‘Oh, the deep deep love of Jesus, vast unmeasured, boundless free…’
You may know this old hymn, the lyrics are beautiful. When I was first ‘saved’, I was absolutely flooded with the Love, Peace, Comfort and joy of God’s Spirit. It cost God so much, yet takes so little for us to repent, to ask forgiveness, and to call out to Him in Faith. This Love was the most amazing feeling I have ever experienced, yet I also experienced a spiritual battle with darkness. We will have trouble in this fallen world, where there is evil, and a lot of things seem to not make sense, yet God Is real and His Love is real….and He will work everything out despite the mess and chaos of a fallen and broken world.
I have been drawing near to God recently, and I have asked Him that I don’t want to just ‘go through the motions’ of singing songs, or professing faith without that deep closeness with Him. Despite my worries, fears, sin and imperfection, He has been answering, and renewing me from within. God allowed a season of feeling ‘distant’ from Him and being faced with questions, and I have called out to Him and found Him Real and Faithful.
Despite the trouble we face on this earth, and from our very own natures, there is nothing that compares with that Real, Tangible, sweet comfort and presence of God’s Spirit within us, holding us. There Is no purer love than this. It is not something that can be imagined, thought up or dreamt of – you need to come into that relationship of Love yourself, being made a new creation, and experiencing the reality of His Sweet Presence for yourself. There is nothing that can compare. I hope and pray that He will draw you to repentance so that you can ask Him into your life, to be forgiven and experience this everlasting, deep, pure love for yourself. x
We’re all dealing with different and unique circumstances in this pandemic, yet we all need little things to look forward to. It helps us to keep going.
You might be thinking, well what on earth can I look forward to when I’m ‘stuck inside’ day after day, or if I’m working on the front line day after day, night after night?!
If that’s how you’re feeling, it’s understandable, but it’s not unchangeable. Try to take a deep breath, take a step back from your circumstances and reframe your thoughts.
We can all plan little things to look forward to that will help to give us a bit of mental and emotional ‘space’ and relaxation. We can try to make the small things more special as we learn to savour our experience of them. Yes, it’s hard to live like that all the time, we all get stressed and anxious and wound up, but we can begin to build things into our day to day lives that can help to ease the emotional and mental pressure we might be feeling.
What little things can you and I look forward to? They can be simple and even seemingly mundane to other people, but they can be special moments in our day depending on how we look at things.
You could look forward to a freshly made bed, and tidying up your room a bit.
You could look forward to planning a new art or craft project.
You could look forward to a virtual summer holiday or spring break when you choose a place in the world that you are interested in and find out some facts about that place, read books, watch films and eat food or do activities at home that are linked to that country if you can.
You can plan a catch up with a friend online or on the phone.
You can look forward to making a nice meal.
You can look forward to a film night at home.
You can look forward to quiet times in which you can pray, meditate and read.
You can look forward to slowing down and making a cup of tea or coffee and finding a quiet spot in your home to enjoy it.
You can look forward to setting time aside to journal, or to talk to your loved ones.
You can look forward to finishing up work at the end of the day and planning something nice to do for yourself such as some self care activities, a nice warm bath, listening to relaxing music.
You can look forward to doing something for someone else whether that be giving to charity, making a gift for a loved one, or reaching out to a friend in need.
You can look forward to picking your outfit for the day and making an effort to get ready.
You can look forward to taking a shower, or going for a walk or doing something that will help you appreciate the moment.
You can look forward to curling up with a good book.
You can look forward to rearranging your room or some of your home decor.
You can look forward to times spent with a new (or old) hobby.
You can look forward to times when you are able to get fresh air.
You can look forward to writing down your thoughts, creative journaling, perhaps to going to online church on a Sunday if you are inclined to do so.
You can look forward to hugs if you have people around you, or to connecting virtually with someone if you don’t.
You can look forward to getting a grocery order and making a delicious meal or even enjoying something quick and easy that you can put in the microwave.
There are so many things that we can factor into our day to day lives that will lift our focus to help us to appreciate all of the little things that we tend to take for granted. We can also choose to make our living spaces more cosy if that is possible. Even some inexpensive ‘fairy lights’ / LED lights can make our atmosphere at home seem that little bit more cosy and special, despite whatever else might be going on. We don’t need to travel far and distant places or have a lot of people in our life, or spend a lot of money to have things to look forward to. We can take the time and make the effort to appreciate what we already have, to choose to look forward to these special things, and to enjoy them along the way, despite whatever other difficult circumstances we may be facing in this pandemic. And all the while we can choose to be grateful for the health and wellbeing and life that we do have today. x
Here’s a picture I completed colouring yesterday, from the lovely adult colouring book ‘World of Flowers’ by Johanna Basford. I was nervous to attempt the page but took inspiration from a little piece of pottery that I painted last year. I think it turned out ok? What do you think? x
On a much more light-hearted note from our previous self-reflection prompt, prompt number five will have you thinking about the good times.
5. What has made you laugh, smile, or find little pockets of happiness during quarantine / lockdown?
As difficult as this time may be for you (or you may not be finding it difficult, in which case that is great), we don’t want to go through 2020 with only or mainly negative thoughts about our experiences.
Which is why it is important to take time to think about and even note down the good times. Maybe you have found laughter to be therapeutic and a part and parcel of how you’ve got through these times, or perhaps you can’t initially think of any happy times.
If you can think of a lot of things, that is wonderful – take a moment to note them down so that you can look back on them positively in the future and remember the things that brought happiness to you in otherwise difficult times for the world.
If you are struggling to think of anything, start small.
Did you watch a video clip that made you smile or laugh?
Did a friend or family member say or do something to cheer you up?
Did you find solace in hobbies or creative pursuits or projects that helped refocus your mind on more positive things?
Did you see a bird in flight, a beautiful flower, a rainbow or a sunrise that touched your heart?
Did you feel the cool breeze on your skin when you went out for a walk?
Did you wake up in the morning without being in pain and looking forward to the day ahead?
Did you enjoy simple pleasures such as a phone call with a friend, helping someone else, some tasty food or a good film?
However negative you might initially feel when you think of 2020 so far, there is bound to be at least some small moment of happiness or hope in your life. It might not even directly be from your own life, but something you can appreciate as having observed such as community spirit, colourful pictures that children have drawn and put up in their windows to encourage other people, the applause people have shown for front line and key workers.
Can you think of anything? If you can, take a few moments to write it down. Sometimes the very act of documenting these seemingly ‘small’ moments can do wonders for our mental and emotional health as we acknowledge, remember, engage with them and treasure them as things we can be grateful for.
This in turn will help you to help other people to find the happiness and hope in their day to day experiences, and to move forwards with increasing strength.
It’s not too late to start. The year is not over yet and even if you still feel very negatively about how things have been so far, it is not too late to reframe your thoughts and choose gratitude and appreciation as you move forwards.
If you’d like to encourage other people, please comment below with some of the positive things this year that might also uplift others.
Words of Encouragement (8):
*Can I feel happy and sad?*
In short, yes. This is a confusing, strange and distressing time. We are alive, we are surrounded by life, but also by continuous news of death and suffering on a mass scale, on a global scale, yet also right in our own towns and cities. We are all learning how to be happy with those who are happy, and to also mourn with those who grieve. We are surrounded by contradictions that we are all learning to hold in balance. We are trying to find ways to encourage and support each other, to enjoy the gift of life and be grateful for those in our lives, to make the most of ‘isolation’ and keep our spirits up, and encourage our friends and families and especially children, while at the same time living through wave upon wave of tragedy crashing in upon humanity. You might feel guilty for the times you smile, laugh and enjoy life in this strange season, and you also might feel a burden of grief at times as the world around you wails. It can be confusing, it can be tough, but there is no right or wrong way for you to feel, and your experience of this situation and your feelings are valid. Take time to just sit and be with your thoughts and feelings for a moment if it is all a bit much. Breathe deeply and try to find ways to be calm and relax. This is affecting people in different ways, and that’s ok.
Take care to try to maintain a balance. To know that even while it is a very dark time for many people across the world, it is ok for you to smile, and to share something positive, because those around you may just need that joy and that hope to be able to keep going.
Have you ever seen those pictures in magazines or online, of people relaxing in their ‘dream home’, on their ‘dream holiday’ or with their ‘dream family’ in their ideal ‘dream life’?
We all know they are posed by models, but what kind of image do they present to us? The people invariably look relaxed, peaceful, calm, serene, content or happy.
We look at such pictures and we are only partly taken in by the blissful surroundings. The other thing that resonates with us is how peaceful and calm the people in such pictures look.
Isn’t this part of our dreams for ourselves? We have all experienced situations when we have looked externally to someone or something to make us feel better, happier, calmer or more at peace. Have you also experienced the accompanying disappointment when things don’t quite match up to your ideals? Perhaps the family holiday you planned didn’t turn out quite like the ones in the pictures, and instead you picked up suitcases of stress, frustration and weariness. Maybe that new outfit or piece of clothing made you feel happy for a moment but soon the novelty of it wore off, and it felt old after a while. Maybe escaping by yourself to a quiet place in nature was also accompanied by not so pleasant weather, by insects and other less peaceful aspects of the great outdoors.
Peace of mind and happiness only partly relates to our happenings. When we envisage the life of our dreams, we need to take this into account. Some situations in life are just bad and we need to find a way out of or through them, there’s no doubt about that. However, perhaps we have gone through some tough times or struggles or inconveniences in life and have managed to order our external worlds and yet that hasn’t necessarily brought us the peace of mind that we have been searching for.
One example of this in my own life is when I bought my first flat, moved in, and then had a bit of a breakdown and c-PTSD, depression, anxiety and panic attacks. Things like this happen in life sometimes, and even if you are fortunate enough to get through life without any major challenges, you still have your own mind to manage on a day to day basis.
Whatever your journey has been so far, as we step into the new, we all could benefit from greater peace of mind.
This means being aware of the internal reactions we have, and finding a way to manage or overcome some of the more difficult things. It might take a bit of work, but the kind of mental resilience that helps us live more mentally peaceful lives is worth the time, effort and sometimes the tears and facing up to our fears.
It’s an on-going effort for all of us as humans in a world where we suffer, we are faced with ‘information overload’ sometimes, we face stress and challenges, yet as we move through this new year into what we hope to be one where our ‘dreams come true’ let us remind ourselves and each other that this does not depend merely on our circumstances but also on how we think. Is this the year for you to seek help and support to enable you to manage some of the difficult things in your mind? Is it the year to build up on what you have been learning in creating resilience? Is it the year to seek out inspiration? Is it the year to inspire from all that you have learned? Wherever you find yourself, things can be better, your mind can become a calmer and more peaceful place and it is worth putting in the effort daily to make it so. x
I sometimes feel that writing is a gift through which we can better understand our life’s journey.
It gives the seed of a thought expression, the opportunity to ‘dance’ into life and then perhaps more profoundly to be noticed and nurtured and watered into life by a reader.
It is quite an exquisite thing to realise that one’s thoughts can connect with those of another.
I’m writing just now to discover those seeds of thought that perhaps need to be planted and watered in order to find their true expression.
What I’m thinking of right now is the gradual movement into a season of more peaceful healing. For years I have been in recovery from complex PTSD and literally battling demons, but greater is He. My Creator, God.
Sometimes when our painful symptoms are alleviated we might think that we can press on into the next stage, whereas what we may really need is simply to slow down and gently take the time to fully heal. It is a real gift to be given time and space to work things out, to allow the healing waters to soothe the troubled soul and mind and to restore what has been broken or frozen in fear by the darkness. God Is Good. The healing that once seemed impossible is beginning to bud and bloom and a new day is sure to follow.
Every now and then we need to remind ourselves to take the time. To accept that the wounds may be deeper than we would like to face, and to give ourselves that time to be restored by the hand of our loving Creator. There are things we can do too for ourselves, being transformed by the renewing of our minds. Yet, the tracks of years of thinking in one way may take time to be washed away as we lay down new tracks, those of life giving thought, as we think of what is true, noble, good, pure, excellent, praise worthy.
There is a time for healing. A time for all purposes under the sun. And perhaps this is your time as well as mine. Give yourself the gift of accepting that time. You may have to face difficult things but soon enough the path will get smoother, either that or you will get stronger and the challenges will no longer seem insurmountable. There is a place of peace and restoration promised to us in Christ for the healing of our hearts, for the mending of the broken-hearted and the grace that gives us the gift of complete forgiveness…which as we let ourselves receive it and as the chains that fettered and bound us gradually fall away, leads us to walk ever gently into true freedom.
Don’t be disheartened if it takes time. Give yourself the gift of that time, and I will learn to give myself that gift also. The darkness and the lies are never greater than the Beauty of Truth and Pure Love that has come in Christ to set us free. So know that you are valuable, worthy of healing, of forgiveness and love, and take time today to rest in that.
This post is probably not quite what you might expect it to be. Why? Because often when we are asked that question it is by ‘motivational speakers’ or writers who seek to spur you on to self-improvement. What you will read here will be a different approach to this age-old question.
“Are you living the life of your dreams?”
The answers you find may surprise you. I imagine that most people when faced with this question think of it in terms of the ever unmet horizon. ‘Dreams’ after all are those wondrous little fantasies that no one ever really gets to. Or are they?
I also think that many if not most of us fail to notice or to realise when we are living our dreams, because we live them in a real world with real issues and challenges. And so perhaps we fail to see just how wonderful our lives actually are.
To dream is to imagine that which is not quite within our reach.
Take a few minutes and try this with me. Think of your life right now. Take a deep breath in, and let it out slowly. Now, calm and relaxed think of the things in your life that you have that you once only dreamed of having. Not necessarily material things, but just everything you value as being part of your ‘dream life’.
Let me share some things with you.
A few years ago I dreamed of being healthy again. Of not having panic attacks every day or week or nightmares and of not merely just surviving each day.
Has this dream come true? Yes. Now is the time to pause and to notice and appreciate it.
When I was younger I dreamed of someday ‘traveling the world’. As an adult I have now been to a fair few countries, some of which I went to as a solo traveller. I’ve been to Italy, America, France, Germany, India, Oman, Austria, Switzerland, Netherlands, Hungary, the Czech Republic, UK, Guernsey, among possibly a few others. I may not have travelled the world, and there is so much of this wide world that I’m yet to see, and parts of the world that I will never see, yet travel even on the small scale has been part of my life, and I could say I’ve been living my dreams.
I used to dream, as a little girl and as a teenager, of being a writer. Of living in a log cabin in the woods somewhere and writing beautifully. I dreamed of getting my books published and of being a famous author. As I have grown into the adult that I am, the practicalities of living in a log cabin don’t quite suit my sensibilities. That’s not to say that a quiet retreat in nature every now and then doesn’t draw me in…it does, and I have created such spaces for myself. I have had a couple of factual pieces published, but I’m not a famous author. Fame doesn’t draw me as I am writing for The One Who sees and knows me, and that is where all the appreciation and validation comes from. Yet writing is a huge part of my life. Blogging is a wonderful outlet for me and I continue to work slowly and steadily away at my novel and other pieces of fiction in my spare time. I write also to directly encourage other people – friends and family and in my university days I wrote letters as part of a human rights group to help free prisoners and those unfairly detained or treated. So, yes, I am in a sense living my dreams in this regard too. Perhaps in a humble fashion, yet I am still free to express my soul.
Do I appreciate this? If I take the time to.
What about the people in our lives? Perhaps our parents, our siblings, our childhood friends and new friends we’ve made along the way? Did you dream of getting married and now have a spouse and a family of your own? Do you really pause to notice these things, or do you take them for granted because they’re not perfect?
When asked if you are living your dreams aren’t you likely to shrug and say ‘not really?’. If so, could this be because you let the daily annoyances and nuisances of life cloud your vision from seeing all the dreams that have and are actually coming true?
Did you dream of being a grown up and having your own place and going out to dinner with your friends? This is a dream that I am living but one that I probably take for granted with it having become ‘normal’.
You will always have something that feels just that little bit ‘out of reach’ for you. Because our hearts are created for so much more than all this frail world has to offer us. We are created for Pure and Perfect Love and for Eternity, so there will always in this life be that yearning for that ‘something more’. Yet that is not to say that we can’t be content or satisfied. We live in a broken world, and yet dreams can still flourish here if we let them….and if we recognise them.
So take a moment today to pause, to reflect and to truly appreciate all the things about your life: the people, the relationships, the material blessings, the opportunities, the health and abilities you have that are in fact all elements of the ‘life of your dreams’. You are living your dreams in a real world, so don’t fail to wake up and realise and appreciate that as and when you can, even while you pursue those dreams yet to come. Someday they may come true so prepare yourself to appreciate them by simply appreciating all the blessings and ‘dreams come true’ that you have in your life today.
If it’s anything, this time of year is the perfect time to snuggle up indoors and to have a cosy night in, whether that’s on your own or with your loved ones or friends. I love putting on some cosy and comfy clothes, warm socks and curling up on the couch to watch a good film, box set or TV programme.
In the UK, you know it’s autumn / winter time when ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ comes on the TV. It signals the countdown to Christmas and it’s become a bit of a TV tradition for me at this time of the year.
What are your favourite films, series or TV programmes to watch that make you feel cosy during the winter seasons? Do you have an equivalent in your country to the show I mentioned? Whatever you choose to do, stay warm, cosy, healthy and happy! 🙂 x