Well, it’s almost Christmas, so why not if you feel so led, consider giving a child a gift by getting involved in Operation Christmas Child – you can even send a pre-packed shoebox by donating online if you can’t manage to do this in person.
I hope that you have had a safe, healthy and peaceful first week of 2021. I hope that if you have faced challenges along the way that you are digging deep and finding a resilience within yourself to persevere and a faith to look beyond yourself for greater strength.
Although this post title aims at those among us who are now or currently working from home in this pandemic, I think some of the main principles can apply to all of us. It can be easy when there is no physical boundary between work and home life to let the psychological boundaries blur a bit.
Have you ever heard people say, leave your work at work and don’t bring the burdens of the office (or other work place setting) home with you? That can be a huge challenge in and of itself, but what about when work and home are in one and the same setting?
Some of you may also be trying to juggle home working with daily routines and other aspects of family life such as child care, parental care, home schooling / education and the list is as endless and unique as the differences in our lives.
Whatever your scenario, it is important to have some emotional and mental boundaries even when you can’t have concrete physical boundaries. Just as we looked at in previous posts about the importance of having boundaries between ourselves and our news intake and also boundaries in relationships and in other things that might be emotionally or mentally demanding, we also need to establish healthy boundaries between the different aspects of our lives.
Some things at work this first week back have been bothering me, but I need to remind myself that the weekend is a time when I would normally be away from the office physically. Although with home working I could check my work emails when I couldn’t before after leaving the office, it is important not to allow the boundaries to blur too much.
If we are to care for ourselves we need to set aside time to nourish ourselves, to rest, to spend time with the people who we love and who love us whether in person or online or by telephone or some other means so that we can be recharged and ready for the week ahead.
During lockdown I’ve been so fortunate in that my church has had online services that have been broadcast on You Tube. This has helped to remind me of when it is Sunday and to purposefully set aside that time as I normally would. I’ve had more time to set aside during the days as well for time with God, prayer, worship and building myself up spiritually and sharing with others.
However, sometimes we can get caught up in things as the days and weeks go by. The past year has been a challenging one globally and the recent events of January 2021 for anyone who has been watching the news and seeing the …..(pause to try to think of an appropriate word)….indescribable events in America, we know that there may be challenging times ahead for the world in 2021.
We need to maintain our wellbeing and resilience, and we all have a variety of commitments, duties and tasks to attend to in our daily lives. Maintaining mental and emotional boundaries between these is so important.
As the days go by I will continue to share tips and ideas with you regarding what I find helpful that you may also find helpful. However, this post is more of a general reminder as we reach the close of week one of 2021 that this is an important point and aspect of your life to bear in mind.
People will try to encroach upon you even from a distance, even when working or studying from home. It is ok and it is good to give and take but don’t become depleted of your strength and resilience. Don’t let things blur together so that you are no longer demarcating time for yourself to rest, recharge and recover so that you can become stronger and stronger for the days ahead.
So on that note, I wish you all a happy weekend. Thankfully I don’t see blogging as work but as enjoyment, so you can expect to hear from me again very soon for more encouragement and reminders that it is important to care for yourself as well through this pandemic. x
Stay safe, stay well. x
*Your children are looking to you. Who will you be for them?*
Children are far more perceptive than many of us realise. They pick up on subtleties and sometimes keep their thoughts and feelings to themselves when they are unsure of things.
Whether or not you have children of your own, it is likely that there will be young people in your life, who need stability and security from the adults around them.
If your children are younger, perhaps you may be able to shield and shelter them in a safe little cocoon away from the world. They may be too young to understand what is going on, and only know that their routine has changed and you may be able to give them a safe and positive experience through this.
Yet, even young children can pick up on things from adults that we sometimes fail to pay attention to.
For older children, teenagers and young adults, this may be a much more confusing and unsettling time, and chances are, how they get through this will impact upon how they do for the next few years in their lives in terms of resilience, outlook on life and even mental and emotional health and wellbeing.
It might be easy to get caught up in the immediacy of this pressing situation, but they need you to be their role models, their leaders, their examples. In a world where greed and selfishness is coming to the fore, can you be kind, giving, selfless? Are you showing them an example of fear or of faith and courage? Are you providing them with the learning opportunities to build skills and resilience to face an unknown future? What are the certainties that you can lay down for them?
We are all examples to children and young people in some way, even if we don’t have children of our own to nurture, love and protect, we still have a part to play, whether as teachers, aunts or uncles, friends and mentors.
Teenagers who have not been able to sit their exams this year may feel like it is a catastrophe in their own personal lives. Do they have the space to talk about and express how they are feeling? Can you and we assure them that actually there are so many opportunities that don’t depend on exam results and that we are all living in changing times where we will have to adapt and learn, and that they *do* have a hope and a future. If you don’t believe this yourself, if you are doubtful and fearful, it makes things a bit more of a challenge to them.
Pay attention to the mental health of the young people in your life, and set the examples that they need you to be right now. Let them know that there is a way forwards, and that there is hope. And above all, listen and love and provide a sense of security and safety so that they can grow through this and not be crushed or overwhelmed by it.
Recently I wrote this blog post about investing in friendships: https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/129815114/posts/6284
Today I’m reflecting upon the blessings of the different dynamics among some of my friendships, but am particularly grateful at the moment for friendships with people at similar stages and situations of life as me, especially as they are fewer and farther between these days as people’s situations change and move on.
The dynamic of diversity:
Although most people would see me as quiet and shy, and perhaps a bit of a ‘loner’ in certain situations, I do in fact have a wide range of very close friends that have come into my life over the past so many years. I don’t easily let ‘just anyone’ close to me, as there needs to be a firm foundation of trust, but when I do, these friendships usually become, close, committed and longstanding.
Having many connections, it is inevitable that there will be a diversity in the life situations between my friends and I. I have friends young, old, middle aged. Some are married, some single, some separated or going through divorce. Some have grown up children, some have just had their first baby. Some have a lot of similar interests, whereas with others there are maybe one or two key similarities while we have our own interests, outlooks and pursuits in life that differ from each other.
All in all this adds to a more colourful and vibrant life experience, and in a way friends become somewhat of an ‘extended family’ which is a lovely thing to have especially when I don’t have any extended family members living in the same country as me.
However, there can be a downside to this diversity. We all have our different struggles and joys in life. And sometimes when friends who are experiencing the blessings of things only hoped for in my life it is an honour to be that friend who cheers them along, celebrates their joys, and encourages them. But at the same time there can be that sense of ‘disconnect’ where there may at times be a lack of sensitivity from those who are in their own ‘joyful bubble’ or who may just take for granted the things that they talk about. In other ways you may just find that you both have different interests and so although you can share and appreciate each others differences, you’re not always on the same page. I think this will be true of any and all friendships and relationships in some respect, and this is what makes the variety of life so fascinating, interesting and challenging, helping us to see new ways of approaching life and perhaps opening up avenues of opportunity that we would never have otherwise considered.
The sweetness of similarity:
At times in our lives, however, it is just nice to find those people, even if turns out to be just for a season, where you can feel that you ‘belong’ and are in synch with where your lives are at. I had a lovely time like that this weekend with catching up with a couple of my female friends. And it was nice, comforting, reassuring and a lot of fun. We are all of a similar age, all living and working in the city full time, all share the same Faith, all unmarried, without children, all like to travel, each have our own apartments and with friends who have moved on into different stages of life than us, while we while seeking to enjoy and make the most of the time we are in now also have an uncertainty as to what is next for us.
We had a great time catching up over coffee, and have started to plan a girls’ night in together for Valentines Day ( or ‘Gallentines Day’ 🙂 ). We can bond together and have fun together in our similarities, whereas there might be somewhat of a disconnect within other groups when our friends might want to talk about their celebrations that we might feel ‘on the sidelines’ of in our own lives. Having friends in similar life stages can be hugely life affirming, comforting and empowering to see the positive and look for the joys and blessings and as I said, comfort, of those who can walk together at a similar pace. I never really had that in secondary school or university due to some unique and challenging circumstances, so I’m all the more appreciative of it now 🙂
The richness of both diversity and similarity:
It is important to have a balance of connections with people who are similar to and different from us. We gain from both the comfort of similarity and the challenges of difference. We become more well-rounded individuals when we are able to relate closely to people of all different walks of life and experience than ourselves, while being able to see more fully the blessings of our current stage of life when we have those similar to us to share it with.
Being a good friend:
Finally, whether we have at any stage of our lives many friends or none, there is still so much to learn and grow and develop in ourselves from the interactions available to us. We can nurture our connections and we can nurture ourselves to help us to be better, kinder, more patient, considerate, loving individuals, taking the time to appreciate and understand other people and ourselves, ultimately helping us to be better friends ourselves.
What do you appreciate about your friendships today? x
We all have certain experiences in our lives that stand out in our memory. During our childhoods we are particularly sensitive to the views, opinions, words and treatment of others. How people treat us as children, what they say and do can often have a profound impact upon us, not only then but also for many years to come.
You know the phrase, “children are like sponges”? Children absorb information, many don’t have the critical function or the experience to challenge what they are told about themselves, and they simply ‘drink in’ all that information and accept it as ‘True’.
Because of the emotional impact and intensity that some children can feel in relation to what is said to or about them, these ‘impressions’ upon the mind and heart can last a lifetime.
Some children are more ‘resilient’ to what people say about them, but others, like myself as a child are deeply impacted, and some of the effects of what people say can be incredibly wounding. Others, can be like a guiding light of encouragement.
So, I ask you to take a moment to reflect with me upon what is or are the comment or comments that have been instrumental in changing your life? I ask this because I have an inkling that most if not all of us can think of something in answer to this question. We may have received all sorts of messages that have shaped our lives, some positive, perhaps many negative, but what are the key ones that have stood out to you, and how have they affected you? More to the point, if any of them have been negative, then what are you doing about it to ‘re-wire’ your thinking about yourself, your identity, your potential and abilities?
Have you ever been told that you’re not good enough, not smart enough or not able enough to do something? How did you allow this to shape your life? Did you ignore it, did you put all your effort into proving it wrong and proving to yourself that you are able, or did you allow it to limit you by believing it and not even trying? If it is the latter, it’s not too late to question those words and to give yourself another chance.
Were you ever told that you’re not attractive enough, or were you compared to other people? Did this set you on a journey of discovery into what ‘true beauty’ really means, and has it made you a deeper more compassionate person in being able to see and appreciate the worth and value in everyone no matter what might be different about them? Or did you sink under the weight of negative comments, and succumb to depression, anxiety, low self esteem, self-harm, eating disorders, a lack of trust? Do you know that it’s not too late to change how these comments impact your life and turn things around for your good and to help other people? It starts with one small step, as all great journeys do.
Did someone see the potential in you and encourage you to use your talents? Were you told you were a great writer, artistic, musically talented, kind, caring, compassionate, intelligent? How have these comments been instrumental in shaping your life for the better? Did they spur you on to achieve your dreams, or to use your gifts and talents even in some small way? Do they encourage you when you feel down? Have they had such a positive impact upon you such that they have not only impacted the course of your life, but have helped you to encourage, mentor, and teach the younger generations coming after you?
What is the comment that has been instrumental in changing or shaping your life? How has it done so?
And finally, something for you to reflect upon: what are the comments you are making to other people that might be having an impact upon their lives, and potentially others, whether for good or bad? Do you consider the impact of your words and actions? Are they creating and speaking life, growth, goodness and love into situations and people’s lives, or do you think you may need to take a step back and rethink what you have been saying?
One small sentence can spring forth hope within the heart or create deep and lasting wounds. One comment, especially to a child, or a sensitive soul, can have the potential to impact their lives, their decisions and who knows, maybe even the opportunities of generations to come.
How are you using your words, especially in the lives of children? Are you leaving a legacy of hope, of love, of encouragement and opportunity? Or are you leaving them with wounds that might take decades of their lives to rebuild within their tender hearts and minds?
And back to you. How are you allowing the comments that have impacted your life to continue to shape and change you and what you do with them? It’s never to late to reach higher, or to turn a bad situation round for good.
Do you give up, or do you reach higher?
I hope you find, and are, an inspiration today. 🙂 x
Connection. Belonging. Love. Shared experiences. In a word: Friendship.
The importance of Friendship:
Friendship is one of the most satisfying and meaningful parts of our experience of being human. Yet, how often do people intentionally invest in their current friendships, or in forging out new connections?
Expectations of Relationships:
Our society often puts such an emphasis on romantic relationships (to the detriment of friendships) to such an extent that they can become somewhat of an ‘idol’, bearing the burden of expectation to fulfil all of our unmet needs. Yet, what about this little gem of a notion that friendships of the non-romantic type can be life affirming, fulfilling and bring meaning to our lives, whether or not you have a ‘significant other’ or a family of your own? In fact, having a wide circle of close friendships can lighten the load on relationships, as you have different avenues through which to express different parts of your personality, a variety of people to share hobbies with that your spouse or partner may not be particularly interested in, and an outlet in which you can be more ‘carefree’ with your friends when the level of responsibility and commitment is not the same and less intense.
How do we measure ‘success’ and satisfaction in life?
We all know that we need human connection in order to thrive, yet we often seem to be a society driven by ‘goals’ that can be measured in terms of ‘success’. In the western world, where the sense of extended family connections tend to be weaker and weakening, in combination with higher divorce rates and more frequent family breakdown, you would think that the value placed upon friendships would be significant; yet is it? Have you set any goals or made any new year resolutions this month? Might they include things that measure ‘success’ or satisfaction in life in terms of money, status, experiences, job / work opportunities, travel, family?
Have you included investing your time and attention in your friendships as part of your thinking?
I don’t mean to sound ‘clinical’ or ‘strategic’ by using the word ‘investing’. However, think about the things that are important to you and that you prioritise in your life. You certainly plan and set aside time and resources to nurture these things, to enable them to grow, don’t you? You invest considerable amounts of time in your job or studies or main occupation. You invest time planning financially. You plan and save for holidays, travel and other experiences. Perhaps you have a set ‘routine’ to enable you to spend quality time with your family – such as ensuring you read your children a bed-time story after your work. I know some people who have ‘date nights’ (although the term makes me cringe somewhat, perhaps because I’m single! 🙂 ) with their spouse, or time when you will eat together as a family, or visit elderly relatives. You are investing your time, care, and attention in all of these life areas. Last year I set a goal to visit my family at least once a month, and apart from one month when the weather was particularly stormy and I couldn’t see them (which I made up for with two visits on another month), I stuck to this and we have all reaped the benefits as a family of this planned and regular time together. Perhaps you have time when you will intentionally invest in your family, in spending time with your spouse, your children, your parents or siblings so that you can keep in touch and connected to each other. So why not so with your friendships? Are you intentional towards the time and attention you give to people in your life who you care about but who are not necessarily directly related to you? Or do you just ‘let things happen’, and ‘go with the flow’? How much time, care and attention we invest in things is a reflection of the importance we place upon them in our lives.
I love that friendships can be ‘organic’, changing, growing, evolving over time, often serendipitously, and I don’t like to put constraints on things that do have such a natural aspect to them. However, how many times have you heard someone say (or have you yourself said) ‘we used to be close, but we just drifted apart’?
When married couples stop being attentive and intentional in their time with each other, when they just let things happen, chances are they are more likely to ‘drift apart’ over time, and maybe you yourself know the devastation that this can bring, impacting upon not only your marriage, but wider connections such as family, friends, and most particularly if you have children. Do people not advise married couples who are struggling to be more attentive, to invest time in each other, in marriage counselling, in paying attention and communicating with each other in order to survive? I’ve personally never been married, but I have sadly seen friends whose marriages are ending or have ended in divorce. It takes work. It takes being intentional and investing our time and care in someone that we value.
Why then, or perhaps it is just my perception, do people feel less comfortable with the idea of ‘investing in friendships’? Why do so many people find that meaningful friendships have fallen by the wayside, to which people respond that they’ve simply ‘drifted apart’?
I personally pray into and am intentional with my friendships. There are a couple of people that I knew only as acquaintances that I invested time praying for – for them in their lives with things I thought they needed help with, not necessarily for us to become friends – and these people have become very close friends. All of the friendships that I have prayed into have borne fruit and brought blessings in my life, whether for a season, or for many years. Of course, some people drift away, but for those where there is a mutual interest in staying connected, it takes intention, care and love, and making time for each other. People rarely simply ‘drift’ unless circumstances are so impinging upon that friendship or one or both people lose interest.
Perspectives, and a view from my window:
As a single woman, I highly prize friendships and some friends have become like family to me. I have also learned, from where I am looking, that friends who are married find an outlet in their friendships that they can’t find in their marriage. They find the need for other connections and often find solace in friendships when they and their spouse are struggling to communicate or are going through difficulties or issues which in that type of relationship are always more intense, and it helps them when they have a friend to talk to, to cry with, or to offer an outside and objective perspective. Married people and those in relationships need other friends too to stay healthy and ‘well-rounded’, and possibly sane! 😉
I have also learned that people who spend all of their time with their partner or family can be left feeling very isolated if or when things breakdown, or if one falls ill, or if they face bereavement.
‘Friends are the family we choose for ourselves’, so perhaps we need to really give time and attention to this valuable aspect of our lives.
It is also important in friendships to have a balance, a give and take and to not expect too much from any one particular friend, because they too will have their own commitments and other priorities and responsibilities and life issues to balance. Develop a few good friendships so that you don’t leave any particular friend feeling overburdened or overwhelmed, and so that you don’t put strain on the friendship. Learn to know each others needs for space and for connection and find out what works best in those unique relationships whether one to one or in friendship groups.
In a world where family structures are sadly not as stable or as secure as they could or should be, a network of trusted friends can be that ‘extended family’ of sorts that can prove to be mutually beneficial, practically supportive, satisfying and life enhancing.
Do you think it is worth ‘investing’ in any of your friendships today?
Be blessed. x
The start of a new year can bring with it fresh hope and vision.
Having dreams and vision for the future is an important if not essential part of life.
For most of our lives we are taught and encouraged to consider the future, the ‘what next’ of our life. When you were an infant perhaps the people in your life talked about and imagined what you might become when you grew up. I remember when my friend who is a few years older than me had her first baby and she asked me to be his God-mother. I was fairly young myself at the time and hoped and prayed that in a few years time I would know how to be a good God-mother. We delighted in him as a baby, and then in his younger sister when she was born, enjoying the lovely baby and toddler stages that they were in.
Yet we also talked about their characteristics, their likes and dislikes and imagined what they would be like as they grew up. Would they be musical, artistic, good at sports, kind and caring, studious? Would they be like their mum or dad? We all in our hearts wonder ‘What will be?’ for ourselves as well as for others. Many parents have big dreams for their children, while others say that they just want their children to grow up to be happy and healthy and kind people regardless of what they do or who they ‘become’. In all likelihood when we were little ourselves the adults around us would have made similar comments as they wondered who we would turn out to look like and what our likes and dislikes would be.
By the time children can walk and talk and play, adults begin to ask them ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’. Sometimes the child will reply with a confident answer such as a doctor, an astronaut, a fire-fighter, a ballet dancer, pop-star or an artist, while others may not be so sure. Adults may then say something like ‘you’ve got a long time to think about that’ and so the child will go back to playing and having fun in the moment.
Most of us pass through stages of teenage angst when there are so many questions we ask of ourself and of our identity at a stage where we really begin to make decisions that may in fact shape the future direction of our lives at least in the short term.
We choose subjects to study at school and are asked what we hope these will lead to. We need to consider the practicalities of the next stages of our lives such as passing exams, going to university or college or starting an apprenticeship or job. We need to think more and more about the adults that we will be in society and questions about the future are almost constantly asked of us at that stage of life. ‘What do you want to do?’. There is an expectation that we will soon need to figure out what kind of contributing members of society we will be and we may have to put some previous dreams aside such as those of being an astronaut or a pop-star.
As we move through the next stages of life, for example making our way through university as one possible life choice, we are then faced with more exams followed by questions of what we will do next. Soon we will need to be thinking seriously about passing all of those exams, graduating and finding a job.
Inevitably we will need to think about other practical things such as getting a job, supporting ourselves and perhaps other people in our lives, paying bills, renting accommodation, getting a mortgage and the list goes on.
In our younger days we might dream of what we will do as a ‘grown up’. Perhaps these dreams will involve achieving certain goals, traveling, having a career, finding love, getting married, having a family of our own and so on. I imagine very few children and young people will be thinking so far ahead as to dream about their retirement and what life will be like then but maybe I’m wrong. We like to think about the years when we are ‘in our prime’ and able to do all the things we dream of doing. However, perhaps in retirement people come to appreciate the ‘here and now’ a bit more.
For some people I know, their early twenties were characterised with ‘achieving’ or being blessed with passing those milestones that many of us long for: finding love, getting married, going on adventures, achieving goals, starting a family.
My life hasn’t been so straight forward. I have dreamed of all of those things but finding someone and having a family of my own are still in the ‘someday’ or ‘maybe if’ realm of not yet. I have however done well in school, obtained two first class degrees, graduated, gone through the difficulties of finding a job and renting accommodation to now being in the stage of life where I am settled in a job I enjoy, with good friends, having travelled a bit, and with a home of my own. That’s a very short version and it certainly hasn’t been an easy or straightforward process but I’m glad to be where I am now. I watch my friends’ children grow up and I watch other friends getting married and starting families. And one thing I have learned is that people always seem to be thinking of the ‘what next’ and when they finally ‘arrive’ there it isn’t necessarily quite what they had imagined.
I have friends who when they were single longed for the ‘next’ stage of life. When they got married they found challenges that they had not expected and spoke of how they sometimes missed their more ‘carefree’ single days. Friends who longed for babies when they finally became parents then talked about how they were always tired and busy. So soon they take for granted the things they once only longed for, things that some of us still don’t know if they will be part of our lives, our ‘what next’.
Can you relate to any of this? Practically speaking, life keeps moving forwards and we all need to consider the ‘what next’. Yet, could it be that we do this in the wrong way or to our detriment? Some people have found their ‘sweet spot’ in lives where things have worked out just as they hoped or dreamed and they are enjoying ‘the good life’. For many of us it isn’t quite so straight forward.
So the question I’m asking of both you and I is that although we practically need to prepare for the next step and the next as we move through life, do we ‘live too much in the future’?
Do we miss the fact that the stage we are in may have been one we had previously only hoped or dreamed of? Do we fail to realise that there is something inherently special about this time of our life right now even with the contrasts of light and shade? Do we always have to know or think about the next stage of our life? Do we enjoy and appreciate what is happening in this season? If like me you have had some notable tough times in life you know that sometimes life has you pressed hard up against a wall, so to speak, and you can’t think of the future. You can only do everything you can to get through the day, the moment. You’ll someday see the lessons in your trial, but in the midst of it you don’t even know if you’ll make it, and your dreams feel somehow crushed, an impossibility.
I’ve been there, I know how disappointing life can feel. And so I appreciate being out on the other side at last. Sure, I haven’t had all my dreams come true, but what about the here and now?
When you’ve been through some tough times and the future seemed uncertain as to whether or not you would even make it, when you eventually do weather those storms and the sun begins to shine you appreciate the ‘little things’.
That’s my challenge to you and I today. While we may have dreams and visions for the future, while we may be working on plans, let us also take the time to appreciate the good things in our life right now, things that we otherwise might just take for granted if our heads are always in the ‘not yet’ or in trying to figure out and make sense of the past.
We are all on a journey, it doesn’t stand still, so while we might have hope for the future let us also have appreciation of the Gift of the present.
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.
Never underestimate the power of showing your kindness – you may not realise just how much difference, even a small gesture, will make in someone’s day, and maybe even their life!
Difficult, dysfunctional and challenging people, including young people, can often be broken and traumatised and acting out as a result of that, and in great need of someone to see beyond the surface, and reach out to them with grace, love and kindness.