It is crazy that we are still in a pandemic. I know of many people who take it in their stride, and who are going out into life and doing enjoyable things, celebrating life, as it were. You might not be one of those people, and you may be feeling that life is kind of ‘small’ as you navigate your way through the day to day, perhaps feeling stressed, worried or anxious by the news headlines, and not knowing what to make of life or how to get through your days.
It can be easy to get caught up in the ‘comparison trap’ and it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by stress and anxiety, even as we are made more aware of our own mortality, of the shortness of our time on earth, and of our concerns as to what will happen to us and to those we love.
If you’re following my blog, then you are perhaps someone who is trying to navigate through feelings of anxiety or uncertainty as many of the posts I write aim to help people with this.
One way in which we can live life better, even in the midst of it all, is to slow down and be thankful for the ‘small’ things in life, taking time to notice them, to be grateful for what we do have and what is going on in our lives, today, right now.
Yesterday I saw a beautiful rainbow, albeit faint and surrounded by grey clouds, soon to disappear from view. I saw it nonetheless and I enjoyed those moments. Today I am thankful that I can hug my mum, and enjoy her smile and laughter and the way she remembers me when I was little and still expresses these things to me. ❤ I’m grateful to be able to work from home, rather than having to go out into the colder weather of October, especially while the pandemic is far from over. I’m grateful for more time to pray and intercede for people, and to draw near to the Living God, and feel His Love and Peace and Comfort filling me from within. ❤
Sometimes we need the gentle reminder to humble ourselves, to repent, and turn away from looking at the lives we don’t have in order to better appreciate what we have been given. No doubt many of you will be going through difficult times just now, and perhaps anxiety is a big feature of that in uncertain days, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t find beauty and treasure in the small things of the day to day. You can celebrate the gifts and achievements of others, even those that you don’t have yourself. Time is short, and fleeting. You can put something of worth back into the world, something kind, true, noble, valuable, even if no one else sees it.
You can slow down and appreciate the beauty of today. This day. This miracle unfolding in which you are a part of.
It helps. It helps to change and soften our anxious hearts. Let the Light in. Let Love be greater than fear for you, in this moment, today. ❤
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.
Happy 1st of March 2021, dear friends. It’s a new month and a chance to take stock once more and to dig deep and find some new resolve. To look up with faith and trust and to remind ourselves that we just need to live one moment at a time.
Whether today finds you rejoicing or struggling with life, know and be reminded that you are valuable and that you matter. That you have it in you to take that next step. Whether or not you’ve got through February in a way that you are pleased with or not, know that you have the chance to begin again, today.
Try not to put too much pressure on yourself, go gently forwards and remember always that you are not alone.
I know of friends who are looking for new jobs in the pandemic. I know of people who have started new courses. I know of people whose marriages have sadly come to an end, not caused by the pandemic, but coinciding with it. I know of people who have been trying to have a baby for years and have at last become pregnant. I know of people, friends that are a few decades older than me, whose adult children are considering what to do next whether that is to do a college or university course, or are looking for a new job or their first job. I know of people who have embarked upon a new relationship, and are trying to figure out whether to continue or not. I know of people who are working on overcoming mental health challenges, and who are putting their minds to the day to day things of life. There are people, all of us, who are in a variety of situations in this pandemic, some good, some bad, some difficult, some easier. There are people who are starting things for the first time, there are people who are having to begin again. Some people have become homeless in this pandemic for a variety of reasons. Many people are in situations where they feel they are having to ‘start from scratch’.
Perhaps you are one of those people. Maybe you are not starting from scratch in such a way but maybe you’re not sure what’s next. Maybe you need a job or are wondering about whether to start a course. Be encouraged that that’s ok, even if you don’t know what’s next or haven’t made it to where you want to be. There are several areas of my life where I don’t know what’s next or have any idea of how to get there, but I remind myself that God has led me through so many unknowns and challenges already and I can start on my knees, with prayer to Him, Jesus Christ, The Living God.
I, like you, can also start from right where I am right now. You may not be rebuilding your life from some terrible tragedy, but be encouraged that there are people who have, and that you can take the next step of life, your life from where you are right now, even if it is the smallest of steps of faith. In her book, ‘Things Get Better’, Katie Piper talks about how she had to rebuild her life from rock bottom after rape and acid attacks and then being in a coma and being scarred and burned and disfigured. She faced fear, anxiety, PTSD and many, many medical operations. She was given the prognosis that she would be homebound and reliant on full time care. Now she is living independently, is a writer, a TV presenter, an activist, has a charity for burns survivors, is married and has two little daughters and helps so many other people. Initially after her attack she just wanted to die and it seemed there was no hope for her. She is also a Christian, having encountered The Living God in that hospital bed keeping her alive, and her faith has grown as she reaches out to others, and has podcasts on mental health and also shares her faith now as a presenter on the UK television programme ‘Songs of Praise’. You might look at that and listen to that story and think ‘wow’, ‘how did she do it?’. In her book she describes how she set the smallest of goals for herself on a day to day basis, such as ‘holding down a meal’. Things that most of us probably take for granted. She really was at rock bottom and needed help with surgeries, feeding tubes, psychological support and many other intensive care treatments. Maybe we’ve had something in our life that we can relate to in some way, but the chances are most of us haven’t gone through that extent of suffering. We’ve all overcome different things in our lives, some more than others, and perhaps some of you have gone through extremes yourself. We can’t compare, but we can be encouraged and inspired.
What is it you are facing today? You can start today. Do you need to find a job? Well, take what is in front of you, ask help from Above, and take the next step. You have a resourceful mind and you *can* take the next step. Is it getting to grips with homeschooling your child or children? You have it in you to learn to be more adaptable, to be more patient and to figure out a way forwards. Is it overcoming mental health or physical challenges? Maybe everything won’t suddenly get better, but you can make progress, you can keep going, you can take the next step and you can start from today.
Don’t be discouraged. Look up and look around at the examples of hope and courage and be reminded that making progress takes one small step at a time. You can take the initiative from where you are starting from today. Don’t compare, don’t be afraid, but take that next step of faith. x
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.
It’s understandable that things may get you down. The times we are living in are, after all, *unprecedented*, as we keep being told.
There’s a lot going on, and I understand that. You know in your own life what you have going on. On the other side of a computer screen, perhaps even on the other side of the world, or maybe closer to home, I, the person writing this cannot see into your heart or know your deepest thoughts, hurts or fears. Yet I do know that we share a common humanity, and I do know from experience that sometimes life can be very hard.
Sometimes life, and being human, can really get us down. I hear you. I feel that. My encouragement for you today, however, is not to stay down for too long. The wisdom book of ‘Ecclesiastes’ tells us that there is a time for every matter in life.
“To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3).
And in our own lives, we can see that there are times of suffering, times to grieve that suffering, times to be alone, times to be helped by other people, times to build up, to get stronger, and times of joy too.
If you are in a season of strength, keep going strong, keep building what is good, keep doing what is right. If you are in a place of pain, then take solace that you are not alone. In all of humanity across the ages people have felt feelings similar to what you are feeling, even if you feel like you are the only one. Yet, those times did not last forever. If life, if the pandemic, if being you is getting you down right now, that’s ok – it’s ok to feel all of those raw and real human emotions. But don’t let it keep you down. There is a time when we may get knocked over, but there is a time to get back up again, and again and again if need be. Be strong. Be courageous. Let your faith be far, far greater than your fear. You don’t need to have it all together or all sorted out, but don’t stay down for too long.
Do you remember that a few posts back we talked about daily habits, and about building new habits into our routines? Perhaps I will check back with you all properly shortly and we can do a progress check together. However, these simple tools that we use in our day to day lives can help us when the going gets rough. They can provide prompts that can help leverage us up and out of the pit of despair and into taking the next step of action.
Today I ‘brainstormed’ some ideas for myself. I made a list of what the people who inspire me do or have done to make progress in their lives. The three people I focused on are people who I don’t know personally but who are famous (and I mentioned them in my last post and some previous others: Lizzie Velazquez, Katie Piper and Nick Vuijicic). I’m looking for help and inspiration in the ‘what next’ of life. How do I take the next step, what do I do next, how do I get stronger in this journey of recovery and overcoming so that I can confidently thrive in life even if that seems a few steps ahead of where I am right now?
The list was impressive, encouraging, insightful and helpful. It was both inspiring and practical and down to earth. Yet it was not something that was simply handed to me. It took me time and thought and effort to come up with. And it helped me to realise that I am already doing many of the things that my role models are doing, even if on a very small scale. Yet one thing we all have in common is that sometimes we have all just had to take the tiniest of next steps even if they don’t seem to be that impressive at the time. They all add up.
Perhaps this is something you can do for yourself. Maybe you can think of a person or some people that you look up to in life, whether you know them personally or not, and make a list of the qualities, characteristics and attributes that they have that you aspire to. Write down some of their practical achievements. List some of the things about them that you admire. And begin to put into practice some of those things that you want to also be part of your own life. The chances are that you already do some or many of these things, even if in little day to day ways. Small things matter. Small steps, goals, achievements all matter. Repetition of these small things also matters, which is why I may reiterate some of the same advice that I have shared in a variety of ways, because we need that healthy positive reinforcement.
If you are feeling down, try not to stay down for too long. Even if it seems like a long season for you, one that isn’t a particularly happy one, try to think of the lessons that you can be learning, the resilience you can be building, and the seeds of faith and hope that you can be sowing. For when you come out on the other side, you may just be that stronger person for someone else to look up to for help and advice.
In times of need, when life has been weighing heavy upon me and I’ve felt crushed, there was always a sense of disconnect with people who although well meaning told me that they hadn’t ever really suffered. Their kindness was appreciated of course, but I never felt the comfort I needed from someone who had been there. Maybe you are or will be that someone who has been there, for someone else. Be strong, be courageous, don’t let the difficult season get you down for too long, for there will inevitably be a new season after this, for which you will want to be ready.
If you are not down, try to remember that you may be able to be a helping hand for someone else who is.
Be strong, be courageous, look up with faith, and take that next simple small step forwards.
I hope you’ve all been keeping as well as can be since my last post, last week. For a time I was writing a few posts a day, with a desire to keep up the momentum of encouragement. I feel that encouraging words are so important in these days, when words can and are being used for harm as we have seen in recent events across the world stage. However, although having the space of one week since my last encouraging post may not seem like a lot, I do want to be a consistent voice of hope and courage for those who need it.
The past week has had some challenges for me, however. Starting back at work saw some stressors, even with working from home. I had some difficult moments but various things got me through them. We have also had sad news recently of bereavements of friends of family in some tragic circumstances. I realise that some of you reading this may have faced or be facing quite overwhelming challenges in your lives. It can be hard to know what to say to comfort others or even ourselves during such times. It can be hard to know what to say in this pandemic where there is such loss. ‘This too shall pass’ is one of those old phrases that we often hear, sometimes passed down through the generations to give some kind of solace and comfort.
This moment won’t be as difficult as it is now, this too shall pass, things will change.
I find that only a small consolation, but what gives me True Hope is knowing that as things change and move on, my Unchanging God and Saviour Jesus Christ does not change, will not leave me, and holds me secure. It Is a Peace that goes beyond circumstances, but one I need to remind myself to focus on too.
When I was a child and was being bullied relentlessly in the first year of secondary school, I did not know that that season of life would ever pass. The following year I stepped away from the people who were destroying me, and I was all but completely alone, which was a significant challenge for a child in itself. Abuse, and then neglect, at school. In my third year I met nice, normal people who became friends, and although I didn’t entirely feel like I fit with the new group as much as they did with each other having knowing each other for years already, I didn’t feel scared for my life anymore. I could continue with life, with school, with getting by. Decades later, the impact of those two pivotal years is still felt. I’ve had major struggles with anxiety, complex PTSD, depression, disassociation and fear, low self esteem and even suicidal ideation when the PTSD resurfaced. And here I am today, with a home of my own, with a full time job, with the family I was born into, with friends, having travelled, and writing a blog to encourage other people. I’m still recovering from some of the mental and emotional scars but I’m able to see hope and a future in Christ, and I can use those difficult experiences for good.
Why am I sharing this again now? Because at the time, in that first year I felt crushed, broken, terrified, and in so much pain and agony internally that I didn’t want to live anymore. It’s a big burden for a child to bear. But I did bear it, and hear I am today. With wounds or not, that terribly dark season of my life that I didn’t see a way out of, not having any perspective as a child that things could or would change, has passed.
And this too will pass. Whatever it is you are going through, it will pass. This pandemic will pass. A while ago I started reading ‘The Murmur of Bees’, hardly knowing what it was about. It turns out that as I turn the pages I am reading about not only a revolution, but also about the Spanish Flu of 1918. Reading some of those pages feels like reading some of the news headlines and public health advice of today about quarantining, staying at home, keeping distance from people and sadly about bodies being sent to mass graves. I also read about the hope of finding a vaccine for the Spanish Flu. And guess what, it too did pass.
That’s not to diminish by any means the personal tragedies and losses that people felt along the way, but in terms of world events, things did change, they did move on, and perhaps there is a cyclical element to what happens in the world, but they didn’t stay the same, and in many ways they did get better.
Despite saying that I also believe that there will be a Judgement, when Christ returns to earth again, but we are being given time to repent, to seek His Forgiveness and to turn to Him for eternal life, new life in this world, and a Hope that cannot be denied. True Believers know of this Hope, of the Indwelling of The Holy Spirit, The tangible Peace of Christ that surpasses all understanding and the solid Hope of Eternal Life with Him, and a gradually transformed (or sometimes immediately transformed) life with Him on earth. Turn to Him for True Hope.
Perhaps there is a time in your own life that you can look back upon, a time that seemed like endless misery that you thought would never pass, but it in fact did and you are living new days. You may well bear the scars of those days, that season, you may still be in recovery from it, but you are no longer there. You have a chance.
Those days passed, and these will too. Look up, look to Jesus, and find True Hope. And even if you are not a believer, please try to hold on to hope that this too will pass.
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
I stopped at the point when the United Kingdom went into a full lockdown on 23rd March 2020.
It was a drastic situation that caused for drastic measures and decisive action. I’m not sure that we saw decisive action from the government throughout the pandemic, unfortunately, but I did find myself feeling more grateful for living North of the border in Scotland where Nicola Sturgeon seemed to tighten restrictions more and quicker than in England. That said, perhaps we should have gone into lockdown a lot sooner with what we were seeing in and learning from other countries not too far from home, such as Italy and France. Even with hindsight, the decisions being made were challenging and difficult for all concerned.
The drastic measure of lockdown meant that there was an inevitable but unplanned for knock-on-effect on other important issues. For example, people who suffered from domestic abuse were in fact trapped within their own homes, non-covid related operations and hospital visits had to to be postponed, rescheduled and deprioritised because of the huge pressure upon our health service as numbers of cases rose.
I kept a notebook, a ‘quarantine journal’ as it were to make sure I wasn’t succumbing to the negativity all around me and seeking to see progress in my own life and learn lessons along the way. It’s a keepsake journal that I am still working on, but one of the pages I included is titled “Vocabulary of a ‘new normal'”.
Vocabulary of a ‘new normal’:
It’s interesting looking back on things that were new concepts to our daily lives that have now become common place, everyday things that we hardly think about as much.
When we went into lockdown in the UK, I was in my own flat / apartment where I live alone. I went through the first stint of the lockdown on my own with no human contact (IRL – In Real Life) for around a total of 6 months (give or take a couple of occasions where I was able to visit my family after the easing of Lockdown 1.0 in July, and a socially distanced meet up with friends, or seeing a delivery person or concierge).
I learned a lot during that time, and I see that time as precious in terms of the healing that I was able to focus on for past issues, the reprioritisation and insight I gained into friendships and the lack of awareness and understanding people had of someone in my situation living alone in a pandemic, and the value of daily conversations with my family over the phone.
However, I digress. 2020 brought with it a vocabulary of a ‘new normal’ and some of the key terms that came to the fore during that time that I noted down were as follows:
-Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives.
-Daily Walk / One form of exercise only once a day.
–Virtual Meetings / Zoom / Teams
–Furlough / Extension Period
–Covid-19 / Coronavirus / Novel Coronavirus
–Covidiot / Covid warrior
–Shop your wardrobe
–Toilet roll hoarding
–Hand sanitizer / disinfectant / PPE
–WFH (Work From Home) / Home Schooling
-Antibodies Test / Asymptomatic / Incubation Period (14 days).
Honestly, the list goes on…..and on….over two pages. I think I drew a metaphorical line under it because of how much I could have kept on listing.
But you get the picture; things that were not part of our everyday lives – such as facemasks – have now become part and parcel of ‘normality’ as we’ve moved through this pandemic and continue to do so.
I have to say that my favourite new term has probably got to be ‘Clap For Carers’. Do you remember when we used to clap for our health care workers, our delivery drivers, supermarket people, and frontline staff at the height of the first wave (first wave, there’s another term!). Perhaps in some countries you still do.
We’ve seen so many heroes throughout this rough year, and I am so grateful for each and every one of them, and perhaps some of you reading this are among those heroes. We’ve also seen people in all different walks of live reaching out to help communities.
Community Blessings and Struggles:
As mentioned, our communities have at times come together for the greater good. We’ve seen the NHS staff and other health care workers in other countries going above and beyond to help save lives. We’ve seen people helping out with food bank initiatives, charities, reaching out to lonely people, checking in on their neighbours. I’m personally grateful to have had the chance to do a bit of research work with my job around public health and safety at work for reintroducing services and also to be a ‘shielding helpline volunteer’ to help get essentials to residents who are vulnerable because of underlying health conditions. I’ve been grateful to be able to use my writing to encourage other people far and wide as well throughout this year, even if these efforts are a small offering amid much greater sacrifices of others. There is value in all of us playing our part and doing our bit.
However, we’ve also seen tensions and unrest in our communities, from the racial issues coming to the fore of mainstream society (things that minority people like me have had to deal with and suffer through in some form or another throughout our lives) and we’ve seen brief ‘moments in time’ of awareness, activism and insight that should have been there decades ago. We’ve seen tensions in our local communities and have watched divisions in America or perhaps some of you have been living through those, with the recent presidential elections. There have been a whole host of other issues in individual countries, communities and even families and yet we’ve made it through somehow, some with losses and pain along the way, and others with less of a struggle or even opportunity for growth.
There have been so many opportunities for lessons this past year of 2020. Now that we are in the first day of 2021, perhaps we have renewed momentum as we collectively face and embark upon a ‘new year’. Perhaps we have gained greater insight into ourselves, our own lives, our priorities and purpose, or perhaps some have barely made it through and have struggled. Either way, the pandemic isn’t over just because we’ve reached a new year, and there is still work to be done, responsibility to be taken and lessons to be learned.
I’m hopeful for the future, but I also think we need to live diligently day by day.
I’d like to take these reflections to a next stage with my subsequent posts as we move from global and local to individual and as we together see how we can reflect upon the lessons we individually have learned and how to move forwards with hope and strength into 2021.
I am considering sharing some guided reflections and journal prompts and ideas for goal setting, so stay with me as we forge ahead, stronger and more courageous as we embark upon these new days together.
Well friends, we’re well and truly at the last leg of 2020, and what a year it has been! While things may not miraculously improve (or perhaps they will?) in 2021, we can take steps to helping our mental wellbeing and outlook as we approach a new year.
It is understandable if many of you are feeling fearful, anxious, apprehensive or deflated as we approach a new year. After all, so many of us had high hopes for the perfect sounding ‘2020’ at the start of the year, and at the end of last year, expecting visionary things and grand new beginnings for the start of a new decade. While some individuals have done really well this year, on the whole, the world has taken a bit of a beating with this pandemic. It can leave us feeling in a negative mindset as we move forwards.
One thing that sometimes helps me, in fact it often helps me, is to ‘theme my months’. It gives me a sense of focus, purpose and direction for each month and helps me with setting targeted and manageable goals.
While I don’t envisage any time soon any of my months to be themed with ‘travel’, there are things that can help me focus on the positives in my own life and set goals accordingly and keep moving forwards, even with everything else going on around us in the world.
With life being so uncertain in terms of what we will and won’t be able to do in 2021, I think if I do decide to theme my months, or some of them at least, then I will focus on personal projects that I can do from home. I even managed to do this for some of the time during lockdown this year, including a ‘May theme’ of ‘Summer holiday’ where I decorated my room to look like a beach house (I must have posted pictures earlier on if you want to see if you can find them) and listened to holiday music, and even went on ‘virtual walks’ in different parts of the world via You Tube.
What are some of the themes that you or I could set for ourselves in 2021 that could help us to keep positive, focused and moving forwards?
I thought I’d have a bit of a brainstorm here, but your own list might be something completely different:
Potential Monthly Themes for 2021:
– Self Care
-Connecting with Friend and Family
-Learning Something New
-Staycation – learning about new countries without leaving home!
-Exercise or fitness
-Charity / Random Acts of Kindness
-Developing existing skills
-My True Identity
-Overcoming obstacles or personal issues
-Mentoring or being mentored
-Singing / Dance
-Learning how to use a new piece of technology that you haven’t used before.
-Encouraging other people
-Rest and reflection
-Gratitude / Thanksgiving
-Going outside for a walk everyday or most days (if you are permitted to do so).
-Health and wellbeing.
-Decluttering / tidying
-Home or garden projects
-Learn a new creative venture
These are just a few ideas off the top of my head, but perhaps you have some of your own that are totally different to mine. I’d love to hear what they are if you feel like sharing. In the meantime, don’t be discouraged by everything going on in the world. Take a moment to think of the positive things that you can begin to build into your life going forwards as we approach 2021, even as we head into the unknown. We will adapt and change as we go but we will seek to do so with love, hope, faith, joy and peace.