Today is all we have to work with, while memories of the past or worries of the future, or concern about the situations around us might distress us, today is the day where we can look up and do that one small thing that will make a difference, and if we are gifted with a tomorrow, we can do what we can again.
It’s new year’s eve again. It’s been another ‘pandemic year’. Perhaps you have started hearing highlights of the year gone by, or people’s reflections, or plans for celebrations to ring in 2022, however ‘muted’ they may be compared to non-pandemic times. But what might be helpful for you to hear?
*You’ve probably learned more in the past two years than you realise, including how to adapt to your changing circumstances. We’ll continue to have to learn to live in a challenging world, but you have made it this far, you can take the next step, don’t give up, and don’t let fear of the unknown future overwhelm you. One day at a time. Encourage yourself and someone else today.
*There are people around you right now, today, whether in person or at the other end of a phone or screen that you can be really grateful for. You may have faced some real losses, or challenges, but even in the pain or struggle, there may still be people you value who are still in your life (even if they are the source of some of your challenges!). It’s worth remembering that and letting it brighten your heart a bit, and maybe even letting them know, especially knowing that not everyone has made it. There are people who are really grateful that you have stayed in touch with them during the pandemic too, and others who you’ve lost touch with that may actually be really pleased to hear from you again. Life is short, don’t be afraid to reach out – now is a good time, and a new year’s greeting a good enough ‘reason’.*
It’s not worth comparing our lives with other people’s, but while things might not be ideal, there are so many things to be thankful for, today. If you have more than enough, think of how you can share that with someone else who might not, whether kindness, love, friendship, encouragement or material things.
*Someone will really benefit from hearing from *you* , perhaps particularly today. There are a lot of people going through some heavy stuff just now, and you never know what difference you might make. Think about maybe not just sticking to your own circle, and reaching a little further beyond, you might just find some common ground, and you might be the reason for a changed or a saved life!.
*It’s a new year, but while it’s a good time to consider goals and plans, don’t pile on the pressure to do so. Learn your lessons at your pace. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
*You are not your achievements, you are not the sum total of your relationships or connections, your appearance, or your possessions; your life has worth and value regardless of how well or badly you think you are doing, so be kind to your mind, and be kind to other people, and don’t judge them for where they are at. It’s a new year, but it’s ok just to take that one next step.
*Life on earth is fleeting, consider the big questions while you can, and don’t leave regrets. If you have been fortunate enough to come to the realisation of some of life’s big ‘answers’, live them out with all that you’ve got.
*Choose to enjoy the simple things today. If you’re on your own, remember that you’re not alone, the whole world isn’t having a great party that you’re not part of, so find some joy in your own little corner of life and be happy, even if for a moment. If you’re not on your own, reach out to someone who is .
*It’s ok to be going through what you’re going through. Even as we ring in a ‘new year’.
*At least no one is panic buying loo roll this year
*While the pandemic sucks, we still have this gift of life, and it does sometimes help to look around and take notice of all the little and big things we can be grateful for in this moment. Sometimes a bit of perspective helps – there may well be someone out there wishing their life was a bit more like yours or mine. We just need to look at the news to realise that.
*Speaking of which, maybe turn off the news for a while.
*1st Jan 2022 might be a brand new year for you, or ‘just another day’ – whatever the case, I hope you find peace, love, health and a sure hope amidst all the ups and downs of your unknown tomorrows. x
God bless. x
Happy New Year, friends. Welcome to 2021. How does it feel reading that? Perhaps it’s a sentence or phrase that will bring forth mixed thoughts and emotions.
By way of a reminder, I had been writing a recap of the year gone by and seeking to glean some lessons learned. Here’s Part 1 of this post: Self Care In A Pandemic (45): New YEAR’S Eve…Reflections on The Year Gone By – Part 1… ‹ Life as it happens to be ‹ Reader — WordPress.com
I stopped at the point when the United Kingdom went into a full lockdown on 23rd March 2020.
It was a drastic situation that caused for drastic measures and decisive action. I’m not sure that we saw decisive action from the government throughout the pandemic, unfortunately, but I did find myself feeling more grateful for living North of the border in Scotland where Nicola Sturgeon seemed to tighten restrictions more and quicker than in England. That said, perhaps we should have gone into lockdown a lot sooner with what we were seeing in and learning from other countries not too far from home, such as Italy and France. Even with hindsight, the decisions being made were challenging and difficult for all concerned.
The drastic measure of lockdown meant that there was an inevitable but unplanned for knock-on-effect on other important issues. For example, people who suffered from domestic abuse were in fact trapped within their own homes, non-covid related operations and hospital visits had to to be postponed, rescheduled and deprioritised because of the huge pressure upon our health service as numbers of cases rose.
I kept a notebook, a ‘quarantine journal’ as it were to make sure I wasn’t succumbing to the negativity all around me and seeking to see progress in my own life and learn lessons along the way. It’s a keepsake journal that I am still working on, but one of the pages I included is titled “Vocabulary of a ‘new normal'”.
Vocabulary of a ‘new normal’:
It’s interesting looking back on things that were new concepts to our daily lives that have now become common place, everyday things that we hardly think about as much.
When we went into lockdown in the UK, I was in my own flat / apartment where I live alone. I went through the first stint of the lockdown on my own with no human contact (IRL – In Real Life) for around a total of 6 months (give or take a couple of occasions where I was able to visit my family after the easing of Lockdown 1.0 in July, and a socially distanced meet up with friends, or seeing a delivery person or concierge).
I learned a lot during that time, and I see that time as precious in terms of the healing that I was able to focus on for past issues, the reprioritisation and insight I gained into friendships and the lack of awareness and understanding people had of someone in my situation living alone in a pandemic, and the value of daily conversations with my family over the phone.
However, I digress. 2020 brought with it a vocabulary of a ‘new normal’ and some of the key terms that came to the fore during that time that I noted down were as follows:
-Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives.
-Daily Walk / One form of exercise only once a day.
–Virtual Meetings / Zoom / Teams
–Furlough / Extension Period
–Covid-19 / Coronavirus / Novel Coronavirus
–Covidiot / Covid warrior
–Shop your wardrobe
–Toilet roll hoarding
–Hand sanitizer / disinfectant / PPE
–WFH (Work From Home) / Home Schooling
-Antibodies Test / Asymptomatic / Incubation Period (14 days).
Honestly, the list goes on…..and on….over two pages. I think I drew a metaphorical line under it because of how much I could have kept on listing.
But you get the picture; things that were not part of our everyday lives – such as facemasks – have now become part and parcel of ‘normality’ as we’ve moved through this pandemic and continue to do so.
I have to say that my favourite new term has probably got to be ‘Clap For Carers’. Do you remember when we used to clap for our health care workers, our delivery drivers, supermarket people, and frontline staff at the height of the first wave (first wave, there’s another term!). Perhaps in some countries you still do.
We’ve seen so many heroes throughout this rough year, and I am so grateful for each and every one of them, and perhaps some of you reading this are among those heroes. We’ve also seen people in all different walks of live reaching out to help communities.
Community Blessings and Struggles:
As mentioned, our communities have at times come together for the greater good. We’ve seen the NHS staff and other health care workers in other countries going above and beyond to help save lives. We’ve seen people helping out with food bank initiatives, charities, reaching out to lonely people, checking in on their neighbours. I’m personally grateful to have had the chance to do a bit of research work with my job around public health and safety at work for reintroducing services and also to be a ‘shielding helpline volunteer’ to help get essentials to residents who are vulnerable because of underlying health conditions. I’ve been grateful to be able to use my writing to encourage other people far and wide as well throughout this year, even if these efforts are a small offering amid much greater sacrifices of others. There is value in all of us playing our part and doing our bit.
However, we’ve also seen tensions and unrest in our communities, from the racial issues coming to the fore of mainstream society (things that minority people like me have had to deal with and suffer through in some form or another throughout our lives) and we’ve seen brief ‘moments in time’ of awareness, activism and insight that should have been there decades ago. We’ve seen tensions in our local communities and have watched divisions in America or perhaps some of you have been living through those, with the recent presidential elections. There have been a whole host of other issues in individual countries, communities and even families and yet we’ve made it through somehow, some with losses and pain along the way, and others with less of a struggle or even opportunity for growth.
There have been so many opportunities for lessons this past year of 2020. Now that we are in the first day of 2021, perhaps we have renewed momentum as we collectively face and embark upon a ‘new year’. Perhaps we have gained greater insight into ourselves, our own lives, our priorities and purpose, or perhaps some have barely made it through and have struggled. Either way, the pandemic isn’t over just because we’ve reached a new year, and there is still work to be done, responsibility to be taken and lessons to be learned.
I’m hopeful for the future, but I also think we need to live diligently day by day.
I’d like to take these reflections to a next stage with my subsequent posts as we move from global and local to individual and as we together see how we can reflect upon the lessons we individually have learned and how to move forwards with hope and strength into 2021.
I am considering sharing some guided reflections and journal prompts and ideas for goal setting, so stay with me as we forge ahead, stronger and more courageous as we embark upon these new days together.
Blessings, Peace, and Happy New Year to all. x
What is the particular thing that you are struggling with today? It’s wonderful if you are having a peaceful, restful day and aren’t faced with troubles, but perhaps you have a problem to solve, or you will do so in the days ahead.
Are you struggling with problems specific to the pandemic, or ongoing issues that you faced before?
In this world, we all face trouble or struggles of some kind or another, no one is immune to them, even if it seems or even if it is the case that some people have it ‘easier’ than others.
Are you struggling with mental health challenges, health issues, job or finance troubles or family problems? Do you face loneliness, boredom, or a lack of a sense of purpose? Are you fearful about the future, or facing grief or loss of some sort, or are you missing friends and family and the ‘way things used to be’? Are you mentally and emotionally fatigued because of all the bad news in the world or simply facing household tasks that you wish would do themselves? Are you worried about your children, your spouse, your lack of human connections, or not sure what to do next with your life? Is the weather getting you down?
Whatever your challenges in life today, while I could encourage you and provide advice and guidance, reassurance or support in the words that I write, instead I challenge you to take a step back.
Take a deep breath, define your problem or issue in words, and perhaps write it down.
Take another deep breath. Now, make a choice to reorient yourself with finding a solution, rather than being brought low by the problem. Of course, it is ok to feel down, to feel low, and life is full of things that crush us such as abuse, mental illness, grief and loss, and it is important to fully face these human emotions and experiences. But if you are ready, and if it is time for you, then look up and consider what you would say to someone else who needed help or advice with the very thing you are facing.
Sometimes we look to others for advice, when all along, there is something we can learn from ourselves if we’d listen. Ultimately, the True Source of wisdom is The One True and Living God, our Creator.
Yet, sometimes we can help ourselves by considering what we would say to someone else.
What if the thing you are struggling with today was the problem of a friend? Imagine that they or a stranger were to come to you for advice on this same issue. What would you tell them? How would you treat them? What compassion would you give them and what wisdom would you share?
Take a deep breath and look once more at the problem you started with and now look at the answer you gave to your ‘friend’. Consider that this might be the next step for you to take in moving forwards, and take that one small step and keep on going.
What did you discover from yourself today? x
On a much more light-hearted note from our previous self-reflection prompt, prompt number five will have you thinking about the good times.
5. What has made you laugh, smile, or find little pockets of happiness during quarantine / lockdown?
As difficult as this time may be for you (or you may not be finding it difficult, in which case that is great), we don’t want to go through 2020 with only or mainly negative thoughts about our experiences.
Which is why it is important to take time to think about and even note down the good times. Maybe you have found laughter to be therapeutic and a part and parcel of how you’ve got through these times, or perhaps you can’t initially think of any happy times.
If you can think of a lot of things, that is wonderful – take a moment to note them down so that you can look back on them positively in the future and remember the things that brought happiness to you in otherwise difficult times for the world.
If you are struggling to think of anything, start small.
Did you watch a video clip that made you smile or laugh?
Did a friend or family member say or do something to cheer you up?
Did you find solace in hobbies or creative pursuits or projects that helped refocus your mind on more positive things?
Did you see a bird in flight, a beautiful flower, a rainbow or a sunrise that touched your heart?
Did you feel the cool breeze on your skin when you went out for a walk?
Did you wake up in the morning without being in pain and looking forward to the day ahead?
Did you enjoy simple pleasures such as a phone call with a friend, helping someone else, some tasty food or a good film?
However negative you might initially feel when you think of 2020 so far, there is bound to be at least some small moment of happiness or hope in your life. It might not even directly be from your own life, but something you can appreciate as having observed such as community spirit, colourful pictures that children have drawn and put up in their windows to encourage other people, the applause people have shown for front line and key workers.
Can you think of anything? If you can, take a few moments to write it down. Sometimes the very act of documenting these seemingly ‘small’ moments can do wonders for our mental and emotional health as we acknowledge, remember, engage with them and treasure them as things we can be grateful for.
This in turn will help you to help other people to find the happiness and hope in their day to day experiences, and to move forwards with increasing strength.
It’s not too late to start. The year is not over yet and even if you still feel very negatively about how things have been so far, it is not too late to reframe your thoughts and choose gratitude and appreciation as you move forwards.
If you’d like to encourage other people, please comment below with some of the positive things this year that might also uplift others.
Thank you. Take care.
*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*!