Tag Archives: Faith

Beautiful Friendships and Changing Seasons of Life…

Birthdays, Laughter, and Hopes for an Unknown Future:

Yesterday I celebrated a belated birthday with two lovely female friends. A beautiful, crisp autumnal day, bright with hope and promise, in the midst of change and old things fading away, was spent catching up over lunch, wandering around quirky shops, trying on winter jumpers and cardigans, and then one of my friends and I continued on to enjoy the beauty of autumn in the park, as we said a fond farewell to our other friend as she headed home. Life was alive, as it were, all around us. Children chased squirrels, dogs delightedly frolicked in the autumn leaves, an old lady sat quietly on a park bench, couples embraced, and laughter lightened the air in the playpark. Squirrels scampered, ducks quacked and splashed in the pond, and cameras clicked as people took it all in, and took time to capture the moments. And as we slowly traversed riverside walks, where the ground was strewn with golden leaves, and dappled with sunlight, my friend and I embraced the opportunity to linger a bit and to chat about the deeper things of life, and of our experiences. A moment shared in the passing of time, and the joy of a golden autumn afternoon. We reflected upon changes in our lives and also hopes of things we wanted to do together and in some newly forming friendships. We talked about faith, about creative projects, pottery, painting, art and photography, about friendship, about God and the deeper things of life. We had only intended to walk through the park briefly before parting ways to go to our own homes, but we walked around the park once more just to linger in conversation and each others company, and to help each other gain understanding of certain things. The blessedness of friendship.

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Earlier, at lunch, the three of us had laughed – the kind of laughter that brings tears to your eyes, makes you clutch your belly and be completely happy in the moment, forgetting your cares and worries. We laughed because we were talking about age and time passing and as we chatted about stories we had heard about people in their 80s, 90s and early 100s who had taken to adventures such as hand gliding, diving, and doing all sorts of other adrenaline stoking activities, we imagined ourselves in the future as old, old ladies, not letting age hold us back but telling ourselves that the sky is the limit as the three of us jump out of a plane in a sky dive! We thought about how we might lighted our loads on the way down by throwing out our walking sticks, zimmer frames, glasses and false teeth, while at the bottom our future children and grandchildren would be aghast at our crazy and carefree antics! We were not mocking old age, but just delighting in the crazy things we might get up to in the future, when we no longer cared about what other people thought, as we resolutely refused to allow age to hold us back. It was lovely to think of the three of us, still friends well into old age, a long, long time from now, and it brought joy to our souls to share the laughter in that moment of a life well lived.

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Time Passes, Leaves Fall, Seasons Change.

When I was a teenager, there was a fun and upbeat song by a teen band that was about friendship and how we can plant seeds of friendships, but we don’t really know which ones will grow and which ones will last and stand the tests of time. I had a friend at the time who I think also liked the song, we had known each other since we were about 4 or 5 years old, and when I was 9 I had to move to another town quite far away, which meant new schools, and not seeing each other every day. We tried to keep in touch, and we did well at that for a while, but as the years went by we changed and the friendship of our childhood and early teen years became more of a memory. We really thought we’d be friends into old age, and we did reconnect online in more recent years, but the thing is sadly we won’t be friends into old age. Not because we no longer cared, not because we had drifted too far from the possibility, but sadly because my friend died.

I won’t go into details of that, but it is a reminder that we don’t know which seeds will grow, which will last or how things will turn out. Our friendships are precious though and should be cherished for what they are in the moments.

Change Comes in Different Ways

Aside from the tragedies of life, like the death of a friend who we thought would be around forever, other changes can be positive, can bring growth and hope. Yet some changes can be challenging, and come about not because of death but because seasons move on and time passes. Circumstances change, people get married, have families of their own, and in some cases a strong foundation of friendship can mean that those friendships last through differing seasons where we no longer have so much circumstantially in common – I am blessed to have quite a few of these, and it is a choice, to continue to ‘give and take’, to listen and learn and love. I have friends who live thousands of miles away now,  in totally different parts of the world, but our friendships continue and are blessed as we value each other. I have friends who are married, have children and are in stages of lives that haven’t happened for me yet, but that I wait and hope for, but our friendships stand strong, they might waver from time to time, but because we have a bond that goes deeper than circumstance, we continue to ‘do life’ together, and that is such a blessing in this ‘throwaway’ society.

A Sure Foundation

Sometimes we don’t fully know why change happens. Sometimes people move on, and that’s ok. God, in Christ Jesus is the foundation for my relationships. And when things are challenging, I know I always have a True Friend Who Is always Faithful who will guide and direct me to be the kind of friend and person He wants me to be, through all the changing seasons of life, through times when people are challenging, or through times of hurt.

I am learning about the freedom in Christ to let things go, to allow Him to be Lord, and to allow Him to know and be content in not knowing why things don’t always go smoothly in human relationships. People may treat us in ways that don’t make sense, that seem unkind, but He knows the reasons and the details. It is a challenge to love, but He gives that love, we can’t do it on our own.

In Christ we are called to be part of a Body, a Family, to have equal concern for each other. When the blood flows and the Body is working together healthily, it is a beautiful thing, but when there is a fracture, a tear, a clot, a disease or a break, then we need to allow the Healer to heal, and nobody said this would be an easy or comfortable process.

My Responsibility

My responsibility in all of my relationships, is foremost to honour and be faithful to my God. Jesus Christ challenges me to be the person He wants me to be, and as much of a challenge as that is, especially in a world filled with broken people, myself included, He gives me the grace, the means and the power to be changed and to become that person. I remind myself, when faced with the challenges of broken people in a broken world that His Arms were opened wide on the Cross, embracing us in love, forgiving us, pouring love, grace and peace upon us. I cannot fold my arms and heart to other people when He has given everything, this amazing love for me.

However, just as God gives us choice, whether or not to respond to His invitation of forgiveness and love, or whether to walk away and continue in our rebellion, sin and apathy, we need to realise that the people around us are also making choices. Choices to love, or to be s

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elfish, choices to build each other up and look to each others interests, or to look only to our own, choices to communicate or to be silent, to embrace or to walk away.

God gives us the freedom to choose, but also find freedom in letting things go into His Hands, His perfect wisdom and understanding, and into His Love. We can give things to Him without fear, and we can know that He is in control.

What matters to me, and what He Is teaching me, is that He Is my Truest Love, my most Faithful Friend, the most important relationship in my life – and He commands me, Love my neighbour as myself – if I love Him, then I need to choose to love other people in a way that honours Him, even when that is difficult, when they are difficult, or unkind. I want to love Him, and not to hurt The One Who has loved me and given everything for me. That is what matters.

But learning what that means is a step by step process, allowing Him to hold my hand and walk me through it. I can’t take responsibility for anyone else’s actions or inactions, but I can love the Lord my God, with all my heart, and all my soul and all my mind and all my strength, and by His grace and power and love working in me, I can choose to allow Him to show me how to love my neighbour too.

And as the autumn leaves fall around me, I too can let things go, let them go into His Hands, choose to listen to Him and obey Him, and embrace the love and light that He has for me as I live to honour Him.

Investing in what matters.

Sometimes people don’t want our company and we can’t force or control that, but we can pray for them, let them go if that’s what they wish for love and friendship cannot be forced or imposed upon someone, and we can put our hearts and our efforts into those relationships and friendships that are right in front of us, where there is reciprocity and faithfulness. I am so blessed to have such friendships where both choose allow Christ to Be the Centre, and even in my friendships with people who don’t believe in God or aren’t Christian brothers or sisters, to continue to love each other, invest in the friendship, in understanding, and these are such blessed and fulfilling gifts in my life.

I look around me as the seasons change, as certain things fall away, and I thank God for the beautiful gifts of love and friendship in my life that stand the test of time, for those that don’t I give thanks for the good times, I pray for those for whom the seasons of friendship have passed, and I embrace the opportunity to invest in the beautiful friendships I have now, and the new ones that are budding and beginning to bloom and blossom in my life in this new season with God at the centre of it all, and look forward to seeing who I will do that OAP skydive with, as we embrace laughter, love, joy and faithfulness together! 🙂 . x

Jesus Christ Is the Same, yesterday, today and forever. His Steadfast Love will never change. 🙂 x

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Being teachable…

‘Google’ tells me that today is ‘Teachers’ Day’. I did not know this when I learned a lesson yesterday evening about being teachable myself.

Thank you:

Firstly, I’d like to say a big ‘thank you’ to all of you out there who are teachers of any kind, whether that be in a formal school / educational system for children or adults, those who are older siblings who have committed to helping your younger brothers or sisters to learning something, parents, youth group workers, leaders, instructors, mentors, support workers, lecturers, workshop leaders, or even I guess, bloggers who are committed to sharing knowledge and life lessons. Thank you for taking the time to use what you have learned to invest in another person for their growth and benefit in life.

Good teachers and bad teachers:

I’m sure we all have memories of people in our lives who have taught (or tried to teach) us something and who have left an impression upon us for good or bad. I can think of certain occasions in my school life when I was quite little when the impact of a particular teacher had a positive influence – they left me feeling encouraged, appreciated, valued, and gave me a desire to continue to work well or to do even better. I remember throughout the years being particularly good at some subjects, but lacking confidence in others. I had a variety of violin teachers throughout primary (elementary) school some of whom saw my lack of confidence and continued to teach me with patience and respect. Others, sadly left me feeling a bit scared and demoralised and not good enough.

In secondary / high school I was good at most subjects, but I excelled in English and got good grades in other subjects such as the sciences and maths, however, these did not come with the poise and confidence I had in English studies, and instead it took a lot of hard work, time, quite a few tears, stress, anxiety and struggle. It stands out to me that in my chemistry class one year I really found it tough, and it was mainly to do with the teacher – I felt victimised (whether I was or not I’m not entirely sure), and a lot of people felt the negative attitude from the teacher too. He even admitted to us that he never wanted to be a teacher, he was in the oil or research industry or something like that and had to go into teaching for a more normal family life I think with his wife and kids. It showed that he never liked to teach us, and as a result I thought I was ‘rubbish’ at chemistry and I thought I hated it.

I had a revelation the following year when a new teacher taught the class – he was great, encouraging, friendly and helpful. Things started to make sense and I realised I actually really liked learning this subject now and I could be good at it, at least at that level. It’s a bit of a shame that I didn’t realise that sooner, but I’m glad for the opportunity to have a better teacher for the last year that I studied the subject before choosing what I’d focus on later in school (not chemistry!).

Maybe it’s something we all need to reflect upon –

  1. When we think we’re not good at something, it’s worth reflecting upon and challenging any negative input from others that we may have received and internalised as being ‘true’ or ‘fact’, when in actuality it isn’t the case. We are smart, we have potential, and we can try again.
  2. Very importantly, we need to reflect upon the people we teach in our lives, especially vulnerable adults and younger people and children. Do we ever let our frustrations or lack of patience impact them? Maybe we risk leaving emotional and mental scars if we don’t take responsibility for how we teach – these are people after all, that are valuable and incredible.
  3. Are there ways we can actively improve upon both learning and teaching in our own lives, or can we challenge someone in a respectful way who may be damaging a child by not teaching them in a constructive way, but trying to ‘bully’ them into learning? We all need to remember that we start not knowing very much at all, so be patient….with others and ourselves.

A lesson in being teachable:

And so, I come to the point I started with – the lesson in being teachable myself. It was a lesson of the heart. I had asked a few close friends to dinner as it’s my birthday this month. Not to celebrate my birthday as such as I don’t want to make it all about me, and don’t want my friends to feel obliged to do anything. One of these friends, a guy (and guys I guess don’t really understand girls) said they’d bring a friend along who is a mutual friend of two of our group. I don’t know this person to talk to but I know who they are. I said, ‘yeah, that’s fine’, but inwardly I kind’ve felt well I want to be with people I know and who know me and care about me on this occasion, not someone who is more of a stranger, however nice they may be. So I went home and prayed about it. I realise that I hear most from God when I am quiet before Him and take the time to really listen. I also admit that I don’t do this as much as I should, as I spend more time expressing my own thoughts. I really need to grow in this area, I know. However, I listened, and God as He does gently and lovingly challenged me with prompting me to reflect upon my motives and to think about His heart. If He were to have a banquet or a dinner or any occasion, who would He invite? As I reflected upon the life of Jesus, I realised His Arms are open to all, and He showed this on the cross. The gentle rebuke and lesson is what I needed to realise that I was in fact thinking more of myself and my ‘needs’ and comfort zone than of being Christlike, of loving in a way that honours Him – something which I’m wholly inadequate to do on my own. He walked me through this in a deeper way as He spoke to me about His Heart and His Kingdom and purposes. I am realising the need for me to humble myself and to choose to be teachable and remain teachable because the answer to the question I had about what to do or how to think about the situation does not lie in reflecting upon my own needs, but on humbling myself to receive His love and truth, that of the Perfect Teacher. If I love Him, I will do what He says, but that means yielding my hard, self-protective, self-interested heart to trust Him, to allow His love and grace to forgive and change me, and to let Him transform me more and more into His likeness, to have a heart that pleases Him.

Are we willing to be teachable, and what does this mean? 

Sometimes being teachable means admitting that we have blind spots, that there are things we don’t know or understand yet, and that we need to be quiet and willing to learn from someone wiser than us. However, being teachable as my lesson from yesterday reminds me, isn’t just a matter in terms of knowledge, academic or professional learning, proficiency in a skill, talent, musical instrument, art-form, sport, or such like. It is much more to do with our character, our attitudes, our values, our respect for others, and our heart. Do we realise that there are far more noble ideals at play when we teach and / or learn? Do we realise that being teachable says so much about being human? Being teachable applies to teachers as well as students, for the process of teaching will reveal so much about a teacher’s heart and motives and character as well. Are we willing to humble ourselves and admit that we may be wrong, ignorant, ‘blind’ or hard hearted? And are we willing to yield to the Source of all sources, to learn the purest life lessons that there ever can be to be learned?

What are your thoughts and experiences? Please feel free to share with others here, or if not, reflect upon them for yourself. x

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When you can’t get away, you can still rest and refresh…

It’s summer time, and while many people are going on adventures near and far, you may find that you aren’t in a position to get away somewhere for whatever reason. But sometimes what we really need is just some time out of the normal busy routine of working life to take a break and recharge. I haven’t had the chance to travel abroad this year so far, and although I love to travel, I also see time spent closer to home as valuable. I have the next week off work, and am enjoying the chance to ‘destress’, live at a slower pace, reconnect with God, and invest in those relationships that are important with people I no longer see as regularly as I once did. And this in itself is its own form of rejuvenation. I find that mid-year, and we’ve now passed the mid point of 2019, is a good time to stop and reflect on not only our achievements, or areas for improvement, but also how closely we are living to our priorities and what is most meaningful to us. Too often, we feel we need to ‘tick the biggest boxes’ whereas perhaps the slow and steady changes and investments of our time, energy, heart and mind are what matter most in the long run. 

So if you do find yourself at home this summer, make the most of it. Maybe you have time off, or maybe you could take a day here or there to extend a weekend, and take some time to rest and reflect and envision where you want to go from here. 

I have enjoyed the time to catch up on my sleep, to pray and spend time with God and in His Word, to see a close friend and meet her first baby for the first time, to simply sit in the sun, to exercise, to eat healthily, to play my violin and take photographs, to fellowship at church, and I hope in the next few days to visit family, and then some good friends so I guess those aren’t quite ‘vacations’ as such, but mini trips to visit loved ones. I know that all too soon I’ll be back at work, which is why it’s important to make the most of looking after myself and doing things that are meaningful in the interim, but without the stress and pressure that regular life lived ‘according to the clock’ often entails. 

Another thing you could do if you can’t get away is to plan a ‘staycation’…maybe rent out a place for a change of scene for a day/night and have a mini retreat. Take time to listen to understand your thoughts and know that the time you have right here and now is precious. xx

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Healthy Morning Tip #4 ~ Before the Day Begins…

Before the day begins, and by that I mean before you start ‘doing’ all the things you usually do in the day, before you get going and are off and on your way, stop. 

What is one of the first things many people do in the morning after settling in and beginning to get ready? People these days go online. It’s 7.38am and I’ve been up since 5.50am (this night owl’s attempts to become more of a morning person are beginning to bring forth some fruit, albeit gradually 🙂 ) and I spent the first hour and a half or so offline, in this beautiful little analogue world 🙂 

I encourage you to take some time before ‘switching on’ to the busy, noisy world around you and the online world, as inspiring as it can be, to wait, to breathe in this morning, your own morning, and connect with your own life. How did I spend my time? In prayer, in writing down my thoughts as they came to me, thanking God, gratitude, a little bit of colouring in my yearly planner and a picture I’m working on, drinking tea and eating breakfast without distraction. I feel all the better for it. To be  honest my mood wasn’t the best at the start but spending some time just connecting with my own life without comparison has lifted me. I now feel more motivated to continue with my day – prayer, Bible study, exercise, work, and all that the day holds for me. Even if you have just five or ten minutes to spare at first, just take that time, to switch on internally before you switch on any devices. It will help you embrace the day with greater authenticity and inspiration. Be blessed. x

Challenge: What would you do with that ‘analogue time’ in the morning? 

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How exercise has helped me press through trauma and experience ‘mental gains’…

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I’d like to add a disclaimer that this isn’t advice for sufferers of eating disorders or others who have negative relationships with exercise and / or body image. These are simply my own thoughts for things that have helped me. 

There have been times in recent years, and even months where I have felt like my brain, my mind was exploding, deconstructing, self-destructing, and taking my nervous system with it. There was a point in my childhood at school where I was on a daily basis experiencing emotional, psychological, verbal abuse and on a few occasions physical attacks from my peers. This was mainly in the first two years of high school, and so the friends that I made after that either did not really know what was going on for me, and I didn’t know how to articulate it, so people assumed I was just quiet, shy and studious, which I was but a lot of the lack of speaking and problems socialising was because I was walking around severely traumatised. But something in me broke. The damage in those two years had been done, I was in such pain I didn’t want to live, I hated myself and had a distorted self image, and didn’t care anymore whether I lived, but this remained unexpressed so no one really knew, and I just quietly kept my head down, got good grades, got on with things, and tried to keep it together but the pain never went away and I never felt even moderately ‘ok’ inside even though appearances on the surface might have told a more positive story. The trauma had no where to go, I can only say that it felt, including physically with chronic pain that I couldn’t really explain to people, like my brain had ‘broken’, and was malfunctioning and this as an adult manifested as complex PTSD. Because I am a smart young woman, people didn’t really consider that this was the case, until several medical health professionals and consultants provided a diagnosis to this silent daily suffering. Eventually I just wasn’t coping and had to reach out for help and the help I have had over the past few years has enabled me to see a way forwards although some of it was gruelling work at the time. Your brain is not ‘broken beyond repair’ – it just sometimes takes a lot of incredibly hard work and support to get to a point of breakthrough.

I was never much of a person for being into exercise, and still I am not a fitness fanatic, but I do try to do something a few times a week, even if for a short amount of time. I have learned that exercise isn’t just about keeping the body fit, or boosting those ‘feel good’ chemicals. It also, importantly, helps to retrain the mind, in a positive direction, and helps keep mind and body ‘in step’ if you’ll pardon the pun, and I think helps to rewire new neural connections. I have noticed that people, even your ‘average’ person, who engage in some kind of fitness often become focussed, determined and press through their personal limitations even if this is on a modest and moderate level. When people reach a personal best there tends to have been a psychological barrier that was broken that enabled them to persevere, well before crossing  a ‘finish line’. I don’t exercise as an escape or as a ‘fix’, but I do know that it is something that over time is improving my mental agility and speeding up my recovery from severe childhood trauma. This needs to be a balanced for some people though, who might take exercising to an extreme – I can safely say that I’m a bit too ‘lazy’ for that ever to be a problem for me.

There are times when I can sense aspects of the trauma ‘getting to me’ again. And I am reminded that what ‘broke’ within my mind as a child doesn’t need to stay in that irreparable state of heightened fear, pain, helplessness and distress. I no longer have to be in a psychological ‘free fall’ unable to stay grounded or to cope with the explosions in my brain that make no sense logically in my adult life where things aren’t an actual threat to me. There is a verse in Scripture that admonishes one to ‘be transformed by the renewing of your mind’ (Romans 12:2). Scripture also elsewhere talks about the importance of physical exercise (but in the context of training ourselves in godliness and righteousness as even more important). There are also several passages that use analogies of spiritual discipline being like running a race, preparing for battle, being ready, focused and alert.  I believe that although renewing our minds with Truth is the most important thing for us mentally, exercise also has an active role to play in moving towards psychological breakthrough. You are proving to your body and mind that you can do it, even when you feel you are otherwise malfunctioning. You are training your mind to persevere, to push through barriers, and to succeed. Even when I feel that sense of things resurfacing, like this evening, I don’t necessarily have to engage in exercise to know that it is there for me and it has already been of benefit – I can remember the times I have persevered physically and mentally, I have pressed through I did overcome, and what seems insurmountable psychologically in relation to trauma is put in its place as I take my thoughts captive (as the Bible says taking thoughts captive ‘ in obedience to Christ’) and exercise my mental agility to push through and take control and work towards recovery, mental strengthening and over time, a better quality of life.

 

 

 

Retreat Reflections ~ Day 2 (Part 3) – The One thing I need…

Following on from the 5-senses exercise I suggested around an hour ago, I did put on some relaxing instrumental worship music, which helped me focus my thoughts to the very Giver of Life, and I cosied myself up in a soft throw blanket and sat on a soft rug on the floor. 

I had intended to do the five senses exercise, which I often do when I’m out and about to manage anxiety symptoms when they arise. 

This particular date, June 11th, is a very significant day for me spiritually so it was important for me to spend time with God. I sat, cosy in the stillness for a while, gently aware of His Presence, and allowed my breathing to slow as I listened to the peaceful instrumental worship music. I gently and naturally observed things around me, the cherry blossom wall decal, the light coming through the window, and noticing the softness of the blanket and the hardness of the floor. I wasn’t paying particular attention to notice things but just letting myself be, and I ended up closing my eyes, and listening, and worshipping in my heart, and then curling up and laying down on the fluffy rug with my blanket around me, as I drew near to The LORD and thanked Him for this significant date in my life and what He has done for me. 

You may see me through the journey of my blog as someone who is productive, and positive about life. But the Truth is, I am Held. The Truth is, as you may know if you have read previous posts, I was severely traumatised as a child bullied in school, and this didn’t leave me in adulthood no matter how hard I tried to get past it and I have gone through severe depression, anxiety, self-hate, low self-esteem, fear…a lot of fear, and panic attacks. When lying there, I realised a little of how far God has brought me. I also felt within me the helplessness of just being me, being a person, and the ‘yukiness’ of sin in my heart. I was aware of God’s constant, pure, beautiful, love, mindful of His Sacrifice for me, so that He can free me from my sin, from myself, my hurt and the absolute dead end and mess my life would be, internally and externally, without Him. And in that quiet, in my helplessness, I knew I am now safe, always Held, Secure in Christ’s unfailing, sacrificial, clean and perfect love. Some of us wonder how our Creator could have such love for helpless, weak and foolish sinners like ourselves – and yet in those precious moments, even in our need…we realise although we don’t understand just why He Loves us, He does….and the connection between Creator and His creation, His children somehow makes sense. And that is The One thing I need, Jesus Christ, out of which everything else flows to transform my otherwise broken, helpless, confused and distressed life. 

Maybe you don’t believe in Him, maybe you think that you don’t need Him, maybe you defy all thoughts of your own helplessness or sinfulness. You can plan, prepare, strategize, try and try again, and keep on pushing through your life, and succeed outwardly on many levels. 

But in those quiet moments, when you are all alone, is all your trying enough? Or are you actually stuffing a lot of things down deep within your heart – anger, hurt, fear, bitterness, trauma, pride, boastfulness, arrogance, apathy, darkness and pain? Are you seeking inspiration from other equally broken human beings, and we all are broken in some way, even in this world that desperately tries to present itself in a perfectly filtered light.

I know I am helpless without God, and I know I am safe to be helpless with Him, because He Is Strong enough so that I don’t have to be….His Strength transforms my weakness, and gives me new life, purpose and hope. When Jesus Christ draws near, and you draw near to Him, His Love, His Forgiveness changes you. A light is shone upon the things in you that you cannot face by yourself, but the Light is of Love and grace and forgiveness, and deep renewal. I found myself praying for the people who hurt me, which believe me has taken years, but it came easily and peacefully because of Who God Is, I thanked Him for the pain, because it led me to Him, to an appreciation of His Sacrifice for me, the incomparable pain He went through to save my lost and sinful soul, and declare me His, to declare me righteous in Christ, through faith and not through anything of myself, because in myself there is nothing good. But in Christ I am a new creation, blameless because of Who He Is and what He has done. 

But just as with writing, it is a process to be renewed inwardly. It is a process far deeper, and far more freeing than any amount of ‘self help’ and believe me before I knew The Lord, I tried it. Self help is a bandage, but it is not the cure. Someday that bandage will fall off, and either we will find another temporary fix for the things in ourselves that none of us can repair, heal from or overcome, and we will look to someone or something else for aid. 

How thankful I am that despite how helpless I am, and no matter the struggles I have been through, I am safe in Christ, indwelt by the Spirit and Loved and securely Held by the Great Physician, The Only One Who can Truly help and heal us Deep within, not just patch us up, but set us free, and bring purpose out of pain. Yes, it may take time, it may take difficult things coming to the surface, it may seem to get worse before it gets better, but everything He does, He does well….He can free us from the mess we make of ourselves, our relationships and the world. 

There is nothing like knowing that the reality that no matter what the narratives are of our lives, if we honestly and humbly ask Jesus Christ for help, He will never turn us away. He IS Love. He Is The Way, The Truth and The Life. I didn’t have that before but in the moments of retreat and stillness, I am reminded of the wonder that He Holds me, He holds my life, and transforms a broken life into something victorious, because He Is Perfect Love. 

To come back to writing, and writing honestly and authentically, I am reminded of the healing and renewal process within me. I am reminded to be gentle with myself, and just as I develop the characters in my novel, who each have some reflection of myself as their journeys help me to understand mine better, so too must I take time to allow my lessons to work deep within me, so that what I write is more than words on a page. 

Our creative journeys may be different, but taking time teaches us so much more about our craft or practice, it teaches us about our self.

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Notes from a Writer on Retreat! 4

It is 8.58am, and having committed my time into the Hands of my Creator, I am ready to create, to think, ponder, imagine and write. Hopefully as the morning progresses I will settle in and continue in a creative flow. However, first….breakfast, and caffeine! 🙂 Enjoy your day, and more to come later…

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Notes from a Writer on Retreat! 3

It is morning, 8.15 am, and I have been up for around 45 minutes. Last night at around 3.30am I was able to do some more writing, which has brought me a little further along and left me feeling excited as to how things will develop for my characters. I only wrote an additional paragraph, so my word count over the past evening and early morning is a bit over 1,000 words. Thank you for reading my earlier blog posts about preparing for this writing retreat, I am encouraged to share this journey. I have been working on this book on and off for just over ten years, and it is an expression of a deep place within my soul. 

I am blessed to have this time off from work, even ‘just’ three days, to savour the creative process and take my time with things. 

This morning, the sun is shining and there is a cool, gentle and crisp breeze in the air. It often rains here, so a day like this is a gift, and I am thankful. I can hear the chatter of birdsong through my open window, and I can also hear the rush of traffic over the motorway bridge as commuters make their way to work. I am both cocooned from the world, being on the 10th floor and with my windows laced with tulle to ‘keep the world out’ but also to allow me to observe it. My view overlooks the city, but in the distance I can see hills, trees, a few fluffy clouds, and a pastel blue sky. I awoke with thoughts running through my mind of things I wanted to write, which is lovely, to have that creative flow so early on. I am ‘half ready’ if that makes sense, having prepared myself for the day and got changed into some light and comfortable clothing, but I am not ready enough to go outside. After some refreshing water, I didn’t go straight to writing, but I spent the first 40 minutes or so in prayer and worship and committing my time to God.

Music helps me to quieten myself and be still before God and the lyrics help focus my thoughts and intentions and allow God to guide my heart and purpose. 

If you are interested, this has been my morning worship playlist today. The lyrics are beautiful if you take time to listen, and the final song is really a prayer and offering to God and a request for Him to establish the work of our hands, for His glory, for without Him we can do nothing.

I also came across in my ‘reader’ feed a beautiful blog post which inspired me to reflect and I will share a link to that post below. It talks about being humble in our attitudes and what we do, in response to Christ’s humility, and God’s view of those who seem ‘less’ in the eyes of the world. This links to a central theme in my book regarding the transformation of people who have been crushed and downtrodden, to be used mightily as part of a bigger purpose. I will not give too much away, but I was pleased to see this post and the connections that God is leading me to think about. 

I recommend that if you are embarking upon a focused time of creativity to begin in quietness and reflection and inspiration, remembering the purpose of what you are doing and the reason behind it. For me, I remind myself that all I do is because of the Love and Sacrifice of my Creator, so to Him I commit this writing retreat, and trust that He will glorify His Great Name and establish the work of my hands. 

This morning’s worship playlist: 

 

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The times, they are a-changing…

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Well today, the day after the United Kingdom held its European Parliamentary elections, Prime Minister Theresa May has announced her resignation, to be effective as of  Friday June 7th, two weeks from now.  She spoke of how she tried her best for the country she loves, and how she was motivated by her public duty and her democratic obligations to the will of the people, speaking specifically about the referendum vote three years ago that resulted in a simple majority to leave the European Union…or ‘Brexit’ as it has come to be known.

Most people feel disaffected with politics, although there has been expressions of sympathy towards Mrs May who was choked with emotion at the end of her resignation speech.

We face new challenges going forwards, and who knows what the rest of the world thinks of the United Kingdom in this respect. Yet, whatever our political opinions, persuasions or if we choose not to get involved at times, the Christian’s responsibility, regardless of personalities, politics or any other such thing, is to pray.

We are admonished in 1 Timothy 2:

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all people, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all…

Mental Health….Let’s Talk….Technology.

I want you to feel, no matter who you are or where you are in life, that in visiting my blog, you will find encouragement and hope. 

It is the final day of Mental Health Awareness Week today in the UK…but let’s keep the discussion going. 

Today, I want to encourage you by talking about living life in an increasingly digital world. As human beings, we are created for connection. We all need healthy relationships and connections, but as each and everyone of us know and have experienced to varying degrees, we live in a broken world and a fractured society, where the very relationships that are supposed to bring health and wellbeing and add something wholesome to our lives can actually be destructive, hurtful and a cause of great emotional, mental and even physical distress.

We live in an increasingly ‘connected’ world. People are constantly ‘engaged’ with some form of communication: look around you and you’re bound to see someone, even if that someone is yourself alone in a room, ‘plugged in’ to a laptop, a phone, a device of some sort, and chances are you’re not simply engaged in researching a topic. People are constantly looking for connection, validation, to be ‘liked’, for our lives to be considered worthwhile, important, ‘enough’. 

And yet, the sad thing is, family members, friends, colleagues, strangers can be sitting side by side, seemingly ‘communicating’ with somebody online, and yet ignoring the real life human interaction available to them, while scrolling through pictures of other people’s filtered lives and feeling none the better for it. 

I think it was Gretchen Rubin, author of ‘The Happiness Project’ who said that technology is a good servant, but a bad master. How true! It is great to be able to communicate with friends and loved ones across the world, in other towns, and to learn new things, to grow and develop and be encouraged, and build helpful connections in our shared humanity, and link in with people of similar mindsets and interests. But our engagement with technology has its place. 

I am seeking to be more aware of how I use technology in line with my core values, and one thing I feel strongly about is that I want to use my experiences to help other people. 

Friend, do you not notice a disconnect in your life, when you are overly ‘connected’ online? Are you aware of what impact the constant stream of auditory and visual information is having on you and your mental health?

In any healthy relationship, boundaries are gradually established for the good of both parties. Let’s think through the boundaries we are setting with ourselves in our relationship with technology and the online world. 

  1. Know Yourself

A good place to start is to do some soul searching, away from the computer or internet, and get in touch with what is important to you in your life, your core values, your sense of purpose, and what connection means to you. 

Personally, as a Christian, before coming to know the Lord Jesus, I often felt utterly alone in the world. I’m of the ‘Millenial’ generation, and probably in the last age group to remember growing up without technology. Some kids in secondary / high school had phones, but all the phones were capable of was phone calls and texts, and it was only a few people who had them. As a teenager, I wanted to question and swim against the tide of society – I never wanted to go out and get drunk or mindlessly do things many peers wanted to do – I wanted to find God, to be spiritual, to be kind to nature, to become a writer, to travel, to find my purpose on a deep level and to put something valuable into the world, to make a change, to advocate for human rights, and animal rights….possibly as many teenagers in one way or another still do. But I was resistant to technology, and how it seemed to be ‘creeping up’ on society, yes, it was good to use the internet on my parent’s home desktop PC, but I refused to get a mobile phone until I literally was compelled to by my mother when I was aged 20, and even then I got an old school basic model that probably now belongs in a museum, and all it was capable of doing was calls and texts….it was really more for my mother’s peace of mind than something I desired. I floated my way walking in parks and near rivers near my beautiful university, studying English Literature, Politics, Gender Studies, Human Rights, International Development, and longing, dreaming of being a writer, and pouring out my heart and thoughts through the written world – ‘old school’ style using actual pen and paper 🙂 

Yet despite my daydreaming, my heart was broken, and I was a fragile, fractured little bird who had been tossed by tempest and not comforted. My inner pain was great and unseen to the world, and before knowing The Lord Jesus I felt deeply alone inside despite having people around me. I do think however we were more ‘connected’ growing up without obsessing with our phones and having them only as a means of communication to let people know where we were or for emergencies. Since becoming a Christian, I have despite painful years of healing and various challenges, and sometimes spells of loneliness, never actually been Alone, and never felt alone in the same way as I once did. I believe the deepest need of the human soul is love and connection – with the One Who Created us. Yet, I digress, this is not a sermon, and is not just for believers, it is a post for everyone.

What I want you to be aware of is *why* you are seeking connection from technology, and that you need to establish boundaries with it. There was a time when I realised I needed to set boundaries for the sake of my mental and emotional wellbeing because I was encountering several posts from friends about their relationships, marriages and babies, or even travel and other significant life events….and it was getting me down….feelings that were there already were exacerbated by the ‘comparison trap’ …. I have no doubt that you also face this in your online experience even if the things you are drawn to compare with are different from those I mentioned….maybe they include body image, health, fitness, life goals and such like. 

So get to know yourself, your values, how your use of technology either lines up with them or not, and what your personal mental health struggles might be. Set some boundaries so that you already have in mind how using technology will be a positive and healthy experience to you and don’t like we all too often do, just get drawn into the next click or ‘conversation’ / debate. 

2. Strike a Balance

While there can be many benefits to our mental health in using technology – for there is a whole world out there where we can find support, information, shared experiences, helpful resources, friendships, inspiration, new opportunities, passions and projects – there can also be many ways in which engaging with technology can cause us mental and emotional distress and can cause us to disengage with real life and human connections, and even find ourselves in a disconnect with ourselves.

Try to use technology purposefully and know what your purpose is before you ‘power up’ as it were. That will give you a sense of satisfaction and you will have more control over the effects on your mental health if you do. Know when it is time to switch off, and to connect in the analogue world. Find out how it feels to walk in the rain, or barefoot through the grass…without feeling the need to document it or share it with anyone else, unless perhaps the someone else is someone you are connecting with in that moment and shared experience. Walk outside and experience the fresh and vibrant colours and life and sounds around you – have a time and space for capturing that whether on film or photo, but then also make time to leave those things at home, or in your pocket, and simply LIVE IT. It will be so good for your soul, your mental health and your emotional wellbeing and sense of connection with your own life. Too often we feel rushed and hurried and bombarded with information, that we can be left feeling lonely, isolated and as if we are watching our lives go by rather than living them, when we face this disconnect. Real life relationships are where real connection is found, even if that relationship is a solitary one with yourself thinking, reading, or reaching out to God in prayer. Relationships take time, work, attention and commitment, so put the phone down and realise that what is before you is so precious, and not everyone needs to know every detail of what is sacred to you. Don’t let your real life relationships and your mental health crumble because of being overly ‘connected’ or merely plugged in to the online world. Savour what it is to be human, to be present in the moment and to be with the people you love, or build upon the relationships you find challenging without the help of a screen to do so all the time. 

3. When you are online, seek out the positive

Your mental wellbeing *can* benefit from your online connections. Hopefully someone somewhere might have benefitted from reading this post. I do hope so. I see other people like me who have gone through various challenges to their mental wellbeing, who use their online presence to reach out to and connect with other people, and who use their experiences and what they have learned to help others who might be facing similar challenges in life. You have a wealth of experience at your fingertips, and in your heart. Seek to benefit from positive role models, and add something positive to help someone else too. Being purposeful and thoughtful in our use of technology is sure to help our mental health as well as setting boundaries and knowing when to take a break.

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