
2. I’ve been struggling with my mental health a bit, and I’m sure you can probably relate to this somewhat.
What positives can I / we draw from this? I’m appreciative of the time to think things through, to process, to read inspirational books and to help other people through my blog as I seek answers myself. The extra time being at home gives me a chance to do some of that deeper psychological work to build mental resilience and mental fitness that will help me and other people going forwards from here.
What positives can you draw from your challenges? Have you found opportunities opening up with other people to talk about mental health issues, which are extremely common in society, but not talked about enough? Have you been able to challenge stigmas or assumptions in yourself or others regarding issues with mental health? Are you able to talk about things more freely or with as much openness as you would a physical condition such as a broken leg, something which society does not stigmatise, or are you able to see the need to move further towards such open and honest conversations for the good of everyone involved?
Have you been able to reach out and ask for help, or are you able to provide some support to someone else? Have you grown in awareness of something you might not have been so aware of before, because of some of the issues that have come to light through the course of the pandemic? These can all be positive stepping stones individually and societally.
3. Missing people:
For the first half of the year I was in almost total isolation, and I am proud of myself for managing as well as I did, and for writing to encourage other people through that season of aloneness. I built up my own resilience, and showed concern for others, and made it through the more difficult days positively and having achieved various goals. I’m with family now, but I am missing my friends.
I wonder if you can relate to any of this? Do you live alone? Are you with people but feeling stressed or lonely? Are you missing friends or family that you would have wanted to see this Christmas or holiday season?
Can you reframe your thinking about this?
Can you identify ways in which you have shown resilience, compassion or grown in character or understanding? Have you grown in awareness of the needs of those around you and of more vulnerable members of society? Could you grow in gratitude for the special times you have had with other people, or have you become wiser in the company you keep and where you spend your time in terms of relationships and friendships with other people so that they become more deep and meaningful and so that you make wise decisions about people who may be ‘toxic’ or draining influences?
If you are happy and flourishing at home with your family, could you spare a thought and commit to an action of kindness for someone who is not? There is so much suffering out there, maybe you could add one small act of kindness towards alleviating that for someone?
If you are struggling are there positives you can find, or are there people you can connect with remotely, or are there other things such as skills you can use your time alone to build?
Sometimes it can seem very hard to find a positive from a negative situation or feeling, yet if we learn to see things as challenges rather than obstacles, we can grow in resilience, in fortitude, in positivity, in character, and we can learn to lead the ways as encouragers for those around us.
And remember that it is perfectly ok for you and I to start small. We may be inspired by people but we shouldn’t feel overshadowed by them. Our lives and our choices matter, even the smallest of choices. Personally I know that it is only by God’s Grace and the Sustaining Power of The Risen Lord Jesus Christ that I can do anything, and I am grateful each day for His mercies new every morning and His renewing strength at work in my life. It is a Strength that allows me to be weak, to be honest, to be vulnerable and also that gives me the grace to persevere knowing that I am never alone, and it is not all up to me.
What are you struggling with today? Be honest with yourself. Is there a way that you can change your obstacle into a challenge to be overcome, triumphantly? A thought may seem like a little thing, the smallest of steps forward, but it is incredibly powerful, and it is well within your grasp to choose how you will think about your issue at hand.
Stay safe, be strong, live this day with renewed hope. xx
Continuing on our series on lockdown life lessons, I feel it’s important not to gloss over the challenges even while we are looking for the positives and growth opportunities through 2020 so far.
Why might that be? Because without addressing or at least acknowledging some of the more difficult parts of our experience we won’t be as well equipped to deal with patterns of struggle or challenge in our lives in order to change them for the better in the future.
So, with that being said, prompt number four is as follows (try to be honest with yourself, and compassionate towards yourself too):
4. What has been the hardest thing for you during lockdown / quarantine, and why? What or how can you change, learn or grow to make things better in the future?
This one might be difficult for you to answer, and may involve expressing personal issues, weaknesses or pain. However, by acknowledging the challenges as well as the positives, we will be more likely to seek the help we need, or respond in better ways in the future. Perhaps whatever you’ve experienced won’t be resolved quickly, but take time to acknowledge what you’re struggling with or feeling challenged by and then ask yourself the following questions:
-If you are a person of faith – ‘Have I prayed about it?’
– Is there anything within my power to change?
–What lessons have I learned or am I learning about this?
–Is there anyone I can share this with for help, mutual support, encouragement, etc?
–Do I know other people who might be going through similar things who I can reach out to and encourage or show support, understanding or love?
–Do I need help from people professionally with this?
–Is there something within myself I need to work on to change? How can I start going about making those changes?
–Will I choose not to worry about this all the time?
–What is needed to make things better?
–What a I using as a ‘crutch’ to cope with this situation, and what should I change to deal with it in a more positive manner?
Perhaps you don’t want to or don’t feel the need to go through these additional self-reflection questions. But take a moment to think about the original question as to what was most difficult for you and how things can be better moving forwards.
In subsequent posts, the focus will once more be more positive, however, it is important to also acknowledge the issues explored in this post if we are to move forwards with greater self-awareness, strength and ability to make positive changes in our lives.
I posted earlier about the importance of maintaining a healthy perspective, especially when we might be facing some gloomy wintery days.
Similarly, it’s important to take time every now and then to appreciate just how far we’ve come. Only you know your own personal life journey and how far you have come. The same goes for me. We might share aspects or details of our lives, but no other mere human being can enter into our experience with us. They might comfort us, walk beside us for a while, or encourage us, but no one (except Jesus) can feel exactly what we feel.
How far have you come? Not just this year, but through the bigger challenges of your life? How far have you come in terms of your mental and emotional health? In terms of your confidence socially? In terms of the challenges and hardships and traumas you may have overcome? How far have you come in terms of your education, your learning and in terms of your skills? How far have you come in your character – growing in kindness, patience and love? How far have you come to overcome personal pain and to help other people? How far have you come from simply surviving? How far have you come in health challenges? How far have you come in learning and growing in skills and abilities, talents and in your employment, and how far have you come in passing on some of this learning?
We have all come further than we appreciate or give ourselves the acknowledgement that we often need to keep on going even stronger.
What will you appreciate about how far you have come in your life journey today? x
You may have heard or seen the quote that encourages us to “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle”. As I continue on my journey through life, I realise more and more the truth of this. It can be easy, especially if the hardships we faced have seemed more intense, unfair and challenging than those around us, to believe that other people are cruising along in their lives and don’t need any help. It can be far too easy to think that ‘so and so’ or ‘such and such’ has such a ‘perfect’ life of blissful ease, where everything goes right for them. We are drawn to look at the surface of things, to see only what we think we see rather than what is actually there.
Can you think of anyone you know now, as a friend, who has shared their struggles and difficulties and pain in life with you, but whom you once thought of as having it all together, before you came to know them? Most of the people I am friends with now and who know well can fit this description, and I can too. I used to put certain people on a ‘pedestal’ because they seemed to really be ‘good at life’ in a way that I was not. My pain and struggles were obvious to me, as yours will be to you, but the reality of things is that no one can live in this world for too long without having to face something that they would rather not. Many of those smiles you see are hiding something beneath the surface, some of the people whose lives seem amazing are harbouring deep hurt and insecurity. Remember that things are not always as they seem.
With that being said, I’d encourage you as a little ‘lunchtime inspiration’ to choose today to let your kindness shine. I’m sure you do so anyway, but sometimes a little reminder can go a long way to us being more intentional about things. Everyone gets hurt in this world. Every one. So use your lunchtime to show some kindness, no matter how small that act of kindness might seem to you, to someone in your life, or someone you come across that you may not know that could do with the blessing of kindness. When we begin to think of how to be kind, we begin to see that there are opportunities everywhere…from the gift to someone of sharing your smile, to a hug, an encouraging text, email or phone call, taking time to listen, to have that conversation, to help out someone with their work or just be a friend, to buy someone lunch, to give food to someone who is homeless, to telling your loved one that you love them, to be intentionally kind to the people we tend to take for granted….the list is endless. So use your lunchtimes wisely. And let your beautiful kindness shine forth to a world that is in much need of compassion. xx
Sometimes mornings can be hard. We know what we want our ideal morning routine to be like, but maybe we’ve had a bad sleep, have chronic health problems, wake up in physical pain or simply just “get out on the wrong side of the bed” as the saying goes.
It can be too easy to let our not so great morning experience dictate the rest of the day for us. We might think the day is over before it’s started and already be wishing for another new day, or be thinking about getting everything over and done with and curling up in bed.
But with that outlook, have we given our day a chance? Think of your day as a story, a narrative, a novel in miniature even, and you as the protagonist – the hero or heroine of your story. So, the opening scene happens to be a bit gloomy, but that simply builds suspense and anticipation, for the hero / heroine to find that determination and courageously write a new story for themselves. Look up, have faith, and put your best foot forward, even if your first steps were a bit of a stumble into the day….the day isn’t over yet, give it a chance, who knows, the conclusion of the day’s story might be pretty wonderful indeed! 🙂
Happy 1st of June peeps! 🙂 I hope the month is going well for you so far, and if not, that you are finding the resilience, hope, strength and support you need to persevere.
I’m excited to share with you something I did today that I haven’t done in years, many, many, many, many years! And even when I did it before it was on rare and sporadic occasions. I went *outside* to do some exercise.
This might be matter of fact to some or maybe even a lot of you. You literally and figuratively take it in your stride to perhaps go out jogging, running, or whatever other sport or exercise you might do. But not so with me.
I grew up feeling very insecure, shy, fearful and intimidated by people, most likely largely influenced by my early experiences of bullying in school. In school I was kind of average when it came to sports, I definitely wasn’t ‘good’ as there were some very sporty and athletic people who had their little sporty and equally academic clique. I was academic, but not sporty, and not at all self assured. I had anxiety and panic attacks in public places, and even now as an adult I have been working hard to overcome these.
I don’t know about you but taking part in sport in school was highly stressful for me. There is a lot of comparison and ranking and being picked last or not being good enough and being bossed about by gym teachers no matter how scared, nervous or frightened or out of your depth you might feel. There were things I enjoyed, not competitively but from time to time I’d actually enjoy a little bit of hockey, netball, rounders (is that even a sport? at least it’s exercise) and I absolutely loved riding my bike (another thing I haven’t done since childhood) and the hurdles out in the playing field as I was good at that and felt for some brief moments like I was ‘flying’….and that I had accomplished something. But overall, on the whole, I kind of hated sport, PE, gym class and felt that the kind of exercise presented to us was something I was pretty much ‘allergic’ to. It was just something that was forced upon us, some people were naturally great at it, and others like me were average and struggled and muddled along, feeling self conscious, not good enough and like we were not in our natural habitat! I’m sure this is a very common experience.
As a teenager and an adult I’ve been only to one gym, a small one, and that only lasted about a year. I’ve done exercises at home, and I love and feel very much at ease going out for walks in nature. But as an adult I had the idea and impression that I was pretty much ‘allergic to exercise’! It was not an appealing thought to me.
However, I realised that I needed to start more regular exercise to help me overcome the depression (and it has helped massively), stay fit and healthy, keep my heart strong, and feel good about myself. For the past couple of years I have been exercising regularly at home doing workouts from various videos online on YouTube. One in particular that I love is Leslie Sansone’s walk exercises as they ease you into exercising and help you to build up gradually overtime, so that was ideal for me. Yet, the thought of going to a gym for an anxious, self conscious person who doesn’t like busy or noisy places where there are a lot of people has been pretty much something that I don’t want to do. And that’s ok. I feel comfortable at home, I can do things at my own pace, and I can have encouraging people guide me, even if that is through video. I have grown to love my little routines at home and miss exercising if I don’t do it. It has helped to lift my mood and keep me positive which is in stark contrast to the worst times of depression.
I think part of the reason I enjoy it so much is that there are no other people, no one judging, comparing, showing off or intimidating, no fears of what other people might think or not looking ok in this sports wear, or whatever it might be. I am just free to simply work on my health and fitness at my own pace from the comfort of my own home with encouraging input from people who can’t see me and don’t know me but are still a positive influence.
So, the thought of going outside to exercise was very intimidating to me. It didn’t really appeal to me, especially the thought of doing so in front of other people. But today, and I’m not sure why, I decided, why not just go and give it a go. Start small. Walking, jogging, running. Ok, so sportswear is not your natural clothing choice, but that’s ok, put your headphones in, listen to some encouraging music, and give it a go….be brave.
And I did give it a go, and I was brave. And I did not have one single anxiety or panic attack.
I walked for a bit, down by the riverside where many walkers, joggers, cyclists go as well as couples, families, people just going for a stroll. I admit I was self conscious. So I walked, and walked until there were less people around, and I set myself a modest target to jog to. And then I walked, and jogged and walked until I got to a less busy place where although there were people about, it was somewhere I felt I could just ‘get on with it’. So I went from walking to jogging to running to sprinting. And then I did some HIIT – high intensity interval training. And I did it all for an hour in total, including a walk ‘cool down’ which allowed me to walk past people on my way home and not try to have to jog or run.
It was a start. And there were some really enjoyable ‘bursts’ where I ran past people and past my self consciousness. Minor victories, perhaps, but don’t you think sometimes the smallest steps, like that first step out the front door, can turn out to be the biggest?
It was a big step to me, but I did it because I decided to not make it such a big deal. ‘Why not?’ Exactly, ‘why not?’ So what is on your mind, my friend, that you like the idea of giving a go, but are feeling afraid or anxious or nervous about? What is the person like that you’d like to be in the future, and what are the steps that you’d have to take to get there? Why not you? Why not today? What’s stopping you?
Yes, that smallest first step in that new direction can often feel like the biggest…but I know you can do it. Is there anything new or out of your comfort zone that you’d like to try this month? Maybe the biggest first small step is getting out of your head and sharing it with others. What’s stopping you? xx