*Your children are looking to you. Who will you be for them?*
Children are far more perceptive than many of us realise. They pick up on subtleties and sometimes keep their thoughts and feelings to themselves when they are unsure of things.
Whether or not you have children of your own, it is likely that there will be young people in your life, who need stability and security from the adults around them.
If your children are younger, perhaps you may be able to shield and shelter them in a safe little cocoon away from the world. They may be too young to understand what is going on, and only know that their routine has changed and you may be able to give them a safe and positive experience through this.
Yet, even young children can pick up on things from adults that we sometimes fail to pay attention to.
For older children, teenagers and young adults, this may be a much more confusing and unsettling time, and chances are, how they get through this will impact upon how they do for the next few years in their lives in terms of resilience, outlook on life and even mental and emotional health and wellbeing.
It might be easy to get caught up in the immediacy of this pressing situation, but they need you to be their role models, their leaders, their examples. In a world where greed and selfishness is coming to the fore, can you be kind, giving, selfless? Are you showing them an example of fear or of faith and courage? Are you providing them with the learning opportunities to build skills and resilience to face an unknown future? What are the certainties that you can lay down for them?
We are all examples to children and young people in some way, even if we don’t have children of our own to nurture, love and protect, we still have a part to play, whether as teachers, aunts or uncles, friends and mentors.
Teenagers who have not been able to sit their exams this year may feel like it is a catastrophe in their own personal lives. Do they have the space to talk about and express how they are feeling? Can you and we assure them that actually there are so many opportunities that don’t depend on exam results and that we are all living in changing times where we will have to adapt and learn, and that they *do* have a hope and a future. If you don’t believe this yourself, if you are doubtful and fearful, it makes things a bit more of a challenge to them.
Pay attention to the mental health of the young people in your life, and set the examples that they need you to be right now. Let them know that there is a way forwards, and that there is hope. And above all, listen and love and provide a sense of security and safety so that they can grow through this and not be crushed or overwhelmed by it.
We all have certain experiences in our lives that stand out in our memory. During our childhoods we are particularly sensitive to the views, opinions, words and treatment of others. How people treat us as children, what they say and do can often have a profound impact upon us, not only then but also for many years to come.
You know the phrase, “children are like sponges”? Children absorb information, many don’t have the critical function or the experience to challenge what they are told about themselves, and they simply ‘drink in’ all that information and accept it as ‘True’.
Because of the emotional impact and intensity that some children can feel in relation to what is said to or about them, these ‘impressions’ upon the mind and heart can last a lifetime.
Some children are more ‘resilient’ to what people say about them, but others, like myself as a child are deeply impacted, and some of the effects of what people say can be incredibly wounding. Others, can be like a guiding light of encouragement.
So, I ask you to take a moment to reflect with me upon what is or are the comment or comments that have been instrumental in changing your life? I ask this because I have an inkling that most if not all of us can think of something in answer to this question. We may have received all sorts of messages that have shaped our lives, some positive, perhaps many negative, but what are the key ones that have stood out to you, and how have they affected you? More to the point, if any of them have been negative, then what are you doing about it to ‘re-wire’ your thinking about yourself, your identity, your potential and abilities?
Have you ever been told that you’re not good enough, not smart enough or not able enough to do something? How did you allow this to shape your life? Did you ignore it, did you put all your effort into proving it wrong and proving to yourself that you are able, or did you allow it to limit you by believing it and not even trying? If it is the latter, it’s not too late to question those words and to give yourself another chance.
Were you ever told that you’re not attractive enough, or were you compared to other people? Did this set you on a journey of discovery into what ‘true beauty’ really means, and has it made you a deeper more compassionate person in being able to see and appreciate the worth and value in everyone no matter what might be different about them? Or did you sink under the weight of negative comments, and succumb to depression, anxiety, low self esteem, self-harm, eating disorders, a lack of trust? Do you know that it’s not too late to change how these comments impact your life and turn things around for your good and to help other people? It starts with one small step, as all great journeys do.
Did someone see the potential in you and encourage you to use your talents? Were you told you were a great writer, artistic, musically talented, kind, caring, compassionate, intelligent? How have these comments been instrumental in shaping your life for the better? Did they spur you on to achieve your dreams, or to use your gifts and talents even in some small way? Do they encourage you when you feel down? Have they had such a positive impact upon you such that they have not only impacted the course of your life, but have helped you to encourage, mentor, and teach the younger generations coming after you?
What is the comment that has been instrumental in changing or shaping your life? How has it done so?
And finally, something for you to reflect upon: what are the comments you are making to other people that might be having an impact upon their lives, and potentially others, whether for good or bad? Do you consider the impact of your words and actions? Are they creating and speaking life, growth, goodness and love into situations and people’s lives, or do you think you may need to take a step back and rethink what you have been saying?
One small sentence can spring forth hope within the heart or create deep and lasting wounds. One comment, especially to a child, or a sensitive soul, can have the potential to impact their lives, their decisions and who knows, maybe even the opportunities of generations to come.
How are you using your words, especially in the lives of children? Are you leaving a legacy of hope, of love, of encouragement and opportunity? Or are you leaving them with wounds that might take decades of their lives to rebuild within their tender hearts and minds?
And back to you. How are you allowing the comments that have impacted your life to continue to shape and change you and what you do with them? It’s never to late to reach higher, or to turn a bad situation round for good.
Do you give up, or do you reach higher?
I hope you find, and are, an inspiration today. 🙂 x
Within each of us, we hold precious dreams of the life we long to live. As we move through this world the reality of the darkness that surrounds us as well as the darkness that we find in our own minds and hearts can quench those dreams. We struggle just to make it through.
Last year I wrote a lot about overcoming those ‘roadblocks’ in our minds and lives. I wrote about overcoming past difficulties, traumas, mental health struggles, in the hope that this might encourage some of you as well as help me make sense of certain things and to gain in strength and mental resilience. Last year I wrote a lot about recovery, self care and resilience. If you are in a difficult place, please browse through my previous posts to help you find some strength in moving forwards.
I know that there is still a lot of work within me to get to where I am living fully. After all, when I first started this blog almost three years ago I called it ‘Life as it happens to be’ and the web page ‘livingfully2017’ to signify what I hoped it to reflect and the date that I started the blog.
This year I want to challenge myself to take things a bit further. There are so many articles and posts that I have written to inspire and encourage you and I in terms of recovery, getting stronger, finding worth, self care, mental wellbeing and so forth. They’re there if we need them, and no doubt we will find it beneficial to look over these again. I’ll probably write more on these topics as they are so close to my heart and life story that it wouldn’t make sense not to explore them further and more deeply as I continue to journey through life and making sense of things.
However, this year I am considering being more intentional in my focus. To create posts that help and encourage us to ‘live fully’ right where we are, and to explore what may be holding us back from stepping forwards with courage and confidence. I hope to be less focused on overcoming past struggles and have more of a vision to inspire, equip and encourage.
It can be difficult to dare to dream when we have so many insecurities buried deep within ourselves, or even bubbling at the surface. It can be hard to believe for better when we’ve been told so many negative things in this world. But it’s up to us to take this as a challenge, to choose differently, to overcome, to thrive and to soar. Now, I don’t know how to do this as I haven’t got that far along the path myself, but I have come a very long way in ‘recovery’ and if I can put the same efforts into building something new as I have done in surviving and overcoming the old, the past, the difficult things of life, then who knows just what might be possible.
When I talk about daring to dream, please don’t let that hinder you if you lack confidence (as I often do). Daring to dream doesn’t necessarily mean doing a lot of things or accomplishing a string of goals. Daring to dream is perhaps more of an internal journey to become the people we want to be. I will always point to my Beacon, The True Light, the only One Who can regenerate, bring new life, forgiveness, and a fresh, clean start, making us new from within – Jesus Christ. Without Him, there is no lasting or eternal hope and any changes are temporary if they are not built up on Him, the sure foundation.
My faith and relationship with God is integral to my identity and out of it will flow my thoughts and learning about life. However, I also believe that regardless of who you are or what you think at this moment in time, there are ways in which we can encourage and help each other to grow in knowledge and awareness of our worth, of discovering our gifts and talents, of growing in confidence and courage, and reaching out to others with kindness, respect and love. Daring to dream that we can live more fully the lives of possibility that are set before us rather than remaining chained by all that has hindered us so far.
It is ok to be uncertain, unsure of how we will grow in confidence and refuse to let the negative messages we’ve experienced in life hold us back. It’s ok, as quite often the greatest changes stem from tiny ‘baby steps’ taken consistently over time. We all can think of examples in our own lives where we have persevered and made progress.
So, let’s dare to dream this year, as we journey together into the New. x
The start of a new year can bring with it fresh hope and vision.
Having dreams and vision for the future is an important if not essential part of life.
For most of our lives we are taught and encouraged to consider the future, the ‘what next’ of our life. When you were an infant perhaps the people in your life talked about and imagined what you might become when you grew up. I remember when my friend who is a few years older than me had her first baby and she asked me to be his God-mother. I was fairly young myself at the time and hoped and prayed that in a few years time I would know how to be a good God-mother. We delighted in him as a baby, and then in his younger sister when she was born, enjoying the lovely baby and toddler stages that they were in.
Yet we also talked about their characteristics, their likes and dislikes and imagined what they would be like as they grew up. Would they be musical, artistic, good at sports, kind and caring, studious? Would they be like their mum or dad? We all in our hearts wonder ‘What will be?’ for ourselves as well as for others. Many parents have big dreams for their children, while others say that they just want their children to grow up to be happy and healthy and kind people regardless of what they do or who they ‘become’. In all likelihood when we were little ourselves the adults around us would have made similar comments as they wondered who we would turn out to look like and what our likes and dislikes would be.
By the time children can walk and talk and play, adults begin to ask them ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’. Sometimes the child will reply with a confident answer such as a doctor, an astronaut, a fire-fighter, a ballet dancer, pop-star or an artist, while others may not be so sure. Adults may then say something like ‘you’ve got a long time to think about that’ and so the child will go back to playing and having fun in the moment.
Most of us pass through stages of teenage angst when there are so many questions we ask of ourself and of our identity at a stage where we really begin to make decisions that may in fact shape the future direction of our lives at least in the short term.
We choose subjects to study at school and are asked what we hope these will lead to. We need to consider the practicalities of the next stages of our lives such as passing exams, going to university or college or starting an apprenticeship or job. We need to think more and more about the adults that we will be in society and questions about the future are almost constantly asked of us at that stage of life. ‘What do you want to do?’. There is an expectation that we will soon need to figure out what kind of contributing members of society we will be and we may have to put some previous dreams aside such as those of being an astronaut or a pop-star.
As we move through the next stages of life, for example making our way through university as one possible life choice, we are then faced with more exams followed by questions of what we will do next. Soon we will need to be thinking seriously about passing all of those exams, graduating and finding a job.
Inevitably we will need to think about other practical things such as getting a job, supporting ourselves and perhaps other people in our lives, paying bills, renting accommodation, getting a mortgage and the list goes on.
In our younger days we might dream of what we will do as a ‘grown up’. Perhaps these dreams will involve achieving certain goals, traveling, having a career, finding love, getting married, having a family of our own and so on. I imagine very few children and young people will be thinking so far ahead as to dream about their retirement and what life will be like then but maybe I’m wrong. We like to think about the years when we are ‘in our prime’ and able to do all the things we dream of doing. However, perhaps in retirement people come to appreciate the ‘here and now’ a bit more.
For some people I know, their early twenties were characterised with ‘achieving’ or being blessed with passing those milestones that many of us long for: finding love, getting married, going on adventures, achieving goals, starting a family.
My life hasn’t been so straight forward. I have dreamed of all of those things but finding someone and having a family of my own are still in the ‘someday’ or ‘maybe if’ realm of not yet. I have however done well in school, obtained two first class degrees, graduated, gone through the difficulties of finding a job and renting accommodation to now being in the stage of life where I am settled in a job I enjoy, with good friends, having travelled a bit, and with a home of my own. That’s a very short version and it certainly hasn’t been an easy or straightforward process but I’m glad to be where I am now. I watch my friends’ children grow up and I watch other friends getting married and starting families. And one thing I have learned is that people always seem to be thinking of the ‘what next’ and when they finally ‘arrive’ there it isn’t necessarily quite what they had imagined.
I have friends who when they were single longed for the ‘next’ stage of life. When they got married they found challenges that they had not expected and spoke of how they sometimes missed their more ‘carefree’ single days. Friends who longed for babies when they finally became parents then talked about how they were always tired and busy. So soon they take for granted the things they once only longed for, things that some of us still don’t know if they will be part of our lives, our ‘what next’.
Can you relate to any of this? Practically speaking, life keeps moving forwards and we all need to consider the ‘what next’. Yet, could it be that we do this in the wrong way or to our detriment? Some people have found their ‘sweet spot’ in lives where things have worked out just as they hoped or dreamed and they are enjoying ‘the good life’. For many of us it isn’t quite so straight forward.
So the question I’m asking of both you and I is that although we practically need to prepare for the next step and the next as we move through life, do we ‘live too much in the future’?
Do we miss the fact that the stage we are in may have been one we had previously only hoped or dreamed of? Do we fail to realise that there is something inherently special about this time of our life right now even with the contrasts of light and shade? Do we always have to know or think about the next stage of our life? Do we enjoy and appreciate what is happening in this season? If like me you have had some notable tough times in life you know that sometimes life has you pressed hard up against a wall, so to speak, and you can’t think of the future. You can only do everything you can to get through the day, the moment. You’ll someday see the lessons in your trial, but in the midst of it you don’t even know if you’ll make it, and your dreams feel somehow crushed, an impossibility.
I’ve been there, I know how disappointing life can feel. And so I appreciate being out on the other side at last. Sure, I haven’t had all my dreams come true, but what about the here and now?
When you’ve been through some tough times and the future seemed uncertain as to whether or not you would even make it, when you eventually do weather those storms and the sun begins to shine you appreciate the ‘little things’.
That’s my challenge to you and I today. While we may have dreams and visions for the future, while we may be working on plans, let us also take the time to appreciate the good things in our life right now, things that we otherwise might just take for granted if our heads are always in the ‘not yet’ or in trying to figure out and make sense of the past.
We are all on a journey, it doesn’t stand still, so while we might have hope for the future let us also have appreciation of the Gift of the present.
There are points in our lives that ‘define’ us. That statement in itself is loaded, and one that can be debated. But in the simplest of senses, certain things in our lives change the way we see things, the world and ourselves.
Such points can happen negatively in trauma where one’s sense of identity is shattered, our minds feel like they’ve become fragmented or fractured, we become ‘stuck’ in a place of pain and fear, and we live the trauma and torment over and over again for years until we finally process it and are able to move forwards having gleaned a new narrative and a new meaning from it.
They can happen also in rescue, where once we were broken, helpless, feeling unwanted or unloved, and alone, prisoners to our own overwhelming and unmanageable experiences, we come in contact with a rescuer, someone who can help, who can revive, nurture, heal and restore. We are no longer alone, fighting ourselves over whether to try to go on living through the pain or to give up, we have others fighting in our corner, and they can help us through. (The ultimate Rescuer Who can perfectly help us is the Saviour, Jesus Christ, but people can help us in smaller ways on our journey too).
In recovery we meet change points when we move from the mental state of a victim to that of a survivor, and then a fighter, an overcomer, a warrior.
And in restoration we meet these moments when we discover a new narrative, a new identity and new hope.
God tells us that He can give us a “Hope and a future”, and Scripture is filled with the realities of brokenness and the greater realities of God’s transforming love and power to bring rescue, healing, recovery, a hope and a future, ‘beauty for ashes’, ‘the oil of joy’ to replace mourning, and ‘garments of Praise’ in place of a ‘spirit of heaviness’.
The pages of Scripture tell of the realities that many followers of Christ have lived through. Read people’s testimonies, listen to what they have to say and you will find this translation from darkness into Light, from old to new, from fear to courage, from despair to hope, from abandonment and loneliness to the rescued knowing that they have been saved by Grace, adopted by Christ into the family of God and are now Beloved, washed clean by the atoning sacrificial blood of the Lamb of God (Jesus Christ) and have a new heart and a new spirit.
This kind of a hope and a future goes far beyond recovery processes, self-help journeys, 12 step programmes or positive thinking. Why? Because when we are born again, spirit filled, our very nature changes spiritually – the power of God Is within us, and we are ‘new creatures’ / new creations as the Bible tells us.
The healing journey can often be painful and take a long time, although for some people by the Grace of God it happens instantaneously such as people who have been in a moment by the power of Christ been set free from drug addictions for example. The ordinary Christians around you will have some extraordinary stories to tell of our incredible God.
It can seem like it is getting worse before it gets better, but that is because God deals with the deep rooted things within us, the brokenness, the sin, the old, which needs to be taken out just as the new needs to grow and flourish. It is because He Is transforming us perfectly, and this is a work He will bring to completion in His time.
On this road, there are change points too. A point where we cross over in our healing and restoration journey to a place of standing in our True Identity in Christ. That doesn’t mean to say that the damage has been fully healed, the battles all fought (although at the Cross they are overcome, victory is in Christ), but we no longer view our recovery, our challenges, our lives from a place of defeat, but of victory.
That is one of the most remarkable change points of our lives. And although we may stumble and struggle, we get up, renewed, our minds being transformed to know that if God Is for us, Who can be against us? He will give us everything we need, and that gives us a hope, a future in Him, in His love and eternal victory – and that, no matter the struggle, changes *everything*!
Just because your yesterdays may have been tinged with sadness, darkness, fear and struggle, that doesn’t mean your tomorrows can’t be filled with joy from mourning, light, courage, strength and peace.
Difficult, dysfunctional and challenging people, including young people, can often be broken and traumatised and acting out as a result of that, and in great need of someone to see beyond the surface, and reach out to them with grace, love and kindness.
When I was a little girl, and then as I grew into a teenager, I dreamed of what I would like to be when I grew up. My dreams in terms of my occupation were along the lines of wanting to be an artist, a cartoonist / animator, a writer and illustrator, a journalist, reporter, and an advocate for children’s rights, human rights, animal rights and social justice. For a long time in secondary school I saw myself as becoming a journalist, because of my love of writing, of discovering and sharing such discoveries with the world. My passion for writing never diminished, and I spent my teenage years writing short stories, and doing stints of work experience with a local newspaper, as well as volunteering for NGOs such as the British Red Cross, working on an international message and tracing scheme, race equality charities, Amnesty International and doing projects on the death penalty, Greenpeace and so forth. My mum always saw me as a future news reader, which I can’t quite understand why given that I was an incredibly shy teenager, and not really able to speak up for myself. But I could write! And I could analyse facts, and discover new angles and ways of seeing things. Creativity and analysis are two sides of the same picture that makes me who I am, but whereas I could live with a less analytical aspect to my life, I would probably shrivel up and wither away without being able to express myself creatively. At school we had ‘mock interviews’ with a guidance counsellor / teacher. During my interview, the teacher / ‘interviewer’ asked me what I wanted to be and do in the future. Without hesitation I told her I wanted to be a writer and a journalist. She shot me down, which to be honest, is pretty awful given that she didn’t really know me. She said I could definitely be a writer, but there was no way I would be a journalist because my personality wasn’t bold or confident enough, or something to that effect. At the time it was a real desire for me to go into the field of journalism, and without a second thought the teacher brazenly dismissed my dreams for my future. I forgive her, I understand some people trying to provide youngsters with a good old fashioned dose of realism, but some people I think are in the teaching profession without really having the skills to help nurture young minds and lives. Suffice to say, I didn’t become a journalist. I guess I didn’t really want to in the end, but that was my choice. I went on to study English Literature and Politics in University, aged 17, and then proceeded to study Gender Studies, Human Rights and International Development. I’ve since dipped into online courses in psychology, children’s studies, and continue to pursue my passion for writing. I write fiction, I write blogs, I’ve written about human trafficking as part of my studies, and as part of my job, I’ve written about issues to do with violence against women, equality, racism, disability hate crime, and a variety of more ‘businessy’, corporate, legal and policy type matters, all the while, learning new things as I go. I have also had times in my job where I have had to write more ‘tedious’ and templated things, such as complaint responses and things that I have just had to do, because I was tasked to do it. I suppose in any and every career we face tasks that we like and dislike, things that make us feel more like our true selves, and other things that make us just want to pack up and go home for the day, or better still, leave the country altogether and go on holiday until we can come back to something better!
Yes, I’ve been there, I’m sure we all have. But today, as I sit and write, I think that the little girl I once was would be pleased with where I am today and what I am doing. I think this day may very well be part of her dream. To sit somewhere quiet, with the sun shining in through the windows, and a view of trees, and to be editing a company newsletter, and preparing the articles for the final version. I am working with my friend and colleague who is a designer, and I am doing the ‘wordy’ part of the editing, while he deals with the pictures and images. It is a new task for me at work, because previously we worked more in the confines of our own teams, which meant I was dealing with, at least for the past while, more corporate work, which is fine, but not exactly creatively stimulating. I have a new collaborative project coming up too, which I have been preparing for, I won’t write too much about it at this point, but think audio, internal communications, entertainment….and yes, perhaps something with a journalistic streak to it! This past week at work I have been collating information, writing reports, analysing, and also editing a newsletter, planning a creative project, which will involve interviewing, possibly audio presenting and taking forward with colleagues new internal communications strategies. So, despite it all, despite my several health challenges and struggles over the years, despite this not being quite journalism (which was after all the dream of a teenage me, and not the adult me), I find myself in a happy day, doing things that I love, despite life’s ups and downs, and despite messages to the contrary.
On days like these, especially after times of trials, we really ought to reflect on and appreciate them.
And for all of you out there whose teachers, parents, peers, colleagues, bosses, relatives, or so called ‘friends’ told you that you could ‘never be’ what you dreamed of being, or that you didn’t have what it takes, or weren’t good enough or not being realistic, or whatever negative thing they said about you….by all means hear them out, take on any helpful advice, but take it with a pinch of salt, continue to be who you are born to be, and remember that they don’t have the final edit of your life. 🙂 Be blessed. x