Tag Archives: Church

Winter Survival Guide (16) ~ Community Connections.

This time of year can be quite lonely for some people, and I touched upon this in an earlier Winter Survival Guide post about not facing loneliness alone.

One might be faced with the conundrum of whether to retreat from the social aspects of this season for fear that it will make you feel more out of place and alone, or whether to step out of your comfort zone to embrace potential new opportunities.

Others might be looking forward to all of the chances to connect with friends old and new.

I’ve been on both sides now. I know what it is like to feel alone, lonely and with few friends, or to be struggling with anxiety and while wanting to be and feel part of something, at the same time wanting to retreat from the overwhelming social pressures that can get too much for a friendly yet sometimes introverted soul. I also have more recently enjoyed the blessings of genuine friendships including a wide range of friends from work colleagues, people I’ve met through other friends, and people I’ve met through Church.

Wherever you find yourself on the social spectrum at this point in time, I’d like to encourage you that this time of year may be a good one for you to take a step forward and to make some positive connections.

At the weekend I attended my local church for a Remembrance Sunday service and although this is the place I usually go to worship, I know that it is very welcoming to anyone and everyone to come in. Even if you’re not a church goer, or don’t have any particular faith, you may feel comfort and connection in going along to an event or service depending on what you are comfortable with and hopefully meeting genuine, gentle, kind, caring and loving people. At this time of year there is sure to be much you can get involved in.

For example, my church has been involved with a Christmas ‘shoebox appeal’, (Samaritan’s Purse appeal) where individuals fill up decorative shoeboxes with toys, stationery and such like for children across the world who otherwise wouldn’t get gifts at Christmas, along with the cost of postage. The church is a collection point for people to drop off their boxes, and then they will coordinate with the charity to fly these shoeboxes to different countries across the world to bring love, joy and gifts to children who might not receive anything. We pray for the children and although it is a Christian appeal, it is open to anyone and everyone to get involved and contribute. My friend at work (who is an atheist) lovingly filled up a box and I took her contribution to church. Other people got together at the church on a Saturday to decorate some of the shoeboxes and to help pack them up. Maybe  something like this, no matter what your beliefs are or are not,  is a chance for you to get involved with your local community, meet caring people and even if just for an afternoon, build up a sense of connection.

My church is also hosting things like a quiz night, crafts afternoons, and a community choir, in addition to the various services which visitors may feel more comfortable attending around Remembrance Sunday, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year.

If you prefer something that isn’t faith based there are also many other things you can get involved in such as helping out at a homeless shelter (although in my city many have a Christian foundation), soup kitchen, joining a team to take hot food to homeless people, or you could attend live music, craft workshops and a host of other events that will bound to be proliferating around this time of the year.

It may help you to feel more connected, even if just for a little while, if you are facing a lonely season, and even if you are not, it may be a wonderful opportunity to make new connections and participate in some new and exciting experiences.

We all need each other, and this time of year can often make it easier to reach out so why not take that step?

If you are already well connected, and perhaps involved in for example a Church, community centre or charity, why not reach out to those who may need some support, invite people in, and show some kindness and community spirit. Create activities that are accessible for all and that will help people feel more involved and connected no matter where they are coming from.

It’s always the season to be kind 🙂

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brown wooden welcome wall decor
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Anxiety and going to church.

It’s Sunday morning, 9.24am, and ‘Life as it happens to be’ today sees me seeking God for help with anxiety. There’s something about being in the Presence of the Living God, and worshipping Him with His people gathered together on a Sunday, listening to the Truth of the Word spoken, and nourishing our spirits that brings a satisfaction and deep connection with our Creator. In times of worship, amidst the crescendo of praise to our Great God, I can close my eyes and feel like I am connecting one to One with the Lord Jesus. Being part of the family and ‘Body of Christ’ as believers is a beautiful thing, despite the challenges that families do face, it is a connection that is spiritual, and borne out of the pure agape Love of Christ Who unites us. 

That being said, the process of managing anxiety, of managing all the practical things it takes to get ready in the morning, prepare mentally and simply get out the door, step into the world and get there on time which can be a big struggle for people with anxiety that isn’t the case for people who don’t have this ‘bug in the system’ with regards to fight / flight, our nervous systems going haywire, and our thoughts looking for ways to ‘get out’ of things, which could be, and as it is in my case, the result of previous difficult and highly stressful experiences in childhood.

We are told to ‘be anxious for nothing’ in Philippians, but to present our requests to God with thanksgiving so that we can experience the Peace of God in Christ that transcends all human understanding. This is our standard, our comfort and our encouragement. But I do acknowledge and give a ‘shout out’ to my brothers and sisters who also struggle with anxiety, crowds and social situations, walking down the street and maintaining composure internally and mentally, that we are humans, we do stumble about, trip over our own feet and get stressed when we can’t find our keys or don’t know what to wear and all the time wanting to honour God but knowing we are kind of hopeless at this thing called life. Is it just me, or is anyone with me? Maybe you see me, or I see you in church and we look like we ‘have it together’. We don’t. Trust me. No one does. That’s why we need Jesus. 

And as I try to encourage myself through this post, I’d like to also encourage and remind you that our God Is wonderful, compassionate, patient, gentle, and steadfast and unwavering in His Perfect Love for us. Jesus Christ IS The Good Shepherd, His sheep know His Voice, and we follow Him. He leads us, gently, tenderly, and He also trains us rigorously sometimes to live lives of Righteousness, only possible because of Who He Is and what He has accomplished at the cross – Victory!

Psalm 139 is a beautiful reminder that no matter where we go, or run to or try to hide or what we might be doing, God Is there, right there with us. Always. So even if anxiety gets the better of you and you stay at home, your Loving Saviour is right there with you, drawing you whether or not that be in a church service, on a mountain, in the quiet of your own space, TO HIMSELF. 

Yet, in the gospels He also bids us to Come…to Come to Him….and also to get up, to rise and follow Him…one step at a time, knowing that He goes before us and Is our rear-guard of Protection. What a wonderful Saviour.

What about you? Do you have any experiences that you can encourage the rest of the body of Christ / His family with? 

Lastly, I sometimes need a bit of a musical encouragement to get me going, so I have been listening to this this morning. xx

 

Anxiety & Self-Care ….why it’s ok to say ‘No’, even when you want to say ‘Yes’…

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It’s 2.15am. I’m in bed, but clearly, I’m not sleeping. It’s just one of those nights when I’ve been ‘triggered’ and my anxiety issues have resurfaced. Things are so much better than they used to be. I used to not be able to sleep or settle down until maybe 3 or 4am, and even then I would be fearful, stressed and sometimes struggling with nightmares. My system was in overdrive, and fight, flight or freeze was all that it knew. 

Thankfully I’ve worked so hard and have reaped some benefits from my disciplined changes along the difficult journey of recovery and self care. But I need to remind myself that it is a journey, a process, and one that others often don’t understand because things might seem ok or even good for a time, which is why it is important for me to learn to communicate and honour my own needs for wellbeing and to feel ok to say ‘no’ even when I or other people want me to, or think that I ‘should’ say ‘yes’. 

It’s not an easy thing to do. So often we put the needs of others before our own, and I have done this many a time, and in the long run we are neither helping ourselves or them. For if we burnout or break down how can we be strong for anyone else? 

I think it’s the ‘little things’ that are beginning to get to me, and to cause those stress reactions to ‘flare up’, the cortisol, the adrenaline and so forth leading to heightened anxiety, sleeplessness, worry, fear, racing thoughts trying to figure things out and  ‘keep everyone happy’. 

And maybe, just maybe, if you’re reading this, you too can relate, and are maybe even looking for some reassuring advice or guidance. And maybe you’ve come to the right place, where you can hear the thoughts of someone who has lived through and survived the horrible experiences of panic attacks, being sick at work, crying in public and feeling like my brain was exploding in its own kaleidoscopic nightmare. 

If you’ve been there and have as a result been exploring ways and means to not only manage your symptoms and conditions better, but to also build ‘self care’ into your life, or if you’re still going through what feels like the worst of it just now, then firstly, know that you are not alone, and you can be an overcomer, don’t ever give up. 

But if you have come through the worst of it, and are managing or maintaining things at the moment, then perhaps you are aware of those subtle ‘tell tale’ warning signs and ‘triggers’ that alert you to the fact that things might be getting off kilter a bit, and that you might be allowing external (and / or internal) demands to encroach upon your well being and send you down that slippery slope once again. It is important to have that self awareness, because no one else can really know what we are experiencing. And sometimes because they don’t know, we feel the need to have to please everyone, all of the time, even to the detriment of our own health. 

The people at work don’t necessarily know about other parts of my life, just as the people outside of my work aren’t aware of the stresses I might face day to day as part of a normal workplace environment. And so they may not be aware of how cumulative factors can cause their seemingly good, reasonable and perfectly acceptable request or requests to add to the subtle or not so subtle build up of stress. 

As you can see, earlier last month I was out and about – I got back into my work routine, did some photography on snowy days, went to various music events, socialised and began my ‘home projects’.  Additionally, I kept appointments with my doctor who is helping me work through managing my symptoms etc, and eventually leading up to ‘going it alone’ more with less intervention. All positive things, but not necessarily smooth sailing. 

I find blogging a good way to make sense of things and find my calm and balance in some ways. I also have found a new church that I love to go to, after a few years of not having anywhere like that. I’m still new there, but I feel more connected with God and His people, and it is a good environment to be built up spiritually and to show and receive love, and to reach out and help others. However, the process for me of getting there can be stressful. The requests to attend colleagues birthday events, to see friends and family and to keep on top of work commitments while having started my ‘decluttering project’ can begin to trigger those stresses. So I need to give myself permission to say ‘no’ sometimes. To look after myself so that I can be better at being there for others, as well as honouring God with what He has given to me, and realising that my wellbeing and self care is important. Often other people aren’t aware of what you’re experiencing, and if you let them know maybe they’d be pretty understanding and help to ease your sense of obligation when you feel that you’re beginning to struggle. I don’t know if I’ll say no, or yes, or a combination of the two, but I know that I need to consider my responses carefully, and that that’s ok. 

I hope you are doing ok, and that you remember to take care of yourself and take ‘time out’ and say ‘no’ if you need to. After all it was ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’, so maybe one less load to carry will help you to stay well and healthy and stronger in the long run. 

And now to try to get some sleep. Much love. xx