Tag Archives: God

Surviving The Pandemic Together. Words of Encouragement (19): *Swords and spades*.

*Swords and spades*.


The initial cheers for our frontline workers (medics, virologists, drivers, supermarket workers, cleaners, crematorium staff, care workers, the list goes on…) across the globe felt like a crescendo of encouragement, ‘rallying the troops’. In this pandemic, countries are not warring with each other, but rallying together against a common global enemy.
Perhaps being isolated, you have felt helpless and alone in this strange catastrophe. Yet, the scenes we have witnessed and been part of, open a window to the many others who are all ‘on the same team’.


Now, we’re collectively fighting Coronavirus, and I sincerely hope that the ‘troops on the frontline’ feel a bit more refreshed and appreciated in their ongoing battle.
Let me just get back to the image of everyone clapping outside their homes, or from their homes. We are not isolated, although tucked away inside, we are not alone, and we *all* have a part to play, no matter how small that might feel to you at the moment, we all have a crucial role to play in ‘blocking those gaps’ against this unseen enemy, by staying at home, by good hygiene, and by supporting other people in a variety of ways, and also by taking care of ourselves.


You may be wondering why I have titled this post ‘swords and spades’. I’m glad you asked ! 😉 Some of you I’m well aware will already know, and that gives me a boost of confidence for a variety of reasons 🙏👌.


For those of you who don’t yet know, if we look back in history, there was a man named Nehemiah who was an ordinary and decent man, living in 5th Century BC, who found himself in extraordinarily difficult circumstances. We have witnessed news of wars and terrorism all across the world, and Nehemiah lived at a time where he was living in the midst of constant attacks from groups of people who wanted to destroy and crush those he knew, those he worked with, those he loved, an entire group of people just going about their lives. As enemies descended upon them with distressing regularity, they found their daily lives to be changed and challenged.


In front of *their* own homes, each and every one of them had to be part of a defence and recovery mission. Literally, with a sword in one hand an a tool for building in the other they had to both defend themselves against attack, and also collectively build together what was constantly being broken down. Just as in a previous post where I talked about the image of us bringing our ‘shields’ together in mutual defence and protection, I am sure you can see the analogies here with our own situation, from these actual events in history.


What figuratively are the swords and spades you are able to use, each from our own homes, in a collective and united effort?


What are your means of protection, and what are your instruments and skills to rebuild what is being broken?


Remember that you are part of a great and collective effort against all of this distress and unseen attack, and no small effort is wasted. Keep going, you fight and build with millions around the globe, so be encouraged! You are making a difference, but you shouldn’t let your guard down. Keep protecting, keep rebuilding.


(For those who are also fighting and defending on another level, a different ‘frontline’ where the battle is real and fierce, remember it is fought and won on our knees! Have vision and remember the stakes are even higher in this one, so pray and allow the Light to break through the darkness. Our Commander in Chief has got this. 😉 🙏👌💪

ancient antique armor armour
Photo by Maria Pop on Pexels.com
man planting plant
Photo by Binyamin Mellish on Pexels.com

Surviving the Pandemic Together. Words of Encouragement (15): *Is this really happening? How on earth has this become our new “normal”?*

*Is this really happening? How on earth has this become our new “normal”?*


Once we have got over the initial panic and fear and taken action to establish some kind of safety for our loved ones and our friends, and once we are safely tucked away in our homes (most of us reading this at least, I presume), we will be faced with a range of thoughts and emotions.


As I have explored in this series of posts, we will be juggling with the practicalities of daily life, and also the bigger life questions perhaps running in the background of our thoughts. We need to consider a new routine, a new way of living, a new way of being as a society, that seems to be becoming increasingly restricted day by day, for our own good it seems.


But at some point, once we do begin to feel a bit safe and settled, we are healthy, at home, have food, are able to help and support others in some way, the ‘craziness’ of this situation may hit us.


It’s important to be kind to ourselves and each other as we process things, bit by bit, and to prioritise self-care. This is *not* normal, this is nothing like any of us could have anticipated, and no one can tell you what the right or wrong way to process this is, because none of us know.


As with many of my words of encouragement, I will once again reiterate the importance of community. The reality of faith and God in my life is what is getting me through, but not all of you have that. We need each other. These are strange and crazy times, and we need to figuratively put our ‘I’ pads away, and become the generation of ‘we’ and not just ‘me’. I’m thankful for technology that is helping us to do that.
What is helping you to process things?

collage photo of woman
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Surviving the Pandemic Together: Words of Encouragement (13): *Grief and disbelief*.

*Grief and disbelief*.


We are hearing everyday in the news and social media, and through other people, of the rising numbers of people affected by Coronavirus. We hear constant updates on the death tolls in our own and other countries. The scale of this tragedy is beyond comprehension, and we find ways to cope, to perhaps become ‘numb’ to it, or to hold it all at a distance.


However, we don’t just hear about the numbers, we are also reading stories about the real lives, seeing faces and names, and insights into the families that are grieving.
I know that among you there are some people who have either heard of people known to them in some way who have either recovered from the virus or who have died as a result.


That’s when it begins to hit home. That’s when there is a need for a Peace beyond ourselves, for reassurance, and comfort.


To any of you who are in this situation right now, I hope you can find the space to grieve, and to find comfort and Peace in this situation, and support from loved ones and friends.
For the rest of us for whom these realities are thankfully still at arms length and are other people’s stories, we will still be experiencing all sorts of thoughts and emotions including the disbelief of what we are actually living through collectively.


Last year, we heard of the deaths of many celebrities. This year, well….there really are no words, are there?


Perhaps we can take comfort in seeking and turning to a Peace and comfort that Is greater than and transcends all that is happening on earth right now, the Peace of Christ. Perhaps, we can also grow stronger as a community and be the listening ears for our friends, the shoulders to cry on, and the support that is much needed in sad and worrying times like this.

Peace I give

*True Love*.

*True Love*.
I wonder if, for those of us who don’t work on the front line, we would ever choose to put our lives at risk to save others. To be honest, that’s a bit of a loaded question, because the point of it is the aspect of choice, and not simply duty.

If you were a doctor or nurse, for example, and we sincerely applaud you and your colleagues if you are, you may find yourself duty bound by the Hippocratic Oath to serve your fellow human beings, even at risk to your own life and that of your closest family. But would you choose it? If pre-Covid days you were given a glimpse into the future and shown what was to come, if you were told you would have no PPE, if you knew that you would be walking into certain death, would you do it to save someone else?
For those of us who don’t work on the front line, could we imagine for a moment being in such a situation and raising our hands to volunteer to save someone else? Not because it is the right thing to do, or because we have a sense of duty, or because we find ourselves in the situation and persevere through it, but would we knowingly choose to die, to save the life of another, even those people who don’t know anything about us, or care about us, or acknowledge what we are doing for them? People who perhaps have recklessly put their life in danger by not following the rules, and who didn’t care about causing harm to others? Do any of us care that much? Do any of us love others more than we love our own life even those who don’t realise what we are doing for them?
We are surrounded by heroes. Some of them, filled with fear, are persevering through a situation they didn’t and wouldn’t choose for themselves to be in, yet they are risking their lives to save others, and that is so humbling. Even more so, are the people who know that they will suffer, they will die, but they *choose* to save someone else and lay down their own life for the greater good. These people are astounding.
We’ve heard the stories of people, young men particularly, who chose to fight in the second world war to protect their country and the freedoms of those they loved. Some were forced to join the fight, others willingly stepped forth knowing that they were stepping into a horrific situation where they would be in constant danger, they would see people close to them killed and they would not come out of it alive, and if they did they would be maimed and traumatised, their lives changed forever, and not for the better. We regularly remember them and others like them, who lay down their lives to protect others. Regardless of what our thoughts are on war and politics, the sacrifice of others humbles us because it is so alien to our everyday motives for self-preservation and protecting our own lives, those of our families and shielding those closest to us from harm. Who among us can honestly say that we would choose to give up everything near and dear to us to save other people, people who may not even know or care what we personally did for them? How few among us can honestly answer ‘yes’! It is most likely that none among us, not even those front-line workers who find themselves thrown into this undesirable reality, would ever say yes. There have been times in my life, and I won’t go into details here, and perhaps there have been in yours, where I have been thrown into ‘fiery trials’ of immense pressure and personal suffering, and persevered through them, knowing that it was important to do so not only for myself but also for the good of others. But hand to my heart I didn’t choose to go through those painful trials. If for example it was the only way to help the people I love, then yes, I would choose that painful path, but if there was any other, easier way, then I would choose the painless path. There would be less growth, but there would be less pain also. Perhaps we would reluctantly ‘choose’ a difficult path because of the good that would come out of it for others and for our own characters, but it is highly unlikely that most of us would stick our hands up and volunteer to suffer.
So why have I entitled this post ‘true love’? Partly because our society exalts romantic love above ….well, most things really. If you consider the greeting cards you have seen in your lifetime, how many of them celebrated sacrificial love? How many of them were ‘thank you’ cards for brave men, women and children who put themselves at risk for others? I have never seen such a card that wasn’t hand made, and even then, before the Coronavirus, I’m not sure if I’d seen a hand made card celebrating sacrificial love. Perhaps this will change after this pandemic has passed. Perhaps greeting card companies will be printing cards celebrating the love shown by people who put their lives at risk to save others. Maybe as a society we will change the way we think about ‘love’.
Our society is obsessed with romance, and in a very selfish way. Yes, some may find ‘true love’ romantically, but how deep is this compared to sacrificial love that willingly chooses to put someone else first, even at great loss to oneself?
Just think about the vast majority of people who enter into marriages and relationships with a ‘try it and see’ kind of attitude. Think of how many lives have been touched by divorce. Think of the celebrity relationships that end because one partner no longer feels ‘fulfilled’ by the other. That’s not true love, that’s convenience, it is status, it is ‘how will this benefit me?’ Love that seeks its own benefit, is ultimately not true love, it is not the deepest or purest form of love, yet it is what we celebrate the most.
Why? Because it is prettier, it is sanitised, it makes for cuter Instagram pictures and Facebook posts!
Would people rather look at or be part of a love that sings of roses, and chocolates, blue skies, sunshine, candle-lit romantic meals, and happy company? Or would they want to look at the deeper, truer, steadfast love that never quits? A love that speaks instead of blood, sweat, tears, agony, anguish, immense personal pain, trauma, sickness, terror, fear, heartache, loss? Is this kind of deeper, truer love celebrated on greeting cards and Facebook posts? This messy, ‘ugly’, sacrificial, painfilled love that goes beyond, so far beyond the realm of ‘duty bound’ – it is a Love that *chooses* knowingly, intentionally, willingly, to suffer at great cost, for the sake of the beloved, even when the beloved is unworthy of such love, unworthy people like you and me.
Many of you will sadly go through your entire lives never experiencing first hand that kind of True Love, choosing instead to settle for the flowers and the fairy tales that will eventually fade, as beautiful as they are. But many among us have and daily continue to know first hand this True Love like no other, the most sacrificial and purest Love of all, and on Good Friday we do celebrate this love of blood, sweat, tears and agony, because it has changed our lives…not textbook, not religious change, but in reality. We celebrate the purest, truest agape (sacrificial) Love of all – that of God Who gave His Only Son as a sacrifice to pay the penalty for your sin, for mine that separated us from Him. That of The Man Christ Jesus Who knowing that the only way to rescue you and I was to suffer immensely. He chose The Cross….He chose you….the reality of His tangible presence, His True Love, has changed everything for me, and continues to.
This is Good Friday, and if you know that this commemorates the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross, for you, for me – you may wonder why on earth a day of darkness, pain, betrayal, agony, death, fear, blood, sweat and tears is celebrated as in any way ‘Good’. It’s one of the biggest questions you will ever ask in your life time. It is the day that True Love died…..but that’s not the end of the story, the Reality….and this Sacrifice has changed and continues to change the lives of people like me, and is an open invitation to every one to experience this True Love for the rest of their lives….it is an invitation that many people sadly will discard, for the sake of flowers and chocolates….the toughest choices were made by Jesus, but the choice still remains with each of us as to whether we will choose to welcome His True Love for us, or to discard His Pure Love Sacrifice for us individually.
When the time comes for me to die, I know I would rather have the love of blood, sweat and tears and sacrificial Pure Love holding me, than that of chocolates and flowers, that will melt and wither and do nothing for me. Yet the wonderful thing is none of us have to wait for death to experience the reality of this Pure Love now and everyday of our lives going forwards. Because it is not a Love that remains confined to the pages of a book, but the tangible, real Love that meets you at your worst, your messiest, your most unlovely, and chooses to go on loving you in a way no mere mortal ever could, a love that will never fail, forsake you or let you down. The difficult choice to love you like that has been made, and it will never be rescinded….but what will you choose in return?

Surviving the pandemic together. Words of Encouragement (7): *What do we do when we hear news of tragedies?*

Words of Encouragement (7):
*What do we do when we hear news of tragedies?*


I pray that each of you, your friends, families and those in your life will never personally experience the tragedies of this Coronavirus. Many of you have faced enough heartache in your own lives already ❤
Yet, we are hearing more and more of things that are just awful, and we may be able to hold things at a bit of a distance, but the terrible reality is that ordinary people are experiencing things first hand in their lives, that of their family members, colleagues and others. I don’t think we will see this abating any time soon, so what do we do?
Friends, I don’t have the answer to that. I can turn to Christ for comfort, as some others also can, but not everyone does. I think the important thing for all of us is that we take particular care to take care of each other and to make sure we inform other people who are being careless or reckless in these days that this is a serious situation. A young nurse treating patients who died of the virus took her life today. A 21 year old girl died. We want to pause for each one and for their families and not let them become just numbers. But this is unlike any of us have ever experienced.
There are no easy answers, but it goes to show how important it is that we ‘put our shields together’ in these days. Shields of faith, shields of hope, of truth, of courage, of kindness….we need to shelter and protect one another because this reality is taking its toll on people’s mental health and we need to become a strong community that can hold each other up in these times no matter what our differences are. We need to take care of ourselves, but we also need to know that we can mutually support each other, so let’s keep drawing close, lending a helping hand, a listening ear….and make sure that we as a community don’t allow this to get too much for any of us mentally or emotionally….and a word for my younger friends…..you can always talk to me, message me, these are tough things to hear about, it can be scary, but I and other adults are on your side, we’ll be there for you and you’re not alone. ‘Grown ups’….you’re not alone either.
Shields up, everyone! ❤ x

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Coronavirus musings: Don’t let the pandemic throw your recovery off course.

The news is all around us, and it’s hard to avoid. I have an anxiety disorder and complex PTSD and clinical depression and I have been working hard over the past few years to get stronger and to really make progress in this recovery and wellbeing journey. However, like many of you, the news and the uncertainty of Covid-19, and the reactions of other people, can add to those inner feelings of anxiety and unease. Last night, after chatting with my family on the phone, I spent some time just laying down and listening to healing Scriptures, and I woke up in the morning feeling His Peace – the Peace of Christ – so that when I read the news it didn’t really shake me. I remember the times before I knew The LORD in experience, I couldn’t find any true and lasting relief for my anxiety and often crippling fears (symptoms of C-PTSD and GAD that I hadn’t yet been diagnosed with) no matter how hard I tried. And I did try! The soothing feelings I experienced in nature, as lovely as they were, didn’t last beyond my time being in such natural surroundings. When I had to re-join the world of other people, my peace quickly dissipated. Now, I have a true Peace, an experiential Peace and the reality of The Living God Who Is holding me and guiding me (and often times carrying me) through the trials and tribulations, ups and downs, and joys of life, in His Perfect Love. I pray that we all will come to know this in reality.

Whether or not you know The Lord Jesus Christ, I’d like to encourage you in terms of the effects that this current world situation might be having on you, especially if you are in recovery of any type. This could be recovery from mental health conditions such as depression, managing anxiety, or it could be to do with fear of open spaces, of viruses and health, recovery from addiction or eating disorders or social phobias, or whatever the case may be. I don’t know what you might have been working hard to overcome, but if you have been working hard to overcome something, please don’t let this pandemic ‘situation’ throw you off course.

This ‘wise advice’ is for myself as well as for many of you, because when we are so caught up in what is going on around us, our own wellbeing might begin to take second, or third, or even last place, and that’s not good for anyone.

As well as following the medical and government advice and all the protocols to look after your health in terms of this pandemic, please, please don’t neglect to keep up your routines for your own recovery for whatever that might be.

You might find that you will have to work harder at things because of the additional things that everyone is dealing with, but remember your coping strategies, your tools and techniques, and be organised in your mind and write down and plan your routine as much as possible so that in this seeming chaos, you don’t forget to keep doing what you’ve been doing to get better, stronger, healthier and to stay well.

Take care everyone, and I will write more encouraging posts for you as the days progress. x

 

Coronavirus musings: When you have to stay in….let it be Christmas! :)

I’m not in isolation or lockdown or anything like that yet, and am thankfully fit and healthy and well, however, more and more it looks like the country and the world is moving in that direction whether  you have symptoms of Covid-19 or not. The rationale is to contain and minimise the spread of the coronavirus.

It strikes me that people are responding very differently to the thought of having to stay indoors or limit their activity for an extended period of time than when they might be in a similar situation say during the Christmas holidays for example.

I’m still out and about going to work, although keeping my distance as much as possible, but the government is recommending that employers allow staff to work from home, so it is a wait and see time for us until we get definitive direction. In the meantime, we have to keep showing up.

However, I digress. There is a difference if you have to stay indoors and you are the only one in that situation, but there is, or at least there can be, a sense of community and camaraderie and shared experience when you know a large percentage of the world are in a similar situation. That’s part of the reason why I love Christmas, and the holiday season, because despite the diversity of beliefs, there is a sense of a shared experience.

Now, I know this whole pandemic is a different situation entirely, but let’s just think of how we can help and encourage each other to stay happy and healthy and mentally well during what might eventually turn out to be an extended period of time indoors. How can we help each other to counter the fear and anxiety that is so rife? Many people may find themselves completely symptom and virus free, but be advised by their employers or governments to stay at home, for the greater good. At any other time and in other circumstances, many of us would jump at the chance for some work from home days, or the chance to take a break away from it all in the comfort of our own homes. However, in this climate of fear, we are reacting very differently, or so it seems to me.

Ok, so maybe you are well and yet having to stay at home. I’m kind of hoping that I will be able to work from home too, but like I said, it’s ‘wait and see’. My heart goes out to those whose livelihoods and jobs are at risk, but if you don’t have those issues and simply have to stay indoors, how can we make the most of the situation?

I think if I have to stay inside for an extended period of time, I might put up my Christmas tree! Perhaps that seems strange to you if you live in sunnier climes, but I live in Scotland, and although the days are lighter and we have some dry days here and there, spring hasn’t really ‘sprung’ as yet, and we do get more than our fair share of rain, so some days it does still feel a bit ‘wintery’.

If you are new to my blog, I have written various series’ on self care, staycations, mental health and wellbeing, retreats of various types, and keeping cosy, so hopefully you will find some inspiration to make the most of an otherwise uncertain time.

Think about the things you would ideally do if you were organising a ‘staycation’ for yourself in your own home, or town. How many of us so often feel the need to ‘get away from it all’ without the practical hassles of travel, and to just have some ‘down time’ to think and reflect and nurture our own souls? How can we be people who seek to be encouragers and a positive influence when all around us is panic and anxiety and uncertainty?

For me, if I were to have to stay indoors, these are the things I would focus my attention on:

Drawing even closer to God, enjoying His Presence, allowing Him to continue His work of healing and restoration, and building up myself in my true identity so that I will be stronger and a vessel for His use in greater measure than before. Spending time with the One Who Loves me most and learning from Him.

Praying and interceding for other people, not only in terms of the concerns around Coronavirus, but taking time to think and pray about and appeal to God for the many people and situations that we so often don’t think about because we are ‘too busy’ with getting through the day to day things of life, and ‘cares of this world’. Focused prayer for people’s salvation and also for the needs of those who are caring for others, making decisions, ‘on the front line’ in some way, or who are ill and suffering or in need. Finding ways to advocate for those who suffer from injustice and abuse whether through prayer and practical means.

Reaching out to other people, and seeking to be a ‘good steward’ of the resources He has given me, and making a positive impact on the world, whether by blogging, keeping in touch with and encouraging people over the phone or email or other means.

Taking time for self development, nurturing myself and allowing God to continue to heal me, and also doing my part in looking after my emotional and mental health.

Working hard, obviously, if working from home did become a reality, and doing my duties to the best of my ability.

Taking time to continue writing my novel.

Read the books that have been waiting for me to get to them! 🙂

Exercise and healthy living.

Take time to be grateful, mindful and thankful for all of the blessings I do have in my life.

Finding ways to encourage and pray for other people, and to offer help where it is safe and wise and healthy to do so.

Home organisation and decluttering.

Arts and crafts projects, adult colouring in, continuing to learn to draw.

Music, playing worship on my violin.

Photography projects – finally compiling my photography work into one place.

Continue work on my blog to help bullied children (which I haven’t been able to while maintaining a daily routine of going to work, etc.).

Having pamper days for self care and looking after my body as well as my mind.

Learning new skills and online learning.

Tidying out my spare room!

Cosying up like at Christmas time and watching some nice films or box sets.

Live a ‘hygge life’.

Encouraging others and being kind!

 

So, what about you? What positives can you glean from this situation, and how would you, or how are you spending your time ‘away from it all’?

What are your struggles, and what are the things you have learned or that you enjoy that you can share that will benefit others reading this?

Let’s stick together and become stronger in the midst of all of this uncertainty, and bring out the best in each other as we make our way through this uncertain world.

I am thankful that my faith, certainty and hope is in the unchanging, solid rock of Jesus Christ, the source of life and pure love.

Take care and stay well, healthy, and safe, everyone. x

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Photo by Dominika Roseclay on Pexels.com

 

What is in front of you…

Have you ever looked at the news and felt overwhelmed by what is happening in the world? Have you ever felt overwhelmed by what is going on in your own life, and in the lives of those around you? Have you ever wanted to make a change, an impact in people’s lives but just not known where to start?

I’m sure we all feel like that from time to time. Some of us feel it very often. At times many difficult things converge and we can’t see past them. We might be having a challenging time personally as well as dealing with tough issues in our jobs. At one point I was working in the field of researching violence against women, and at the same time facing certain challenges, and I would feel overwhelmed by the constant stream of news and negativity and the state of the world. Some people term this compassion fatigue, or for those working to help other people, ‘vicarious trauma’.

Life can get heavy sometimes, but do we just throw our hands up in the air and give up? Or do we reach our hands up for help and strength from the True Source of help and of grace and Love?

Many people in this world want to make a positive difference. We face our own injustices and that creates a ‘fire in our belly’ to want to overcome them and then to reach out and help others who are suffering. But sometimes it can all get too much. I’m amazed by the people who tirelessly campaign to help other people, by doctors, nurses, emergency service workers and many others in vocations that serve to help others for the greater good, oftentimes at great risk to their own lives and safety. Many people sacrifice a lot to help others.

Yet what of us living comparatively less challenging lives in terms of what we do day in and day out and the risk we face to help others? What of those of us who still face the feelings of overwhelm in a broken world gone wrong, and in desperate need of Grace and Redemption? Do we just give up, do we allow ourselves to get exhausted, to think it’s all too big a problem so what’s the point of trying anymore?

The point of trying is what is in front of you.

Who is in front of you.

Jesus Christ said that ‘What you do for the least of these….you do for Me’.

Do you realise how valuable that person in front of you is? How valuable you are? You may not be able to solve the problems of the world, you may not be able to be a humanitarian on the front lines of changing this generation at great cost to yourself. You may be an extraordinary person in an ordinary seeming life, just like most of the rest of us. But you are extraordinary. And so am I. We all have this stamp of humanity in us and we all are made to be vessels of Love in a dark and hurting world (and this Love is of God, in Christ Jesus, Who if we let Him in will truly set us free).

Don’t give up. Don’t get so blindsided by the bigger picture that you fail to see the tapestry being woven right in front of you. What is in front of you matters. It may seem like a small offering in the grand scheme of things, but it matters.

So next time you feel overwhelmed or like there’s nothing much you can do to make a change, think of how truly important that one conversation is. That smile. Taking the time to sit and listen to someone who is in need. Giving something to someone in need, even if it seems like a small offering. Reaching out, praying, listening, and simply being. Being with your children, your loved ones, putting down your electronic devices and giving them the attention that they are worthy of that will bless your soul also.

There is a tapestry being woven right in front of you, and you are part of that process. You can choose to create or to tear apart or to leave things unattended to, never allowing a beautiful picture to form because you failed to participate, to contribute, to try.

Don’t worry about the whole world, simply tend to what is in front of you, and you will make a difference. And while we all play our part, in the littlest of ways, we contribute to something beyond ourselves, and surely that should be a source of hope and inspiration.

How has the first month of this new decade been for you? Helpful tips for moving forwards…

Well friends, tomorrow is the concluding day of the first month of 2020! A brand new year, a brand new month and a brand new decade. How has it been for you? Have you survived and / or thrived through all of the expectations that this ‘newness’ may have presented you with?

What have been your highlights, and your learning points? And are you excited to soon be starting a brand new month?

As you move forwards from here, let me share with you a few things to consider to make for a more fruitful month in February.

1. Be honest with yourself as you look back over the past month.

Oftentimes we feel the pressure from others, ourselves, society and social media messages to be ‘doing great’ at the start of a brand new year. At the start of a new decade, perhaps some of the internal pressures we place upon ourselves to ‘rise and shine’ and ‘live our best lives’ is even greater. Or perhaps such things don’t affect you all that much.

Either way, as we reach the end of the first month of this year, it is important to be honest with yourself. Most people start a new year with new expectations, goals and plans. Take time to think about where you have got to with yours if you had any. Also, be honest with yourself as to how the past month has actually been for you. You can think about things in the following ways:

Circumstances: Overall, were things good or bad this month? Accept what has passed and identify any issues that you need to resolve that have been difficult for you, both practically and emotionally. If things have overall been good, take time to reflect upon these, enjoy the memories of the experiences, be grateful for them and think of steps to climb even higher as you progress through the year.

Mental and emotional health and wellbeing: This is quite a personal one, and you hopefully will best know the questions to ask of yourself. Taking time to assess your mental and emotional wellbeing will help you and others as you move forwards, otherwise you can get stuck in a rut, or even pulled under if you don’t take time to address any issues that you may have that need your attention and care.

Think about how your mental and emotional health has been in January. Are there any triggering factors that made things difficult? Are there any things contributing to your positive mental and emotional health? What can you take forwards from here to build upon as you head into February?

Physical health: Time to think about your well being physically including in terms of activity levels, nutrition and other forms of self care. Are you looking after yourself or are there things that you can be doing better?

Sleep: After the time off during Christmas and the winter seasons, it can come as a bit of a shock to the system to get back into a routine. By now, most people are back ‘in the swing of things’ and sometimes this can mean powering full steam ahead which can be detrimental if you’re not getting the rest and sleep that you need. Check in with yourself and make sure you are not overworking yourself or wasting the precious rejuvenating hours that a good night’s sleep and rest can bring. Don’t worry if you struggle with this, you’re definitely not alone – it’s one of the biggest things that I need to work on!

2. Social connections, priorities and other people.

As well as taking time to think about how well you have been taking care of yourself over this past month (so that you can make improvements as you move forwards through the year), it is also important to consider your wellbeing in terms of a wider perspective. Taking care of ourselves on an individual level is one thing, but we also need to think about how connections with other people affect us whether positively or negatively, and to consider which aspects of these connections need to be nurtured, and which others need to be ‘pruned’ or cut away.

It’s important not to let yourself get swept up in the current of other people’s priorities, demands and activities where they don’t align well with your own. By this I don’t mean shirk your responsibilities and duties. Not by any means! If you have responsibilities to care for other people such as parents, children, dependants and so forth, it would be unethical to simply disregard their needs just because you want something different. No, what I mean is that being part of a society, the people we come in contact with may make requests or demands upon our time and attention and before committing to anything and everything you need to consider the longer term vision of your own life, and year, and not overcommit, especially to things that don’t align with your vision or values. Be open minded, but also be cautious – your personal, ‘free’ time away from work and family is such a precious commodity, you need to use it wisely, so don’t feel pressured into saying ‘yes’ to everything. Equally don’t miss out on opportunities that you need to take.

Further to this, you also need to think about how you are spending time and who you are spending time with. Are there people in your life who are draining you? Are there those who inspire you? Are there others with whom you are mutually encouraged? Think about the specifics of your own situations and circumstances and be mindful of how you relate to people and the effect you allow them to have on you, and make more considered choices as you continue through the year.

3. Plans and projects.

You may have started the year with a whole host of great ideas, some of which you might have hoped to get off the ground or make progress with in January. Let’s (once again) be honest with ourselves. How practical has this been? Have you achieved what you enthusiastically set out to, or do you need to revisit your plans, projects, goals and timescales? Don’t be hard on yourself. Small steps all add up. Keep going, but also don’t tie yourself to something you have started that you now realise actually isn’t the right choice for your life. Take time to responsibly consider whether there are things you can let go of and how without negatively affecting other people as far as is possible.

What has worked and what needs improved upon or changed in terms of how you have approached your plans for this month? What lessons have you learned and what will you take forwards into February?

4. The bigger picture – Faith, and the people you love.

Don’t get so caught up in the minutiae or day to day routines of life that you forget to ‘look up’. Don’t forget to take time to appreciate, to be thankful, to consider the Source of all the good things and blessings in your life. Are you seeking Truth? Are you growing as a person? Are you gaining insights spiritually? And are you making time to simply be and spend time with the people you love?

Be blessed as you progress into a brand new month, and don’t be afraid to start afresh. x

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Photo by Evie Shaffer on Pexels.com

 

Focus…

A favourite Scripture among many Christians is from the book of Proverbs (Chapter 3: verses 5 – 6).

Trust in The LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths”.

For those who have never encountered The Living God, who don’t know the Reality of the Risen Christ, and who don’t personally have a relationship with Him as their Lord and Saviour, then this advice might seem a little bit strange, inaccessible or contrary to their way of thinking and of living life. For without God in the picture, people trust in their own wayward hearts, they lean on their own faulty reasoning, ‘logic’ and understanding, and that of other people as they try to forge out a way forwards, yet never walking in the Truth.

Statements like these can be hard to swallow, might invite challenging discussion, but as someone who does know The Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, I also know just how much I need Him to navigate the path ahead for me, and to trust The One Who sees and knows with perfect wisdom the many things I can’t possibly figure out without Him. Who would walk into a jungle for the first time without a guide? Who would walk through the jungle of life without The Saviour, The Shepherd, The One Who declares in Truth: “I AM The Way, The Truth and The Life (no one comes to The Father except through Me)” ?

For those of us who do know Him, we have a responsibility to always seek His guidance and direction in our lives, in the day to day decisions, as well as the bigger situations we may face. How many times do we get into a mess trying to figure out things all on our own, when we only have to ask, and listen for that direction that He so freely gives? The Good Shepherd will never lead us astray.

We need to stay focussed on Him, because He has a plan, a mission, a purpose for our lives, and much of this is being played out in the spiritual realm – something that the secular world around us does not understand, accept or acknowledge, and something that others may not be ‘armed’ to know what they are actually ‘dabbling with’ when it comes to spiritual things that on the surface seem harmless.

WE need to stay focussed, alert, on track and listen for His direction, and guidance, through the Word and being led by His Spirit.

Sometimes there may be a lot of competing demands in our lives, things that arise from a variety of sources, and seemingly ‘good causes’, but before diving in, we need to acknowledge our Lord and ask what He desires and requires of us. Just because something on the surface seems like it is a good thing to be involved with, doesn’t mean that it is something that He wants us to focus our attention on, or maybe He has a different or a better way than the one we see immediately set before us.

Are you letting competing voices draw you away from hearing The Voice of your Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ?

The world busies itself with all sorts of things to be done, but sometimes rushing into things isn’t the best course of action. Wait, listen, trust in Him with all your heart, lean on His understanding and not your own, acknowledge Him in everything, knowing that without any doubt, He *will* direct your paths.