Tag Archives: God

Self Care In A Pandemic (79): Trust…

I hope and pray that things go well with you my friends.

I am learning more about Trust in this season. As we continue to venture through this pandemic and through life, we face uncertainties within and without. I am learning to trust more in The LORD Jesus Christ and Who He says He Is and that He hears and answers prayers. Sometimes we might be sitting in an answered prayer and barely recognise it. Perhaps we are experiencing restored relationships and times of togetherness that might not have seemed within our reach some time back. Maybe we are experiencing more of a quietness in our circumstances. Do we recognise that the Hand of The Almighty Jesus Christ could be in this? I pray day and night for those I love especially my closest family. I can see God’s Hand at work in our lives and yet I am still waiting on Him to answer certain prayers and so I continue to pray day and night. In times of trial and testing I felt for a while that I was trying to convince God to answer my prayers but He has been at work in my heart and mind and perhaps He Is at work in you too. I wonder if there are good reasons for delays in the answers to our prayers or those that we see and that we need to learn to more fully trust.

More recently I know and am convinced that The God I pray to The Father of our LORD Jesus Christ Is a Good, Good Father with Whom there is no shadow of turning. He Is Pure and His mercy and love endures forever. When we pray He hears but sometimes we have to persist in prayer and in trust.

What are you trusting in during these difficult days? Many people have a warped view of God because of the broken world we live in and because we are also in a spiritual battle and we have heard all sorts of wrong things about God. We also don’t like the gospel of Jesus Christ because it means that we have to come face to face with ourselves. We are not as we were meant to be.

What were we meant to be, and what are our lives being renewed by Him pointing towards? Maybe you can think of a time as a little child (and my heart goes out to you if you can’t) when a parent or loving role model embraced you and you enjoyed being held close to them and talking freely with them, nestling into their loving embrace. We are made to live freely with God, walking and talking with Him without fear. Our hearts and souls were made for Him.

It is the brokenness of our lives, marred by sin and by the brokenness of this world that keeps us from this perfect union and loving relationship. Maybe in this pandemic you are experiencing times of longing knowing that the things you are filling up your day with don’t really satisfy you deep down. The Bible talks of Jesus as the ‘Bread of Life’ and the ‘Water of Life’ the only one Who can quench the thirst of our souls. I have certainly found this to be true, but even though I am born again and indwelt by the Spirit supernaturally, I am still being renewed and set free and there are still broken parts to be healed but God Is with me as He Is with all of His born again children.

If you are a parent you can only begin to imagine the deep love of Father God for us, for you. It is hard for people to make sense of the Cross in their minds sometimes because it means admitting that we are broken and fallen and we are sinners in need of the amazing Grace of Christ’s forgiveness which He freely gives with arms wide open. That Is His Love for you. And it is a free gift. All we need to do is recognise we need forgiveness, and ask Him from the heart, believing in Who He Is and say ‘Lord Jesus, I recognise I am a sinner, and ask for your forgiveness and I trust myself to You’.

He took the punishment of all your wrongdoings so that you don’t have to. ‘Call upon The Name of The Lord and be saved’. You don’t have to fully understand it, you just need to trust. That The Cross is the only way to renewed relationship with God so that we can once again sit with Him in that loving embrace, knowing that His are the eyes that are always upon us, keeping us as the apple of His eye when we are longing for someone to notice us, to know that we are Loved and not alone.

Will you return to Him today? Will you trust Him? Life is short and God wants all to be safely with Him in this life and the life to come, but the Cross is The only way. Jesus faced judgement so that we can escape from that judgement but we must choose to turn back to Him and His grace reaches for us in deep, pure love every moment of every day.

This is why I pray for those I love and for you dear ones:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved.

He sent His Son for you. He loves you. And no matter what your need He Is here right now listening for your call, waiting for you to turn back to the Loving embrace of The One True Living God Who cares for you and Whose Perfect Love casts out all fear.

Can you recognise His answers in your life today even if not everything is just as you wish, can you see how He has already been at work? Will you take a moment to thank Him, to trust Him, trust Him for today and trust Him by simply calling on the Name of The Lord Jesus for forgiveness and knowing that you will be eternally safe with Him and also know that if you do even in this life you will have His Love and Presence with you, helping you every step of the way.

Loving Father I entrust my dear readers with all their cares and concerns to You and in trust I entrust their salvation to you that they would by the Loving drawing of Your Holy Spirit turn back to you and trust you to forgive them, wipe them clean and give them a new life, a hope and a future and an eternity of love safe with you. In Jesus Holy Name I pray, Amen.

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Self Care In A Pandemic (74): Give Your Brain Some Direction…

Have you ever watched the film ‘Castaway’ with Tom Hanks when his character is stranded on a desert island, after a plane crash and being washed up on shore?

It’s a psychologically intriguing film and I think on some level we can all find some sense of human connection with various themes in the film. Like all good plots, from my point of view, there is a transformation story within it and as viewers we can see the physical and psychological changes that take place, firstly in the shock of the situation to someone who is totally out of their element, then to their resourcefulness and resilience in survival and then after being rescued and coming back to ‘civilization’ the strange disconnect and having to relearn what it is to be part of a community and in a totally different environment from that desert island.

I’m not saying that we’re in a situation similar to that by any means, but many of us have had to go through things in our lives that have tested or continue to test our mental, emotional and psychological resilience and adaptability. Some among us, myself included have had to overcome and are still overcoming remnants of complex PTSD pre-pandemic time. I know that some of my readers also are overcoming different challenges that may involve mental health and recovery from something or other. The thing is, living in this world will at some point challenge our mental and emotional resilience, and where we find we haven’t established it yet (say for example if we go through something as a child or young person) then we are put to the test as to discover and build that resilience from perhaps a very low point. But we can do it.

In the pandemic we have a variety of psychological challenges, and I’ve explored some of these in previous posts. There is a lot going on and I don’t want to trigger anyone reading this by going into details repeating some of the many things that we’ve collectively been faced with the past year particularly because there are some among you for whom that might feel too close to home.

But what about the situation of being in an extended lockdown (as we are in the UK)? That in itself has mental challenges for us. I’ve explored the importance of some semblance of routines and habits to give ourselves structure to our days even if we like to break free from those structures at times. Perhaps we can relate to some of the emotions that Tom Hanks’s character faced such as shock, loneliness, isolation, even delusional or troubled thinking from lack of human connection (when his closest companion was a blood stained basketball named ‘Wilson’ with a bloodstained handprint that he connected to as being Wilson’s face).

Our brains need somewhere to go, and when we physically can’t go anywhere, we need to keep adapting and finding ways to become increasingly resilient so that we don’t sink under the pressure of mental health challenges.

Think of the ways you have so far adapted to and grown from your experiences of an extended lockdown if you have faced or are facing one. Are there things that were overwhelming to you at the start that you now take in your stride? One aspect of this, whether for good or bad I don’t know, may be a sense of not being so affected by the daily case numbers that we are presented with. Initially we were all, or most of us were, shocked and worried by these but now we can almost ‘tune out’. We focus on our own situations and adapt and some among us are able to reach out beyond our situations to help others and we can’t forget to be grateful for the many front line workers who continue to do this through all sorts of tests and trials and pressures.

Thank you frontline workers.

So, in an extended period of lockdown, your brain needs somewhere to go. We have the small steps that we can all be taking, but what about a bigger direction? Is there a project that you can get stuck into, something that you’ve wanted to do for a long time that you didn’t seem to have the time for? Maybe something you wanted to do when you finally retired if you’re not there already? I know a lot of people at work who would be of the mindset pre-pandemic that ‘if only they had the time’ to do such and such. Well folks, now we do have the time.

Give yourself a bigger challenge to steadily work away at bit by bit. Maybe you’re not into that and it’s fine, but do you have a novel you want to be working on, a model to build, a business to set up? Do you want to become a mentor to someone but need to learn the skills? Perhaps now is the time to set yourself a slightly bigger challenge and give your brain somewhere a bit more ambitious to go. Maybe you want to set up a charity to help those less fortunate, or to advocate for others with mental health issues, or to be a supportive voice and presence to others who are suffering even if that presence is online and via technology.

Maybe your blog has places to go and you need to put your mind to it. I started this blog when I was in a tough spot mentally myself and I both wanted to do something to help myself and to help others. I find some solace and strength in knowing that my words can be used to help and encourage other people who might need help with mental health issues generally and over and above that to reach out to more people through this pandemic.

It’s a small blog, I haven’t earned any money from it, although if you want to help me with getting more people viewing my blog and finding help from it and thereby encouraging and helping me, please do share it. It’s a small beginning but it gives my mind a purpose bigger than myself to focus on and is also an avenue for me to gently share my faith for those who will read even if we walk different paths.

If we are simply getting up one day at a time to try to manage that bit at a time well, that’s ok and it’s also good and commendable, but it is just one phase of this journey. We can’t stay in a state of shock or disbelief, and we haven’t. We’ve all collectively moved on from that in many resourceful ways. But sometimes our courage can wax and wane and we can lose momentum and feel like we don’t know how to keep on going. We can keep on going. We will.

I also still have mental health challenges. Things come and go in my mind and I need to remind myself of Who my God Is, and also that He has equipped me with a resilient brain and that I can handle many things and not get discouraged by them. But our minds do need somewhere to go so that they don’t simply ruminate, go inwards or become negative and so that we don’t get lost in ourselves. We need vision.

That’s a big statement because I believe the biggest vision for our lives should be our Creator. However, on a lesser scale we also need vision to help us get through our days and to do so purposefully and that’s why having a long term or bigger project can be helpful.

I understand and agree that this is not for everyone and that’s fine, but I do feel that we need to look beyond where we’re currently at if we want to move forwards, make progress and not get lost inside our heads.

What do you all think? How can we encourage each other? Do you have any goals that you are pursuing over and above the tasks you have been focusing on to help get you through each day? The small tasks are crucial so don’t ever think that they’re not enough or not important enough. But for some of us our minds need to go further so that they don’t go inwards and perhaps like me you are also one of those people.

Are you giving your brain some direction and purpose in this pandemic and if so would you be so gracious as to share some of your inspiration with us so that as a community we can help and encourage each other to keep going on stronger?

Take care friends, stay safe, be curious, be inspired and seek to inspire. x

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Self Care In A Pandemic (71): Believe In Transformation…

Life comes to us with a variety of challenges. Sometimes these challenges can test and try aspects of our character, but at other times the things we face in life can come close to crushing and destroying us, and even when we do survive, we can be left with the feeling of being broken in spirit and crushed on the inside. When these experiences occur in childhood when we are still forming and becoming who we are, it can have a long lasting impact upon our sense of self. Once again, I speak from experience.

Having faced such hardships in childhood, I persevered through life with a lot of anxiety and symptoms of what had gone on deep within, but it wasn’t until later that all of this ‘exploded’ to the surface as the complex trauma that it was. I re-experienced and had to go through and process things that were trapped and stuck in parts of my brain and nervous system from years of fight-flight and freeze responses as a child and young person. After that I have been working solidly to first survive the crisis, and then to get strong and overcome the symptoms of trauma and the long lasting effects of childhood suffering.

By God’s grace and the strength I find in Christ Jesus, I can confidently say that I am an overcomer. Yet, I know that overcoming symptoms is not all that there is for me, even though I haven’t figured out the next step of life quite just yet.

Can you relate? Not too long ago I wrote about how I saw this recovery journey in terms of stages from victim to rescued to survivor to overcomer to thriver. Thriver is a stage I have not yet got to identifying with or living in.

Much more recently however, I have had another word come to my mind when thinking about moving forwards, an it is the word ‘Transformation’.

Many of us have seen that transformation is possible in our own lives and the lives of others. Most of you reading this blog have long passed adolescence and that stage in itself is testimony to many of the transformations that occur as we move from childhood to adulthood! If you’ve ever seen some of those ‘before and after’ pictures of people when they were age 12 or 13 to what they looked like age 17, 18, 19 or 20 then some of these will be astounding as to how much people can physically transform.

Yet, physical transformation is only one part of life, and it is not the most important part, because who we are and how we look does not determine our worth. It can take us a lifetime to learn this because of how many lessons and lies from the world we have to unlearn! People are valuable because we are human beings, made in the Image of God, Created on purpose, and no matter what words have pierced you through your life, whether from other people and / or yourself, the pain of those words and /or actions, those lies, can never detract from your inherent worth. It has taken me a long time to learn this, and perhaps I am only just beginning to come into more of that freedom of mind and thought.

Yes, transformation is not limited to the physical realm. If any of you out there are ‘Born again Christians’ then you will know that you’ve had a supernatural experience of forgiveness and being indwelt by the Holy Spirit that has changed your life, and that people who are not believers can’t quite relate to. Perhaps you can think back to a time when you didn’t believe in Jesus Christ or the Word of God and thought that ‘those religious people’ were all a bit crazy. I remember in my teenage years thinking that I was a spiritual person and believed in God as a Higher Power and Guiding force but the ‘Christians’ I encountered just seemed deluded and hypocritical and a bit crazy and simple minded in some ways. That’s until I met a Spirit-filled believer, a very different kind of human, then I encountered Jesus Christ, The Living God, and then I chose Him, came to know His Forgiveness, and had supernatural experience after supernatural experience. I was transformed spiritually as some of you have also been. Some of you may be reading this and think that I’m a bit crazy, and I can understand that because unless you have had an encounter with Jesus Christ and are transformed and translated into His Kingdom spiritually then of course it will make no sense.

Transformation can also occur in terms of our thought processes, our characters, our outlook on life. It can be in terms of how we view ourselves and other people and how we engage with the world. It can be all of the above, spiritual, physical, mental and emotional. Sometimes a transformation in a person’s life, especially a spiritual one, can occur suddenly, but in most cases I would surmise to think that it is gradual.

Some transformations we have no control over, such as going through adolescence as our bodies and minds develop in ways that bring us into adulthood with or without our choosing.

Yet, what of other aspects of transformation? Can we have a part in it? We can ask for God to change us, we can ask to be born again, to be Forgiven by Christ, and by allowing Him into our lives, we can experience an eternal transformation and we can see our lives continuing to change as we allow God to make those changes on us in the inside and as we cooperate with Him.

There are also other ways we can experience transformation, and we can be intentional about these. If someone wants to work on external things and experience a transformed body for example, they usually have to put in some work, effort and have somewhat of a plan of action as to steps that they will take gradually and consistently so that they can see changes. Surely when we want to see change and transformation in our emotional, mental and psychological development then we also have to put in some work?

This is something that I am embarking on thinking about more, especially as the idea of being a ‘Thriver’ in life at this moment in time seems and feels a bit unknown to me. Can I go from overcomer to thriver without transformation? When I think of a transformative process, it helps me to know that this can happen gradually. When I think of what life was like a few years ago at the height of my ‘crisis’ when I was suffering tremendously with C-PTSD, depression and anxiety, to where I am now, those two snapshots in time do show transformation, yet on a day to day basis the changes that have led to that transformation seem almost imperceptible.

I’m sure that you can think of areas of your life that when looking back you can see big changes in. Perhaps there was something you were suffering with or through that now is more of a memory or a learning experience. Perhaps your main transformation has been a physical one, and maybe you are ready to let go of some of the things you are trying to control and to go deeper on a spiritual, emotional and psychological journey.

Maybe today is a good day to start thinking about these things. Being in a lockdown and a pandemic is certainly an opportunity to think more, to reassess our lives and to begin taking steps towards a transformed life. When we don’t know how to get from one stage to the next, or if we don’t even know what that transformed stage would look like at all (and maybe some of you do know what you’d like it to look like), it is encouraging to look back at certain aspects of our lives and to realise that over the years transformation has happened, can happen, and will happen again – and that we can also have a part to play in it. There is something encouraging and exciting in that. And when we don’t know that next stage, we can still take encouragement from knowing that transformation can happen gradually and that we can make a step towards that today, even if we haven’t quite got it all figured out just yet.

Ask God, if you are inclined to do so, for help in the journey. He has good plans for us if we’d only turn to Him and trust in Him.

Let us begin to believe in positive transformation and take some small step towards it today.

What could that look like? Maybe it is in saying a prayer, in reading a book, in going for a walk, in allowing yourself to confront yourself with the lies that you have been believing for far too long, in helping, encouraging or mentoring someone else, in picking up a hobby, in showing kindness. Love is transformative, and the world needs a lot of love and kindness. How can we live lives that look to the needs of others? Is there any small step we can take today?

I feel on the brink of many ideas, and yet feel like I am stepping into somewhat unknown territory, yet I have faced many challenges in life and have overcome the unknowns that I was facing then, so surely this challenge towards transformation is another step of faith.

Have you experienced transformation in your life? What did this look like? Was it mainly physical, spiritual, mental, emotional or a lifestyle change or some other kind of change including a psychological shift or perhaps a combination of many of these? How did you find the process, what did you learn, and what can you share with us here as we continue our journey?

If you are feeling discouraged in this pandemic, take heart that transformation is possible, life comes in seasons, and a better change can happen. Don’t give up in this journey, keep going, look up with faith, look for Truth and live with the expectancy that you will find the Answers that you need. x

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Self Care In A Pandemic (69): Be Aware Of What You Focus On…

Hi friends, I must admit that the mornings here in Scotland are getting a bit challenging for me to deal with at the moment. I’m not sure if the sun is shining in your part of the world, but where I am the sky is a big grey sheet and it is drizzling with rain. Trees are bare branched and there is a bit of a wind whistling through them. I and many others are probably longing for spring and a bit of sunshine (when hopefully the general population won’t go crazy and be irresponsible with going outside or forgetting about social distancing…but that’s for another chapter!).

Whatever the weather is like where you are, it is part of the human condition to sometimes struggle with focusing on the things that our bodies, minds and hearts experience that might get us down. We need to have a plan in place for times like that and the more we can implement better thought habits the better we will be for it through the course of our lives.

My sleep was a bit unsettled, I woke up with unsettling feelings and thoughts inside, and then I woke up to grey skies and a ‘dreich’ day as the Scots say. I knew that I had to get out of my head a bit and so I opened the patio door and got some fresh air on my face. I could see and hear birds, and even saw a fox running behind our garden fence! I appreciate these things having lived the first part of lockdown 1.0 on my own in a tall flat with no garden space or balcony!

It did me good to get some fresh air, but I still felt unsettled. I had breakfast and did some exercise, all the while building up on the new and more helpful thought patterns and neural pathways. This can be effortful at times. We can forget to breathe. We can get lost in the tangle of unsettling thoughts and feelings. We can become overwhelmed and stay stuck focusing on the wrong things. Memories and impressions arose in my mind. Perhaps they do for you, and not particularly the ones you want to remember. Sometimes we want to ‘swat’ them away. Yet there is power in learning to sit with those difficult thoughts and feelings safe in the knowledge that we are not our thoughts, and they will not last.

If you are struggling with things today, be aware of what you are allowing yourself to focus on. As I said in an earlier post, it is normal to have ups and downs, but sometimes those difficult spells can feel really hard to us. That’s why we need Help from Above, and we also need practical tools and strategies.

So whatever it is you are finding yourself focusing on, if it is a negative thing that is, sit with it for a moment, take a deep breath and try to reframe your thought into focusing on something else more positive and productive. The fact that you have read this far in my somewhat rambling blog post is a positive thing in itself! 🙂

Keep moving, feel your feelings, externalise them in some safe way if that helps such as journaling or chatting to a friend, or praying through them to God. Remind yourself that you are not your thoughts and feelings, and that they will pass.

Think of something more positive to turn your attention to and do that for a while. It takes time. We can feel destabilised and discouraged when we feel these difficult things as if we are those things but we are not. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. We are valuable. And there is an important reason we are here today and we all have a purpose. If you don’t know your purpose, I have written a post about that and finding it in the very things that are right in front of us. You can find a purpose for the next five minutes, and the next, and the next and going on from that….so just focus on the next step on those difficult days.

Remind yourself also that it takes time and practice for all of us to make new neural connections, and trains of thought and patterns of behaviour as our brains readjust from negative thought patterns, experiences and beliefs that we may have been used to or conditioned by for many years. But we can make a change and each small step is important.

There are a couple of verses in Christian Scripture that help me and encourage me with this: ‘Be transformed by the renewing of your mind’ (Romans 12:2) and ‘You shall know the Truth and the Truth shall make /set you Free’ (said by Jesus Christ Who also comforts us by showing us that He Is The Way, The Truth and The Life). John 8:32, John 14:6.

We can be free. And even with everything going on in your life today, you can make progress. If you are in a ‘slough of despond’, if you feel like you have fallen down a metaphorical well and don’t know how to get out, don’t let the darkness overtake you, don’t look down at the ground, don’t stay stuck in your difficult thoughts and feelings – instead, like an intrepid explorer find that spark within you that says ‘keep going’, ‘you can do this’ and like a curious child, look for the solution to a puzzle that can be solved. Look up to the light streaming in that otherwise darkened well, look for the foot and hand holds on the side and begin, one small effort at at time to climb up. You CAN do this.

We will speak again soon, friends. If you are doing well, keep going. If you are doing very well, reach a hand out to help someone else. If you are feeling stuck, you can make progress. Just do that next one thing, and be aware of what you choose to focus on. It’s ok to feel those tough feelings, to sit with them a while, to process them, to responsibly vent them without hurting anyone else, to be creative about it, but don’t stay in that place all day. Focus on something new. Do the next thing. And never give up. x

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Self Care In A Pandemic (60): With What’s In Front Of You…

You can change the world.

Sometimes we can take for granted what is right in front of us. Yet, let me say it again: With what’s in front of you…you can change the world.

I’m sure we can all see ways in which the world needs changing for the better.

One of the things that will make a positive difference to you in the pandemic is having a sense of purpose. Whether or not you have a paid job, you still have purpose. I remember a time when I had graduated from my Masters in university and it was time for me to get a job. My department asked me to consider doing a PhD, but at the time and with a variety of circumstances, it wasn’t the right route for me to take. And having left the predictable lane of academia, I was suddenly in the world of being ‘between things’ and having no idea of how I would practically get to where I wanted to go. I had Faith, I had dreams, but I also had the anxiety of not knowing how to navigate an adult world and not knowing how to get my ‘foot in the door’ in order to gain employment. I spent a lot of time applying for jobs, I spent a year volunteering doing unpaid work in order to build skills and confidence, I did temp work, and it took about three and a half years for me to get a long term full time job, which I’m very grateful to still be in.

Why do I say this? Because some of you may be equating your purpose with your income stream or lack thereof. You are not your job, and you are not your bank balance. Your worth is far beyond anything or label that the world can put upon you. I believe that Jesus Christ showed you how much you are worth to God when He died for you at the Cross to pay the price for your sin and to take your deserved punishment so that by believing in and trusting in Him for forgiveness you can be bought back to God. You are Priceless. You are worth the Death of God’s Only Son. Let that sink in.

Therefore, to get back to my initial point, you do have a purpose as you navigate your way through this pandemic, and it is not limited to whether you have a job or not. Your purpose is important to the world and for your well being but your worth is not defined by your purpose either. Your worth is in the intrinsic value of you as a human being. And that can’t be changed, added to or taken away.

So, let me ask you, what’s in front of you?

The idea of finding purpose in our days can seem existential and out of reach if we let it. However, if we break things down into their most practical components then we can begin to get somewhere and be in a position to make a positive difference in the world, or at least in our world and immediate surroundings.

I’m sure right now you can tell me that what is physically in front of you is a computer screen, a tablet or a phone, or some electronic device of sorts from which you are reading this blog.

What are you going to do with it? How are you going to use it for good in this world? How can you find ways to encourage other people, share kindness, spread positivity, uplift others, express your creativity and live out some aspect of your purpose in life today? There are so many ways. Instead of ‘doom scrolling’ through the news or social media feeds, think of ways in which you can use your devices for good in the world.

Can you learn, educate, inspire? Can you share a kind message? Can being an inspiration and an encouragement to other people be part of your purpose today?

What else is in front of you? These things may not be literally in front of you right now, but may be in your room, in your home, or somewhere accessible to you or in your garden.

Let me list some of the things that are around and ‘in front of me’.

I have pens, pencils, art supplies. I have paper, colouring books, a calendar. I have books, I have a Bible, I have Scripture verses on my walls.

Can I use these to inspire purpose in my life today? Of course! What can I do with them? I can colour, I can draw, I can create. I can learn new skills, I can build up my relationship with God, I can pray for other people, I can meditate on the Truth and share this with other people. I can create a gift for someone else, I can write a letter, I can bring colour into the world, I can do so many things.

I also have a mobile phone on my desk. I can send an encouraging text to a friend or check if someone is doing ok. I can live out the purpose of kindness today.

What are some of the other things that might be around us or ‘in front of’ us? Some of us are blessed to have things that are so much more precious than things – we may have people around us. Can we live out the purpose of kindness and love in how we relate to other people? Can we try to make changes where we may have fallen short before?

What if what is in front of you is a pile of dishes, or a messy home? Can you live out your day with the purpose of being a home keeper and creating a peaceful environment?

Do you have other things around you or in your life in some way? Do you have money to spare that you can donate to someone in need and live purposefully that way? Do you have ingredients in your kitchen cupboards with which you can try out something new and live purposefully and creatively?

You have far more than you are aware.

Maybe all that you feel you have is the view from your window, if indeed you have one. Yet you have your mind. And your mind when challenged will discover, find, create a purpose for you today, even if it seems at first it is just to survive, that in itself may be a grand purpose for you.

Maybe your purpose is to use your resources to seek help, to get strong, to work on your mental and emotional health, to become resilient.

Maybe it is to engage in self development, to read books, or to create, learn and maybe even teach.

Do you have children in your life? Are you living out your purpose in giving them the best chance that you can today? And just take it one day at a time and be awake and alive to the moments you are living through together for children have an incredible way of helping adults to see the life in the moments right now.

How can your inspire yourself and how can you inspire me to find and live out your purpose in this pandemic, today, and after that one day at a time? For be sure my friend, it is there, and it is right in front of you, if you will just look with curiosity, hope, faith and thoughtfulness.

Peace. x

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Self Care In A Pandemic (57): Be Aware of Where You Are At…

Hi Friends,

Something caused me to create this title. Something got me thinking. It was something very simple but prompted me to think that it’s maybe something that you might benefit from hearing.

While we’re all making our way through this pandemic, some of us working through various things in our lives that we already needed to overcome, we may also come in contact with the influences and experiences of others.

Sometimes these are mutually positive connections, at other times we may be seeking out positivity and encouragement online or from people we don’t personally know, such as through reading books, blogs, or seeking out inspiration online.

But what about when information or input comes our way when we haven’t actually sought it out? It might be some negative influence, but let’s just say it’s actually something that is potentially helpful, but we may not be ready for it.

I’m personally on a journey of overcoming trauma from childhood victimisation that devastated me internally. Peer abuse, bullying or whatever you want to call it is abuse and it can have long lasting consequences. Let me affirm that I am no longer a victim, I am an overcomer and I am on a journey learning how to take these experiences and learning to thrive from them. But I’m not quite there yet. I’m still learning, and although I have overcome the worst of the complex PTSD I experienced, which was absolutely horrible, I know that I have survived and overcome not just the experiences of those dark days as a child, but the worst after effects of them. There are still remnants of that damage that Jesus Christ Is healing deep down, bringing forgiveness, restoration and new life deep within, but it is a process and sometimes it seems a long one. Light is breaking through though. There are many things that it is my responsibility to do as well such as ‘being transformed by the renewing of my mind’ and this has to be a daily choice, a discipline and an action. I have to take control and steer my mind and thinking as well as trusting God for the areas deep within me that I cannot touch. I have finished years of trauma counselling and I am ‘going it alone’ and finding new ways to find strength and ways to use these painful experiences to help others. I am also seeking out inspiration online from people such as Lizzie Velazquez, Katie Piper, Nick Vuijicic who have all overcome adversity and dark times.

However, sometimes information or input can come our way that we might not be ready for. It might be good advice or content, but it might be triggering on some level, or it might just be a few steps ahead of where we are, or it might be focused on a different area of life than where we are in our own life journey.

This is why I say, be aware of where you are at. There’s the pandemic, but there is also your own personal life journey. You may or may not be personally ready for every piece of information that comes your way, whether online, on the news, from a friend or an acquaintance or whatever the source may be. You may need time, healing, space, and all of that is ok. In fact it is wise to consider what you allow close to your heart or into your mind, even if it is on the surface a positive thing, and especially if you are on your own journey of healing, recovery or overcoming something and learning how to thrive.

So, while you navigate your way through this pandemic, also be aware of where you are at personally. Perhaps you need to take some time to slow down, to think about this, and to take steps for strengthening yourself, regardless of where other people are at. It may be a learning curve but it’s one worth taking.

Guard your heart above all else, for out of it spring the issues of life.

Take care friends, stay safe, be blessed. x

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Self Care In A Pandemic (51): Prepare To Overcome The ‘January Blues’.

Happy new year once again, friends. I’m thankful that we’ve all made it safely into 2021, and I know that some of us have experienced losses along the way and my heart goes out to you if you are suffering through grief, loss or trauma of any kind.

We recently looked at how to maintain habits individually as well as the positives of communal habits. I was reading a verse in Scripture in the book of Hebrews today where we are instructed to ‘encourage one another daily’. This is in terms of our faith in The Lord Jesus and so that we are not hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, as there are so many negative influences in the world. However, I think that even for those of you who don’t share this faith, there is something important in thinking about how we can encourage each other daily.

I’ve written in previous posts about how to keep focused and maintain a faithful and positive mindset especially at this time of year, i.e. post Christmas and New Year. People often talk about the ‘January blues’ when there may be a slump in mood after all of the celebrations, after the novelty of new things and new resolutions wear off, after we’re back to work and the weather (at least in this part of the world) is still gloomy and any travel plans or adventures are still a while away. I think this can be compounded by the messages we receive in the media, as the ‘January blues’ are definitely not inevitable or inescapable.

This year, however, we are faced with additional factors that may be threatening our courage and faithfulness and hopefulness and positivity, especially with the year 2020 has been.

I’m not sure where you are in the world, but in the UK we’ve entered another Lockdown (Lockdown 3.0, I think) which is almost as strict as the initial lockdown we faced in March 2020. There are some exemptions for essential purposes and taking into account people’s mental health they can still have an extended household, but other than that we are under another STAY AT HOME order. It is important to take such advice seriously so as to ease the immense pressure that our health service is facing and help to stem the tide and spread of the virus, and the new strains of the virus.

This also comes at a time when many of us will be going back to work. Most will be working from home, but for some whose livelihood depends on people turning up to their premises, such as hospitality providers, this comes as another blow.

We’re back to hearing those same familiar terms that we first had to grapple with in our realities in early 2020: stay at home, furlough, extreme measures, and so forth.

It’s all enough to get anyone down. I truly believe that the only True Hope is in looking to Jesus Christ and allowing Him to hold our lives together. Yet, I also feel that it is important to encourage each other daily.

It could be so easy to allow ourselves to fall into a ‘slump’ with everything going on, and although it is ok to have ‘off days’, to take time to grieve and to take time away to heal from traumas, it is also important to keep going. To persevere. To never give up.

We need a Source Greater than ourselves to do this, we need God, our Creator, and we need to ask Him to help and rescue, to forgive and cleanse and heal and show us the way. However, on our part, we need to maintain an attitude of daily preparedness, daily disciplines, daily encouragement. When we fall down, we at least have some temporary ‘props’ to help us get up again, and to take the next step and the next and the next.

For example, if we have been working on creating and maintaining those new habits, and if we have been seeking to do this communally in some ways too, then when we have a bad moment, we will be more likely to be able to forge through and press our way out of that into the next moment which we can make more positive rather than giving up and allowing everything to fall in on top of us.

We need a few ‘go to’s’ so that when our minds are overwhelmed we can go to that positive activity or habit we’ve been working on.

I had my first day back at working from home today, but with the news I could easily have felt like crawling back into bed after work. However, I have been working on those habit lists / trackers that I encouraged you with the other day and managed to turn those thoughts towards positive actions. Instead of allowing myself to be discouraged I spent a bit of time exercising. I did some daily reading. I prayed and committed things to God. I did a few minutes of work on a creative project. Some of my inner struggles resurface, yet I know that I have tools and disciplines to persevere through them, and moreover can look up in faith for supernatural help from The Lord.

We don’t need to give in to the so-called ‘January blues’. I’ve been reading biographies and listening to podcasts of people who overcame immense adversity, to help me to overcome some of my personal traumas and struggles. These people have experienced severe loss, abuse, and challenges that would push any human being to the limit. They’ve had tough times and even rough years, they’ve had long processes of recovery, and yet they’ve managed to push through all of that, defy the odds, and refuse to give in to defeat.

They’ve found encouragement from the stories and testimonies of others, and they’ve also gone on to encourage other people. This is something I seek to do. Every time my pain threatens to derail me, I look up to Christ and know that He has the victory over all thing, and will accomplish His plans for my life. I know the calm and peace of His Spirit within and around me and feel that tangible Peace and Healing. And I know that I can take the next steps in life. I know that the things that hurt me can actually be turned around and used for good to help someone else, perhaps even to help you I hope. And I know you have it in you to do the same.

So if the voices of others are getting you down, if the news is defeating you, if your spirit feels low, then look up, and look also to the examples of people who pushed through difficult times, take one day, one moment at a time, and commit to a vision for something better. Don’t give up. Be encouraged, and encourage others. Daily. Even while it is called today.

I believe in you. Look how far you’ve already come. And don’t give up. Have faith, take courage, and press on into victory…even if it is just one shaky step at a time. x

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Self Care In A Pandemic (44): Manage Your Expectations…

I think this is one of those times when we really need to manage our expectations, especially those we might have of other people.

I’m learning that in terms of expectations I would do really well to increase my expectations of God, and exercise Faith, knowing that with Him all Good things are possible, even when human beings mess things up. This might be a time when people feel their faith is tested, and I understand that, but I continue to Hope in my unchanging God, The Living God.

I think in tandem with that I need to lower my expectations of other people and increase my expectations of myself, so far as it is healthy to do so. I get a picture in my mind of a ‘see-saw’ and on one side, high up is expectations of myself, and low down on the ground is my expectations of others.

Apart from those nearest and dearest to us, our close family and friends, if we are blessed with people who care about us, I think it may be wise to expect less from others, to avoid the hurt and disappointment that can ensue.

I wonder if you disagree with me? I after all am learning on this journey and would be happy to gain wisdom and insight from you as well. Maybe we have some people we can trust and they can trust us, but as the circumference of our friendships widen then the expectations perhaps need to decrease particularly in the pandemic. At least it leaves room for pleasant surprises if people are there for us or do ‘show up’ with kindness in some way.

I’ve had to renegotiate such things in my own mind, even with people who I would formerly have thought of as close friends. It’s been a hard learning curve, but I think it helps me mentally and emotionally to know that it’s ok if I give to others and expect less or nothing back from them. It is also ok if I need to take a step back for my own well being too. It might seem like some people are doing better in this pandemic than others, some of my friends have been doing really well, and it can be hurtful if we realise they just don’t think about others if they are absorbed in the happy goings on in their own lives. It can come across as insensitive, or self indulgent at times and that can be hard in any friendship especially ones we had thought of as close.

However, if we rethink things to say to ourselves, this is a pandemic after all, and maybe some people are absorbed in their own happiness and are insensitive to others, but also perhaps other people may have their own struggles behind the scenes that we know nothing about, and we should give them the benefit of the doubt.

Who knows what other people are dealing with in this pandemic? Only God really knows. As we expect less of others, we can become more resilient in ourselves and we can also exercise sacrificial love in giving to others, helping them and being a good friend with little or no expectation of anything in return. It’s not always wise to do so if it encourages a dependency for we want to encourage people to be empowered and we also want to live as empowered people. But sometimes friendship dynamics change, and this can be highlighted all the more in the pandemic when everyone experiences this in a different way.

Some of your friends who are doing well may have no insight into the struggles you are going through, especially if you are living alone, have job worries, are anxious about your future, or your health or have experienced loss in some way this year.

Perhaps if we were to let go of expecting anything from others, whether that be kindness, understanding or reciprocity then we might be able to live freer lives to be able to give without needing anything in return.

We also can think about, as I explored in a previous post, about how to build healthier boundaries, and build closer connections with perhaps a few trusted people.

We don’t know what other people are going through all the time, and the same applies to them with us. So let’s all give each other a lot of kindness, and expect more from God, less from others, and more from ourselves.

That way, we may just be pleasantly surprised, and more appreciative if or when our friends or acquaintances do reciprocate our kindess ! What do you think? 🙂 x

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Self Care In A Pandemic (39): A Thoughtful Start To The Day…

Whatever time you get up in the morning, whether you are an early bird or a night owl, it can be helpful to start the morning in quietude and contemplation before the day begins.

I personally like that bit of extra time in bed when I can pray to my Creator God and think, but I also like to read Scripture in the morning. Sometimes I’m not as disciplined with doing this and read more later in the day, but when I do have that time set aside with God spending time with Him and in His Word I do feel strengthened and ‘fed’ spiritually.

I don’t stick rigidly to a particular practice in the mornings as some people do, and we are all different and respond better to different things in line with our unique characters and personalities.

It can be beautiful just to take a few moments to look out the window at the start of the day, especially if you have a bit of sunshine or in this season some frost. As I write I notice what looks like a tiny little bird huddled amid the bare branches at the top of a tree. The sky is a light gradating blue, darker higher up and fading into the palest of blues, almost white, at the horizon. It is good to pause and notice and reflect at the start of your day, or at any time of the day for that matter, when you are able to carve out that time for yourself.

I often enjoy gaining an insight into what other people are doing with their time. On You Tube there are so many morning and evening ‘routines’ that people share that can inspire. I like to approach each day afresh but even the most spontaneous among us have certain key ‘building blocks’ that they include in their day to day lives.

Some people find the benefit from writing ‘morning pages’ of free flowing thought, of writing out goals or lists at the start of the day to give them focus, or of journaling or reading.

Perhaps you use your time for blogging as a form of reflection instead or as well.

2020 has taught us in many ways to slow down. It’s important to allow our lives to progress as we renew our minds. I don’t recommend starting the day with the noise of the world (as in the news of what’s going on in the world) but to strengthen you own mind and heart in some way.

We pay attention to our bodies as we eat breakfast, exercise or go outside, but it is important to also pay attention to our spiritual health and our mental wellbeing and for me that means taking in the Truth and spending time with God, even if for a few moments until I’m fully awake and ready for the day and can ponder more of those ideas later on as the day progresses.

What do you like to do to incorporate contemplation and reflection times into your day? Perhaps it is something you can write about in your blog and make sense of the many thoughts going on in your head through this pandemic? x

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Self Care In A Pandemic (35): Strengthen Your Heart…

Life can leave us with all kinds of internal wounds. You know what I’m talking about, right? A broken heart can be the result of all kinds of different things, not merely the lovelorn heart that we often read about in literature. Our hearts or spirits can be wounded or crushed because of not feeling loved, rejection, low self esteem, feeling like we don’t measure up, wounding words, verbal abuse, mental abuse, physical and psychological abuse, or just feeling ignored, hurt, used or left out in the world. Even when things seem to be going great, our hearts can get wounded because of friends taking us for granted or a harsh tone of voice. In this pandemic year, we are faced with many more challenges to normal. We see and hear of people dying from coronavirus and other things, we may feel isolated or alone or just disconnected even when around people. Empaths may be having a particularly hard time of it in feeling the pain of others. Then there are the circumstances related to ill health, mental health, financial worries, and so forth.

My heart was wounded and my spirit crushed pretty badly in childhood, over and over again and the effects still linger. I owe my life to my Saviour Who ‘heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds’, (psalm 147:3) and it is ‘by His wounds we are healed’ (Isaiah 53:5). There is no love so healing, so understanding, so compassionate and loving as the Love of Jesus. He knows and has felt every pain. He can make it right in His perfect way and time.

Over the past few years I have learned that I need to take better care of my heart because no other human being is going to do it for me – in fact, most people in our lives will hurt us in some way, even though there are people who love us deeply – it’s just the way things are in this broken world.

Ultimately, it is Jesus Who heals our wounds as we let Him in. Our Creator, Whose Heart was broken for us at the Cross and in His Life can more than Handle Healing and Renewing our broken hearts and making beauty come forth from them. There is nothing He cannot Redeem with His Sacrificial, Perfect Love poured out for us all.

God Is also a very practical God, and there are other ways we can strengthen our hearts too. The Source of Healing Is God Himself, by His Spirit and His Word, yet complementary to that we can all strengthen our hearts in different ways.

Healing and strengthening can come from friendships of mutual respect, love and care. There will be some people in the world that have said horrible things to or about you but isn’t it wonderful and healing and soothing to receive the kind words of a friend who will say you are valued, important, unique and wonderful (and if no one has ever told you that, then please receive them from me today). It strengthens our heart to give such true words to others too.

During times of depression, anxiety and mental distress, and chronic pain, I found that my brain found relief through creative activities such as arts, crafts, adult colouring in, music and such like. These kinds of activities engage areas of our brain related to healing, pain relief, pleasure and concentration or ‘flow states’. Over time, these have been like a medicine to me, and a source of joy and healing under God’s care.

Nature can strengthen our hearts, as can doing things that are helpful for our body and mind such as reading good books, looking after our health in what we eat, getting a healthy amount of exercise and positive self talk. Our hearts can also be strengthened through learning more about the lives and testimonies of others.

If you need some inspiration, know that the person writing to you was once so broken, crushed and defeated that I felt I could not and did not want to go on in life as a child, and then in adulthood have suffered from the recurring effects of that, but now I am finding a way forwards, and am moving through the stages of victim, rescued, survivor, overcomer to hopefully soon the next stage of ‘thriver’ by the Grace of God.

So if you are feeling defeated or down, know that there is hope for you. Take some time aside from the needs, demands and cruelty of others and give yourself time and space to strengthen your heart, daily. Please choose wisely as not everything we do is good for us -sometimes we want to numb out pain, but ultimately that leads to more problems or even destruction.

‘Guard your heart above all else for out of it spring forth the issues of life’.

Be blessed, be hopeful and take some time out to nurture yourself today. Perhaps like me you find that writing strengthens your heart too – if you haven’t written anything or blogged in a while, why not take a few minutes today to pick up a pen or type some words on your keyboard, whether or not you will share them with the world, with a friend, or keep them to yourself, it is a start and it might just give you a bit of ‘heart exercise’ that you need today.

With love and prayers, for your peace, salvation and wellbeing. x

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