Tag Archives: Goals

You don’t have to stay the same…

With it being the year 2020, there have been various adverts and slogans around the idea of ‘2020’ vision. From promotions by eye-care specialists, to ads by holiday companies promoting the ‘vision’ of a year filled with travel and adventure. The idea of 2020 vision tugs at those ‘goal-setting, achievement oriented’ heart strings as we think of the ideal vision of ourselves in various aspects of our lives from health, weight, fitness, career, travel, personal goals and of course, eye-care! : – )

There’s a verse in the Bible that says: “Without vision, the people perish”. Proverbs 29:18. For me it’s important to ask God what His vision is for my life, to ask the One Who sees perfectly and knows completely, without error. From the vision for a nation to that of a single life, we recognise the importance of looking above ourselves for direction to safeguard us from wandering aimlessly. I’d need to study more into what this verse really means, but I thought it was a helpful starting point for some of the ideas I’m ‘mulling over’ in my own mind.

You might have started the year with the sense of what you want to do, be or accomplish: many people do. But after a while, the ‘ordinary’ day-to-day things of life begin to occupy your focus such that you tend to just carry on doing what you’ve been doing.

Changing an aspect of our lives or ourselves generally requires us to be intentional in the pursuit of change. I’m not talking about changes in our lives that ‘just happen’ and that are out of our control, but those which we have a responsibility over. Things such as changing our daily habits, eating more healthily, gaining new skills, exercising, helping other people, investing time in our relationships and pursuing new goals, opportunities and long held dreams.

Sometimes, despite our initial enthusiasm, we end up merely ‘trundling along’ in life. We need to refresh our vision. And we need to remind ourselves that we don’t have to stay the same. Life involves growth, change, development. Without it we stagnate. And change doesn’t have to happen over night. It can begin by taking time to think about what you really consider important, discovering your vision in various aspects of your life and then making small changes little by little, day by day.

Personally, I have come up with the idea of writing daily vision pages, and it is really helping me to live each day with purpose. Instead of having a daily ‘to-do’ list, I write vision pages in which I focus on aspects or qualities that I want to live out and pair these with a corresponding activity or activities.

Transformation is possible, but we need to decide which areas of our lives require change, and then we need to begin, and continue one step at a time…moving closer each step, towards that vision.

time for change sign with led light
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Making the most of time after work…

This is more of a ‘life as it happens to be’ learning as I go type of post, rather than an article of helpful advice (although I’ll try to include helpful tips where I can), quite simply because this is an area of on-going learning and development for me.

The different spheres in which we move, and live:

Some of you out there may have particularly unique or fascinating jobs that don’t quite fit a predictable ‘pattern’ of set hours or locations. Maybe your work involves traveling across the world, through different time zones and maybe some of you could get called to work at any time of the day or the night. However, I imagine that most of us who are working adults tend to have a set number of hours for which we are paid to work each week, and in set locations. Even if you work from home and / or run your own business/s, you tend to wake up on a Monday morning (if Monday is a working day for you) knowing where you are meant to be and what you are supposed to do              (although, first thing on a Monday morning thoughts about the latter might be a little foggy! : – ) ).

It’s important to have that delineation between work and leisure time, and this may be a particular challenge for people who work for themselves and / or work from home for the most part because the physical and psychological space between home and work will tend to be less defined.

Why is it important to have this distinction? Obviously our lives involve elements of ‘cross-over’ in many respects, however, we need a basic degree of separation in order to protect our own mental and emotional well-being, in order to know when to stop, when to rest, and when to work.

‘After work’ time:

Once we have ‘downed tools’ for the day, we move from one sphere of living into another. For me this involves completing work tasks, ‘powering down’, physically leaving one building to make a short commute to get home. That is quite a clear demarcation for me, as it will be for many of you, with the travel time in between allowing us to mentally process the sphere from one part of our day and life into the next.

Making the most of my time is an on-going lesson for me, and perhaps for many of you. I have quite clear ideas of what my life priorities are, and how I would like to spend my time. I set goals not only at the start of the year, but also try to do this for each new month throughout the year, and on the whole I manage to spend valuable time on each of the areas of life that are most important to me, and that are within my grasp to be able to do so.

However, isn’t it often the case that we can feel ‘rushed’ in our lives and unable to fully give as much time and attention to what we want to do? Do you ‘wait for the weekend’, for your next holiday, or even for retirement? I personally don’t think that’s a way that I want to be living my life, when each day is packed full of opportunity. It’s just that sometimes we aren’t able to make the most of each of our days. Why?

What considerations to we need to take into account that might be hindrances to fully living the life we want to lead?

At work, I’m getting more opportunities to use my project management skills, and to work with others as part of a team to be involved in the implementation and progress of new initiatives. I do like a good plan, and when it comes to successful planning and project implementation at work this can be particularly satisfying. Often projects can fall by the wayside because of poor planning and a lack of comprehensive discussion and brainstorming between the right people. At the moment it seems that I am involved with a good team on a particular project, who have introduced a new project planning tool which is particularly good for assessing progress and making people aware of tasks and relevant deadlines.

When it comes to work, and my work has been quite varied over the years, I am always either ahead of time or on schedule with work tasks and projects.

However, when it comes to all the things I want to do, enjoy and achieve before or after work, I tend to be far more lenient on myself. Does this also ring true for you?

For starters, we are but human, and our bodies and minds need rest and refreshing. We also need to eat and sleep, and preparing a meal takes time, and the window of time between getting home, doing what is needed to sustain us, and then going to bed is relatively small.

Learning through different approaches:

I used to have an idea in mind of the different things I would want to do after work. I realised that I couldn’t possibly do them all, so at one point I would try to set aside specific days for different things such as exercise, playing my violin, going to my prayer and study group, writing, art and creative pursuits, photography, reading, devotional time and so on.

I then tried the approach of ‘going with the flow’, since I already have a very clear idea of the different things I want to spend my time on, and ideas of new things I want to learn and do and people to spend time with.

Yet, the reality of things meant that ‘going with the flow’ of how I felt often resulted in me whiling away an evening eating dinner and watching TV or getting distracted by the online world of YouTube, etc. Not that there’s anything wrong with spending time doing this to wind down, it’s just that I would feel a little disappointed when I knew that I wanted to be more productive and spend at least a little time doing other things.

I also tried the idea of doing things for a small amount of time and then doing something else. This tends to work quite well for me especially at the weekends, but not always so much on a week night.

Sometimes I think that I’ll do certain things in a week without having any set time or day, and at times this works out for me.

I’ve been working on writing a novel for 12 years, and I’ve been making good progress, however, even with writing being so important to me and a real passion of mine, I sometimes get a bit ‘lazy’ about it, feeling that I need to have longer stretches of ‘set aside’ time to really get going. If you are interested in this aspect of my life, take a look through my posts from last year and the year before when I had my own personal writing retreats, taking time off to just work on my novel and my writing, which was hugely satisfying but also took me out of the ‘real world’ for a time.

One year I marked in my diary set aside writing time every evening – even if it was just a few minutes a day. Suffice to say, this didn’t work for me, and perhaps I didn’t like the self imposed constraints. It is nice to do things spontaneously, but at the same time, we don’t approach work goals that way, so similarly personal goals and dreams need to be worked towards, and time and effort needs to be put in. I don’t want to reach the end of a day, a month or a year, or my lifetime and feel that I ‘frittered’ away my time being distracted by what’s on the TV or the internet, when I have so many dreams to fulfil.

Yet in order to do all these wonderful things, to live the lives we want to, we also need to factor in those practicalities I mentioned earlier of eating well, getting the right amount of sleep, exercising to stay healthy and having time to wind down, relax and do nothing, or just enjoy a good TV programme!

Being present:

Lately I’ve been aware of the beauty in life of being present in the moment, and enjoying the process of my life, of ‘being’. Enjoying the colours, and aromas of cooking, enjoying staring into space and daydreaming, of not getting stressed if everything I want to do isn’t done, and trying to do some of the important things to me each week.

It can be hard for all of us to keep on top of things at times. We need to do all the practical things from day to day, to maintain our homes, and possibly for many to look after other people as well. I’m all too aware of not letting myself get ‘burnt out’ precisely because I have been in the past, which might be partly why I realise the importance of also spending time doing things that are important to me and life enriching rather than only doing things for other people, while also knowing that helping others thrive is an important part of life too.

A learning curve….and I’m still learning….

As I said at the start, I’m still learning. Being mindful of what is important to me, however, and giving myself the opportunity to take time for these things (even if it is just five minutes at a time) has helped me to make far better use of my time than if I hadn’t spent time reflecting and thinking about things.

I find blogging very satisfying, and life enhancing, and I am glad that I have managed to sustain a regular writing ‘habit’ if you could call it that (although I personally don’t see it at all as a habit, so much so as simply pursuing something that I enjoy doing and hopefully encourages other people). If I didn’t put in the time to do this, maybe I’d just have whiled away my time mindlessly on things that don’t really come up in my priorities in life, such as watching TV, although that’s ok as long as it isn’t the only thing we do with our non-working time.

I’ve found that it has also benefited other people who have told me that my words have brought encouragement to me, which means so much to me. Do you realise that your own gifts and talents have an impact not only in your own life but the lives of others too. You are making a difference in the world.

When we know what is important to us that is perhaps the first step towards making the most of our time. We will find a way and we will keep learning along the way.

Over to you:

Can you relate to any of the thoughts I’ve expressed in terms of your own life and learning? Do you have any ‘pearls of wisdom’ to share with me, and other readers? What are you blessed to be able to spend your time doing, and how would you like to make better use of your time? Do you have any ideas of how you can do things better?

Thank you so much for taking your time to read this and hopefully it has also been time well spent for you. Be blessed. x

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Investing in Friendship.

Connection. Belonging. Love. Shared experiences. In a word: Friendship.

The importance of Friendship:

Friendship is one of the most satisfying and meaningful parts of our experience of being human. Yet, how often do people intentionally invest in their current friendships, or in forging out new connections?

Expectations of Relationships:

Our society often puts such an emphasis on romantic relationships (to the detriment of friendships) to such an extent that they can become somewhat of an ‘idol’, bearing the burden of expectation to fulfil all of our unmet needs. Yet, what about this little gem of a notion that friendships of the non-romantic type can be life affirming, fulfilling and bring meaning to our lives, whether or not you have a ‘significant other’ or a family of your own? In fact, having a wide circle of close friendships can lighten the load on relationships, as you have different avenues through which to express different parts of your personality, a variety of people to share hobbies with that your spouse or partner may not be particularly interested in, and an outlet in which you can be more ‘carefree’ with your friends when the level of responsibility and commitment is not the same and less intense.

How do we measure ‘success’ and satisfaction in life?

We all know that we need human connection in order to thrive, yet we often seem to be a society driven by ‘goals’ that can be measured in terms of ‘success’. In the western world, where the sense of extended family connections tend to be weaker and weakening, in combination with higher divorce rates and more frequent family breakdown, you would think that the value placed upon friendships would be significant; yet is it? Have you set any goals or made any new year resolutions this month? Might they include things that measure ‘success’ or satisfaction in life in terms of money, status, experiences, job / work opportunities, travel, family?

Have you included investing your time and attention in your friendships as part of your thinking?

‘Investing’???!

I don’t mean to sound ‘clinical’ or ‘strategic’ by using the word ‘investing’. However, think about the things that are important to you and that you prioritise in your life. You certainly plan and set aside time and resources to nurture these things, to enable them to grow, don’t you? You invest considerable amounts of time in your job or studies or main occupation. You invest time planning financially. You plan and save for holidays, travel and other experiences. Perhaps you have a set ‘routine’ to enable you to spend quality time with your family – such as ensuring you read your children a bed-time story after your work. I know some people who have ‘date nights’ (although the term makes me cringe somewhat, perhaps because I’m single! 🙂 ) with their spouse, or time when you will eat together as a family, or visit elderly relatives. You are investing your time, care, and attention in all of these life areas. Last year I set a goal to visit my family at least once a month, and apart from one month when the weather was particularly stormy and I couldn’t see them (which I made up for with two visits on another month), I stuck to this and we have all reaped the benefits as a family of this planned and regular time together. Perhaps you have time when you will intentionally invest in your family, in spending time with your spouse, your children, your parents or siblings so that you can keep in touch and connected to each other. So why not so with your friendships? Are you intentional towards the time and attention you give to people in your life who you care about but who are not necessarily directly related to you? Or do you just ‘let things happen’, and ‘go with the flow’? How much time, care and attention we invest in things is a reflection of the importance we place upon them in our lives.

I love that friendships can be ‘organic’, changing, growing, evolving over time, often serendipitously, and I don’t like to put constraints on things that do have such a natural aspect to them. However, how many times have you heard someone say (or have you yourself said) ‘we used to be close, but we just drifted apart’?

When married couples stop being attentive and intentional in their time with each other, when they just let things happen, chances are they are more likely to ‘drift apart’ over time, and maybe you yourself know the devastation that this can bring, impacting upon not only your marriage, but wider connections such as family, friends, and most particularly if you have children. Do people not advise married couples who are struggling to be more attentive, to invest time in each other, in marriage counselling, in paying attention and communicating with each other in order to survive? I’ve personally never been married, but I have sadly seen friends whose marriages are ending or have ended in divorce. It takes work. It takes being intentional and investing our time and care in someone that we value.

Why then, or perhaps it is just my perception, do people feel less comfortable with the idea of ‘investing in friendships’? Why do so many people find that meaningful friendships have fallen by the wayside, to which people respond that they’ve simply ‘drifted apart’?

Experience:

I personally pray into and am intentional with my friendships. There are a couple of people that I knew only as acquaintances that I invested time praying for – for them in their lives with things I thought they needed help with, not necessarily for us to become friends – and these people have become very close friends. All of the friendships that I have prayed into have borne fruit and brought blessings in my life, whether for a season, or for many years. Of course, some people drift away, but for those where there is a mutual interest in staying connected, it takes intention, care and love, and making time for each other. People rarely simply ‘drift’ unless circumstances are so impinging upon that friendship or one or both people lose interest.

Perspectives, and a view from my window:

As a single woman, I highly prize friendships and some friends have become like family to me. I have also learned, from where I am looking, that friends who are married find an outlet in their friendships that they can’t find in their marriage. They find the need for other connections and often find solace in friendships when they and their spouse are struggling to communicate or are going through difficulties or issues which in that type of relationship are always more intense, and it helps them when they have a friend to talk to, to cry with, or to offer an outside and objective perspective. Married people and those in relationships need other friends too to stay healthy and ‘well-rounded’, and possibly sane! 😉

I have also learned that people who spend all of their time with their partner or family can be left feeling very isolated if or when things breakdown, or if one falls ill, or if they face bereavement.

‘Friends are the family we choose for ourselves’, so perhaps we need to really give time and attention to this valuable aspect of our lives.

It is also important in friendships to have a balance, a give and take and to not expect too much from any one particular friend, because they too will have their own commitments and other priorities and responsibilities and life issues to balance. Develop a few good friendships so that you don’t leave any particular friend feeling overburdened or overwhelmed, and so that you don’t put strain on the friendship. Learn to know each others needs for space and for connection and find out what works best in those unique relationships whether one to one or in friendship groups.

In a world where family structures are sadly not as stable or as secure as they could or should be, a network of trusted friends can be that ‘extended family’ of sorts that can prove to be mutually beneficial, practically supportive, satisfying and life enhancing.

Do you think it is worth ‘investing’ in any of your friendships today?

Be blessed. x

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Journeying through January…

January is a good time to be gentle with ourselves. It’s a time when we are emerging out of ‘hibernation’ and yet are also faced with expectations to be all things new and all at once. That’s not reasonable nor practical nor altogether healthy for us if we’re honest with ourselves.

It’s a great idea to re-evaluate our lives and set new goals, however, the idea of being able to ‘hit the ground running’ on January 1st isn’t particularly helpful. I find that incremental changes over time are far more sustainable in the long run: ‘slow and steady wins the race’.

However, that’s not to say that it isn’t a particularly good time to use the idea of a new year and a new start to boost our motivation, but the way in which we do that doesn’t need to be in a flurry of activity.

So, feel free to pace yourself as you continue to journey through January.

For many of us, the first changes stem from perhaps going back home after spending time with family over Christmas, or saying goodbye to family if they have stayed with us. Others may not have to move or say goodbye or make any such changes, but the chances are that you will have to start tidying up and reorganising after the festive period. I don’t put any pressure on myself to do this in the first week of January as I like to gradually and gently say goodbye to that holiday feeling and savour the happy moments of it as I do. What’s the rush after all?

After that, we face the next challenge of remembering to get out of bed in the morning and go to work, while also remembering that it’s not socially acceptable to wear pyjamas all day or to take a nap in the afternoon – at least not in normal working life!

Our bodies are still adjusting to the changes in our sleep patterns, our diets and our activity levels. Which is why it’s a good idea like I said at the start of this post to be gentle with ourselves. Don’t expect that you will make and keep many drastic changes from ‘day 1’, that’s too much pressure. Maybe you thrive under that kind of pressure, and I suppose that’s ok, but if you don’t then don’t add to your anxiety by self-imposed and non-essential demands. Things take time, life takes time, so….take your time.

Perhaps it is a good idea to set ‘weekly goals’ in January rather than try to ‘attack’ a whole host of new year resolutions all at once. For example the first week could be simply going to work, with no other added expectations other than whatever else needs to be done to get you through your daily routine.

After that, perhaps the following week you will be more energised to begin to really ‘get going’ or to focus on another area of your routine such as addressing your sleep habits and your morning and evening routines. Your body will gradually adjust as you go at a gentle pace. Maybe in week three you can attend to the tidying up, the seeing people or the other things that you want to focus on.

As we are gentle with ourselves and accept that things take time and change is often most beneficial in the long term when it is gradual, consistent and sustained, then we will in good time find that boost of motivation to stride confidently into and through this new year.

Happy January – be gentle with yourself. x

january scrabble
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Are you living the life of your dreams?

This post is probably not quite what you might expect it to be. Why? Because often when we are asked that question it is by ‘motivational speakers’ or writers who seek to spur you on to self-improvement. What you will read here will be a different approach to this age-old question.

Are you living the life of your dreams?”

The answers you find may surprise you. I imagine that most people when faced with this question think of it in terms of the ever unmet horizon. ‘Dreams’ after all are those wondrous little fantasies that no one ever really gets to. Or are they?

I also think that many if not most of us fail to notice or to realise when we are living our dreams, because we live them in a real world with real issues and challenges. And so perhaps we fail to see just how wonderful our lives actually are.

To dream is to imagine that which is not quite within our reach.

Take a few minutes and try this with me. Think of your life right now. Take a deep breath in, and let it out slowly. Now, calm and relaxed think of the things in your life that you have that you once only dreamed of having. Not necessarily material things, but just everything you value as being part of your ‘dream life’.

Let me share some things with you.

A few years ago I dreamed of being healthy again. Of not having panic attacks every day or week or nightmares and of not merely just surviving each day.

Has this dream come true? Yes. Now is the time to pause and to notice and appreciate it.

When I was younger I dreamed of someday ‘traveling the world’. As an adult I have now been to a fair few countries, some of which I went to as a solo traveller. I’ve been to Italy, America, France, Germany, India, Oman, Austria, Switzerland, Netherlands, Hungary, the Czech Republic, UK, Guernsey, among possibly a few others. I may not have travelled the world, and there is so much of this wide world that I’m yet to see, and parts of the world that I will never see, yet travel even on the small scale has been part of my life, and I could say I’ve been living my dreams.

I used to dream, as a little girl and as a teenager, of being a writer. Of living in a log cabin in the woods somewhere and writing beautifully. I dreamed of getting my books published and of being a famous author. As I have grown into the adult that I am, the practicalities of living in a log cabin don’t quite suit my sensibilities. That’s not to say that a quiet retreat in nature every now and then doesn’t draw me in…it does, and I have created such spaces for myself. I have had a couple of factual pieces published, but I’m not a famous author. Fame doesn’t draw me as I am writing for The One Who sees and knows me, and that is where all the appreciation and validation comes from. Yet writing is a huge part of my life. Blogging is a wonderful outlet for me and I continue to work slowly and steadily away at my novel and other pieces of fiction in my spare time. I write also to directly encourage other people – friends and family and in my university days I wrote letters as part of a human rights group to help free prisoners and those unfairly detained or treated. So, yes, I am in a sense living my dreams in this regard too. Perhaps in a humble fashion, yet I am still free to express my soul.

Do I appreciate this? If I take the time to.

What about the people in our lives? Perhaps our parents, our siblings, our childhood friends and new friends we’ve made along the way? Did you dream of getting married and now have a spouse and a family of your own? Do you really pause to notice these things, or do you take them for granted because they’re not perfect?

When asked if you are living your dreams aren’t you likely to shrug and say ‘not really?’. If so, could this be because you let the daily annoyances and nuisances of life cloud your vision from seeing all the dreams that have and are actually coming true?

Did you dream of being a grown up and having your own place and going out to dinner with your friends? This is a dream that I am living but one that I probably take for granted with it having become ‘normal’.

You will always have something that feels just that little bit ‘out of reach’ for you. Because our hearts are created for so much more than all this frail world has to offer us. We are created for Pure and Perfect Love and for Eternity, so there will always in this life be that yearning for that ‘something more’. Yet that is not to say that we can’t be content or satisfied. We live in a broken world, and yet dreams can still flourish here if we let them….and if we recognise them.

So take a moment today to pause, to reflect and to truly appreciate all the things about your life: the people, the relationships, the material blessings, the opportunities, the health and abilities you have that are in fact all elements of the ‘life of your dreams’. You are living your dreams in a real world, so don’t fail to wake up and realise and appreciate that as and when you can, even while you pursue those dreams yet to come.  Someday they may come true so prepare yourself to appreciate them by simply appreciating all the blessings and ‘dreams come true’ that you have in your life today.

x

white and pink flowers beside a canister
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One way to avoid the ‘post New-Year blues’…

According to popular culture, ‘Blue Monday’ is a day in January – typically the third Monday of the month – when many people feel low. I don’t use the phrase, ‘the most depressing day of the year’, as some do, because as someone who has clinical depression, I know that feeling blue and being depressed are and can be very different things, and I know other people who suffer with this very real medical condition would also not appreciate the term being used lightly to mean just feeling ‘a bit sad’.

However, on a lighter note, as far as ‘pop culture’ goes, this is one way in which trends are noted, trends which can be used by retailers and advertisers to sell things to make people act in a way that they think will make them feel better about themselves and their lives – through consumerism.

Yet, could there be something that we can actually learn from the idea of there being a ‘Blue Monday’ or the concept of the ‘January blues’? I don’t think there’s any particular significance about the day itself, but psychologically I can understand why people might feel low at this time of the month and year.

Typically, in many parts of the world, it is still winter season, and the communal festivities have passed, and spring is a long way from having sprung. People may have fallen short already in terms of living up to their ‘new year resolutions’ and with the holiday season passed, it is back to work for most people, while the weather is still fairly gloomy and without there being anything imminent to look forward to. Motivation may have dwindled and life may have become a bit ‘hum drum’ once again.

There are many ways in which we can avoid or overcome such negative feelings. For example, we can address our mind-set, thoughts, attitudes and so forth. We can also take care of ourselves physically by getting appropriate sleep, rest, exercise and eating healthily. We can try to stay interested with hobbies, and maintain contact with friends and family.

However, I did specify ‘one way’ in the title of this post, so I’ll let you into a little ‘secret’ of mine. Although the festivities may have passed, I approach each brand new month a bit like a mini ‘new year’. It is a fresh start, time to re-evaluate, to set new goals, and to see new possibilities. I personally like to ‘plan’ and decorate my diary / planner, so it means getting creative with a fresh new approach and new doodles and designs for that month. Sometimes I have a theme in mind for things I’d like to think about or explore or achieve for each month as I go through the year. It keeps things fresh, and it helps me to stay hopeful, rather than seeing an expanse of time stretching out before me with all the ‘new ideas’ falling behind.

If by the time January 20th, 2020 comes around, you are feeling a little ‘blue’, don’t worry. February will soon be around the corner and chance for another new start. So celebrate these mini new beginnings throughout your year, and stay vibrant, hopeful and blessed. x

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Persevere with those small steps to achieve your vision and goals.

We all need vision for our lives. We all need to dream, to have meaning, goals and purpose.

Yet those dreams need to be united with the practical and sometimes ‘mundane’ steps of living them out.

At the start of this new year and new decade, 2020, you may have big dreams for your life. You may already be working towards life long goals and dreams. But the dreams will not sustain themselves and need to be coupled with both faith and action.

At the beginning of this year, I was gearing up to be ‘ready to go’. However, ‘IRL’ the morning of new year’s day I spent playing my violin, shortly after which I ended up coughing, sneezing and huddled up with the cold. I had to leave my parents’ home that evening and they dropped me back at my own flat, so after one day of rest I was back at work on Friday, and this weekend, I’ve been unable to do very much because of this unwanted cold.

I’ve spent the weekend so far sipping ginger tea, sleeping, eating, praying, doing some Bible study, and blogging a little when I’m able to sit up. I’ve been somewhat at the mercy of my body and unable to ‘get up and go’ or be prepared as I would like to for the start of a brand new year. I’m coughing and have a sore throat, and just need to take it easy so that I can recover. So, that is ‘life as it happens to be’ right now.

And perhaps you have dreams, plans and goals you wish to achieve, yet without a doubt daily life will at times get in the way, but the key is not to get side-tracked or waylaid by these inconveniences or challenges. You may not be able to press full steam ahead with your plans, but little by little day by day, keep persevering towards your goals, don’t lose focus or vision and don’t let yourself get discouraged by the inevitable distractions of day to day life.

What is your vision for this year, or for yourself generally? A healthier you? There will be things to trip you up along the way, but keep that vision and that focus, and do a little at a time, day by day, get into patterns of healthier living and thinking and don’t give up. Some days you might not be able to live just as you want, but keep moving in that healthy direction for your life and watch the small and steady steps all add up to a better journey through life.

Do you want to work on all sorts of personal projects, keep your home neat and tidy, and write or study new things on a regular basis, but like me today you find yourself sick and unable to do very much? Maybe like me in the past you’ve also had longstanding health problems, maybe you have more serious health problems to deal with as we speak. Don’t give up. Is recovery your goal? Keep that vision, the positive attitude, and keep ‘chipping away’ at things bit by bit, day by day. No one said there would never be challenges, hard days or disappointment on your journey, but find the faith and strength to overcome and to persevere, just a little at a time, day by day.

Maybe, like me today, you just have the inconvenience of a cold. I’ve come through a lot of tough battles and struggles in my life, so I’m quite thankful that this day is blessed with  only a little inconvenience. It’s a matter of perspective. We can do what we can to heal, be thankful that it’s the weekend, and even when we feel tired, worn out, have dishes piled high that we don’t have the energy to wash, have suitcases to unpack and want to but don’t have the energy to get back into an exercise routine, when we want to achieve things and be our best, but we can barely get ourselves ready, even then we can do a little at a time.

Take some rest. Look after yourself. Remind yourself of what is important. And don’t feel discouraged if you can’t do the ‘big things’ today. One of my dreams is to complete my novel, and to use my blog to make an impact on other people’s lives for the better, and most of all to glorify God. Ok, so I’ve written a lot of my novel, but I also want to take it a lot further, and there isn’t going to be much novel writing at the moment with me being unwell. I’d like to inspire, uplift and encourage people through my blog, and I don’t know if this is all too ‘mundane’ to do that right now, but at least I can do this little by little, bit by bit, and these few blog posts can help move me in the right direction as I persevere.

So, whatever it is you are facing today, whether it is a common cold, or a crisis, don’t let these things push you off course from the purpose, dreams and visions for your life. Keep focused, and even when it is tough, just keep putting that one step in front of another. In time to come, you’ll be so glad you did, and so will the people that you end up encouraging! x

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Focus and Vision for the Year Ahead (Scripture reading plans).

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At the start of a New Year we often find ourselves evaluating our priorities and assessing our progress over the past year. Many people have health and fitness goals, however, focusing on things like nutrition is only part of what it means to be healthy, and being spiritually fit, healthy and nourished is fundamental to true success in life.

This post is geared towards fellow believers in The LORD who want to deepen and strengthen their relationship with God and to live a life led by Him. It is also for anyone who is interested in knowing more about God, anyone who is interested in reading The Word of God, but unsure as to where to start.

Over the past few years I have done various ‘plans’ using an online resource called ‘YouVersion’. This provides written as well as audio and visual Bible reading resources, and if you log in and create an account you can see that there is a wide range of resources that include reading Scripture by books in the Bible, by life topics, and many categories so that you will surely find something that will help you with where you are at in life whatever your age, life stage, or situation.

Last year, however, I tried something new, and this was a Bible reading plan via YouVersion that I did with other people in my church. The resource is set up so that you have the option of doing plans individually or with other people. Up until last year I had only ever gone through these plans individually. However, the plan involved reading a chapter of the Bible a day, and at the end of the year this resulted in reading through the whole New Testament. Weekends were ‘reflection’ days so there were no readings for these, which also allowed time to play ‘catch up’.  I didn’t always manage to do the readings on a day to day basis with this plan, although I would be ‘feeding’ myself with Scripture on a daily basis in other ways. This meant that I spent lengthier periods ‘catching up’ but I am pleased and blessed to say that I did finish the year long plan and it was a really positive experience.

One of the highlights for me was that at the end of each reading people could comment and reflect upon and discuss with each other what we had all just read. It provided a wonderful new way of learning and gaining insights from other people as well, which I wouldn’t otherwise have when reading on my own, and I think it is important to have a balance of both personal and devotional reading, and group study. I have to say, I only knew a few of the people doing the study to talk to, and most of the others I still don’t know, which gave a sense of being more connected with a wider group of believers that I may not otherwise have had the chance to have any interaction with.

This year another group study has started which I have also joined in with, covering both the Old and New Testaments, and which will take two years (or one, depending on the reading plan and pace you decide to go at). I am excited about this because it feels like a journey together, of daily mutual encouragement and insight, and most of all growing closer to God and His ways.

I also am looking forward to studying more personal topics to me on an individual basis through this resource, as well as through other avenues of Bible study for me this year.

Of course, as with everything it is important to be discerning, and to prayerfully consider which plans to do, especially if any seem to be led more by a person or theme, than by the Pure Word of God. On the whole, however, I do recommend this online resource to be a good way to nourish our souls and spiritual growth in a manageable way, and which helps us to see our ‘progress’ as we journey through the Bible this year.

So, here is the link if you would like to take a look, and praying for all my Christian brothers and sisters that we will all have a fruitful year, in which God Is greatly glorified in our lives, by His Spirit, and for those who are ‘testing the waters’ that you will respond to His call of Pure Love to You to be part of His family and His kingdom.

God bless, and behold the ‘new things’ He Is doing in your life this year! Shalom. <>< x

https://blog.youversion.com/

If you know of any other helpful Christian resources, please comment below.

Approaching January expectations with some self kindness and a healthy dose of reality.

Happy New Year, friends.

It’s 2020, and this sounds like it should be the year of perfect vision, it has a sense of wholeness when we say it, and seems even a bit ‘futuristic’.

That aside, any New Year brings with it a sense of new expectations and this can be both exciting and challenging.

In this blog post, I’m going to explore some of the expectations we place upon ourselves, and walk you through some of the ways we could approach a new year in a more gentle way that helps us adjust to life with the changing of the seasons and in a way that is better for our mental and emotional wellbeing.

January 1st: 

Different cultures may celebrate new year at different points, however, in a globalised world we generally note the 1st of January as the start of the new calendar.

And yet, at least in my part of the world, we are still in that period of winter well before spring has begun to show, and so our bodies and minds may continue to be more inclined to the state of hibernation than to that of springing up with new ideas, plans and activities. However, there remains the external and internal ‘pressures’ that  now is the time to make a change, to be new, to start afresh, to be better, to get those goals, dreams and plans in motion and to live our best lives.

January Blues:

Some people say that January is a month where a couple of weeks in, people begin to feel low, depressed and to experience the ‘January blues’, when the festive celebrations of Christmas and New Year have passed, the new year resolutions have dwindled away after 2 weeks of trying to make a sudden change and when the weather is still gloomy and spring and summer are just a little too far out of reach to be excited about. We’re mostly all back at work or back in a routine of some sort, and the big and exciting changes haven’t really happened and so we are left with an anti-climax and perhaps even the seasonal low moods of wintertime.

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January 2nd for me:

As I write, I have returned back to my own flat after time away during December. I finished work on the evening of Friday 6th December (see that post for ideas of ‘wrapping up’ at work before a holiday), spent the next few days tidying, organising and decorating my flat to make it lovely and cosy for Christmas, after which I packed for a trip to Germany’s Black Forest and to France to see the Strasbourg Christmas markets. On return, I unpacked, washed my clothes, reorganised, tidied etc, had a bit of cosy time at home, went to church to celebrate the Birth of Christ with my church ‘family’, and then packed all over again to spend the next week and a half at my parents’ house with my family for Christmas and New Year.

The next ten days were spent with my family, cosied up inside, enjoying celebrations of Christmas, birthdays, New Year and an anniversary. This involved being looked after by my lovely mum, eating good food, playing music on my violin, family time playing games, quizzes, and even having fun with balloons, napping in the afternoons, reading my Bible, decorating my room, chilling out, laughing, relaxing, a couple of walks in the garden, a short and chilly new year’s eve walk at the beach, board games, films, Christmas and birthday cake, and only one day venturing out to see a friend.

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The usual routine of work was completely forgotten about, and all in all it was a good time to be indoors and forget about the cold and chilly weather outside and enjoy some family togetherness and the blessings of having a roof over our heads, warm food, a place to sleep, and all the cosy things of the winter season and being at home with loved ones.

Having returned to my flat last night, I have returned, not quite with the energy and enthusiasm to start a new year, but instead with a bad cold, sneezes, a cough and sore throat. This has meant having to get a lot of rest, sleep and to try to look after myself so that I am as fit and healthy as I can be in time for starting back at work tomorrow! It is a good thing that it is a Friday and that I won’t have an entire week as a shock to the system.

Out of hibernation?

At my parents’ home, they have quite a big back garden, and most evenings a little (although much chubbier this winter 🙂 ) fox visits to receive its ‘daily bread’ 🙂 .

Often times there are also squirrels that scamper around the garden. However, while I was there I didn’t see a single squirrel until yesterday or the day before. It seems that they were hibernating for winter, and then all of a sudden two arrived at the same time, bright and breezy, and in a terrible hurry, before disappearing as quick as a flash.

It was an uncommon sight from the past two weeks as it seems that the squirrels had hidden themselves away with the cold and wintery weather.

Can you imagine a little squirrel popping its head tentatively out from behind a tree, wondering whether or not it is time to venture further into the light of day?

I think sometimes we can have that feeling in January, when we know it is time to get back into the routine of things, back to work, back to going out and about, but we’re not quite sure we are ready for it after so much time spent cosying up indoors, and knowing that spring won’t fully spring for at least another month or two.

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A gentler pace: 

The first month of a new year can be a difficult one to get into our stride. It seems that everyone around us feels the need to hurry up and put the old away and bring in the new. Christmas trees come down, decorations are put away, lists of goals and new year’s resolutions are made, diets and exercise routines are planned, habits are expected to change and we expect that we should be able to charge full steam ahead.

Yet the reality may be that our bodies and minds are still adjusting to the seasonal changes, the circumstantial changes of our lives, and we may be still trying to shake off the wintery coughs and colds that we have picked up.

So, what can we do to ease the transitions? To find a healthier and gentler pace with which to approach change?

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One more step along the world I go:

Goals and Resolutions:

Personally, I find that ‘goal setting’ throughout the year (for me, on a monthly basis) to be much more helpful than new year’s resolutions in January, although I love the chance that a new year brings to reflect, to be thankful and to focus on valuable priorities in my life.

Rather than everything having to be a sudden change, I find that I am building upon goals that I have been steadily working upon and refreshing these and maybe incorporating new ones from the lessons I have learned over the past year.

‘Tis (still) the season to be cosy:

Perhaps you live in a sunnier part of the world, but here in Scotland, it is still cold and wintery in January. While many people may be taking their Christmas decorations down and packing them away, I feel no hurry to do so – for me, it’s one of the things that makes the season cosy while the weather is bleak outside. Living in a flat on the 10th floor means that I don’t really need to worry about what other people think, and so I plan to keep my tree and decorations and cosy lighting up for as long into January as my heart desires, to allow me to gradually move from one ‘season’ to the next.

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Health:

Health and fitness is often at the top of people’s lists at the start of a new calendar year. However, try to be reasonable in your expectations of yourself so that you are not setting yourself up for disappointment. After possibly being indoors for an extended period of time, with potentially lessened activity levels, is it really helpful for your body to go full steam ahead into a brand new exercise routine, or would steady, gradual and committed changes be more beneficial in the long run?

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Another thing we have to think about, as I am having to right now, is our bodies’ natural recovery time from seasonal illnesses such as coughs, colds and flu. We need to get back into a rhythm of healthier sleep, eating and activity, of drinking plenty of healthy fluids, and giving us time to rest and recover from any sicknesses. So, don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t seem to be able to move full steam ahead into your new year goals. Change can be more effective if it is gradual and consistent – slow and steady can win the race.

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Something to look forward to: 

Having something to look forward to can be a great incentive and motivation for us to get going. Maybe you have a summer holiday booked in that you can start thinking about, planning for and day dreaming of.

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If like me, you don’t have anything planned yet, you could maybe have some things in January that you can schedule in to look forward to. Have things to look forward to but don’t over commit, and allow yourself the room to change your mind.

I have had to decline two separate invitations for tomorrow and the weekend, from friends, as I have only just come down with this cough, cold, and sore throat and know I will need time to rest and recover especially with starting back at work tomorrow.

However, there are things that ‘traditionally’ I know I have to look forward to in January each year – one of which is various music events in my city, and the other is going out for dinner with a couple of good friends, and these plans can be flexible.

Other things to look forward to could be setting time aside, or spontaneously making time to do things we enjoy such as self care, a ‘pamper evening’, watching a film at the weekend, playing an instrument, or getting back into hobbies, reading, or other things that can be done without venturing out into the cold weather.

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A time of reflection:

I personally like to take time to reflect on my life, to be thankful, and to prayerfully consider what I have learned, and what I should be focusing on and putting my time into. Just because January the 1st has passed it doesn’t mean that we can’t spend an extended period of time, if so inclined, in personal reflection and preparing our minds and hearts for what is ahead – that way any changes we do set about making or resolving to make will be more personal and meaningful and likelier to last the changing of times and seasons as we progress through life.

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Back to work:

Unless you have taken time off in January, it is likely that as with most of us, you will be getting back into some kind of a work routine, whether that involves leaving the comfort of your own home and going outside to your place of work, or working at home, for yourself in some capacity, or flexible working. In any case, it will involve a shift of gears, some changes to your routine, and a different mindset to your holiday mode.

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How can we ease this transition? We might not have a lot of time to prepare. Personally, I start work tomorrow, and I hope that with it being a Friday, this in itself will ease the transition back into the routine.

If you have thought ahead, you will have done some preparation before the holidays to ease this transition. I wrote a ‘welcome back’ email to myself before I finished up for the Christmas break, so now although I have forgotten what exactly I was doing, I have a list of specific instructions to get me going and keep me up to speed.

Even if you haven’t been organised before the holidays, you can find ways of making your start back to work more bearable.

  • Try to get a good night’s sleep.
  • Know where your staff ID badge for getting into work is, if you use one.
  • Keep essential things in easy to get to places so that the first morning back at work isn’t chaotic, or one in which you have unnecessary panic. For example, think about things you will definitely need such as money / credit card, house keys, car keys, train or bus pass, etc.
  • If you are very prepared you might even give yourself a head start by planning your work outfit – I am always impressed with people who manage to do this on a regular basis!
  • Eat a healthy breakfast, or at least keep money with you so that you can buy something to eat during the day.
  • Remind yourself of when you need to leave, where you need to be (e.g. if you have any meetings – hopefully not for the first day back), and set an alarm to allow you plenty of time to get ready and be on time (this is something I definitely want and need to work on in the coming year 🙂 ).
  • If you take medication, put it somewhere easy to access so that you don’t forget in a morning rush.
  • Keep some positive and uplifting music at hand for you to listen to if you are commuting on public transport so that you can be in a good frame of mind to start your day.
  • Try to keep a supply of cough and cold remedies handy, because chances are you’re not the only one who has been sick, and at new year people tend to want to wish you a happy new year with a handshake or a hug, so don’t forget to do what you can to avoid falling sick again or passing on your own illnesses.
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At work: 

  • Remember that if you are starting back at work around the same time as everyone else, then you all will be in a similar situation, so try not to worry about the transition into your daily routine.
  • First days back are generally more gentle days, reacclimatising yourself, remembering your passwords, checking through emails, and preparing for what you will be working on.
  • Try not to schedule in too many meetings, if any on your first few days back at work, and as people always say, before you know it, it will feel like you’ve never been away.

Change with the seasons:

Nature has a way of telling us when to slow down, to rest, to sleep, to wake, to spring into action, to adventure. The seasons of spring, summer, autumn and winter, have a way of nudging us into action and into rest. So while society may be telling you to do this, that or the other, pay attention to the natural rhythms of life, listen to what your body is telling you, and take action at a pace that is comfortable for you to make long lasting, life affirming changes that will stand the test of time, and not just the first few weeks of January.

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Wishing you all a happy, healthy, blessed, and spiritually enlightened new year, and a 2020 filled with love, joy, peace, self discovery, Truth and meaning.

Take care, and take the time to live life at a pace that keeps you well and healthy. x

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Being intentional with our time over the holidays…

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I don’t know about you, but it is a rare treat for me to have an extended period of time off from work. Sometimes I’ll have this time over the summer, but this year I only had a few days off here and there, and I therefore have my longer break from work in the wintertime this year.

It’s nice to not have to get up early in the cold and dark weather to go to work, and to know that for many other people, especially for those of us who are fortunate enough to have office closures over the Christmas and New Year period, we are having a collective rest and break from the normal day to day routine. Of course not everyone has time off and I am especially respectful of those who work over the holidays to keep our communities going, particularly those who work in the emergency services and frontline crisis and care work.

Yet, for many of us, we’ve been long awaiting the Christmas break and are looking forward to a good few days to rest and relax and maybe even ‘hibernate’ a bit.

I’ve already had a couple of weeks off, which has been spent tidying up, organising, decorating, preparing for travel, going away for 6 days to enjoy some Christmas markets, coming back home, catching up with sleep, unpacking, washing, tidying, preparing for Christmas, going to church, preparing myself spiritually and generally trying to get organised. For many of us, the lead up to Christmas seems to bring with it seemingly unending things to do, and the household tasks seem to just keep coming, until we can finally get things all settled, cosy and prepared so that we can have actually have the rest that we have been hoping for and preparing for.

It is easy to get lost in this hustle and bustle, and by the time we do get to ‘put our feet up’ we are more than ready for a rest.

Sometimes Christmas and the holiday period involves spending time with friends and family, and maybe even a change of scene. Once we have prepared and got things suitably ready, had some festive events, and done some charitable acts of kindness, we may find that we are blessed with some quieter days ahead, which will be spent mainly indoors.

Ahead of me is a stretch of 11 days from today – 23rd December until 2nd January 2020 where I’ll be away from my home and spending time with family. We all say it so often, that the time just ‘flies by’ and before we know it we’re in another new year and back in the ordinary routine of things, and feeling stressed again. We sometimes look back and wonder whether we made the most of our time, or whether we ‘frittered away’ our time sleeping too much, eating too much, lazing in front of the TV, and letting days flow into each other in an unproductive blur.

There is a time when we need to rest and relax and just ‘chill out’ but I’m also aware that the holiday season is precious and that I’d like to use my time wisely. However, it is hard to really use our time wisely without knowing what our priorities are, or without having some kind of structure or routine, plan or list of things we’d like to do. It’s nice to be spontaneous, and we don’t always need to plan, but sometimes without any structure we risk wasting time, and for those of us who have suffered from depression and anxiety, some form of a routine is essential for our mental and physical health and wellbeing.

For me, getting back into blogging after almost two weeks away doing other things, provides me with the opportunity to quieten my heart and mind and reflect on how I would like to use my time over the next 11 days.

A simple routine:

Without being too prescriptive, one thing I’d like to maintain is a simple, yet flexible daily routine to add structure, meaning and joy into my Christmas holidays, prioritising what is most important to me. My brain likes to see things written down as this helps me to be wise with my time. So, this is what I’m hoping my days will include:

  •  A healthy dose of rest, relaxation and sleep, incorporating a morning routine where possible, but not putting any pressure on myself to do this.
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  •  Focusing on the True meaning of Christmas, and keeping Christ central to my thoughts, and taking time to truly be amazed that God came to earth to be with His people, to save us, to save me, and to deepen my relationship with the God Who loves me.
  • Having a daily time in Scripture and prayer to God, seeking Him, praising Him, and praying for the needs of others and myself.
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  • Being intentionally grateful on a day to day basis, and taking the time that I don’t usually have to reflect more deeply on the blessings and lessons in my life and to give thanks for them.

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  •  Being present and slowing down enough to appreciate the special moments and time spent with family and friends. Appreciating how precious the time we have together is, and enjoying each other’s company and being there for each other.
  •  Taking time to stay in touch with and reach out to friends who I know are struggling in this season due to various circumstances.
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  • Being helpful so that everyone gets a chance to rest and relax over the holidays.
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  • Enjoying food and holiday treats while being mindful of what I eat and not to overindulge.
  • Keep moving and doing a little bit of exercise, even if just five minutes, everyday, and where possible go out for fresh air and walks so as not to stay cooped up in the house all day every day.
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  • Reflection on the year gone by, on blessings enjoyed and lessons learned, goals achieved, and seeking direction and wisdom for moving forward.
  • Time spent figuring things out, working through my thoughts, issues and continuing to become stronger mentally and emotionally, and considering my priorities and how I will achieve them going forwards.
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Enjoy having time to do things that I find creative or relaxing such as playing Christmas music on my violin, writing more, reading, listening to audio books, watching films, playing games with the family, arts and crafts, selecting photos from the year gone by for creating an album, and taking time to enjoy the cosiness of the season.

Plan for what’s ahead, so that the transition into the new year will be as seamless and enjoyable and productive as possible.

What about you? What kind of holiday routines do you have that help you make the most of your time? x