A fundamental part of what it is to be human is to love, to give, to care, to demonstrate kindness and thoughtfulness towards others.
We all need to know that we are loved, important and valued, and while it is good for us to receive, it is also incredibly important to give…to keep that heart muscle of kindness pumping.
While we need to look after ourselves in order to be able to give of ourselves (and for Christ followers, we know the instruction to ‘Abide’ in Him so that we can ‘bear much fruit’ because apart from Him, The Source of sources, the True Source of Love, Light, Wisdom, Righteousness, Goodness and Truth, apart from Him we can do nothing of eternal significance that will stand the test of His Perfection), we still need to be giving out once we have received.
We exist to love and to be Loved, and yet in this fallen and dark humanity, it can often feel that this is hard to come by. Yet what might take very little effort from us, to reach out to check in on someone and ask if they are ok, to send a note, a text or an email or some other communication in this technologically flourishing world to say ‘I’m thinking of you’ is often something we don’t do often enough.
Is there anyone in your life today who can benefit from your kindness, the power of your gracious words, your time?
Send that text.
Pick up that phone to your family member.
Remember that person who is probably lonely.
Give to a stranger.
Give to a friend.
To be the fullest versions of ourselves we need to be thoughtful Givers as well as receivers. It will benefit not only them, but you as well. Who can you bless with your love today? x
Perhaps you have been reading, following along, or dipping in and out of my ‘Self Care in a Pandemic’ series of blog posts.
If so, I am so encouraged to know that, and find joy in encouraging you and hopefully providing some words of hope in these challenging times.
I have written 16 posts in this series so far, and have written a series of posts prior to this earlier on in the year at the start of the first lockdown (so scroll back through the archives to check out anything you may have missed). I now have time off from work (I blog as a ‘hobby’, unpaid, but I love it and hope and plan to spend more time writing especially as we approach a difficult winter season this 2020), and would like to ‘check in’ with my lovely readers, and welcome my new followers, and thank you for joining the journey, so happy to have you here 🙂 .
I intend to keep on writing and encouraging, and hope that you will find these posts a comfort as we near December and as we all could do with a ‘pick me up’ this year. My question to you is if there is anything in particular you would like to see written about in this series of self care in a pandemic posts? This is for you, so please do let me know how best I can serve and encourage you with my writing. If you have anything in mind that you’d like me to explore, even if I don’t have the answers, I can still open up discussions and explore avenues of hope together, then please do comment below. Otherwise, I will keep seeking inspiration and praying about how best I can uplift and encourage you through these testing times.
There is power in learning to stand alone, but there is also great encouragement in standing together. Sometimes life, and perhaps particularly life in a pandemic, is a fine balance between these two positions.
I have been learning a lot about this in 2020, and perhaps you have too. I have been learning some of these lessons before this year as well through various tests and trials in life.
This year, I spent the first four months of lockdown living alone, and not having any face to face contact with any living thing for almost all of that time (except perhaps from interacting with a delivery driver or passing strangers on the street). I have found this to be strengthening, challenging and enlightening in a number of ways. I have grown in my relationship with Christ, knowing Him more deeply as my True Source of Love, Encouragement, Strength and Provision. Yet as human beings we are also made for connection with each other, and although I used my time wisely and creatively, there were still times of loneliness, of missing out on the interactions that we otherwise tend to take for granted on a daily basis. As a single person, I have disciplined myself to learn to enjoy and thrive in my independence of living alone, travelling by myself, seeking to be creative and to inspire other people (which has been a discipline, choice and challenge to seek out adventure rather than retreat as I have had years of panic attacks and anxiety) as well as investing time in myself to heal from traumas, and to reach out to help other people. As a quieter, reflective and creative soul, I crave and need time by myself to replenish, to think, to process and to create. Too much noise, people and goings on can cause me a lot of stress, and panic attacks, anxiety and so forth. That being said, I also have quite a lot of deep friendships that have been cultivated one to one or in groups of twos or threes over the years, am a friendly and caring person, and I enjoy interacting with people in ways that suit my personality, nature and disposition, and where I have the choice to do so or not to do so, and perhaps you can relate to some of this?
Lockdown took away control from a lot of us, whether we live alone or with others. Perhaps we like staying indoors sometimes, but we tend as human beings to like to maintain the choice in the matter, and to do things or not to do things with the freedom of choice.
Being in lockdown alone for four months changed some of my relationships. While I have some very mutually giving friendships, I realised that friends who have families of their own just didn’t have single people on their radar. Some friends with families actually enjoyed lockdown as having more time together, were able to have fun and flourished in the situation. They did not think that someone living alone might be really struggling with the contrasts of that, and as such some of my friendships have changed in dynamics, I’ve had to reconsider my boundaries, and other friendships have grown closer.
I’m very blessed to have a family that I could phone everyday or whenever I needed to throughout those four months living alone with no other contact. Of course, I live alone in the city in general but as I usually work there too, even as a single person pre-pandemic I’d have interactions with work colleagues, I’d be able to meet up with friends and go out to dinner or to music events or go places by myself. Not having that changed the way I saw some of my friendships where I wasn’t on their radar so much, and I guess that’s ok. We all are going through different things and have to recalibrate our lives and boundaries from time to time. Some people kept in touch, but mainly to ‘vent’ because I am an empathetic and caring and loving person. Other friendships have been a source of encouragement, fun, and camaraderie through these times.
The point I am getting to, in the hope of edifying you, is that as we head towards the winter season of 2020, consider your crew and who the important people are in your life in this season. Perhaps you have a strong sense of who these people are, a network of friends and family that you have shared the ups and downs of life with. One thing I would suggest that you think about is even if you do feel you have such people in your life, consider whether you have a range of people to connect with and turn to and make sure that you are not overburdening (or being overburdened by) any one person. We are all going through something, and we all need encouragement, so make sure that you are giving as well as receiving that.
Perhaps you are not in such a place. Perhaps you are lonely and struggling, even if you live with other people or have many other interactions.
My advice or suggestions would be for you to consider whether you have the right connections in your life. Are there some people you need to move on from who are having a toxic influence on you? Do you feel like you don’t have anyone, and need to reach out for help? Even if you don’t have friends or family to turn to, perhaps you could connect with some online groups that are safe and have like minded people. Maybe you could reach out to community groups for help and support, or ask a volunteer group to connect you with a mentor or a ‘buddy’ such as they do with phone volunteers so that you can hear a friendly voice from time to time. There are plenty of phone lines and crisis support lines such as the Samaritans and Breathing Space here in the UK if you feel like you have nowhere to turn, and if you are in a different country, a simple ‘Google’ or other search could put you in touch with the details of similar groups or organisations. Maybe you enjoy the connections online that help keep you in touch with people, even as you learn to stand strong by yourself.
Yet having a lot of connections or a diversity of connections is not enough in itself. You need the depth and authenticity of feeling known and heard, and this may or may not be with your family, friends you already know, etc. You may have to take time to gather a new crew, form new connections, ones in which you are not simply just another face on a screen, or voice in a crowd, but real authentic connections.
Think about who your ‘team mates’ may be this season. If you are feeling strong in yourself then perhaps it is a good opportunity, if that is the right thing for you in your life just now, to be the one to reach out to someone else who is struggling and help and empower them, not to become dependent on you, but to know that they are seen, heard and help them to find an empowering way forwards step by step in their own life.
There is strength to be found in standing alone. But we also all need each other. Perhaps this is why in part we blog and write and share on platforms like this so that while we develop our own skills and gifts and talents and interests, we also are part of a community that can share with each other, learn from one another and grow together.
Who is your crew? Are there any wiser decisions you need to make in who you let close to you? Do you need to step up and be there for someone? Do you need to create space for yourself to step back and reconsider things or to ease out of things that are not meant for you in this season? Do you need to let go of toxic people, or do you need to invest in certain relationships, reconnect, or create a broader network of mutual support?
Now is a great time to be thinking about these things, of how we can get stronger and how we can help each other as communities.
Stay safe, well and I pray you will be blessed, friends. Thank you for stopping by and reading, I appreciate you. x
The other day, I was talking on the phone with a Christian friend of mine, and she encouraged me for us both to pray for each other to know how God would have us serve Him and help other people in this time.
Neither of us are by nature the boldest or most confident of people, but sometimes we all just need to be willing to seek and find ways to help other people.
Perhaps you are similar. Maybe you want to use some of your time to help other people but don’t quite know where to start or maybe opportunities arise but you don’t feel confident in them. I have a confession to make that this is where I found myself, and therefore thought that writing a blog post would be a good place to start.
My friend and I were discussing ways in which prior to Covid-19, our churches did face-to-face work with international students to help them feel more welcome in our city when they were so far away from home and everything familiar to them in terms of culture, language, day-to-day life, and far from friends and family. We decided to pray about whether God wants us to help international students in any way or to use us in other ways.
Well, shortly after this, I came across an email from my church that I had perhaps missed before. It was a volunteering opportunity to provide telephone or online support for a short time to international students far from home, to have someone to talk to, practice their English with, and be a source of friendship and support during their start to the University year in the time of the pandemic.
I saw this and thought that’s a great idea. I only saw it a few days ago, at the start of October, but as I read through the volunteer application, for some reason, doubts began to creep into my mind. It said that the start of this would be the end of September. I start overthinking whether or not it’s too late to get involved. My friend was the one particularly interested in international student ministry, but she is away visiting family elsewhere so I can’t update her properly about it. What if I don’t know what to say, or if I’m not good at helping people practice their English, what if I’m not good at it? Doubts and questions came to my mind, as did the thought that I had previously wanted to volunteer somehow to ‘befriend’ by telephone an older person, isolated during the pandemic. Of course some of this may just seem ‘silly’ and overthinking, but I do have generalised anxiety disorder, and in a way this situation has kept me from action as well as prompting me to take action.
While the above doubts caused me to hesitate in one area, they also have spurred me to write this blog post to encourage you.
Sometimes we know we want to help but don’t know where to start. At other times, opportunities may arise but perhaps a lack of confidence or other commitments in our lives may ‘get in the way’ if we allow them, from taking action.
While in such cases, we may respond by ‘beating ourselves up about it’, we can also look at things another way.
If you want to help people, don’t feel discouraged if you are not doing as much as other people, or as much as you had hoped to. Simply start from where you are and allow that momentum to build.
There are so many people in need of help right now that if you miss one opportunity that doesn’t mean that someone else won’t be there to pick it up, or that you won’t find another opportunity. The whole world is in need of help.
As I said, start from where you are.
– Look around you and consider the people in your life whom you know and can provide some support or encouragement to.
– Maybe you can be that compassionate and listening ear to a friend who is going through a hard time. If you are not in a position to provide that level of support, perhaps you could send an encouraging text, email, message or card, or give someone a phone call to let them know you care.
-Maybe you can’t volunteer regularly at a food bank, but perhaps you could make a donation, or help one of your neighbours.
-Maybe you are helping others in your job or home or personal life and taking some time to recharge your own batteries right now is the best thing you can do to continue to be there for other people without ‘burning out’.
-Perhaps you can commit to praying for certain people.
-What do you enjoy doing and are good at? Maybe you’ve missed an opportunity, but you can take more time to reflect upon what you can do and start researching ways in which you can get involved in other things.
– Think about how to lighten the load of the people in your life just now if you live with others. Can you help with housework, can you take time to talk, or simply encourage times of fun and laughter, relaxation and play during what might be a stressful time?
– Can you use your platform as a blogger to share some love and kindness and encouragement? Maybe you can write a post about mental health and wellbeing, you could share encouraging stories of what you have experienced and learned from this very strange year, as it may be just what someone else needs to hear.
– Are you artistic or musical or creative in some way, and can you use and develop these gifts and talents to bring happiness to someone else?
There are so many ways we can continue to reach out to and help and support each other. Maybe we don’t always get it right, but a willingness to take these small steps forward, and making a change little by little could make a real difference to someone in need in these challenging times.
Take care, be kind to yourself and each other, and God bless. x
Looking for the rainbows through the coronavirus storms, I was encouraged by how many people initially reached out to others who were in need at the start of lockdown. Many of you have been faithfully doing what you can to use your abilities to help and serve other people.
It can be easy to lose sight of that as things change. Many of us have had time to reflect upon the ways in which we don’t want things to go ‘back to normal’. While we are compelled to walk into a ‘new normal’ we also have the opportunity to forge out a better way of living life as a society.
The risk is that as we go back into society, we lose sight of the lessons we have collectively learned about humility, giving, self sacrifice (especially those front line workers who gave up time with their family, even gave their own lives to help others), kindness, compassion and taking time to think and advocate for others.
I’m hoping that we will see a shift in heart attitudes and behaviour. I’m wondering whether we might see some of those positive changes reflected in how we shop and our behaviour collectively at Christmas this year for example. I hope we’ve collectively had a ‘change of heart’, but then we do still contend with the tendencies to hoard (toilet paper?!) and look out mainly for ourselves.
As restrictions ease and many of us will enjoy greater freedoms, it’s good to bear in mind that there are still people for whom things haven’t changed much. People who have been shielding for instance and who don’t feel confident enough to risk their own health by going out, people who may have had more contact online but don’t have connections in real life and who may become forgotten about once people start ‘getting back to normal’. We’ve learned lessons about prejudice, about vulnerability, about mental health, homelessness and hardships in our society, and had more time than our previous busy lives would have allowed to take it all in. Many of us have cared deeply and tried to do something to help.
Now, however, it can become all too easy to forget. To become self-focused as we get excited perhaps about the things we can do once more. Not everyone will be in that position. While we can’t save the world, we can bring kindness to it. We can be intentional in thinking about those in our friendship groups who won’t have families to connect with, or may have to continue to stay indoors for various reasons. Some may be grieving the loss of loved ones from the coronavirus. We can take time to remember the causes for social justice that we were touched by and patiently, humbly continue to do what is right.
So, to sum it all up, let’s allow the deeper lessons we have learned to stay with us, to take the opportunity to make the ‘new normal’ into a ‘better normal’, and to keep remembering to think of others for whom life will still be hard, and to be kind to ourselves and each other in the process.
The initial cheers for our frontline workers (medics, virologists, drivers, supermarket workers, cleaners, crematorium staff, care workers, the list goes on…) across the globe felt like a crescendo of encouragement, ‘rallying the troops’. In this pandemic, countries are not warring with each other, but rallying together against a common global enemy.
Perhaps being isolated, you have felt helpless and alone in this strange catastrophe. Yet, the scenes we have witnessed and been part of, open a window to the many others who are all ‘on the same team’.
Now, we’re collectively fighting Coronavirus, and I sincerely hope that the ‘troops on the frontline’ feel a bit more refreshed and appreciated in their ongoing battle.
Let me just get back to the image of everyone clapping outside their homes, or from their homes. We are not isolated, although tucked away inside, we are not alone, and we *all* have a part to play, no matter how small that might feel to you at the moment, we all have a crucial role to play in ‘blocking those gaps’ against this unseen enemy, by staying at home, by good hygiene, and by supporting other people in a variety of ways, and also by taking care of ourselves.
You may be wondering why I have titled this post ‘swords and spades’. I’m glad you asked ! 😉 Some of you I’m well aware will already know, and that gives me a boost of confidence for a variety of reasons 🙏👌.
For those of you who don’t yet know, if we look back in history, there was a man named Nehemiah who was an ordinary and decent man, living in 5th Century BC, who found himself in extraordinarily difficult circumstances. We have witnessed news of wars and terrorism all across the world, and Nehemiah lived at a time where he was living in the midst of constant attacks from groups of people who wanted to destroy and crush those he knew, those he worked with, those he loved, an entire group of people just going about their lives. As enemies descended upon them with distressing regularity, they found their daily lives to be changed and challenged.
In front of *their* own homes, each and every one of them had to be part of a defence and recovery mission. Literally, with a sword in one hand an a tool for building in the other they had to both defend themselves against attack, and also collectively build together what was constantly being broken down. Just as in a previous post where I talked about the image of us bringing our ‘shields’ together in mutual defence and protection, I am sure you can see the analogies here with our own situation, from these actual events in history.
What figuratively are the swords and spades you are able to use, each from our own homes, in a collective and united effort?
What are your means of protection, and what are your instruments and skills to rebuild what is being broken?
Remember that you are part of a great and collective effort against all of this distress and unseen attack, and no small effort is wasted. Keep going, you fight and build with millions around the globe, so be encouraged! You are making a difference, but you shouldn’t let your guard down. Keep protecting, keep rebuilding.
(For those who are also fighting and defending on another level, a different ‘frontline’ where the battle is real and fierce, remember it is fought and won on our knees! Have vision and remember the stakes are even higher in this one, so pray and allow the Light to break through the darkness. Our Commander in Chief has got this. 😉 🙏👌💪
In the UK, as in many other parts of the world, we ‘clap for our carers’ to acknowledge and celebrate the efforts of our National Health Service. It is heartening to see (and hear). I really do hope it is an encouragement to stay strong and to keep on going.
The people around us, as we can clearly see, aren’t invincible. They need support and encouragement, especially those on the front lines who are doing so much for each and every one of us. A collective well done for showing your / our support!
For those of you who like to watch or play team sports, doesn’t the cheer of a crowd spur on the players, and give them that bit of a boost? When you are enduring any challenge, it makes such a difference to know that you are surrounded by a ‘great cloud of witnesses’ who have gone before you or who are cheering you on (and yes I meant ‘cloud’ and now ‘crowd’ – Hebrews 12:1 😉 ).
Similarly in your life, there will be people doing things to strengthen, encourage and help you. Maybe it’s someone in your family who speaks to you and listens to your concerns, whether in person or on the phone. Maybe it is a friend who is always there for you. Maybe it is your child who draws pictures of rainbows to put in the window to cheer you and other people up. Maybe it is someone who brings you food and leaves it at your door, or someone who prays for you, gives you advice and guidance, or helps and supports you in some way. Just as you need them, remember that they too are only human, and ‘cheer them on’ to keep going, even if it is in seemingly small ways. It all makes a difference. Listen to your spouse who has taken time to hear your concerns. Tell your child how much of a difference they are making to you with their little offerings. Let your neighbour know just how much they are valued and how them bringing you food is a great thing in your life and that they are making a difference. Those you lean on may not have support in their own lives, so as we cheer on the NHS, and other health services, food delivery drivers, shop workers, and so on, around the world, let us also cheer on those closest to us. Every little helps. ❤ P.S. You’re doing great, keep going strong! 🙂
I feel like my last few posts have been a bit ‘heavy’. It’s the reality, but we also need to be able to focus on the good things, the little bursts of sunshine, and the brighter rays of light in our days.
I’ll keep this short in the hope that we can continue to build community spirit and resilience, and that some of you will post about the ‘little things’ that have been good in your days. Thank you.
We are hearing everyday in the news and social media, and through other people, of the rising numbers of people affected by Coronavirus. We hear constant updates on the death tolls in our own and other countries. The scale of this tragedy is beyond comprehension, and we find ways to cope, to perhaps become ‘numb’ to it, or to hold it all at a distance.
However, we don’t just hear about the numbers, we are also reading stories about the real lives, seeing faces and names, and insights into the families that are grieving.
I know that among you there are some people who have either heard of people known to them in some way who have either recovered from the virus or who have died as a result.
That’s when it begins to hit home. That’s when there is a need for a Peace beyond ourselves, for reassurance, and comfort.
To any of you who are in this situation right now, I hope you can find the space to grieve, and to find comfort and Peace in this situation, and support from loved ones and friends.
For the rest of us for whom these realities are thankfully still at arms length and are other people’s stories, we will still be experiencing all sorts of thoughts and emotions including the disbelief of what we are actually living through collectively.
Last year, we heard of the deaths of many celebrities. This year, well….there really are no words, are there?
Perhaps we can take comfort in seeking and turning to a Peace and comfort that Is greater than and transcends all that is happening on earth right now, the Peace of Christ. Perhaps, we can also grow stronger as a community and be the listening ears for our friends, the shoulders to cry on, and the support that is much needed in sad and worrying times like this.
Words of Encouragement (7):
*What do we do when we hear news of tragedies?*
I pray that each of you, your friends, families and those in your life will never personally experience the tragedies of this Coronavirus. Many of you have faced enough heartache in your own lives already ❤
Yet, we are hearing more and more of things that are just awful, and we may be able to hold things at a bit of a distance, but the terrible reality is that ordinary people are experiencing things first hand in their lives, that of their family members, colleagues and others. I don’t think we will see this abating any time soon, so what do we do?
Friends, I don’t have the answer to that. I can turn to Christ for comfort, as some others also can, but not everyone does. I think the important thing for all of us is that we take particular care to take care of each other and to make sure we inform other people who are being careless or reckless in these days that this is a serious situation. A young nurse treating patients who died of the virus took her life today. A 21 year old girl died. We want to pause for each one and for their families and not let them become just numbers. But this is unlike any of us have ever experienced.
There are no easy answers, but it goes to show how important it is that we ‘put our shields together’ in these days. Shields of faith, shields of hope, of truth, of courage, of kindness….we need to shelter and protect one another because this reality is taking its toll on people’s mental health and we need to become a strong community that can hold each other up in these times no matter what our differences are. We need to take care of ourselves, but we also need to know that we can mutually support each other, so let’s keep drawing close, lending a helping hand, a listening ear….and make sure that we as a community don’t allow this to get too much for any of us mentally or emotionally….and a word for my younger friends…..you can always talk to me, message me, these are tough things to hear about, it can be scary, but I and other adults are on your side, we’ll be there for you and you’re not alone. ‘Grown ups’….you’re not alone either.
Shields up, everyone! ❤ x